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Government Affairs Albany Update

March 24, 2006

Conference Committee Reports

Several of the Legislative Conference Committee subcommittees have finalized their reports as of Friday morning.

All final conference committee reports are available online at: http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/WAM/20060314/.

The following provides a summary of issues of interest to Business Council members.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Agreed to extend the Power for Jobs program for current participants through December 31, 2007; authorized NYPA to provide funding for the program, with the General Fund to pick up expenses not funded by NYPA. They are near agreement on a mechanism to reimburse PfJ participants for excess power costs during the first quarter of 2006.

  • Agreed to appoint interim members for the State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (which is to replaced the NYSTAR board under 2005 legislation).

  • Required the NYSFSTI to produce an annual report to assess the effectiveness, costs and benefits of all state science / technology / innovation funding programs.

  • Agreed to “full funding” for the Economic Development Fund and the Jobs Now fund at $32 million each; allow regional partnerships to apply for EDF and JN program funding.

  • Agreed to new funding of $1.4 million each for the states five Centers of Excellence.

  • Rejected the Governor's proposal to create five new Centers of Excellence Empire Zones.

  • Agreed to immediately designate six new Empire Zones, and to designate the remaining three authorized zones in 2007.

  • Agreed to subject "renewable portfolio standard" and "system benefit charge" related spending to the legislative appropriations process.

  • Agreed to increase the level of funding available for the Excelsior Linked Deposit Program from $350 million to $410 million.
    -- Agreed to a one year extension of UDC's general loan powers (thru 7/1/07).

  • Agreed to restore $2.3 million for local Empire Zone administrators

  • Agreed on $800,000 in funding for the small business pollution prevention program adopted in 2005.

  • Did not reach agreement on Power for Jobs program extension; Economic Development Program extension; PfJ reimbursement and rebate options; Clean Coal technology incentives; creation of state commission on economic development power programs; new state-level review requirements for wind power siting.

ENVIRONMENT

  • Rejected the Governor's proposed increase in the Title V fee cap to $67 per ton, and the minimum fee for Title V permits.

  • Rejected all proposed changes to hazardous waste-related fees, including the Governor's proposal to re-set the hazardous wastewater fee threshold at 15TPY, and both the Governor's and Senate's proposed reductions in per ton special assessments.

  • Rejected the Governor's proposed increases in SDPES P/C/I permit fees; and dam-related fees.

  • No agreement was reached on the Governor's proposal to expand the state's authority to regulate freshwater wetlands < 12.4 acres in size, and to increase wetlands permit fees; this issue may be considered by the Legislature's General Conference Committee.

  • The legislature agreed to increase the Environmental Protection Fund to $200 million per year; will additional revenues coming from an increased diversion of revenues from the existing state Real Property Transfer Tax. Open space will remain the largest spending category under the EPF, at $119 million; other broad categories of spending include: $58 million for parks, rec and historic presevation; $21 million for municipal solid waste management.

HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Agreed to Governor's proposed math and science scholarship program for 500 students who agree to teach math and science for five years in New York State.

  • Failed to agree on loan forgiveness program for engineering students

  • Agreed on operating aid and capital programs for SUNY and CUNY

  • Rejected tuition increase for SUNY

  • Increased community college base aid by $9 million and contract courses by $1 million

  • Rejected privatization of any public hospitals

POWER FOR JOBS

  • The General Conference Committee agreed to continue the Power for Jobs Program through the end of 2007. They will request that NYPA pay for the program, but have agreed to have the General Fund guarantee the funding stream. They also agreed on reimbursement for those companies who overpaid, but the details of how that will happen are not clear as of the time of this mailing.

RPS/SBC

  • The Legislature agreed to put these programs "on-budget" going forward.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Rejected the Governor's proposal regarding Transportation Development Partnerships (public-private partnerships)

  • Rejected the Governor's proposal regarding design-built contracts

  • Accepted a provision requiring New York State to revoke the New York commercial driver's license of a commercial driver convicted in another state of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • Rejects the proposal to increase the fee for non-driver identification card photographs

  • Requests an additional $2 million in CHIP's funding to support local road and bridge projects and an additional $20 million in CHIP's capital. This is in addition to the current $289.5 million in CHIP's capital.

  • Agrees setting the letting level for highway and bridge construction and maintenance at $1.85 billion

  • Agrees to provide a $5.3 million appropriation for airport and aviation facility projects

  • Rejects the provision for funding DMV customer service kiosks at $500,000

  • Unable to agree to transfer $20 million in DMV costs from the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund to the General Fund

LABOR (portion of Human Services and Labor)

  • Accept the proposal to transfer the Radiological Health Unit from the Dept. of Labor to the Dept. of Health

  • Rejects a proposal to increase the Asbestos Handling License Renewal fee from $300 to $500

  • Rejects the proposal to make public employer's financial ability to pay the primary factor that a public arbitration panel uses in arriving at a determination in disputes

  • Approves the following funding:
    • NYS AFL-CIO Workforce Development $400,000
    • Displaced Homemaker program $3 million
    • New York Committee of Occupational Health $300,000
    • Assembly Labor programs $805,500
    • Senate Labor initiatives $2.15 million
    • NYS AFL-CIO Workforce Dev. Institute $995,000
    • UAW American Axle $1 million

Hazardous Waste Tax Struck Down

The New York State Court of Appeals has struck down the state's per ton tax imposed on the disposal of hazardous wastes within the state.

The NYS Court of Appeals decision in CWM v. Roth is available on line at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/decisions/mar06/mar06.htm
.

Specifically, the court struck down the entirety of the "special assessment" on the disposal of hazardous wastes set forth in ECL Section 27-0923(2). These fees included $27 per ton for landfilled wastes, $9 per ton for wastes incinerated off site, and $16 tons for wastes treated or disposed of off-site by means other than by landfilling or incineration. The fee revenues were dedicated to paying off one-half of the debt service related to the 1986 Environmental Quality Bond Act. Lower courts found two disposal tax exemptions to be unconstitutional - one giving an exemption for in-state generated cleanup wastes, and one exempting wastes that had already been subject to the state's generator tax. The Court of Appeals overruled the Appellate Division decision, finding that the legislature's clear intent was to avoid imposing disincentives for site cleanups by imposing a tax on remedial wastes, and to avoid "double taxation" of in-state wastes The state's special assessments on the generation of wastes were not affected by this ruling. It is unclear what, if any, legislative changes will be made in response to this decision. The disposal fees had been raising about $3 millions per year, a relatively small share of total revenues dedicated to superfund-related debt service.