Reports to Community Boards


Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
April 6, 2011

…and this month in Albany

Last week, having fought for and won important restorations that blocked many of the unkindest cuts in the Executive Budget, the Legislature passed a $132.5 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12. The restorations and changes won by the Assembly, which are not many, include:

Our negotiated budget agreement also includes funding and policies with statewide impact; these include job training and retention programs, lending programs for businesses owned by women and ethnic minorities, and changing the State's prison and youth incarceration systems.

This was not an easy budget and many of the decisions we had to make did not leave our members with much to feel good about. However, the fact remains that the pace of our ongoing economic recovery is not anticipated to provide us the revenue that we would need to continue unchanged the slate of programs we have become used to.

Though passing yet another round of cuts was painful, the fact is that the budget restorations we negotiated and won stopped many of the most damaging cuts that had been included in the Executive Budget. Our schools, including CUNY and SUNY, will not be cut as deeply as had been proposed. Education and certain other State programs are now on a two-year cycle, so more cuts next year are unlikely and funding increases are very possible. The indigent will not be as badly harmed by cuts to social service programs. Our friends and neighbors who rely on publicly-supported health programs will see many important programs continue, though some programs will see changes that are intended to achieve a savings.

Many in our conference were greatly disappointed that continuing a surcharge on high-earning New Yorkers (commonly referred to as the "Millionaire's Tax") was not supported by the Governor or the Senate, and so was not included in the final budget as I had hoped it would be.

We had anticipated that by amending and extending this surcharge, which was put in place during 2009, the State would collect about $700 million which the Assembly planned to use to restore some of the Governor's cuts to education. In our plan to revamp this surcharge, we made it a true Millionaire's Tax, sparing the middle-income families that had been caught by the original surcharge. Unfortunately, the Governor and Senate did not support our plan. This will mean that the surcharge will expire on Dec. 31, after about three-quarters of Fiscal Year 2011-12 has passed, and the State will forego about $2.7 billion in revenue that would have allowed us to begin Fiscal Year 2012-13 in balance instead of the shortfall that we may now expect.

With the budget finished, our attention now turns to other vital matters. A top priority will be the extension and strengthening of our rent laws, which expire on June 15. Without these laws to protect us, over 1 million hardworking New Yorkers who rent their homes could see their housing costs become immediately unaffordable. If the rent laws are not strengthened, the number of rent regulated apartments that are removed from the system through vacancy decontrol and rented at market rates will continue to grow. Without rent laws to protect us, low- and middle-income New Yorkers could see our City become a gilded community for the rich where others are not welcome. The importance of renewing these laws cannot be overstated.

In years past, our conference would have had the option of holding up the budget until a deal was struck to extend the rent laws. That dynamic has changed. When a court case that began as an argument over the relative budgetary powers of the Legislature and the Executive was decided in 2004, the court ruled that under the Constitution and in certain circumstances, the Legislature may not change budget proposals that have been handed down by the Executive.

That power was first used last year by Governor Paterson, who forced the Legislature to choose between approving his budget cuts or shutting down most of State government. His successor, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, followed suit, and threatened to force through his budget cuts in an "extender" bill if the Legislature did not vote on a spending plan for the State by the deadline of April 1. Because the Legislature was successful in negotiating the restorations discussed above, all of which we would have lost if we had delayed a budget vote and the Governor had used the "nuclear option" to pass his own budget, daring the Governor to shut down the State was not an option.

During the next three months, before our Session ends in June, the Assembly will push for the enactment of strong housing legislation that protects tenants. We will also push to pass ethics legislation to stop the few bad apples whose scandals cast a dark cloud over State government as a whole. I will continue to report to you as our work progresses.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
March 17, 2011

…and this month in Albany

On Tuesday, March 15, two weeks to the day before the Legislature must pass an on-time budget, the Assembly passed our $133 billion "one-house" budget bill. Our bill is quite similar to the Executive Budget released by Governor Cuomo earlier in the year, with a few noteworthy differences: first, our bill calls for the return and modification of the millionaire's tax on New Yorkers whose cash earnings total $1 million or more, which we believe will generate about $706 million in revenue. In doing so, we have made the soon-to-expire original surcharge, which was enacted in 2007 for households earning more than $250,000 and is due to expire at the end of this year, into a true millionaire's tax. We also rejected a plan to cap awards for pain and suffering at $250,000 that was included in the budget as a way to save money.

Our conference plans to use revenue from the millionaire's tax to restore about half of the Governor's proposed cuts to education and human services programs. The Senate's "one-house" bill, which like the Assembly's was released last weekend, also appears to be similar to the Governor's plan. During the coming weeks, Legislative leaders will meet in conference committees to reconcile budget plans.

Compared to the budget that is in place for Fiscal Year 2010-11, which ends March 31, the Assembly's plan for FY 2011-12 cuts overall spending by $3.1 billion. Much of the difference accounts for a falloff in Federal aid, primarily the Federal stimulus program. The Assembly's Fiscal Plan forecasts increasing tax revenues, reflecting the gradual recovery of the economy.

In case you are interested, a full list of our planned restorations is available for reading at www.assembly.state.ny.us; the budget plan summary was posted Monday evening.

As I said above, in many instances, the Assembly has agreed to accept without changes the Governor's budget plans, including many of his plans to achieve savings by consolidating State agencies. We feel that the Division of Parole should remain autonomous, and we reject the suggestion that the statutory requirement of 12 months' notice before closing a correctional facility be done away with, though we have agreed to fund a task force that will consider prison closures. We also rejected proposals to consolidate crime victims' advocacy service providers but accept the plan to change the State's financial services and consumer protection programs.

Another issue that may be in the budget is rent laws. With the rent regulation laws set to expire June 15, and with tenants steadily losing ground to aggressive landlords in the battle over tenants' rights, we here in Albany are negotiating with the Senate and the Governor to reauthorize rent regulation and place new tenant protection legislation in the Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget so that they cannot easily be undone.

On Sunday, March 12, I joined Speaker Silver and a number of our colleagues on the steps of City Hall to talk about a bill the Speaker and I co-sponsored along with Housing Committee Chairman Vito Lopez which would renew and strengthen the rent laws. During his remarks, Speaker Silver said that in the last few years, while bad landlords sought to erode the rent laws, our City had gone a long way to becoming the world's largest and most exclusive "gated community" for the wealthy, where the poor and middle-class would not be welcome. This has been a problem for years, but has recently become much worse. Every year, thousands of hardworking New Yorkers are priced out of their homes. My colleagues and I will fight to close loopholes bad landlords use to take away our affordable housing.

A recent study by the Community Service Society, titled "The New Housing Emergency," which has been supported by our Assembly conference, and is available at www.assembly.state.ny.us, lays out the growing and terrible problem in stark detail. Every year, at least 10,000 apartments are taken out of the rent regulation system. The exact number is unclear, because much of the reporting is left up to the landlord, and some have criticized enforcement of the existing laws as weak. No wonder that our conversations and the newspapers are filled with the stories of long-suffering, mistreated tenants.

Across our City and the New York region, the number of affordable apartments is falling, and the pool of available housing remains critically low. In Manhattan, a decade ago, more than half of renters had recently moved into rent-regulated apartments. By 2008, less than a third who had recently moved settled into rent-regulated apartments. In Northern Manhattan, during 2002, 81 percent of those who had recently moved occupied regulated apartments. By the end of the decade, that number had fallen to 67 percent. We all know the problem has become worse since then. The legislation I mentioned above would close many of the loopholes that are used to remove regulated apartments from the system through means fair or foul.

First, this bill would immediately extend the rent regulation laws to June 15, 2016. It would also change the existing laws to modernize and strengthen the rent laws to protect tenants and stop bad landlords from taking advantage of tenants. Landlords would only be allowed to take one apartment for personal use after proving immediate and compelling need, and only if the tenant had occupied that apartment for less than 20 years. It would reduce the amount the rent could go up between tenants, from 20 percent to 10 percent. Former Section 8 and Mitchell-Lama buildings would be brought into the rent regulation system. Landlords would have to stop charging tenants for the cost of major capital improvements to the apartments once the cost of these improvements have been paid off, and the City would be given the freedom to adopt rent laws that provide more stringent protections than do State rent laws.

Our bill would end the practice of vacancy decontrol, which automatically removes apartments from the rent regulation system once the rent exceeds a set amount. Should our bill be signed into law by the Governor, the amount of maximum rent which would take an apartment out of the rent regulation system once it becomes vacant would be increased from $2,000 to $3,500. That number would be tied to the rate of inflation, closing an important loophole that bad landlords had used to deregulate apartments once they became vacant. Repeal of vacancy decontrol would be retroactive, meaning these improved regulations would apply to tenants who had been deregulated on or after Jan. 1, 2007.

As we move toward closing a budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12, we will continue negotiations to have this important bill included in the budget.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
February 22, 2011

…and this month in Albany

The Legislature is in recess this week; I hope that you had a relaxed and enjoyable Presidents' Day holiday. Next week, when our Legislative session resumes, we will conduct public hearings on a proposed Property Tax Cap as well as budget issues including workforce issues, mental hygiene, health and Medicaid funding which will be affected by the Fiscal Year 2011-12 Executive Budget released Feb. 1.

In news closer to home, I was happy to see the following article, which reflects our efforts to improve the quality of life in Northern Manhattan. I hope that you find it to be interesting reading.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.
Member of Assembly



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
February 2, 2011

…and this month in Albany

Yesterday Governor Cuomo unveiled his draft Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12. In it, as expected, he proposed a number of deep cuts to important State programs including Medicaid and public education. He also proposed to shrink State government and achieve savings by consolidating agencies. Governor Cuomo's first budget can be described as similar to what our last two budgets would have looked like absent the billions in Federal stimulus funding we received from the Federal government to help balance our books.

Some of you may have seen the opinion column the Governor sent to newspapers across the State a day before releasing his budget. In it, the Governor called our method of putting together the budget a "sham" that relies on guesswork and fixed spending increases every year. That story is only partially true. The rest of the story is that, like other modern governments, New York State relies on experts including my Ways and Means Committee staff to draw up projections. For example, staff tracks unemployment figures to project how many New Yorkers will file for Medicaid benefits, and how much money should be set aside to pay for that program. As you have seen, when these projections are wrong or not affordable, the Legislature returns to Albany to amend the budget and bring our spending back into line. We did this several times last year.

Returning to the Governor's budget plan, he has proposed to not only do away with projected funding increases to State programs, but to also cut education and Medicaid by nearly $3 billion each. Other cuts, such as a 10 percent cut to State operations that would save over $1 billion, were also proposed. Overall, the budget would decrease by almost 3 percent. The Governor has projected $455 million in new revenue including fee increases, more aggressive tax enforcement, Lottery expansions and other measures. "Sweeps" of money from entities including the New York Power Authority and "clawbacks" of funds that had already been paid are also part of his plan. No tax increase was proposed, nor was any extension of the "millionaires' tax" on households earning more than $250,000. This revenue source is set to expire in December.

New York City would receive significantly less money from the State. Local Assistance grants were once again cut to zero from $309 million, and City schools would lose $580 million in State aid. MTA would lose $200 million and social service programs would have their funding held flat.

The Governor's plan also calls for a reconfiguration of the State prison system and juvenile justice systems, but leaves the details of those plans for another day. He informed us that he hopes to accomplish all of these changes without firing State employees and making our unemployment problem worse, but if he must, up to 9,800 State employees could be fired.

My staff and I, along with other budget experts in Albany and across the State, have only begun to discuss the Governor's budget plan and the implications it carries for our State and our way of life. I will continue to report to you as our understanding of the Governor's plan grows.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
January 5, 2011

…and this month in Albany

I would like to begin by offering my wishes for a safe and healthy New Year to yourselves and your families. Shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve, at the Governor's mansion in Albany, Andrew M. Cuomo was sworn in as the 56th Governor of the State of New York. This small, private ceremony was followed by a public ceremony on New Year's Day in a small venue chosen deliberately because it held only 200 people. Our new Governor chose this format to send the message that he takes our State's delicate financial situation seriously. While some of his predecessors have spent millions in State money over the years on parties to mark the beginning of their tenure, our new Governor chose instead to immediately begin working on our State's problems instead of partying. Having broken with tradition once already, he did so again by delivering his State of the State address earlier today not in Legislative chambers but in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which held 2,000 members of the public.

Now that the New Year is upon us, it is time for us to prepare for the difficult decisions that will come by examining the issues and deciding how we can best deal with them. I believe this will mean that the rhetoric of cuts and waste that became a familiar refrain during recent months will now start to become reality. Many are talking about government waste as though waste were the cause of our troubles. While waste exists and cuts are coming, the budget, not waste, is what matters right now. Blaming waste for our problems is a way of avoiding hard decisions. When cuts are made we will see class sizes increase and patients turned away from hospitals. However, if every penny of waste and corruption were eliminated from State operations, we would still be billions of dollars short.

Our State has many real problems to deal with. One of the Legislature's first tasks will be to close a budget deficit of about $9 billion. Unemployment remains at an average of over 8 percent, and the Federal government has indicated that we should not expect more stimulus money. It goes without saying that Governor Cuomo comes to the table at a difficult time. At the same time that the Legislature is beginning to work with a new partner at the head of the Executive Branch, we will also start to work with new leadership in the Senate who must meet their responsibilities.

While Governor Cuomo has just begun to share details of his plans for our State, it seems clear that reform is among his top priorities. For many months, he has said that it is time for the culture of Albany to change. The Governor has said that he believes it is time to cap or cut taxes, while at the same time rolling back State spending. Earlier this week, in his first public remarks after taking the oath of office, he began to explain how he will go about changing Albany and the State as a whole. His first State of the State address, which was delivered today, shared details of the Governor's policy goals and how he plans to meet them. Soon we will see how his first budget will reflect his goals.

How successful the Governor will be in reaching those goals remains to be seen. The budget for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 is due in less than 90 days, and while our City's economy has (on paper, at least) begun to show signs of recovery, much of the recovery we have seen is jobless. The economy of the State as a whole, meanwhile, remains weak. This means that in the minds of many, little has changed since the recession technically ended in mid-2010.

I will continue to report to you during Session and the budget process. Again, have a happy and healthy New Year.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
November 3, 2010

…and this month in Albany

Though the economy remains weak in New York State, as it is across the nation as a whole, and unemployment is still disturbingly high, figures compiled and analyzed by my Assembly Ways and Means Committee shows tax revenues are stronger now than those recorded at this time last year. This means that the recession which began in late 2007/early 2008 may be starting to ease.

However, the gains we are beginning to see have so far fallen short of the revenue projections that the outgoing Governor and the Legislature anticipated while working on the Fiscal Year 2010-11 State Budget. It appears that one of the first tasks faced by Governor Cuomo will be closing a budget deficit of $8 billion or more by the time this Fiscal Year ends in March 2011.

The Governor-elect has committed to cutting the State's tax burden by placing a hard freeze on State spending and taxes, singling out property taxes and school taxes that are felt most acutely Upstate. An analysis of revenue trends and projections of the State's fiscal future shows these actions may prove difficult to accomplish. While cutting taxes and spending at the same time would effectively cancel out some of the anticipated deficit, taken together these proposed actions would not be a complete wash because a deficit of several billion dollars would remain with fewer resources available to close it. This could make an already difficult problem much worse. A proposal to give local governments the power to opt-out of spending caps could increase inequality in education and other services. These plans also ignore the fact that citizens like cuts, but not to their programs, which was obvious during the campaign when candidates spoke passionately about cuts, but would not say what they would cut if elected, except for the magic word "waste." (There is waste in the budget, but not enough to close an $8 billion deficit.)

While it is true that State spending is presently out of balance with our resources, the fact is that no one but the State is investing in improving the quality of life and every dollar counts when people are unemployed and hurting. For those lucky enough to have jobs, giving up some of their income to pay for programs and services that they personally see little benefit from can be a difficult thing to swallow. However, at this time, these programs are critically important to the many New Yorkers who are out of work or otherwise in difficult circumstances. I will keep you up date as we transition to the new administration and a new, and likely very difficult, coming year.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
October 26, 2010

…and this month in Albany

While the economy remains weak in New York State, as it is in the nation as a whole, and unemployment is still disturbingly high, data compiled and analyzed by my Assembly Ways and Means Committee staff shows tax revenues are stronger than those recorded at this time last year. This means that the recession which began in late 2007/early 2008 is starting to ease.

However, the gains we have realized so far have fallen short of the revenue projections that the Governor and the Legislature anticipated while working on the Fiscal Year 2010-11 State Budget. It appears at this time that one of the first tasks faced by the new Governor, whoever the victorious candidate may be, will be closing a budget deficit of $8 billion or more by the time the current Fiscal Year ends in March 2011.

The leading contenders for the State's highest office have committed to cutting the State's tax burden, singling out the property taxes and school taxes that are felt most acutely Upstate. An analysis of revenue trends and projections of the State's fiscal future shows that these promises may be difficult for the new Governor to keep. A proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax would cost the State up to $5 billion in revenue, while a proposal to eliminate the MTA payroll tax would force the price of a Metrocard up by 50 cents to make up for the loss of revenue generated by this fee.

Cutting these and other taxes, and cutting State spending at the same time, would effectively cancel out some of the anticipated deficit. But the combined effects of these proposed spending and tax cuts would not be a complete wash because a deficit of several billion dollars would remain with fewer resources available to close it. The fact is that wildly cutting State spending and taxes at this time would make an already difficult problem much worse.

Every dollar counts when people are unemployed and hurting. For those lucky enough to have jobs, giving up some of their income to pay for programs and services that they personally see little benefit from can be a difficult thing to swallow. However, at this moment in time, these programs are critically important to the many New Yorkers who are out of work or otherwise in difficult circumstances. Creating misery to save money, or in the case of Medicaid, violating Federal law to cut spending, would be foolish. All of us are done a disservice when facts are used selectively for campaign slogans that in practice could cause more problems than they solve.

In more pleasant news, I recently attended Fort Tryon Park's 75th "birthday party." Though I intended only to bring my daughter Sophia to see the celebration, as it happened I was asked to make a few remarks along with Parks officials. Thinking about what I should say, I realized that the Park is one of the things our community can enjoy with pride. It also reminds us of what we should expect from government and our political leaders.

In case you do not know, the 60 acres the park was built upon were donated to the City by the late John D. Rockefeller, Jr. whose property was what is now the Park grounds. His son, the former Governor of our State, had things in common with his father other than their name: both were very good at building things that would last and would benefit the public. I do not often say nice things about Republicans, because it is not my job to do so, but in their case it is the truth.

John Rockefeller made sure the park was built to last. You can see for yourself by visiting to see and touch the granite steps, which are 75 years old and none the worse for wear. Nelson Rockefeller deserves credit for building the State University of New York from a small public college into a world-class institution that has done a great deal to further the growth and development of our State. These commitments to build lasting public institutions and protect them during tough times will, I believe, be what lifts our State out of these tough times and allows us to move forward. The Legislature recently had the opportunity to semi-privatize parts of the State University system. We chose not to, because keeping these institutions in public hands does more for the common good than would allowing private interests to profit from them.

It is clear that while our economy is beginning to recover, many New Yorkers have yet to feel any relief. It is easy to understand their anger with government and with State spending on social programs in particular. But we should remember that the cause of all this pain was short-term greed on Wall Street and lax enforcement in Washington, not the policies of the New York State. In fact, it is my opinion that we would do well to remember the good things of the past that we have accomplished through study, hard work and careful investment. By striving to continue the best things we have done, we may avoid the pitfalls of easy answers and unforeseen problems.

Finally, I am disappointed that the proprietors of Il Sole did not respond, much less agree, to a request from this community's elected officials that they accept voluntary restrictions on their outdoor seating. Though Community Board 12's Economic Development Committee saw fit to approve Il Sole's request for a renewal of their sidewalk seating permit without agreeing to these conditions, I cannot endorse a renewal if the business does not try harder to be a better neighbor.

As you may know, Councilman Robert Jackson has reached agreement with Mamajuana and Papasito to close their sidewalk seating at a reasonable time. Il Sole has not yet committed to follow suit. Until such time as these reasonable conditions are accepted and followed, I will stand opposed to the renewal of Il Sole's permit and from what I am told Councilman Jackson will do the same. I hope that you will consider my position before voting on Il Sole's application.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
September 28, 2010

…and this month in Albany

Welcome back, and I hope you enjoyed your summer. As you may have heard, mine was quite exciting.

Many people have been speculating that the Legislature will return to Albany for another extraordinary session before Election Day, which is November 2. I doubt this will happen. While there are mechanical issues to resolve, including appropriations legislation for some of the large Federal grants that New York State has recently received, this legislation may not require a vote before January. Part of the speculation behind a rumored return to Albany are the demands for action on a proposed real property tax cut, which would primarily affect Upstate. While Governor Paterson had until recently demanded immediate action on a tax cap, he has backed off his demand and agreed to allow his successor to take up the tax cap issue after his term ends.

As you may have heard, New York State was awarded almost $700 million under a federal program called Race to the Top, which is intended to improve the performance of public schools while at the same time encouraging the development of privately-run charter schools. New York City will receive nearly half of that award. While this award will not erase the funding cuts in the Governor's budget we fought for months but were forced to accept, they should provide our schools with a way to ward off the worst of the damage that would have been caused by cutting $1.4 billion from education. Because of these Federal funds, the actual cut will be much less.

New York will also benefit from a separate grant of $700 million we were awarded through another federal program called Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, or FMAP. FMAP is a formula that is used to decide the amount of federal health care matching funds that are awarded to states. Under the FMAP system now in place, New York State is eligible for a slightly more than $1-to-$1 match in federal monies. We had anticipated that we could receive about $1 billion in FMAP funding, and included that figure in our revenue estimates. But as our session drew to a close, many said that no FMAP funds would be forthcoming from Washington. This possibility required us to return to session in August to draw up contingency plans. After reaching agreement with the Senate and the Governor, we passed a plan that would allow cuts of three percent across the board (with certain exceptions) if the FMAP monies did not arrive. Exceptions to those cuts included public assistance and SSI, which are set by federal law, debt service and court-ordered expenditures. Further, in case of a surplus, extra monies were to be sent to programs that had been cut. Economic conditions and Federal funds have made it possible for the Governor's Division of Budget to cut local aid by not three percent but just over one percent.

On the revenue side of the budget, the State's income has improved compared to this time last year, but revenues are coming in just below the levels we had anticipated during our work on the budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11. Some claim that a real property tax cap, which would lock in spending increases by a few percentage points year-to-year, are the solution to the State's fiscal problems. While the Assembly is skeptical a property tax cap will be effective while avoiding damage to education programs, my Ways and Means staff is looking carefully at several tax cap proposals that are on the table. This proposed cap would apply to schools, counties and small cities but exclude New York City as well as cities with financial control boards, such as Buffalo.

Governor Paterson has proposed a cap that would block real property taxes from increasing by more than four percent year-to-year, or 120 percent of the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Attorney General Cuomo has proposed a firm two percent cap, similar to the system recently adopted by New Jersey. While a property tax cap sounds like a good thing, if a hard cap is put in place it could create a major problem in school districts which are not well-off.

Absent Federal stimulus funds or other unusual boosts to education aid, and with State resources still in a period of recovery, localities now have the option of making up for shortfalls by boosting their local tax rates. If that ability is taken away, the money will no longer be there, meaning that something will have to give. That "something" will likely be teacher layoffs, which would boost class sizes and make learning more difficult, especially for struggling students. Further, the tax cap proposals that are now on the table include provisions to allow an override of the cap by a 60 percent local vote. The Assembly finds this provision very disturbing, as it could lead to a "tyranny of the minority" with terrible consequences for students and schools.

I will report to you again soon as our studies and discussions of these plans develop.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
June 22, 2010

…and this month in Albany

On Friday, June 18, we saved the free student MetroCard program, which will mean this year's program will continue unchanged. This week, the Legislature approved the twelfth in a series of emergency budget bills called extenders, in which the Governor has included parts of his budget. As we have discussed before, his budget contains many cuts which members of the Assembly and Senate find unacceptable. To make up for some of those cuts, and restore funding for our health care programs, we voted last night for the Governor's plan to increase the per-pack tax on cigarettes by $1.60 and increase taxes on other tobacco products. His plan also calls for the State to collect tobacco taxes on reservations.

The State expects to raise $440 million this year through these actions and we believe these actions will also give people more incentive to quit using tobacco. During yesterday's session we also passed bills covering the environmental protection and government aid components of the budget.

By Monday, June 28, if we have not finished our work on the budget we will be forced to vote yes or no on the Governor's $1.4 billion cut to education and other remaining portions of the budget. The Governor has threatened to force us to choose between shutting down State government and approving these budget cuts. As has been the case since the Governor's first extender was handed down in April, without a budget in place the State lacks authority to spend money. However, we believe that we will finish the budget this week, before the June 28 deadline set by the Governor.

Earlier in June we passed the economic development, transportation and public protection components of the budget. By passing a budget in this unprecedented and piecemeal fashion, we have been forced to vote for cuts to programs we fought to create. However, we have had some success in negotiating smaller cuts or no cuts. In exchange for accepting his health care cuts, we convinced the Governor to restore a proposed $330 million cut which will fund the State share of the welfare increase we passed last year. This will mean the full 10 percent increase to public assistance will go into effect as scheduled on July 1. We also saved senior centers and youth employment programs facing closure because of budget cuts.

At this point, including the bills handed down by the Governor yesterday, our work on the All Funds budget is 68 percent complete. In the coming days, we will address education funding and other issues that will complete the budget. The Assembly continues to fight to reverse, as much as possible, proposed cuts to students and classrooms. While some administrative cost savings are acceptable, we hope not to accept any budget action which will increase class sizes and harm student achievement. It would be unfair to allow the misdeeds of Washington and Wall Street to do further harm to the future leaders of our State.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
June 17, 2010

…and this month in Albany

On Monday, June 14, the Legislature approved the eleventh emergency budget bill handed down by the Governor, which contained more than $325 million in cuts to mental health and human services programs. By voting to approve these cuts, in addition to health care cuts we approved last week, we have achieved a savings of over $1 billion and made significant progress toward closing a budget deficit of more than $9 billion. If we had not approved these cuts, because there is no budget in place for Fiscal Year 2010-11, the State would not have had authorization to spend money. This would have thrown thousands of State employees out of work, stopped unemployment benefits, and caused untold chaos.

However, in exchange for accepting his cuts, we convinced the Governor to restore his proposed $330 million cut to the State share of the welfare increase we passed last year, which will mean the full 10 percent increase to public assistance will go into effect as scheduled on July 1. Our action also saved funding for senior centers and youth employment programs that had faced closure because of budget cuts. Tonight and tomorrow morning, we will work on economic development, transportation and public protection budget bills sent to us by the Governor. At this point, prior to the bills handed up by the Governor yesterday, our work on the All Funds budget is now about 60 percent complete.

In approving the budget in this unprecedented and piecemeal fashion, we were forced to accept cuts to programs we fought to create. We managed to convince the governor to save programs relied on by children, the elderly and low income New Yorkers and avoid compounding their suffering during these difficult times. We should finish a budget soon by negotiating an agreement. Otherwise, on June 28, the Governor has threatened to force us to adopt his budget by putting all of the remaining budget bills into that week's emergency bill. The Assembly was able to restore some cuts to hospitals and health programs, and we are now fighting to restore some of the Governor's proposed $1.4 billion aid cut to schools and students. There are signs that our idea is gaining acceptance in the Senate and with the Governor, but no final deal has yet been reached. Whatever we do, we must not accept any education cuts that will impact classrooms or increase class sizes. It would be unfair to allow the misdeeds of Washington and Wall Street to further harm these vulnerable New Yorkers.

I would like to take a break from the trouble in Albany to recognize and thank your outgoing Chair, Patricia Jones, whom I understand will step down from her post after tonight's meeting, for her contributions to the community. Her work for the community includes the program with Columbia University and her work on rezoning issues will have an effect on our community for decades. Have a good summer and I look forward to running into you during my walks around the district.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
June 2, 2010

…and this month in Albany

On Friday, May 28, the Assembly passed legislation that re-opened Riverbank State Park and over 50 other parks in time for Memorial Day. These parks had their hours of operation reduced or were closed entirely. However, in order to come up with the $11 million to save the parks, including Riverbank, we were forced to find areas to cut. Many of the cuts we were forced to make were projects and services that had been funded by the State Environmental Protection Fund. We also passed a bill that will, over the next few years, more than double the number of charter schools allowed by law to operate in this State.

As you know, many of our State's nearly 200 charter schools are located here in Northern Manhattan. They are popular with parents because after nine years of mayoral control of public schools, the needs of the children are still not being met, forcing the people of our community to fight to get their children into charter schools. Unlike public schools, charter schools have special authority. Many members of our Assembly conference including myself, along with Senators including our own Bill Perkins, have long been troubled by how some of these charters were run. For instance, while charters receive funding from the State, because they are private entities they are not subject to the same level of oversight as are public schools. What this means is that, as many newspaper investigations have uncovered, funds can and have been misused by charter administrators for years without detection. Public schools, by contrast, are subject to audit by the State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli. Because of this and other problems with rules regulating how New York charters could operate, myself and other legislators were not happy with them. Four of the Senators who had voted against the last charter expansion bill, on May 3, voted for the May 28 bill. We hope the legislation that I and other legislators voted for closes many of these loopholes.

The legislation that saved the parks was less of a clear win. Because parks administration falls under the Executive Branch, the Governor was able to single-handedly carry out his threat to close the parks and historic sites in an attempt to force the Legislature to pass his version of the budget, which contains many deep and unnecessary cuts to education and health care programs. Many who use Riverbank State Park on a daily basis to exercise or socialize suddenly had their access to this invaluable public resource suddenly cut off, because the park opened late and closed early. Even the bus drivers who go into Riverbank to turn their buses around had their schedules disrupted. Because of the State's cash flow problems, we recognized the grain of truth in the Governor's argument: something had to be cut in order to save the parks. In my opinion, allowing the parks to remain closed even one day longer was simply not an option, and many of my colleagues agreed. The plan we approved will mean that going forward we will have fewer resources to draw upon in order to fund priorities like zoos and botanical gardens. But it also increases fines for pollution, ends inequality in fees paid by producers of chemicals and creates an "e-waste" program to encourage recycling of electronics which has long been a goal of the Assembly.

Yours truly,

H. D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
May 25, 2010

…and this month in Albany

Following your Board's recent vote against allowing Mamajuana Cafe at 247 Dyckman Street to renew their sidewalk seating permit, I wrote to New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz in support of your position. In my letter, which appears on the back of this page, I suggested that he and his Department's voting members visit Dyckman Street after nightfall to see for themselves the conditions we are forced to live with before they vote. Further, I know that other members of the community have independently written Consumer Affairs to express their opposition to bringing back Mamajuana's sidewalk café. Though there is bound to be resistance to your decision, this level of support from the community is clear evidence that you made the right call, and I thank you for making it.

In Albany, we continue to negotiate in pursuit of a three-party agreement on the budget as we prepare for the political convention season. The houses were in agreement about what to cut to make up for $6 billion of our $9 billion deficit. Today, the leaders of the Assembly and Senate agreed to come to general agreement on what to cut in order to make up the final $3 billion. Discussions of specifics will follow. Perhaps of greater local interest is legislation submitted by the Governor on Monday, May 24 that would remove $6 million from the State's Environmental Protection Fund and use that money to reopen most or all State parks that were closed or had their hours reduced last week. However, the park provision would also shrink the EPF to $143 million, $25 million less than in the Assembly's budget plan, and force cuts at zoos and botanical gardens statewide. We will be looking closely at this legislation as we prepare for a vote. This is only the latest development in our ongoing discussion of how to save the parks. Last week, I twice took the Governor to task over his decision to reduce hours of operation at Riverbank State Park, and along with my colleagues I will continue to continue to fight to restore funding for our parks.

Charter schools are also receiving close scrutiny in Albany. On May 3 the Senate passed a bill that would increase the number of charter schools allowed by law from 200 to 460. Though the Senate has been slow to negotiate on key budget issues, they quickly introduced, debated, and passed by a vote of 45 to 15 this bill, which some say would better the State's chances of receiving some of the federal Race to the Top grants now being offered. The majority of support for this bill came from on the other side of the aisle. This bill would fundamentally change our public education system, which recent studies of standardized tests have shown to be making strong gains. Last night, our Assembly Conference discussed the charter issue until well after midnight. Most of our members are not happy with the Senate bill, and insist charters must be forbidden to cherrypick students, subject to audit by the Comptroller and other reforms. Only one of Manhattan's five Senators supported their bill. Manhattan's other four Senators, including Bill Perkins who is doing a very good job of gathering and distributing information about charter schools, stood opposed. If we are to act on this issue, it will likely be this week, as the deadline to apply is June 1.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
May 20, 2010

…and this month in Albany

On two occasions this week I confronted Governor Paterson about his decision to reduce hours of operation at Riverbank State Park in our Assembly District and close or reduce hours at over 50 parks and historic sites. Though I have called the Governor my friend for more than 20 years, he is wrong on this issue and his actions, which are basically political arm-twisting, are unacceptable.

On Monday, May 17, the Assembly Majority Conference met with the Governor behind closed doors for more than an hour to talk about the budget. Our discussion is private, but I can disclose that I took the Governor to task over his tactics, especially closing the parks. Both the Assembly and Senate, in our "one-house" budget plans that spell out our positions and priorities, have agreed that most or all of the cuts proposed for our parks by the Governor must be restored. This means we are sure that we are in agreement and in the enacted budget, money will be found. The Governor, however, refuses to acknowledge this fact or consider funding parks at a higher level than his pennywise, pound foolish proposal. Because public parks are a part of the Executive Branch, he was able to act alone and close the parks despite our objections and the resulting outcry from the public. His decision may also get us into trouble with the federal government which funds some State parks.

It is my belief that the Governor ordered parks closed and hours of operations reduced at others knowing full well the public outcry that would follow. I believe this was done in order to force the Legislature to accept his plan to cut billions from State education and health care programs at a time these programs are most needed. His numbers are not acceptable, and his budget plan would do untold damage to our State's institutions, yet the Governor refuses to change course. It would appear that he is attempting to convince people that our State faces a financial cataclysm. It is true that we face a budget deficit of over $9 billion, and that the deficit must be dealt with. We believe that the Assembly's proposals to close the deficit would be more effective and less destructive than the Governor's cuts. Unfortunately, he would rather close parks than negotiate with us. Payments to school districts and other institutions were delayed due to cash flow problems, not the lack of a budget. If we were to pass a balanced budget today, these cash flow problems would still persist. The Governor, however, is selling the fiction that if we were to pass his budget as-is, cash would magically appear. Borrowing could give the State access to cash, but the Governor refuses to consider this option and has said publicly that he opposes borrowing in any form.

On Tuesday, May 18, I again spoke with the Governor, this time to explain that if our parks remain closed, it is likely that summer programs will not be offered this year even after a budget passes because it will take time to hire lifeguards and other staff to work in the parks. These delays will leave residents of our State, of all ages and in all areas, with no place to go and less constructive activity to engage them at a time of high unemployment and less funding for summer youth jobs. At Riverbank, reduced hours of operation mean that many who used the park to exercise or socialize can no longer do so. I will continue fighting for Riverbank and all State parks. In our budgets the Assembly and Senate agreed to restore the $11 million the Governor had cut from our parks. We must convince him to acknowledge what he already knows, the importance of preserving these invaluable public resources.

Governor's Signs Improved Voter Registration Law

Prior to the park closings and the subsequent discussions, a bill based on an idea I originally introduced in the early 1990s to improve the State's voter registration rules was signed into law by the Governor during the last week of April 2010.

The act to amend New York State election law builds on the use of a document called the affidavit ballot, which is a sworn statement filled out on Election Day by a person whose voting status is unclear. This may mean they believe they are registered to vote when they are not, or were somehow dropped from the rolls, or mistakenly believe they are enrolled in a political party which would entitle them to vote in a primary election. These voters' ballots are placed in an envelope upon which they write their identifying information. Election officials check information on the affidavit ballot envelope against State records and, if the information is correct, the ballot is saved and counted alongside other votes. If not, under the old rules, the ballot and envelope are cast aside and not counted or used.

In years past, as I was working the polls to make sure all was well with the election, I would see the same people filling out these affidavit ballots and envelopes year after year. When I asked them why they were not also filling out a voter registration form, they often said they were in a hurry to get to work or to an appointment and did not want to spend the time filling out a second form. It occurred to me that if the Board of Elections used the information on the affidavit ballot envelope to register these voters, the lives of everyone involved would be easier. While the Assembly passed my bill on several occasions, unfortunately the leadership of the Senate at that time did not support the idea of allowing working voters easier access to the ballot box.

The new bill, which was introduced by Assemblyman Brian P. Kavanagh and myself in early 2009, was supported by other members and passed the full Assembly first in June of that year before dying in the Senate. In March of 2010 the bill again passed the Assembly and passed the Senate April 14, 2010. Under the new law, if examination of the affidavit ballot finds the voter is not enrolled and therefore ineligible to vote, the ballot is thrown out but information from the voter's affidavit envelope is used to register them, making them eligible to vote in the next election.

Before he signed the bill April 28, the Governor credited the Assembly for improving the public's access to our political process and subtly improving the civic life of our State.

For the latest word from Albany, including information on the budget and other issues, as well as goings-on here at home, please visit my page on the Assembly Web site, www.assembly.state.ny.us, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
May 5, 2010

…and this month in Albany

As you may have heard the state Senate on Monday, May 3 passed a bill that would more than double the number of charter schools allowed by law from 200 to 460. This bill was introduced in the Senate on Friday, speedily debated Monday, and passed by a vote of 45 to 15 while the ink may have been still wet. The Senators who voted for the bill included many members from the other side of the aisle. Only one of the five Senators who represent Manhattan on our side of the aisle voted yes. Manhattan's four other Senators, including Bill Perkins who is doing a very good job of gathering and distributing information about charter schools, voted no. The Assembly has not yet chosen to take up the charter expansion bill, primarily because our top priority continues to be the budget. In fact, we were surprised that the Senate could so quickly pass a bill the Mayor supported, while it appears they are still not ready to work with the Assembly to pass a budget.

We are now over a month into Fiscal Year 2010-11 and the Assembly's leadership continues to negotiate with the Governor and the Senate, who have taken issue with our proposal to partially restore education aid cuts proposed by the Governor. These cuts were proposed in response to a dramatic loss of tax revenue following the Wall Street crash of 2007/2008. While we continue to work without pay, we are providing for the State's monetary needs by passing legislation called extenders, which I call continuing resolutions. On Monday, we passed a fifth extender which will pay for our State's basic needs this week.

As I reported to you last month, we are confronted with two basic problems: reaching consensus on what must be cut, and convincing the Governor to send us new language covering important areas of the budget that we hope will differ from his original language, which included deep cuts. Because the Governor chose to weave appropriations bills into Article VII language, based on recent court rulings we do not have the option of amending his budget language to simply remove proposals we do not support, stifling Legislative input into the operations of State government and producing a late budget. To avoid a total shutdown of State government, we have voted to approve the bare-bones budget extenders handed down by the Governor. The next set of extenders, due later this week, may include furloughs for State workers.

Until recently, the Governor had refused to include any funding for capital projects in these budget extenders. I am happy to report that the Governor has changed his mind on this matter, and will release federal funds that will be used to rebuild the Alexander Hamilton Bridge on I-95 and perform other necessary and urgently needed repairs to roads and bridges across the State. I will continue to report to you as our budget negotiations develop.


Governor's Signs Improved Voter Registration Law

A bill based on an idea I originally introduced in the early 1990s to improve the State's voter registration rules was signed into law by the Governor during the last week of April 2010.

The act to amend New York State election law builds on the use of a document called the affidavit ballot, which is a sworn statement filled out on Election Day by a person whose voting status is unclear. This may mean they believe they are registered to vote when they are not, or were somehow dropped from the rolls, or mistakenly believe they are enrolled in a political party which would entitle them to vote in a primary election. These voters' ballots are placed in an envelope upon which they write their identifying information. Election officials check information on the affidavit ballot envelope against State records and, if the information is correct, the ballot is saved and counted alongside other votes. If not, under the old rules, the ballot and envelope are cast aside and not counted or used.

In years past, as I was working the polls to make sure all was well with the election, I would see the same people filling out these affidavit ballots and envelopes year after year. When I asked them why they were not also filling out a voter registration form, they often said they were in a hurry to get to work or to an appointment and did not want to spend the time filling out a second form. It occurred to me that if the Board of Elections used the information on the affidavit ballot envelope to register these voters, the lives of everyone involved would be easier. While the Assembly passed my bill on several occasions, unfortunately the leadership of the Senate at that time did not support the idea of allowing working voters easier access to the ballot box.

The new bill, which was introduced by Assemblyman Brian P. Kavanagh and myself in early 2009, was supported by other members and passed the full Assembly first in June of that year before dying in the Senate. In March of 2010 the bill again passed the Assembly and passed the Senate April 14, 2010. Under the new law, if examination of the affidavit ballot finds the voter is not enrolled and therefore ineligible to vote, the ballot is thrown out but information from the voter's affidavit envelope is used to register them, making them eligible to vote in the next election.

Before he signed the bill April 28, the Governor credited the Assembly for improving the public's access to our political process and subtly improving the civic life of our State.

For the latest word from Albany, including information on the budget and other issues, as well as goings-on here at home, please visit my page on the Assembly Web site, www.assembly.state.ny.us, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
April 27, 2010

…and this month in Albany
We are nearly a month into Fiscal Year 2010-11 and the Assembly's leadership remains engaged with the Governor and the Senate, who are continuing to oppose our proposal to partially restore education aid cuts proposed by the Governor in response to a dramatic contraction in tax receipts following the Wall Street crash of 2007/2008. While we are working toward a mutually acceptable solution to our fiscal problems, we are providing for the State's monetary needs by passing what are called extenders, which I call continuing resolutions. On Monday, we passed a fourth extender bill which will pay for our State's basic needs until next week. No Assembly member or Senator will be paid until a budget passes. On a more positive note, we have convinced the Governor to include funds for capital construction projects including the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in these extenders, funds he had threatened to withhold.

At the crux of our negotiations are two basic problems: reaching consensus on all aspects of the budget including what must be cut, and convincing the Governor to send us new language covering important areas of the budget. We hope this new language will differ from his original language which included cuts and policy shifts. Because he chose to weave appropriations into Article VII language, based on recent court rulings we do not have the option of amending his budget language to simply remove proposals we do not support, stifling Legislative input into the operations of State government and producing a late budget. In the coming days, you may hear a lot about June 1, which is the statutory deadline by which the State must make some of its largest payouts of education and health care aid and other monies. Though it is not uncommon for us to release these funds early, the Governor said recently that the State's cash flow issues would force him to delay this payment until the statutory deadline, as he did with school aid last year, and threatened to do so again if he felt it necessary. By doing so he apparently intends to create a pressure point intended to force us to support the Governor's point of view with regard to budget cuts.

Though some claim our State is in this position because of historic overspending that led to a systemic budgetary imbalance, in truth we are under the gun because of Wall Street's greed and Washington's unwillingness to regulate the financial markets, which led to the crash of late 2007/early 2008. When the financial markets based here in New York City collapsed, markets that had been the source of one out of every five tax dollars collected in our State, a chain reaction began that touched all aspects of our economy. This led to a violently negative effect on State revenues, meaning that very suddenly we had much less to spend than in other years. This led some in Albany to call for dramatic change.

In his Executive Budget, the Governor took the position that because of the financial crisis, deep and painful cuts would have to be made, including the largest areas of State spending, which are education and health care. He proposed to cut school aid and health care spending by over $1 billion each, plus many other cuts, to help close a projected budget gap of over $9 billion. Last month, in their "one-house" budget resolution, the Senate essentially accepted the Governor's argument and supported most of his cuts despite their earlier rhetoric to the contrary as well as the fact that deep cuts to schools and hospitals would undo much of what we have accomplished with respect to those institutions in recent years.

The Assembly's "one-house" resolution, which we unveiled March 24, accepted many of the Governor's proposed health care cuts but restored $126 million in health care funding the Governor had cut. We scaled back his $1.4 billion cut to school aid by restoring $600 million, meaning State aid to schools would be cut by only $800 million compared to 2009-10. In total, our budget plan, which we feel to be the most realistic and responsible of the three plans now on the table, would cut $4.3 billion in spending and raise $1 billion in revenue. We also agreed to support many of the long-term budget reforms proposed by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, including bonding out $2 billion annually for the next three years. We are discussing elements of the Ravitch plan which includes a transition to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, creation of a financial oversight board that would have significant power over the State budget, and strict timetables to be followed in case of revenue shortfalls such as those which continue to bedevil our State. Some of these reforms have not found support with either the Governor or the Senate.

Though elements of the Executive Budget were sound and realistic, our Conference felt it would ill serve our State in the long term by cutting vital services in a manner likely to cause lasting harm. In particular we felt the proposed school aid cuts were not acceptable. We also came to the conclusion that unrealistic revenue expectations could be equally harmful to our State, a position that the Governor appears to share.

A Senate plan to borrow $700 million against anticipated revenue from the tobacco settlement reached several years ago, and use those monies to plug the budget hole, has not found favor with the Governor. The Senate plan also appears to have rejected outright many of Lt. Gov. Ravitch's suggestions, though the Senate released a draft budget reform package that includes GAAP and changing the State Fiscal Year calendar along with other ideas our Conference has not yet supported. Further complicating our discussions, our positions also differ on revenue estimates and suggested revenue raisers like a plan to sell wine in grocery stores and a plan to tax some sugary beverages. Representatives of the Assembly, Senate and Executive have been meeting in search of a compromise, and these talks will continue.

Having taken these varying positions with respect to revenues and expenditures, as well as the overall size and direction of State government, the three parties to negotiation must now find a way to reconcile our thinking and put together a uniform and cohesive plan for our State during Fiscal Year 2010-11. Until all three parties come to an agreement, it is likely that our government will continue to run based on a series of budget extenders that will infuse short-term funding on a stopgap, cyclical basis to keep the lights on and State employees and their families fed until a final version of this year's budget is adopted.

According to some accounts of our negotiations, little progress has been made. This is incorrect. Until recently, the Governor had refused to include in these continuing resolutions any funding for capital projects such as the rehabilitation of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge on I-95. As I said earlier, the Governor has changed his mind on this matter, and will release federal funds that will be used to rebuild the bridge, avoiding further delays. I will continue to report to you as our budget negotiations develop.

For the latest word from Albany, including information on the budget and other issues, as well as goings-on here at home, please visit my page on the Assembly Web site, www.assembly.state.ny.us, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
April 15, 2010

…and this month in Albany

We are now two weeks into State Fiscal Year 2010-11 and the Assembly's leadership remains engaged with the Governor and our counterparts in the Senate, pursuing three-party agreement on high-stakes budget questions including severe proposed cuts to education and health care to cope with the bleakest fiscal circumstances in years. While we are working toward a mutually acceptable solution to our fiscal problems, we are providing for the State's monetary needs by passing what are called extenders, which I call continuing resolutions. On Monday, we passed a second extender bill which will pay for our State's basic needs until next week. No Assembly member or Senator will be paid until a budget passes.

At the crux of our negotiations are two basic problems: reaching consensus on all aspects of the budget including what must be cut, and convincing the Governor to send us new language covering contentious areas of the budget that we hope will differ from his original language, which included deep cuts. Because the Governor chose to weave policy decisions into appropriations bills, based on recent court rulings we do not have the option of amending his budget language to simply remove proposals we do not support, stifling Legislative input into the operations of State government and producing a predictably late budget.

Much has been made recently of the fact that we left Albany during the last week of the 2009-10 Fiscal Year, most of which was tied up with religious holidays. Legislative staff remained in the Capitol and continued to work on our behalf in pursuit of a compromise. In the coming days, you may also hear a lot about June 1, which is the statutory deadline by which the State must make one of its largest payouts of education aid and other monies. Though it is not uncommon for us to release these funds early, the Governor said recently that the State's cash flow issues would force him to delay this payment until the statutory deadline for the second time and threatened to do so again if he felt it necessary, creating a pressure point intended to force us to support the Governor's point of view with regard to budget cuts.

Though some claim our State is in this position because of historic overspending that led to a systemic budgetary imbalance, in truth we are under the gun because of the Wall Street crash of late 2007/early 2008. When the financial markets based here in New York City collapsed, markets that had been the source of 20 cents of every tax dollar collected statewide, a chain reaction began that touched all aspects of our economy. This led to a violently negative effect on State revenues, meaning that very suddenly we had much less to spend than in other years. This led some in Albany to call for dramatic change.

In his Executive Budget, the Governor took the position that because of the financial crisis, deep and painful cuts would have to be made, including the largest areas of State spending, which are education and health care. He proposed to cut school aid and health care spending by over $1 billion each, plus many other cuts, to help close a projected budget gap of over $9 billion. Last month, in their "one-house" budget resolution, the Senate essentially accepted the Governor's argument and supported most of his cuts despite their earlier rhetoric to the contrary as well as the fact that deep cuts to schools and hospitals would undo much of what we have accomplished with respect to those institutions in recent years.

In the Assembly's "one-house" bill, which we unveiled March 24, we accepted many of the Governor's proposed health care cuts but scaled back his $1.4 billion cut to school aid by restoring $600 million, meaning State aid to schools would be cut by only $800 million compared to 2009-10. We also agreed to support many of the long-term budget reforms proposed by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, including bonding out $2 billion to help close the deficit. Some of these reforms have not found support with the Governor or Senate. In total our budget plan, which we feel to be the most realistic and responsible of the three plans now on the table, would cut $4.3 billion in spending and raise $1 billion through taxes and fees. We are discussing elements of the Ravitch plan which includes a transition to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, creation of a financial oversight board that would have power over the State budget, and strict timetables to be followed in case of revenue shortfalls such as those which continue to bedevil our State.

Though elements of the Executive Budget were sound and realistic, our Conference felt it would ill serve our State in the long term by cutting vital services in a manner likely to cause lasting harm. In particular we felt the proposed school aid cuts were not acceptable. We also came to the conclusion that unrealistic revenue expectations could be equally harmful to our State, a position that the Governor appears to share.

A Senate plan to borrow $700 million against anticipated revenue from the tobacco settlement reached several years ago, and use those monies to plug the budget hole, has not found favor with the Governor. The Senate plan appears to have rejected outright many of Lt. Gov. Ravitch's suggestions, though last week the Senate released a draft budget reform package that includes GAAP and changing the State Fiscal Year calendar along with other ideas our Conference has not yet supported. Further complicating our discussions, revenue estimates and suggested revenue raisers like a plan to sell wine in grocery stores and a plan to tax some sugary beverages, also differ widely. Representatives have been meeting in search of an acceptable compromise, and these talks will continue.

Having taken these varying positions with respect to revenues and expenditures, as well as the overall size and direction of State government, the three parties to negotiation must now find a way to reconcile our thinking and put together a uniform and cohesive plan for our State during Fiscal Year 2010-11. Until all three parties come to an agreement, it is likely that our government will continue to run based on a series of continuing resolutions that will infuse short-term funding on a stopgap, cyclical basis to keep the lights on and State employees and their families fed until a final version of this year's budget is adopted.

Our first budget extender, which was approved by the Legislature in March as the State braced for a late budget, expired last weekend. We passed a second extender Monday, April 12, that will keep State government on life support until next week by authorizing payment of $2.7 billion in obligations. As our talks continue, State operations will be funded by these bare-bones budget bills which do not include one dollar of pay for legislators. I will continue to report to you as our budget negotiations develop.

Our talks will also include discussion of the fate of NYC Off-Track Betting. As of this writing, it appears OTB will shut down, as their union refused to sign off on a proposed deal, but next week is another week. On the evening of Wednesday, April 14, the Governor sent up a bill that was acceptable to the Assembly and Senate but which the unions refused to approve. This is because incentives designed to convince 600 OTB workers to leave their jobs under special circumstances were removed, meaning they would be fired.

For the latest word from Albany, including information on the budget and other issues, as well as goings-on here at home, please visit my page on the Assembly Web site, www.assembly.state.ny.us, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
April 7, 2010

…and this month in Albany

With the budget for State Fiscal Year 2010-11 now one week late, the Assembly's leadership remains engaged with the Governor and our counterparts in the Senate, pursuing three-party agreement on high-stakes questions including severe proposed cuts to education and health care to cope with the bleakest fiscal circumstances in years. While we are working toward a mutually acceptable solution to our fiscal problems, we are providing for the State's monetary needs by passing what are called extenders, which I call continuing resolutions. Neither myself nor any State lawmaker will be paid until a budget passes.

At the crux of our negotiations are two basic problems: reaching consensus on all aspects of the budget including what must be cut, and convincing the Governor to send us new language covering contentious areas of the budget that we hope will differ from his original language, which included deep cuts. Because the Governor chose to weave policy decisions into appropriations bills, based on recent court rulings we do not have the option of amending his budget language to simply excise proposals we do not support, stifling Legislative input into the operations of State government and producing a predictably late budget.

Much has been made recently of the fact that we left Albany during the last week, the last of the 2009-10 Fiscal Year, most of which was tied up with religious holidays. Legislative staff remained in the Capitol and continued to work on our behalf in pursuit of a compromise. In the coming days, you may also hear a lot about June 1, which is the statutory deadline by which the State must make one of its largest payouts of education aid and other monies. Though it is not uncommon for us to release these funds early, the Governor said recently that the State's cash flow issues would force him to delay this payment until the statutory deadline for the second time and threatened to do so again if he felt it necessary, creating a pressure point intended to force us to support the Governor's point of view with regard to budget cuts.

Though some claim our State is in this position because of historic overspending that led to a systemic budgetary imbalance, in truth we are under the gun because of the Wall Street crash of late 2007/early 2008. When the financial markets based here in New York City collapsed, markets that had been the source of 20 cents of every tax dollar collected statewide, a chain reaction began that touched all aspects of our economy. This led to a violently negative effect on State revenues, meaning that very suddenly we had much less to spend than in more flush years. This led some in Albany to call for dramatic change.

In his Executive Budget, the Governor took the position that because of the financial crisis, deep and painful cuts would have to be made, including the largest areas of State spending, which are education and health care. He proposed to cut school aid and health care spending by over $1 billion each, plus many other cuts, to help close a projected budget gap of over $9 billion. Last month, in their "one-house" budget resolution, the Senate essentially accepted the Governor's argument and supported most of his cuts despite their earlier rhetoric to the contrary as well as the fact that deep cuts to schools and hospitals would undo much of what we have accomplished with respect to those institutions in recent years.

In the Assembly's "one-house" bill, which we unveiled March 24, we accepted many of the Governor's proposed health care cuts but scaled back his $1.4 billion cut to school aid by restoring $800 million, meaning State aid to schools would be cut by only $600 million compared to 2009-10. We also agreed to support many of the long-term budget reforms proposed by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, including bonding out $2 billion to help close the deficit. Some of these reforms have not found support with the Governor or Senate. In total our budget plan, which we feel to be the most realistic and responsible of the three plans now on the table, would cut $4.3 billion in spending and raise $1 billion through taxes and fees. We also supported key elements of the Ravitch plan including a transition to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, creation of a financial oversight board that would have power over the State budget, and strict timetables to be followed in case of revenue shortfalls such as those which continue to bedevil our State.

Though elements of the Executive Budget were sound and realistic, our Conference felt it would ill serve our State in the long term by cutting vital services in a manner likely to cause lasting harm. In particular we felt the proposed school aid cuts were not acceptable. We also came to the conclusion that unrealistic revenue expectations could be equally harmful to our State, a position that the Governor appears to share.

A Senate plan to borrow $700 million against anticipated revenue from the tobacco settlement reached several years ago, and use those monies to plug the budget hole, has not found favor with the Governor nor with the Assembly. The Senate plan appears to have rejected outright many of Lt. Gov. Ravitch's suggestions, though earlier today (April 7, 2010) the Senate released a draft budget reform package that includes GAAP and changing the State Fiscal Year calendar along with other ideas our Conference has not taken up. Further complicating our discussions, revenue estimates and suggested revenue raisers like a plan to sell wine in grocery stores and a plan to tax some sugary beverages, also differ widely. Representatives have been meeting in search of an acceptable compromise, and these talks will continue.

Having taken these varying positions with respect to revenues and expenditures, as well as the overall size and direction of State government, the three parties to negotiation must now find a way to reconcile our thinking and put together a uniform and cohesive plan for our State during Fiscal Year 2010-11. Until all three parties come to an agreement, it is likely that our government will continue to run based on a series of continuing resolutions that will infuse short-term funding on a stopgap, cyclical basis to keep the lights on and State employees and their families fed until a final version of this year's budget is adopted.

Our first budget extender, which was approved by the Legislature in the final days of March as the State braced for a late budget, will expire soon and a second must be passed by Monday. As long as budget talks continue, State operations will continue under these bare-bones budget bills which do not include one dollar of pay for legislators. I will continue to report to you as our budget negotiations continue.

For the latest word from Albany, including information on the budget and other issues, as well as goings-on here at home, please visit my page on the Assembly Web site, www.assembly.state.ny.us, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
March 18, 2010

…and this month in Albany

As we approach the end of March and the end of the State 2009-10 Fiscal Year, I can report that while the Legislature is making progress toward enacting a budget for 2010-11, it is increasingly likely that this budget will contain many severe cuts. We are working to limit education cuts to ancillary spending that will not directly affect classrooms and students, and we are looking closely at the proposed health care cuts which would be devastating to seniors. We are also making efforts to roll back cuts proposed at State parks, including Riverbank State Park in my district, as well as passing a budget on time for the end of this Fiscal Year, which is March 31. It may be wishful thinking to hope for much more than that.

Our work this year is noteworthy because of the dark fiscal circumstances in which we find ourselves, which were caused by Wall Street's collapse and the beginning of the ongoing recession in 2008. This has had a violently negative effect on State finances. Never before during my many years as an Assemblyman have we had a budget that was smaller than the preceding year, especially with respect to education spending, which our new budget may do.

The plain truth of the matter is this: we face a growing budget deficit in 2010-11, currently $9 billion and climbing which includes a yet-uncalculated deficit from Fiscal Year 2009-10. It appears unlikely that the "good old days" will return in the next few years, even on Wall Street, which has long provided a reliable source of revenue. We may have to borrow several billion dollars while also making substantial cuts to avoid Draconian cuts that could carry unintended negative consequences. This will mean that the plan put forth recently by Lieutenant Governor Ravitch that calls for a balance of borrowing and budget reform will be thoroughly discussed and considered. And to avoid erasing years of hard work and progress we must protect our core services of education and health care to the greatest extent possible considering the scant resources we will have to work with during the coming year. All of these facts will be the foundations of our budget talks.

Much of the uncertainty we face as we negotiate a budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11 will be clarified in the coming weeks, which could make it possible though doubtful that we may enact an on-time budget that will not cause systemic harm to our State despite the many challenges in our path. That said, while there is reason for hope, it would be unwise to believe that our State's ongoing financial difficulties will be eased any time in the near future.

For the latest information on the budget and other pressing issues, please visit my page on the Assembly Web site, www.assembly.state.ny.us, my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
February 18, 2010

…and this month in Albany

Having held our 13 constitutionally-required hearings in nine days which started in late January on the draft Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11, the Legislature is now taking the next step in the budget process. I am now working with members of the Assembly leadership and my counterparts in the Senate and the Governor's Division of Budget to reach agreement on a forecast of how much the State can expect to collect in revenue and how much of a shortfall we may face, figures we will rely on to craft the final version of the budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11. I am scheduled to hold a public meeting with Senate Finance Chair Carl Kruger, Division of Budget Director Robert L. Megna and the ranking minority members of the Finance and Ways and Means Committees on Thursday, February 25 and hope to come up with a mutually acceptable revenue forecast number. Because of the religious holidays that this year will fall on the days when we are normally finalizing and preparing to vote on the budget, we intend to finish the budget early, about one week prior to March 31, which is the last day of this fiscal year.

My last letter to you broke down the revenue and expenditure predictions in the first draft of the Executive Budget, which has since been modified, though the Governor is holding to the steep cuts in education, health care and other areas as he initially proposed. His plans were the focus of our joint Legislative hearings, which were broken down by subject matter, i.e. higher education issues, housing issues and other State areas of responsibility related to the budget proposals. First to come before my committee during the budget hearing on local government issues was Mayor Bloomberg, who was also the first but by no means the last to voice opposition to cuts proposed in the draft Executive Budget.

For two hours, Bloomberg employed a cordial tone to sweeten his bitter opposition to the proposed cuts. He did not like our decision to forego increasing the number of charter schools allowed by law, which could have made us eligible for more federal funding. He did not like the Executive's plan to cut $328 million in local assistance funding the City expected from the State. He warned that he would be forced to fire thousands of City employees including 8,500 teachers.

Joel Klein, Bloomberg's schools chancellor, was equally dire and predicted that the Executive's proposed cuts would blow a $1.2 billion hole in the schools' $20 billion budget. Representatives of the teachers' unions testified that the cuts would erase what had been accomplished using federal stimulus funds to save thousands of teaching jobs, and suggested a new early retirement incentive similar to those we offered in the 1990s to reduce the number of active teachers.

Each of the hearings began with testimony from the Governor's agency heads, such as his Health Commissioner, Richard F. Daines, M.D. Dr. Daines and his colleagues generally repeated talking points made by their boss, the Governor, painting a sunnier picture than the message delivered by the citizens and representatives of smaller groups who traveled to Albany to address us.

Many of these hearings stretched late into the evening as these advocates explained how the Executive's budget would hurt their efforts and their communities if the proposed cuts are allowed to stand. Along with many other factors, these advocates' testimony will be strongly considered by the Legislature as we consider how, or if, we must modify the Executive budget proposals as we move forward within the constraints placed upon us by the poor economy.

One of the most important of these factors will be the state of our economy over the coming year and how this economic activity will be reflected by the revenues collected by the State. To begin the process of revenue forecasting I spoke about earlier, last week Speaker Silver and I chaired a meeting of our Board of Economic Advisors, who are persons outstanding in the field of finance who periodically advise Assembly members. As I said above, our figures (which we will make public during next Thursday's meeting) will be compared to the Senate and Executive figures and we will negotiate in order to reach a mutually acceptable compromise figure which will be released to the public for this meeting. The Governor has already released his figures, and the Senate will release their figures during the Thursday, February 25 meeting. While we have not yet released our official forecasts for the coming year, I can tell you that the Assembly Ways and Means Committee staff is less optimistic than the Governor's Division of Budget staff in the speed and strength of economic recovery and the return of more financially flush times.

As I mentioned above, the State Constitution lays out the budget process in detail. We are required by law to vote on a final version of the budget by midnight on March 31 so that we have a budget in place for the first day of Fiscal Year 2010-11. But because the timing of the religious holidays which fall in the last week of March this year we will effectively lose that time for negotiations so our budget must be complete and passed no later than Friday, March 26 in order to have an on-time budget.

I will continue to report as our work on the budget and other issues progresses. For the latest information on budget negotiations and other issues, please bookmark my Web site at www.assembly.state.ny.us, visit my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter @dennyfarrell71a#.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
February 3, 2010

…and this month in Albany

Speaking during yesterday's Elementary and Secondary Education hearing, City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein elaborated upon the testimony of his boss, Mayor Bloomberg, who addressed us on the Executive budget last month. Chancellor Klein said that he was optimistic a positive solution to the City and State budget problems can be reached, because if the Executive budget is implemented as it was proposed, it would create a $1.2 billion hole in the City school district budget, which he put at $20 billion. He asked the Legislature to eliminate or at least reduce the cuts, and suggested we spread any cuts over several years to minimize the damage. Klein was grilled by my colleagues, who chastised him for allowing the practice of holding class in trailers to continue for the nine years since he accepted his job, despite extensive financial assistance from the State that was intended to end the practice of teaching in trailers. He was also accused of treating parents and the Legislature as more annoyance than partner.

New York State United Teachers Executive vice President Andrew Pallotta testified that if the Executive budget's 7.5 percent cut to education is allowed to stand, much of the good done by the federal stimulus funding which saved or created 18,600 teaching jobs in the State would be undone. The cuts would also further break the promise made in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement by funding education by $4.2 billion below what was promised, he said. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that funding direct services to classrooms must be the most important part of the education budget, because that is where students learn, and in his opinion everything else can be cut. He suggested a retirement incentive instead of layoffs, which he believes could save $300 million or more by giving 25,000 teachers the opportunity and incentive to retire. Mulgrew said that if enacted quickly and correctly, in the model of successful retirement incentives of the 1990s, the plan could be in place by early fall.




Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
January 27, 2010


Assemblyman Farrell's Summary of Testimony
Submitted During Joint Budget Hearing on
Higher Education Issues in the 2010-11 Executive Budget
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

At our joint Legislative hearing on Higher Education issues in the draft 2010-11 Executive Budget, educators summarized problems they already face and projected how the proposed $1 billion cut to State education funding would affect their work. We also heard from student representatives, who shared personal stories of their struggles to remain in school and asked us to save their funding.

Also discussed was the Executive's proposal to make SUNY and CUNY more independent of the State. This would mean that the State as a whole would no longer be responsible to pay for our public colleges, as college funding would no longer come out of our General Fund. It would also mean that State government would no longer have authority or effective oversight over SUNY and CUNY, and it will also take tuition control away from State government.

There are those who believe that giving SUNY and CUNY power over their own pocketbooks would be a clever way to reduce the State's budget deficit. If this plan comes to pass, it would allow the State to blame large tuition increases on the Trustees of SUNY and CUNY, who are not directly elected by the public. In other words, it would allow the Executive to cut college funding and say that State government is not responsible for the resulting tuition increases.

But as we saw when we gave the MTA control over its' own budget, decoupling State finances from a formerly State-funded entity's finances only shifts responsibility for the same problems. Service costs went up, as they always do, and in the absence of direct State funding MTA was forced to hike fares and still approached the State for a bailout. There is reason to believe this situation would reprise itself if the Executive's SUNY/CUNY plan is allowed to proceed.

This proposal would also create a policy of differential tuition, which would make training for high-demand fields like medical science more relatively expensive and could drive out low-income students, and stop the Comptroller and Attorney General from reviewing SUNY and CUNY contracts until after contract work has been completed and paid for.

The Executive has also made no provision to offset higher tuition by increasing the maximum TAP awards students may receive - in fact, TAP funding has been cut -and the poorest students would not be reimbursed for the higher tuition they would be forced to pay.

This scenario would create the possibility of students being hit with multiple costs at the same time, well beyond what our current rules allow. This is obviously not acceptable, and we will be looking at ways to limit the financial pressure on students as we move forward in the budget process.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
January 25, 2010

…and this month in Albany

Summary of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Testimony
To the Joint Legislative Budget Committees
Monday, January 25, 2010

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the first speaker to address the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees during our joint hearing on Local Government issues in the draft 2010-11 Executive Budget, took a largely conciliatory tone during his two-hour address.

Though the discussion of budget issues, particularly the Legislature's decision not to increase the number of charter schools in the state and the reduced aid New York City will receive from the State, was at times contentious, the Mayor took pains not to become antagonistic. Bloomberg began his testimony with a list of budget plans and proposed reforms he believes will benefit the City, before going on to attack a long list of perceived inequalities and unfair funding policies.

Praising Governor Paterson's decision to include "far-sighted" reforms in the budget and the Governor's resolve to curtail spending, the Mayor - who will release his own budget Thursday - found little else to like in the Executive Budget. According to the Mayor, cuts in the Executive Budget would disproportionately hurt the City, and he believes the Governor's promise to bar unfunded mandates for four years "would, in reality, have very little impact on New York City." He also blasted the Legislature for declining to act on a charter school proposal Bloomberg supported, which would have increased the maximum number of charter schools allowed by law from 200 to 400 or more, making us potentially eligible for up to $700 million in federal aid.

Saving his worst criticisms for proposed changes to the structure of state aid to municipalities, the Mayor said that out of $349 million in local assistance cuts statewide, $328 million of that amount would be cuts to New York City aid. Outside of the five boroughs, aid to individual counties would be cut by no more than five percent, the Mayor said. He predicted that the State aid cuts would force the City to lay off 8,500 teachers in September, 3,150 police officers, 1,050 firefighters, 900 Corrections Officers, 500 NYC Parks staff, service workers supervising 2,700 of the 9,000 at-risk youth monitored by the City, cut street-cleaning and litter basket collections by half, and eliminate funding for 500 soup kitchens and close 15 senior centers.

The Mayor admitted that during 2007, he caught a glimpse of the coming economic collapse - but did not anticipate how bad it would be - and began taking steps to prepare. He also said that Wall Street's ups and downs were a natural cycle that leave the City and State flush of funds or parched for dollars. But he also, absurdly, portrayed Wall Street banks as the victims of bullying federal regulators. The Mayor said he believed that small businesses would lead us out of the recession, and that small businesses would need access to financial backing, presumably from Wall Street. However, he never acknowledged that the previous lack of regulation governing Wall Street's affairs is blamed by many financial experts for the crash that began this recession.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
January 21, 2010

…and this month in Albany
On Monday, January 19th, the Governor unveiled his draft Executive Budget for 2010-11. As you have no doubt heard, it proposes to limit any increase in State spending to just over one half of one percent, or $786 million, over and above the $133.2 billion budgeted for fiscal year 2009-10. This would be a departure from more financially flush years, during which our rate of spending was significantly higher. The Governor proposes to scale back earlier rates of spending increases and make up for unrealized revenues by raising a number of taxes and fees, including several that were considered and rejected during earlier budget cycles, and also making many deep spending cuts.

As we saw in November, when the Governor last proposed spending cuts to bring our outlay back into line with our revenues, the most substantial of these cuts would be made in the areas of education and health care. This is hardly surprising as our State's proportional spending on these programs reflects the magnitude of their importance in the range of services offered to the public. However, it remains surprising that the Governor seeks to cut funding from health care programs in a time of rising unemployment and greater reliance on publicly-financed health care services. It is no less surprising that, after years of significant growth, he now proposes to cut a further $1 billion from education programs. While it is understandable that the Governor would seek to close a projected budget deficit we believe will be substantial, we will be looking closely at his numbers and comparing them to the figures generated by our own in-house financial staff before accepting his figures and arguments at face value.

The Executive Budget includes over $1.8 billion in health care reductions including $958.9 million in provider cuts and $890.2 million in new revenue actions. Specifically, the Governor proposes $244.6 million in reductions to hospitals; $140 million in reductions to nursing homes; and $74 million in reductions to home care and personal care providers. The Executive would also eliminate Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program coverage for drugs that are denied by a seniors Medicaid Part D plan. The Governor would also increase the State cigarette tax by $1 per pack (currently $2.75 per pack statewide plus New York City's per pack tax of $1.50) and implement an excise tax on the syrup used to make sodas and other sweetened beverages. The Governor believes that these taxes will reduce consumption of these products which will lead to reduced health care spending on complications from obesity and smoking-related illnesses.

Education and arts programs also face deep cuts. As proposed by the Governor, State aid for schools would be cut $1.4 billion, while also cutting other forms of state aid to schools and libraries and redirecting federal funds to pay for programs previously funded by the State. The Governor would also shift costs of special education funded by the State onto school districts, eliminate funding for schools which are not meeting State standards and need improvement, along with eliminating funding for teacher professional development programs.

The Governor also proposes to decouple aspects of SUNY and CUNY budgets from the State budget as a whole and otherwise grant these entities more control over their own day-to-day affairs. Key to this multi-part proposal is a plan to allow tuition to annually increase by as much as 2.5 times the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI). By essentially deregulating SUNY and CUNY, the Governor has said, 55,000 jobs and 20,000 student berths could be created while State spending on public education would decrease. While this is an intriguing proposal, if we give up our authority over our public colleges, we will also give up much of our ability to make corrective changes to their finances should trouble arise.

Traditionally, proposals made by the Governor are the subject of the Legislative budget hearings I chair early in the year. These events allow the public to speak directly with their representatives in the Assembly and Senate and express their reactions to the policies proposed by the Governor in his initial budget draft. Their feedback is taken into account as the Legislature deliberates, modifies, and eventually votes on a final version of the budget. We are now in a very early stage of that process, and my Ways and Means Committee staff is still in the process of breaking down and understanding the Governor's proposals and projections. I will continue to report to you as we move forward.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
January 6, 2010

…and this month in Albany
Several hours ago, Gov. Paterson delivered his second State of the State speech, an address which historically has served as the beginning of our legislative session. In it, he reflected upon events of the recent past as well as his vision for our common future during the coming year. Much of what he said was not a surprise, particularly with regard to the economy and the pace of State spending. His other topics, like campaign finance reform and bringing a greater number of minority- and female-owned businesses into state contracting, have also been championed by the Assembly for many years.

Much of the address was uplifting and demonstrated a clear understanding of where our State should be and a willingness by the Governor to work with his partners in State government, including the Assembly majority, in order to achieve those ends. It was encouraging to hear his thoughts on job creation, regulation of the insurance industry which has long served as a lucrative but unstable engine of our State's economy, revitalizing stagnant urban neighborhoods, and a renewed focus on manufacturing especially industry that will rely on clean energy. Along with these issues, during the coming months the Assembly majority plans to address these issues as well as access to appropriate and affordable health care, a mass transit plan that meets and balances the needs of Upstate and Downstate, continuing our fight for marriage equality, and extending the ethics reforms the Assembly passed in June of 2009.

However, it stands to reason that some Legislators may see issues mentioned during the speech differently than does our Governor. Taking as an example the ongoing financial crisis which has forced our unscheduled return to Albany many times since the recession began in 2008, the Governor insists that the way forward is to cut State spending. He came to this conclusion, he has said, after leaving the Legislative branch for the Executive, which he has described as "the adult in the room." It could be argued that there are other adult points of view besides the stern, pennywise father figure the Governor aspires to embody. There is also a role for the nurturing, but cautious, maternal figure to play. By this, I mean that we must not forget our responsibility to future generations and wildly scale back the hard-fought gains in education and other programs which took years to achieve. While it is serious, the crisis is unlikely to be permanent, and rolling back our successes to deal with circumstances of the present would be regrettable.

Also on the Governor's agenda for 2010 is a dramatic package of reforms which would, among other proposals, limit the number of terms many elected officials may serve. This plan calls for the Governor, Comptroller and other statewide officeholders to serve a maximum of two terms. Legislators would be limited to half a dozen two-year terms, or 12 years in the Assembly or Senate. While in theory the concept of term limits has value, chasing incumbents out of office after an arbitrary period of time would bar qualified civil servants from exercising their talents for the common benefit of all New Yorkers. It would also drain institutional memory as outgoing public servants take their acquired knowledge with them into new endeavors. Especially under current conditions, this would not serve the needs of our State.

Excepting those criticisms, the address demonstrated that our governor not only clearly understands the present circumstances, but has also formulated a plan that could lead us out of recession and into prosperity once more. By calling this crisis an inspiration for leadership and a reminder to do what is right for the people of our State, and encouraging the Legislature to serve as an equal partner in framing a solution and in doing so regaining the trust of the people of our State, the Governor has extended a hand in invitation to work together on a solution.

I will continue to report to you as these themes are developed and explored during our coming session. If you want to hear more about what is going on, feel free to attend one of the Town Meetings I will hold this month.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
December 17, 2009


photo
photo

photo
photo

Assemblyman Farrell met with MTA staff on December 17, 2009 to discuss his proposal to bring back a BX 6 bus stop at Macombs Dam Road and the 155th Street Viaduct that was taken away by the city during recent construction. He has proposed having the BX 6 stop at an M2 bus stop on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. Joining Assemblyman Farrell during the site visit were MTA's Lois Tendler, Marcus Book, Paul Gawkowski and Buckley Yung. MTA says it will explore the proposal. Please click here for more information.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
December 15, 2009

…and this month in Albany

Early in the morning of Wednesday, December 2, the Assembly passed legislation that will take a chunk out of the state's projected budget deficit, with the Senate following suit later that morning, and which the Governor signed into law shortly thereafter. This ended our Legislative involvement in the budget process until the Governor releases his draft budget in late January, triggering our annual joint Legislative budget hearings.

This all began on October 15th, when the Governor released a Deficit Reduction Plan intended to close a budget deficit he estimated would reach $3.2 billion by the end of calendar year 2009. My Assembly Ways and Means Committee staff has estimated that the deficit would be somewhat larger, $3.9 billion, and our house was prepared to make adjustments to close out a larger deficit, but we had to reach agreement with the Governor and the Senate on how much to cut. After the Governor released his deficit plan, the Legislature held hearings around the state to gather public reactions. While most agreed that we should do something, many did not agree with the Governor's response to the crisis. Our extraordinary session was occupied with debate and outright argument. As negotiations continued, key bills were passed (see below) but until December a solution to the budget shortfall proved elusive.

On Monday, November 30, the Assembly agreed to support a modified deficit reduction plan which would "spin up" $391 million in federal education funds to replace state funds we cut and use money now that had been set aside for the 2010-11 fiscal year; slow the rate of growth in our health care spending; and sweep funds from other areas of government. These actions, which required Legislative approval, plus the Governor's plan to cut $833 million from parts of the budget which are under his control and adjust his revenue estimates, would close $2.7 billion of our deficit, just short of the Governor's deficit projection. However, further problems may result from spending the education money early, because we will not have it to spend in fiscal year 2010-11. On December 2, the governor made it clear that while he would sign into law a deficit reduction plan created by the Legislature, he would not drop any of the cuts he had previously proposed. In other words, for the good of the state he would accept a deficit reduction plan that was less than what he wanted, but he would not do so willingly.

Earlier in the special session we passed a bill, of which I am among the sponsors, that some have called the toughest drunk-driving legislation in the nation. Named in honor of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who in October was killed during a drunk-driving crash on the Henry Hudson Parkway, the bill makes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child in the car a felony. It will also require the cars of all convicted drunk drivers to be fitted with an interlock device. This device will not allow the driver's car to start if alcohol is detected on the motorist's breath. Also noteworthy is a bill, which I was pleased to support as a co-sponsor, that places new oversight on the financial activities of the more than 700 state authorities like the Port Authority and Thruway Authority which are blamed for increasing state debt. Other bills passed during our recent session increase protections for homeowners and renters whose buildings face foreclosure, extend health benefits to persons who are temporarily unemployed or underemployed, and allow localities to use federal funds to pay for municipal sustainable energy programs.

We also passed marriage equality legislation, which came to a vote on the Senate floor for the first time but failed 24-38 without a single Republican vote. While the Assembly has passed marriage equality legislation before, because we were in extraordinary session our old bill is invalid, meaning we had to pass it again to match our bill with its Senate equivalent to bring it to the Governor's desk and into law.

On Sunday, December 13th the Governor announced he would be delaying some of December's local assistance payments to schools, municipalities and other state aid recipients. Though some have said that this action is beyond the scope of the Governor's powers and threatened legal action, it is in fact appropriate. Further, the Governor would have been required to take this step even if the Legislature had approved the entire $3.2 billion in budget cuts he had asked for instead of the $2.7 billion in cuts we approved. This is because we would have run out of cash.

In December, the state makes its largest round of local assistance payments of the year. Because of our cash flow situation, which was caused by shortfalls in our tax expectancies for the previous months, making every payment on time would have left the state with a negative cash flow. This is an entirely separate issue from our budget deficit, which was the primary subject of the Legislature's recent extraordinary session. Basically, cash flow is a "today" problem while the deficit is a "future" problem. If we had voted to cut $3.2 billion from our 2009-10 budget, as the Governor asked, it still would not have helped us pay December's bills.

Imagine that you had done too much shopping and bought too many items during October and November. In December, with holiday shopping impending, the bills of the fall come due. What the Governor is doing is no different than what you and I may have done at times the rent, our insurance payments and other bills all come due and we find ourselves a little short of cash. What we do is, we pay a little of what we owe and hold back the rest until we get the bonus we're expecting or come into a month when we get three paychecks instead of two during the same calendar month. The Governor's decision to delay these payments is the same strategy on a much larger scale. It is not untoward, and any lawsuit that says the Governor was wrong to take this step may fail.

January is a month that is typically greater than average in terms of state tax receipts. Unless revenues undertake an even more precipitous decline, the state's cash reserves should be refreshed shortly, and the funds that are being held back now may soon be disbursed. By January 20th, the Governor will release to us his draft Executive Budget for 2010-11, which my Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee will follow with public hearings.

Also on the radar for this spring is the 2010 federal Census. In March, households in our community and others should start to receive the "short form" federal Census questionnaire. The US Constitution requires the government to count every person in this country and collect other information every 10 years. The information reported on the Census forms will be sent to the President in December and used to decide how the federal government will be run. The most important government decisions based on Census data are representation in Congress and federal funding based on population. If New York State or New York City's population has changed since the last Census, our number of seats in the House of Representatives will change. More than $400 billion in federal funding for hospitals, education, transportation, job training, senior services and other important programs is distributed based on Census information. Obviously, this makes full participation in this process very important.

Federal law requires that everyone participate, but in the last Census it is estimated that only 70 percent were counted. Minorities are statistically more likely to go uncounted, unrepresented and under-funded because Census forms are not returned to the government. On the Census forms are 10 questions, in English and Spanish in some areas, that ask for your name, age, race, household makeup, whether you own or rent your home, and other questions. Throughout the month of January, in preparation for the 2010 Census, I have scheduled four Town Meetings throughout my Assembly district. The topic will be the Census and our guest will be Borough President Scott M. Stringer. I hope you will be able to attend at least one of these meetings to talk about the Census and how to respond. The Census form should be sent back by April 1. Postage is free. Those who do not return their Census forms by mail will be visited between April and July by a Census worker who lives in the community and who will ask Census questions in person. For more information, feel free to call my office, the NYC 2010 Census Office at (212) 442-9150, or the US Census hotline, (866) 861-2010.

Until then, have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
December 2, 2009

…and this month in Albany

Late Tuesday evening, the Assembly passed legislation that will take a large chunk out of the state's projected budget deficit, with the Senate following suit this morning, and the bill now awaits the Governor's signature. We also passed marriage equality legislation, which came to a vote on the Senate floor for the first time today but failed 24-38 without a single Republican vote. While the Assembly has passed marriage equality bills before, because we were in extraordinary session this week our old bills were no longer valid, meaning we had to pass the bill a third time in hopes of matching our legislation with its Senate equivalent to bring it to the Governor's desk and into law.

To address what had been a growing budget deficit caused by revenue shortfalls related to the recession, the Governor on October 15 released a Deficit Reduction Plan he said would close a budget deficit he estimated would be $3.2 billion by the end of calendar year 2009. My Assembly Ways and Means Committee staff has estimated that the deficit will be somewhat larger, $3.7 billion, and our house was prepared to make adjustments to close out a larger deficit, but we had to reach agreement with the Governor and the Senate on how much to cut. After the Governor released his deficit plan, the Legislature held hearings around the state to gather public reactions. While most agreed that we should do something, many did not agree with how the Governor proposed to respond to the crisis. The last seven weeks have been occupied with debate and outright argument. As negotiations continued, key bills were passed (see below) but until this week a solution to the budget shortfall proved elusive.

On Monday, the Assembly agreed to support a modified deficit reduction plan which would "spin up" $391 million in federal education funds to replace funds we cut and use money now that had been set aside for the 2010-11 fiscal year; slow the rate of growth in our health care spending; and sweep funds from other areas of government. These actions, which required Legislative approval, plus the Governor's plan to cut $1.6 billion from parts of the budget under his control, would close $2.7 billion of our deficit, just short of the Governor's deficit projection. However, further problems may result from spending the education money early, because we will not have it to spend in 2010-11. Tuesday, the governor had made it clear that while he would sign into law a deficit reduction plan created by the Legislature, he would not drop any of the cuts he had previously proposed. In other words, for the good of the state he would accept a deficit reduction plan that was less than what he wanted, but he would not do so willingly.

Earlier in the session we passed a bill, of which I am among the sponsors, that some have called the toughest drunk-driving legislation in the nation. Named in honor of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who in October was killed during a drunk-driving crash on the Henry Hudson Parkway, the bill makes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child in the car a felony. It will also require the cars of all convicted drunk drivers to be fitted with an interlock device. This device will not allow the driver's car to start if alcohol is detected on the motorist's breath. Also noteworthy is a bill, which I was pleased to support as a co-sponsor, which places new oversight on the financial activities of the more than 700 state authorities like the Port Authority and Thruway Authority which are blamed for increasing state debt. Other bills passed during our recent session increase protections for homeowners and renters whose buildings face foreclosure, extend health benefits to persons who are temporarily unemployed or underemployed, and allow localities to use federal funds to pay for municipal sustainable energy programs.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.



Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
HERMAN D. FARRELL, JR.
Assemblymember 71st District
seal
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
TEL (212) 234-1430
FAX (212) 234-1868
November 24, 2009

…and this month in Albany

As I described to you in my report of last month, the state continues to face a budget deficit that my Assembly Ways and Means staff estimated will reach $3.7 billion by the end of calendar year 2009. The Legislature has spent much of the last two weeks in Albany considering a number of proposals. Earlier today, the Assembly recessed for the Thanksgiving holiday and will reconvene Monday, November 30, to discuss the budget deficit. While we have not yet reached agreement, I can report that we passed several important pieces of legislation during our recent sessions.

Many of you may have heard through the media that the Legislature passed a bill, on which I appear as a sponsor, that some have called the toughest drunk-driving legislation in the nation. Our bill was named in honor of Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed in a drunk-driving accident on the Henry Hudson Parkway in October. It was an honor to welcome Leandra's father, Lenny, to Albany on the day the bill was passed. This bill not only makes driving drunk or impaired by drugs with a child in the car a felony, but will also require the cars of all convicted drunk drivers to be fitted with an interlock device which does not allow the car to start if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath. The Legislature passed Leandra's Law November 18th and Governor Paterson signed it into law later that day. This important public safety legislation will take effect statewide on December 18th, 2009.

Also receiving attention from the press was a bill advanced by my colleague, Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, who is Chair of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. His bill, which I was pleased to support as a co-sponsor, will place new oversight on the financial activities of state authorities like the Port Authority and Thruway Authority. These entities have been criticized as opaque and blamed for accumulating state debt. Earlier in the year the Assembly had passed similar legislation, but the Governor asked for changes, leading us to pass a revised reform bill last week. We are waiting, as of today, for the Senate to act. Our reform legislation would subject authority board members to an oath of office, expand the powers of watchdog agencies which provide authority oversight, impose new financial reporting requirements and other actions which build upon the Public Authority Accountability Act of 2006. More than 700 authorities exist statewide, and this legislation will help preserve the purpose for which authorities were first created while also safeguarding the interest of taxpayers.

During our extraordinary session other legislation was also passed by the Assembly. One of these bills, which the Governor placed on our calendar, grants new protections against foreclosure to all distressed property owners and tenants who live in buildings which are being foreclosed upon. We passed a bill to extend COBRA benefits, making health insurance available to persons who are temporarily unemployed or working part-time while seeking full-time work. We also allowed localities to use federal funds to create municipal sustainable energy loan fund programs.

Among the ideas we are considering to resolve the budget deficit is to begin direct, two-party negotiations between the Assembly and the Governor. Some of our members support this approach because they are dissatisfied with the Senate's response to our proposals, but many of us are not sure this can happen and as part of the Assembly leadership I will be among those who will look to see if this is a viable alternative. I will report to you at your next meeting on the status of our talks. Until then, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy your holiday weekend.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.