Government Affairs Albany UpdateMay 21, 2004
There are three proposals currently before the state legislature related to benefits increases and reform measures. The legislative session is scheduled to end in June and we expect that workers' compensation may be a post budget issue. We would like to educate you of the three different proposals that are being considered. For a detailed side by side comparison of the three bills, you may access www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2004/0422analysis.htm
The Occupational Safety and Health section of the meeting will provide an update on licensing of safety and health professionals, mold, safety and training legislation. Code rules 56 (Asbestos) and 59 (Workplace Safety and Loss Prevention Program) will also be addressed, along with a component on what is taking place regarding safety and health at the state and federal levels.
The legislature introduced comprehensive budget reform legislation this week. First announced on March 31, this package includes:
- S.7317/A.11231, which would adopt constitutional amendments that: automatically adopts a contingency budget if a new budget is not approved by the legislature prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year, with the contingency budget generally providing the same level of appropriations, reappropriations, spending and revenue provisions as the previous fiscal year; precludes the legislature from acting on the Governor's proposed budget bills if a contingency budget is put into place, with the legislature limited to adopting a "multiple appropriations bill" modifying the contingency budget; establishes a fixed (and earlier) due date of January 15 for submission of the Executive Budget proposal (February 1 in years following a gubernatorial election); and reduces the period for gubernatorial amendments to the Executive Budget proposal from 30 to 21 days.
- S.7318/A.11232, which adopts numerous statutory changes, including: provisions related to implementation of a contingency budget, including provisions requiring uniform spending reductions if revenues are insufficient to support a contingency budget (spending for school aid, public assistance, state employee health and pension programs, debt service and federal grants would not be affected); requires the Governor to propose school aid appropriations covering both the new and subsequent fiscal years; creates a new "Health Care Reform Act" (HCRA) fund, to in effect, make HCRA spending subject to the annual budget process; changes the start of the state fiscal year to May 1, effective for the 2007-08 fiscal year; creates a joint "Independent Budget Office" serving both houses of the legislature, and charged with making economic and revenue forecasts, preparing fiscal notes on legislation, and other functions; creates a public advisory board to help guide the work of the IBO; and establishes new budgetary requirements for debt service and for information technology projects exceeding $5 million.
Although jointly announced by Majority Leader Bruno and Speaker Silver, it is unclear whether both measures will be acted upon this session. However, the legislature is likely to pass S.7317/A.11231 this session, since it would require approval by two successive legislatures before its constitutional changes can be presented to the voters.
The Business Council is opposing legislation, now under consideration by the full Senate, that would allow towns to adopt real property transfer taxes to fund local open space projects. These taxes could be up to 2%, and would apply to residential, commercial and industrial properties. The bill establishes an exemption equal to the median residential property value in the town, which would provide limited relief for commercial and industrial property transfers. We see this bill as having a particularly onerous impact downstate, where the high cost of housing is already making it difficult (and more expensive) for businesses to recruit new skilled employees. In addition, it would add to existing state, county and city-level real property transfer taxes already imposed on residential, commerical and industrial properties. The bill is S.6949-A (Marcellino)/A.10053 (DiNapoli). It was moved to the Senate Calendar this week, the Assembly has not yet moved it out of its Environmental Conservation committee. Our memo in opposition S.6949-A.