Rise and Shine: Jan. 21, 2020

Good Tuesday morning, CivMixers, and welcome to state budget day!

This is an anxiety-ridden day on a good year, as organizations, schools, health care facilities, local governments, and just regular people across New York wait to see whose ox got gored in terms of receiving public funding for the coming 12 months (or more) and whose hide that funding will come out of.

But the tension is particularly high this year, as the state is facing a $6.1 billion dollar deficit – largely due to Medicaid cost overruns. This is the largest budget hole since the Great Recession and certainly the biggest one Gov. Andrew Cuomo has had to deal with since he took office in January 2011.

The two most sizable areas of spending in New York are education and health care.

This is an election year, so cuts of any kind are going to be difficult for state lawmakers to swallow, but especially in the area of K-12 education, which is always a battle ground. Across-the-board reductions are unlikely, though Cuomo has made it clear he intends to revisit the question of equitable (in his mind) distribution of state funds to have and have-not schools.

The governor has also made it quite clear he intends to slash Medicaid, and already announced a 1 percent rate cut.

He has also alluded to making local governments pay more, which is VERY worrisome for them, since they’re already operating on a shoestring and the state agreed not to increase their Medicaid costs back in 2015 (yes, under this governor). New York is pretty much the only state in the nation that requires county governments to pick up a share of Medicaid, which used to be about 25 percent of the overall program but has been going down.

Other things to look for today as the governor takes the wraps off his next proposed spending plan: Where will he be seeking to generate new revenue? The most likely candidate will be the legalization of marijuana for recreational adult use, but the governor and legislative leaders tried that last year and failed to get a deal. Things have only grown more complicated since then.

Also possible: The acceleration of one or more downstate casino licenses.

As you may recall, New York voters in 2013 approved a constitutional change to allow seven private casinos to be built in New York. Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to require the first four to be built outside the New York City area and give them exclusivity until 2023, but if that timetable is changed, it could bring millions of dollars in casino license fees – and tax revenue, eventually – to the state coffers.

The big unveil will occur at 1 p.m. today at The Egg. As some U.S. attorney or other once infamously said (regarding a very different topic): Stay tuned.

Rather fittingly for budget day, it continues to be extremely cold out – 11 degrees as I’m typing this. Temperatures again won’t break 30, according to The Weather Channel, and though skies will be partly cloudy, there’s no precipitation in the forecast.

Also, it’s National Hugging Day, which is something some New Yorkers are going to want to take advantage of after the wraps come off the governor’s budget.

Oh yeah, and at the federal level, President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial starts in earnest this afternoon – at what time? you guessed it: 1 p.m. – when Republicans and Democrats expected to battle over a resolution setting the rules for the trial and start opening arguments shortly afterward.

Also underway in NYC this week: The sexual harassment trial of disgraced former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. (BTW, the media has been fighting to get access to both the Weinstein and Trump trials with limited success).

In other words, it’s going to be a VERY busy news day – and week.

On this day in 1793, Louis XVI of France was executed by the guillotine in Paris, following his conviction for high treason.

In 1846, the edition of Charles Dickens’ newspaper “The Daily News” was published.

In 1921, British crime writer Agatha Christie published her first novel, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” introducing the character Hercule Poirot to the world.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned almost all Vietnam War draft evaders.

In 1978, the Bee Gees’ album “Saturday Night Fever” went #1 and stayed there for 24 weeks.

In 2017, more than 2 million people protested worldwide in the “Women’s March” against Trump, with 500,000 marching in Washington, D.C. alone.

Actress Geena Davis is celebrating her 64th birthday today. She shares the day with R&B singer Billy Ocean (70), basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon (57), former Spice Girl Emma Bunton (AKA Baby Spice, 44), golfer Jack Nicklaus (AKA The Golden Bear, 80), and opera singer Placido Domingo (79), who, by the way, isn’t doing so well.

In the headlines…

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening statements in Trump’s impeachment trial, ground rules that are raising objections from Democrats on the eve of the landmark proceedings.

In a 110-page brief submitted to the Senate the day before Trump’s trial begins in earnest, the president’s lawyers advanced their first sustained legal argument since the House opened its inquiry in the fall, contending that the two charges approved largely along party lines were constitutionally flawed and set a dangerous precedent.

NY-21 Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik is among eight congressional members who have been picked by Trump to assist in his impeachment defense.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is trying to navigate some tough terrain as his chamber moves into the third impeachment trial of a sitting president in American history and he seeks to maintain his constant presence dealing with a host of local issues in New York.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that the Democratic Party is a “center or center-conservative” party and there’s currently no “left” party in the United States.

Lawyers for Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman who was involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals of Trump, asked that Attorney General William Barr disqualify himself from overseeing his criminal case because he has too many conflicts of interest.

After defending the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic employed while he was mayor of NYC, Mike Bloomberg has apologized as he seeks the White House in 2020. But black voters in the Democratic presidential race may not forgive him.

A former executive director and accounting firm linked to the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators were reportedly issued subpoenas last week as part of a state attorney general’s investigation into the nonprofit’s murky finances.

State Sen. James Seward announced that he’ll retire at the end of his 17th term this year, citing his ongoing battle with bladder cancer. Seward makes nine Republican senators who aren’t seeking re-election or are seeking a different office next year.

After five years in development, SUNY Empire State College has launched a new bachelor’s degree program in addiction studies.

Cuomo appears ready to set an April 28 special election — the same day as the state’s presidential primary — to fill a congressional seat left vacant by a western New York Republican who has since been convicted of insider trading.

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte became the first woman to head the Brooklyn Democratic Party last night.

…She takes over an embattled political machine that owes more than $226,000, including $50,000 to the political account of her predecessor, former chair Frank Seddio.

NYC subway trains were on time far more often in 2019 than the year before, according to newly released MTA stats.

Charity leader L. Antonio Litman, who recently bought hoverboards for children in his Brooklyn neighborhood, was found dead after an overnight blaze at his home.

The first block of Troy’s Franklin Alley, a stretch filled with 16 commercial trash dumpsters lining either side of the street and graffiti, is going to get a makeover that’s projected to bring visitors and life to what normally is a dark shortcut.

City of Troy police are investigating a shooting that left a 17-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to his chest last night.

Brittany McHatten, sports director at WRGB (CBS-6), announced in a Facebook post that she has accepted a job at WABI in Bangor, Maine.

A Connecticut multimillionaire who uses a seaplane to reach his remote waterfront property in Tupper Lake is seeking to seize control of the insolvent Adirondack Club and Resort project.

Some College of Saint Rose alumni are threatening to stop donating to the school after student newspaper journalists say their speech is being limited by the Marketing and Communications Department. The school says they’re simply treating the students like any other media outlet.

Capital Q Smokehouse in Albany is reopening today.

Lillian Butler, a senior at Salem Central School, was chosen to sing in the Treble Honor Choir at Carnegie Hall in February.

Authorities say some may assume rivers and lakes are frozen over because of recent cold weather, but in some spots, underneath an inch or two of ice is dangerously freezing water.

Three horses died in three days this past weekend at California’s best known and most scrutinized racetrack, Santa Anita. All three were euthanized, two after breaking their ankles in turf races and the third after colliding with another horse while training on dirt, racing officials said.

Meghan Markle was spotted for the first time post-Megxit yesterday, taking a leisurely stroll through a park in Canada with her son Archie and her dogs. She seemed relaxed and happy.

Half of Canadians contacted by the Angus Reid Institute, a nonprofit polling organization, “really do not care” if Meghan and Prince Harry lay down roots in Canada, according to a recent survey by the group. An overwhelming 73 percent of those polled said they don’t want Canada spending any money on the couple’s security.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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