The New Year brings a new two-year legislative session, where a number of unresolved and new issues face lawmakers. And there are 27 new lawmakers coming to Albany for the first time – 10 Senators and 17 Assemblymembers.
The extension and expansion of the Brownfield Clean Up Program – which offers tax credits that have been used successfully to help advance development projects in Buffalo and other Upstate cities – will be a high priority in 2015. The program helps make old industrial sites, which pose major challenges to redevelopment due to environmental clean-up costs, viable. Last month, Gov. Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have extended the program through March 2017, but in his veto message he said that he will propose extending the program as part of his 2015-16 Executive Budget proposal.
The state’s minimum wage increased to $8.75 per hour on January 1st, but many Democratic lawmakers want to raise it again to $10.10. Unshackle Upstate is concerned that doing so would have an adverse impact on many small businesses Upstate, and on the Upstate economy generally. New York City Mayor de Blasio is seeking authority from the state for New York City to set its own wage laws. Gov. Cuomo has expressed support for both ideas, but they are expected to face opposition in the Republican-led Senate.
The state’s implementation of the Common Core education standards continues to be an issue among parents and educators, and Gov. Cuomo has indicated that wants to overhaul the state’s system for evaluating teachers. The state’s charter school cap is also a potential issue, and some are pushing for a tax credit for those who donate to private schools. The law which provides for mayoral control of New York City schools is set to expire in 2015.
The state’s rent-control laws – which are a hot-button issue for lawmakers from New York City and its suburbs — are also set to expire in 2015. While not an issue of much concern to Unshackle Upstate, these laws are currently tied to the state’s real property tax cap.
Liberal groups continue to push for campaign finance reform and a higher minimum wage. The Women’s Equality Act, which has been the subject of debate at the state Capitol for two years, has not been resolved. Advocates are also seeking to enact the DREAM Act, which would expand state tuition assistance for undocumented immigrants.
And the state is expected to have a one-time budget surplus in excess of $5 billion resulting from financial settlements. There is likely to be no shortage of proposals for spending these monies.