Todd Kaminsky's award-winning performance

Todd Kaminsky in the Senate chambers in Albany.
Mike Groll
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky in the Senate chambers.

Todd Kaminsky's award-winning performance

The Long Island Democrat was voted the biggest winner in the state budget.
April 2, 2019

Update: State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who has some strong acting genes in his family, has played his part perfectly this session. In Act I, the state Senate Democrats swept into power. In Act II, they were confronted by a conflict. And in Act III, Kaminsky ultimately got what he wanted - and won resounding applause from our online viewers. Call it the Kaminsky Method

Members of the state Legislature had many reasons to pass a budget in time – but only one of them directly hit their own bottom line. By passing a $175.5 billion spending plan in a “timely” manner, lawmakers get a $10,000 pay raise added to what had been an $110,000 annual salary. Nobody has yet announced plans to take the kiddies to Disneyland, but we do have word of who are the Winners & Losers in the state budget deal.

Winners: 
Jamaal Bailey

The Bronx state senator has only been in office since 2017, but he’s already become one of Albany’s leading advocates of criminal justice reform. And this year’s budget is a key turning point, including two bills that Bailey proposed that loosen criminal discovery laws and make the trial process move more quickly. The trifecta was completed with a bail reform package that did not include anything to do with “dangerousness.” Just how far has hip hop made it in the state Senate? Bailey let his MJs do the talking on casual Saturday in the Capitol.

Andy Byford

The New York City Transit president might be able to lay off the fare-evading scofflaws now that he has better ways to fund his plan to overhaul the city’s struggling subways. The new state budget includes congestion pricing, as well as an internet sales tax and a new real estate transfer tax on high-end properties. Together, these revenue sources will provide the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with tens of billions of dollars – including through bonds – for needed repairs. For the first time in a while, Buford can take a deep breath and start getting down to the real job at hand – bringing the subways back to their glory days.

Andrew Cuomo

Third-term blues? Fuggedaboutit! The governor just showed he’s no lame duck, capitalizing on the blue wave – and his ever-increasing powers – to get just about everything he wanted in a final budget deal. Lawmakers respected his red lines by including the property tax cap, congestion pricing, criminal justice reforms, and (sort of) a proposal for publicly-financed political campaigns. Another on-time budget also lets Cuomo say he’s still an elected leader who can get things done. Might he will have another big announcement in the coming weeks? Only Joe Biden can say …

Todd Kaminsky

The dean of Long Island’s state Senate Democratic delegation came out looking pretty in the budget agreement. A permanent property tax cap will feel good for his constituents. And by holding out on congestion pricing, he and other suburban lawmakers won a combined 20 percent of congestion pricing revenue for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, plus toll exemptions for commuters. The budget also included environmental issues that Kaminsky championed, including a ban on single-use plastic bags and an additional $500 million investment for clean water infrastructure. Nice rebound for the man the governor singled out for blame in the aftermath of the failed Amazon HQ2 deal.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins

The state Senate majority leader had to hold together a fractious conference at times during the budget process, but she made it through. Senate Dems seemed to be on the same page on education funding and the property tax cap, but she had her work cut out for her on contentious matters like congestion pricing. She also survived run-ins with the governor over Amazon, spending plans and fundraising – with one top Cuomo aide even referring to two senators – and their assemblywoman roommate – as “fucking idiots” as budget talks entered the home stretch. Stewart-Cousins kept her cool and showed that you do not have to be the loudest voice in the room to get things done.

Losers: 
Kevin Barwell

The president of the Limousine Bus Taxi Operators Of Upstate New York was a winner earlier this session after legislators sought to avoid a crackdown on the limo industry, but the governor wouldn’t be taken for a ride. While an outright ban was dropped, the state budget makes it a felony to operate a limo and cause the death of another person, among other changes. “You can't sit there and create legislation and policy for an industry you don't understand,” Barwell said earlier this month. Apparently the Cuomo administration understood the industry all too well.

Carl Heastie

To be clear, the Assembly speaker did get plenty of what he wanted in the state budget, from criminal justice reforms to the DREAM Act. But the closer everyone got to a state budget deal, the more Heastie appeared to be ceding ground, from recreational marijuana to congestion pricing to the permanent property tax cap to the public financing of election campaigns. Now the pressure will be on to get a favorable deal on marijuana post-budget – and to deliver stronger protections for tenants before the state’s rent regulations expire.

Brad Hoylman

After five years, New York finally seemed ready for a pied-a-terre tax. News of a $238 million apartment sale revived the idea of annual tax on luxury second homes in New York City. Both chambers included Hoylman’s bill in their budget resolutions, and even Cuomo got on board. But the governor and lawmakers ultimately concluded that it would be complicated and difficult to implement. The exclusion, of course, had nothing to do with real estate interests heavily lobbying against the tax. Hoylman never gave up hope, continuing to push for the tax until the bitter end, but to no avail. 

Robert Jackson

The Manhattan state senator not only ran on equitable public school funding – he was the man behind the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that became a point of contention once again this budget cycle. Jackson and other advocates contend that public schools are still owed $4 billion in Foundation Aid stemming from that lawsuit. The final budget did include a $618 million increase in Foundation Aid, the same last year. While that is more than Cuomo’s originally proposed $338 million, it still falls far short of the $1.2 billion increase Jackson and other lawmakers had demanded.

David Soares

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Albany County DA. He already landed on our regular Winners & Losers list after the governor got behind a revised bill to create a Commission of Prosecutorial Misconduct. Then Soares, who as leader of the District Attorneys Association of New York had also urged caution on criminal justice reforms, couldn’t get “dangerousness” included as a factor in granting bail, nor could he stop discovery and speedy trial changes. If only Soares pursued campaign rule-breakers or corrupt Albany politicians as aggressively as he sought to scale back reforms.

City & State
20190819