This Week's Headline

Start of budget season and committees galore

Rounding up the week’s political news.

Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed an enormous $216.3 billion financial plan.

Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed an enormous $216.3 billion financial plan. Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is the Big Apple’s Bitcoin barron. He promised that he would receive his first paycheck in cryptocurrency, and he came as close as he could to keeping that promise. Adams couldn’t actually get paid by the city in crypto, so he immediately converted his boring, legal tender into the digital stuff. But remember, it’s all fun and games until Adams gets into the NFT game. Forget yacht monkeys or whatever, pretty soon people might be scrambling to get one of a limited number of unique Key to the City JPEGs. At least COVID rates are down below 10% statewide for the first time in a month, a positive development I choose to take as an omen that the city won’t go down the dark NFT path. For the rest of this week’s analog news, keep reading.

Hochul presents her budget

Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed an enormous $216.3 billion financial plan, which would be the largest budget in New York history if approved. It includes record spending on education and broke the 2% spending cap that both her predecessors adhered to. It also contains aid for $2 billion in unspecified pandemic relief as well as $1.6 billion in bonuses for front line workers. Despite the big spending, Hochul did not propose any new taxes, instead accelerating the middle class tax cuts that had already been underway. However, the tax hikes on the wealthy and on corporations approved last year remain in effect, with a sunset date still several years away. Hochul had the benefit of billions in federal pandemic relief at her fingertips, allowing her to map out the most expansive executive budget proposal in years thanks to the surplus. In fact, the fiscal plan is not only balanced for the upcoming year, but through 2027 under current predictions. 

And the executive budget contained more than just state finances, with Hochul including many legislative proposals she announced as part of her year’s agenda in her State of the State address. She introduced an amendment to impose term limits on statewide elected officials, had language to enable to-go drinks again and laid out her proposed replacement for the controversial 421-a tax break meant to help stimulate the building of affordable housing. But potential battles with lawmakers are already emerging over some of the proposals, like over a new version of the Clean Slate Act – which would seal most misdemeanor and felony records – that Hochul introduced.

Committees galore in the New York City Council

New York CIty has a new Council speaker and a mostly new class of local legislators, so the doling out of committee chairmanships and leadership positions was a big to-do. It represented Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ first flex of influence as the head of the body as the assignments largely came down to her discretion. It also offered insight into the kind of leader she will be as she takes the helm of the ideologically diverse City Council as a moderate from a similar school of thought as her fellow Adams, the mayor. Off the bat, Adams, the speaker, seemed to reward loyalty by assigning high-profile committee chairs to former speaker candidates who dropped out to back her. But several members who voted against her speakership or didn’t support her found themselves with a committee to lead. Adams also seemed to walk the line between moderates and progressives, giving the committee overseeing the police to Kamillah Hanks, a freshman lawmaker more aligned with her and the mayor, but gave the committee overseeing jails to the more leftwing Council Member Carlina Rivera.

Lordy there were (more) tapes

State Attorney General Letitia James released what she called the “final” trove of transcripts, evidence and videos from her office’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They included video of Cuomo’s brother Chris, recently fired from his primetime anchor position at CNN, giving his testimony. It also contained transcripts from a number of former Cuomo aides as well as other staffers and witnesses whose specific testimony had been previously unknown. Significantly, it had the transcripts for the questioning of Howard Zemsky, the former head of Empire State Development. Originally, Zemsky signed onto a document stating that Cuomo had never asked Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Cuomo of misconduct and Zemsky’s former chief of staff, to play strip poker. But after he said he received a “jarring” text message from Boylan, Zemsky told investigators that he reread her account of the incident and it jogged his memory. The new transcripts also revealed that the former state inspector general who resigned with Cuomo was the high-level staffer who got a waiver for a young state trooper that caught the ex-governor’s eye assigned to his security detail.

NEXT STORY: Sepúlveda starts 2022 strong

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