In the latest from Albany and Washington … it’s crunch time for the Legislature in Albany as the clock ticks toward a Sunday deadline on budget negotiations. Rep. Reed looks ahead the federal debt limit and the potential for another vote to raise the debt ceiling later this summer.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125th Assembly District)

The New York State Legislature is in one of its most heated weeks of the year as the Senate, Assembly and Governor must come to an agreement before Sunday on this year’s budget proposal. At this point, a number of legislative initiatives tied to the budget are still under debate.

As this article goes to press, Assembly Democrats most recently announced they’d go along with one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s key proposals — congestion pricing to tax cars in Manhattan in an attempt to raise funds for the New York subway system.

Still under debate are criminal justice reforms including a possible end to cash bail; wage increases for direct care workers supporting patients with disabilities; revenue sharing for municipalities; and a permanent cap for property tax raises on municipalities and schools.

The proposal to cap property tax rises is supported by the Governor, Senate Democrats and Republicans in both chambers, but Assembly Democrats aren’t totally for it. Assemblywoman Lifton, a former teacher who specializes in K-12 education issues in the Assembly, has argued against making the tax cap permanent but said she supports another temporary extension of the matter until other sources of revenue can be found.

State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-58th N.Y. Senate District)

The New York State Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill to bar the construction of a trash incinerator in the Seneca Army depot near Romulus in between Cayuga and Seneca lakes. Though the measure was written by Democrats, it was supported on both sides of the aisle in both chambers. O’Mara supported its passage.

“I have appreciated and welcomed the opportunity over the past two years to join Senator Helming, Senator May, and many legislative colleagues to fight for the enactment of this legislation,” O’Mara wrote in a press release last week. “This proposed trash incinerator has stood as a serious threat to the quality, health, and overall safety of many communities throughout the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk where it’s expected to be signed.

The state Senate continues to duke it out on budget negotiations as well this week. While Democrats are dominating the decision making with their newfound control over the chamber, O’Mara did score a victory as early education groups encouraged the governor to stand down on the legalization of recreational marijuana in the budget. O’Mara is opposed to a swift, understudied rollout of recreational marijuana.

O’Mara also chairs the Senate’s Judiciary Committee where he voted against a bill this week that would require snow sports areas to ensure anyone under the age of 18 wears a helmet while skiing or snowboarding. O’Mara said he believes that the legal onus should be on parents if their child is in a skiing or snowboarding accident and wasn’t wearing a helmet instead of the owner of the slope. He used the example of bicycle helmet laws where the parent is liable for children not wearing a helmet under the age of 14.

Rep. Tom Reed (23rd Congressional District)

Both the House and Senate were on recess last week. Rep. Reed took some time to visit schools and businesses in the 23rd district.

Attorney General William Barr released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report Sunday afternoon, claiming there was no evidence of collusion, and Barr separately asserted that the report exonerated President Trump. Reed echoed this claim, telling WETM that he wants to move on and see an end to the divide caused by the investigation. House Democrats are pushing for the full report to be released by April 2. Reed previously voted for the symbolic resolution calling on Barr to release the report.

Prior to leaving Washington the week prior, Reed and the House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin whose department is now reshuffling the federal government’s cash reserves in order to finance the national debt. It’s a major sign that Congress will be faced with a vote to raise the debt ceiling before August.

Reed said he is concerned about the political feasibility of dealing with the issue with a Congress divided between Democrats and Republicans.

“How are we going to get 218 votes in the House of Representatives in order to put a marker in front of the Senate to get the debt ceiling addressed?” he told The Ithaca Voice on a conference call with reporters last week.

In the past, debt ceiling raises have been tied to budget deals. This allows moderates on both sides of the aisle a political cop-out, being that raising the ceiling alone would leave them susceptible to deficit hawks.

“I’m of the school of thought that we should be looking at every penny,” Reed added.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand used her break from Washington to hit the campaign trail. She utilized Mueller’s announcement and Barr’s summary to drum up support for her electoral challenge to President Trump in 2020.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Senate Minority Leader and Senator from New York Chuck Schumer has tried twice to introduce the House resolution calling for a public release of Mueller’s findings. The first time two weeks ago he was blocked by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. He tried again this Monday and was blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.).

Vaughn Golden

Vaughn Golden is a freelance radio and print reporter covering politics around the southern tier and central New York. He authors the weekly "Capitol Watch" watchdog report on Ithaca's representatives...