Last Sunday while nearly all New Yorkers were sound asleep, our elected officials in Albany toiled away all night into Monday morning passing bills into law. The senators and assembly members were busy churning out the details of the 2019 New York State budget.
Calling this effort a budget is a gross misnomer. When most people think of a budget what usually comes to mind is a financial plan for revenue-in and spending-out over a set time. But this is not the case in Albany. During the annual budget discussions, there is little if any talk about tax dollars and program costs. Budget discussions are all about enticing lawmakers with perks and policy bargaining chips to obtain their “yes” vote.
When it was all said and done, New York passed the 2019 spending plan to the tune of $175 billion. There is so much to discuss and so little space in this column, I can only touch on the ‘wave-tops’ of some specific topics. As this year’s budget details come to the light, everyone will be able to tell this was a plan influenced by only one political force. This is not so much a Democrats versus Republicans issue, but a New York City versus upstate culture clash.
Here are some of the winners in the Budget Games of 2019. First place winners are the criminals. The majority of lawmakers believe jails are not for criminals. That’s why setting cash bail will soon be the last resort for judges for nearly all misdemeanors and some felonies. With the new law changes, about 90 percent of inmates awaiting trial will be free to roam. If a career law-breaker does get arrested, they will no longer have to worry about their tattooed-neck photograph showing up in the papers. A new law prohibits police from publishing mugshots because that is too intrusive of a criminal’s privacy.
Every Class “A” Misdemeanor will now carry a maximum sentence of 364 days. That one-day-shy-of-a-year sentence insulates illegal immigrants from federal prosecution and deportation. Finally, on the topic of law-breakers, the governor plans to close three state prisons. The legislature told him they only wanted two jails shuttered, but it probably will be three, and as sure as the sun in the morning, the closures will happen in rural upstate.
Illegal and undocumented aliens (NY labels them “without lawful immigration status”) take home a trophy consisting of free tuition at state universities. The New York Dream Act received funding in the amount of $27 million.
The behind the scenes people who manage election campaigns will have a guaranteed $100 million of taxpayer money to spend on publicly financed campaigns for people running for state office positions. What could go wrong with giving politicians their own portion of tax dollars to spend on themselves?
The biggest winner of all is the Governor himself. After hours of voting and passing bill after bill, at 2:45 am Monday morning, the legislature passed a law giving the Gov a $71,000 pay raise over three years. His current salary is $179,000 and by 2021 it will reach $250,000.
Here are some of the people who will end up as losers once the effects of the single-party budget take hold of us all.
The people residing in rural upstate communities who will lose prisons and the millions of dollars of correction officer payroll – a string we have already felt in Chenango and Madison counties.
Anyone who rents a car in upstate New York will see the rental tax double, but not the cars rented in “the city.”
Employers who will have to pay every employee for three hours on Election Day so they can vote at the beginning or the end of their shift. It’s amazing how politicians continue to find ways to pay people for not working.
Users of plastic bags will see them disappear within a year. In place of plastic, the good ole paper sack may be used – once a customer pays a five-cent fee to the store. Counties and cities may choose to opt-in to the five-cent fee. I hope our local lawmakers steer away from this tax.
District Attorneys will have an outside commission looking over their shoulders for any trace of “prosecutorial misconduct” which is another nod in favor of criminals and a push backward for victims of crime.
A surprising loser is the person who was all set to take a legal toke on a bowl of pot. Recreational use of marijuana failed to get codified into law – this year. We should use this delay to prepare for the eventual passage and the unintended consequences of leisure marijuana smoking.
This year New York residents will see about $1.4 billion in new taxes and fees, and next year the taxes and fees are estimated at a staggering $5 billion making all of us losers.
Here’s an inadvertent winner I failed to mention earlier; the people at U-Haul who provide the one-way rental trucks out-of-town.