Extraordinary Session Wraps Up, With Some Finality
In the end, it was a two-day affair in Albany as lawmakers passed a mini-'big ugly' of largely local concerns in an extraordinary session called by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The session concluded with the passage of a two-year extension of mayoral control for New York City schools, giving NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio some unusual breathing room after several years of 12-month extensions and kicking the issue out of an election year for the governor and the Legislature.
Sales tax provisions for county governments and other income tax measures for cities, which had been caught up in the battle over the mayoral control debate, were approved for another three years.
The Vernon Downs racino and harness racetrack was given a financial boost, as were residents who live along Lake Ontario, with a $55 million relief package, smaller than the initial plan approved by the Legislature during the regular session.
And a provision was included, at the request of the governor, to name the Tappan Zee Bridge in Westchester and Rockland counties after his late father, Mario Cuomo.
"It was complicated, but it shouldn’t have been complicated because these were issues that we had been talking about for about two, three weeks," said Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference. "I think we did solve of these issues and I think everyone should be walking away today very happy."
It’s more than what Cuomo had initially outlined when calling for the extraordinary session this week, ostensibly for the mayoral control issue, as well as a disability measure for police and firefighters in New York City and extending a tax break for lower Manhattan real estate. But Cuomo, in a news conference after the Senate put the finishing touches on the omnibus bill, pointed to the Legislature adding on more issues — especially from upstate Republicans in the state Senate.
The governor said his preference was to have kept the session "very, very tight."
"That’s what we were trying to avoid by focusing on just mayoral control," Cuomo said. "Once you start to expand the wish list, it gets much, much harder to get an agreement."
He added the Senate "didn’t want to do a quote-un-quote New York City package" that ultimately turned out better for all involved.
Still, Cuomo called the two days in Albany — the bulk of which featured Albany staples of behind-the-scenes negotiations, false rumors and a lot of rank-and-file lawmakers waiting around for news — a success.
"It was not the session we had premeditated when we came up," Cuomo said. "It turned out to be more expansive and actually did more good things for the state."
"It was a beautiful capstone" on the regular session, Cuomo added.
Not everyone agreed, including Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris, who had pushed for a tax hike on those making more than $1 million in the MTA service region to fund upgrades to the ailing subway system. Cuomo called the tax proposal unlikely to pass in the state Senate, which is narrowly lead by Republicans.
Cuomo called a transit "state of emergency" earlier in the day to deal with the issues.
Gianaris, on the floor of the Senate, said the subway situation resembled a "post apocalyptic world" and he was "sickened" it wasn’t addressed during the last two days in Albany.