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Blair Horner

  • Memorial Day is the traditional beginning of summer for most people. Despite Memorial Day’s origins – a time for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the armed forces – the three-day weekend at the end of May is also a time when most Americans begin to turn their attention to summer activities.
  • April 22nd was Earth Day. Since 1970 the world has marked Earth Day as a time to reflect on the state of the environment and debate how best to improve the only habitat we have. As we know, the world faces an existential threat posed by climate changes driven by global warming.
  • The arrest and subsequent resignation of Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin sent shockwaves across New York’s political landscape. The charges against Benjamin stem from an alleged misuse of his public office to financially benefit a big campaign contributor. Of course, Benjamin deserves to have his side heard, but his immediate resignation underscores the legal threat he faces and the indictment is fresh evidence that the state fails when it comes to ethics oversight.
  • Early Saturday morning, the Legislature approved the state’s $220 billion budget. The budget agreement was eased by billions in federal governmental financial support, as well as swelling state tax revenues. The state’s huge budget surplus made the budget negotiation process easier to manage, but it was still late – and Albany had to resort to its bag of tricks to get it done.
  • Like many of New York State’s budget deals, this year’s is late. How late is anyone’s guess, but if recent history is any guide, an agreement will come soon. Among the major contributing factors to the missed budget deadline are the governor’s last minute demands for changes to the state’s criminal justice law and her agreement to use hundreds of millions of tax dollars to pick up the lion’s share of costs for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise.
  • This week, Albany may well finalize a deal on the state’s upcoming budget, an agreement that is supposed to be in place by April 1. The final budget will clock in at some $216 billion – the largest in state history. This year’s budget negotiations have been one of, if not the most, secretive in memory. The information black-out makes it essentially impossible for even the most astute Capitol-watcher to know how the budget deal will play out.
  • New York State lawmakers are moving closer to a final budget. Both the state Senate and state Assembly have separately advanced budget plans as countermeasures to Governor Hochul’s proposed budget. Last week, both houses began the process of harmonizing their plans in order to meet the March 31st deadline for a final agreement.
  • By now we are all feeling the rising costs of energy. Gas is heading toward $5 per gallon, home heating costs have risen, with some using oil having their prices jump to nearly $6 per gallon. Utility bills have soared. President Biden argues that these hikes are a “Putin tax” – referring to Russian “mob boss” Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine. And while there is a lot of truth to the President’s description, it doesn’t answer one question: Who benefits from this “tax”?
  • This week is a big one in Albany. Both the state Senate and Assembly will focus on the development of their respective “one House” budget plans. These are the budget proposals advanced by the Democrat majorities that control each House. By mid-month, it is expected that the Senate and Assembly will have passed their respective budget plans in each house and will engage in feverish negotiations with the governor to hammer out a final budget deal.
  • New York lawmakers return to Albany this week after the President’s Week break. Normally state lawmakers would buckle down to hammering out a budget agreement, due by March 31st. The week they were gone, however, the world dramatically changed.