April 2017 Federal and State Legislative Update

When we met a few weeks back for Spring Planners Day in Syracuse, two feet of snow put Syracuse streets on a road diet, green beer was flowing from nearby bar room taps, President Trump’s first budget proposal had just been released, a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act was in high gear, and an on-time state budget was likely. Here’s a quick update on the topics we discussed on St. Patrick’s Day:

Trump Administration Appointments – The President has appointed three White House roles – Justin Clark will serve as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Mr. Clark was a Presidential campaign aid and is a Connecticut attorney. Andrew Bromberg will serve as Chair of the President’s Domestic Policy Council. Mr. Bromberg is a former aide to Senator Mitch McConnell and a former Health and Human Services appointee. Ja’Ron Smith will serve as Urban Affairs Director of the Domestic Policy Council. Mr. Smith is a former Capitol Hill aid. Other than these three appointments and the key planning agency/department appointments we discussed at Spring Planners Day, no key planning-related appointments have been made.

President’s Preliminary 2018 Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) Budget – In a statement on the Trump Administration’s FFY 2018 federal budget proposal released following Spring Planner’s Day, APA President Cynthia Bowen, AICP, established that “the federal budget proposal…utterly fails to meet the needs of the nation’s communities.” The budget would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME, and Choice Neighborhoods programs managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, the budget would end support for New Starts transit funding, TIGER grants, and the Economic Development Administration. In the statement APA called “on Congress to reject these cuts and support essential investments in the future of our communities,” affirming that the cuts make our communities more vulnerable and less safe and place jobs, development projects, and public health at risk. Now is an excellent time to tell your Congressional representatives why these programs are so important to our communities, as the 2017 FFY budget runs out on April 28 and the 2018 FFY begins on October 1. New York’s U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are firmly opposed to these cuts, but we need to ensure our Upstate New York House members do not support these cuts.

Federal Issues: Infrastructure – Political reporter for TIME Magazine Zeke Miller reported on March 30, 2017 that Trump Administration officials have discussed meeting the President’s $1 trillion infrastructure commitment with $100 to $200 billion in federal dollars, while overhauling the regulatory process, cutting regulations, and offering tax credits to private companies with the goal of propelling total infrastructure spending well above the $1 trillion target. Various news reports have stated that a proposal could be sent to Congress as early as May 2017.

Federal Issues: Digital Coast Act – On March 30, 2017, the Digital Coast Act (Senate Bill 110) was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. The President’s preliminary FFY 2018 budget would cut funding for coastal mapping and resiliency efforts and eliminate pre-disaster mitigation planning grants.

2017-18 New York State Budget – On April 3, 2017, two “budget extender” bills were delivered to New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to sign to continue state operations through May 31, 2017 and fully fund a $16.4 billion construction and economic development plan for the 2017-18 State Fiscal Year (SFY). As of April 6, 2017 the New York Legislature has, according to news reports, passed a few budget bills. Legislative leaders are still negotiating the final budget deal, but their chambers have left for what appears to be a two week break. Here’s a quick breakdown of the status of 2017-18 SFY budget items we discussed on Spring Planner’s Day from news reports:

o   a two-year extension of the Millionaire’s tax, which was said to be critical to a number of the Governor’s proposal, is reported to be included in the final budget bills;

o   the Legislature and Governor have continued to debate language that would allow the Governor to amend the budget should the federal budget negatively impact New York State fiscal situation;

o   language to authorize Transportation Network Company (TNC) operations outside of New York City appears to be in the final budget agreement, but has not yet been passed, delaying any likely roll out till late 2017;

o   the budget extender bill includes $2.5 billion for clean water infrastructure projects, $725 million of which is available immediately according the Governor’s Office, including not less than the amounts for the following programs:

o   $1 million for the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2017 (more details to come on that);

o   $150 million for inter-municipal water infrastructure projects;

o   $245 million for water quality improvement projects (i.e. nonpoint source abatement and control);

o   $25 million for proper management of road salt;

o   $50 million for green infrastructure projects;

o   $110 million for land acquisition for source water protection;

o   $50 million for Soil and Water Conservation District CAFO soil and water protection grants;

o   $130 million for hazardous waste site remediation;

o   $20 million for lead replacement of lead drinking water service line replacement;

o   $200 million for water quality projects in the NYC watershed;

o   $75 million for upgrading or replacement of septic systems and cesspools;

o   $10 million for water infrastructure emergency assistance;

o   $100 million for municipal water quality infrastructure programs;

o   $10 million for the development of information technology systems related to water quality.

o   According to Tom Precious of the Buffalo News, the budget deal includes $200 million for an Empire State Trail, to complete existing paths and trails between New York City and Quebec and Albany and Buffalo;

o   According to a press release by the Governor, the budget includes full funding for the 2017-18 fiscal year as called for in the 2015-16 through 2019-20 New York State Transportation Capital Program Memorandum of Understanding;

o   with $170 million secured from the federal government, the budget extender bill reappropriates approximately $500 million for an expansion of broadband to all New York State communities;

o   funding for renewable energy projects appears to be included in the budget agreement, but not the budget extender;

o   the budget extender includes $150 million in capital funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for REDC Round VII.

o   the budget extender allocates $400 million in capital funding toward the $500 million Buffalo Billion Phase II. Buffalo Billion Phase II will extend investment in Western New York to the neighborhood level and strengthen existing connections between downtown, suburban, and surrounding areas. Phase II will focus on revitalization and smart growth efforts, improvements to workforce development and job training, growing advanced manufacturing, tourism and life sciences, and connecting communities to foster growth through rail expansion.

o   The budget extender bill includes$100 million for ten new communities, bringing the total Downtown Revitalization Initiative program funding to $200 million. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative was created last year to fund transformative housing, economic development, transportation, and community projects to attract and retain residents, visitors, and businesses to downtowns. The first round awarded a total of $100 million to ten communities that are currently in the planning process. More info here: https://www.ny.gov/programs/downtown-revitalization-initiative;

o   the prospects for the graduate to homeownership program are unclear;

o   the tentative budget agreement is said to remove the limit on industrial hemp cultivators; and

o   according to various news reports a deal is near on Governor Cuomo’s shared services proposal, but questions remain about the details.