The education of our state’s students is one of the top challenges we face as we move toward the future. The funding allocated to P-12 education accounts for nearly one-fifth of the State Budget. Funding is in excess of $35 billion, and is slated to grow 2 percent – a billion more – each year. The decisions that are made within the formulas, policies and budget language set a course for the future for our students, but also can greatly impact the services you provide.
The world of education in New York differs from elsewhere. The Education Department is separate from the Governor, controlled by a Board of Regents who are appointed by the Legislature. However, the Governor also plays an active role in setting the agenda, starting with the allocation of funding in the Executive Budget and establishing key policy initiatives and parameters. The Legislature also plays a major role, driven by the importance of the topic to every member of both the Senate and Assembly. Local control issues also help shape the discussion, from New York City to the smallest jurisdictions. The changing environment, with long-standing religious and independent schools and more recently formed Charters, add new dynamics. The strong forces of the teachers unions and the representatives of administrators and school boards provide constant pressure to shape the results.
We have teamed with clients to successfully change decades-old policies, successfully building coalitions of important education interests in labor and educational management. We have worked closely with all the vital players in this area.
The landmark 2019 Climate and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) has drastically changed the world of energy generation in law. It requires that 70 percent of the electricity generated for use in the state be from renewable sources by 2030, that we achieve a 100 percent zero-emission, carbon-free grid by 2040, and that at least 35 percent of the benefits of the Act flow directly into disadvantaged communities.
Energy is a highly complex topic, involving the independent power producers, the utilities, industrial and residential customers, all functioning in a deregulated marketplace that continues to be shaped by the strong presences of the State’s Public Service Commission, the Independent System Operator and the Energy Research and Development Authority. Emerging green technologies provide clean solutions that can add power to the grid, drawing important environmental interests into the discussion.
We have worked extensively in this field, with traditional base load power producers and the providers of modern green alternatives, and know those who lead and shape the discussions in this area, from the Executive Chamber to the Legislature to the Commissions and Authorities, as well as those outside of government in utility, union, energy and environmental leadership.
It is a complex and evolving environment, but we know it well.
There are a myriad of tools in the economic development toolbox. Grants to credits, studies to assistance and investment programs, incubators to hot spots, export and Excelsior zones, power allocations to brownfield redevelopment funding. State regional economic development competitions to local industrial development agency assistance.
Launching a new business or expanding an existing one involves complex, multi jurisdictional decision making, as well as ensuring you can strength your existing presence with your current workforce. States will compete for you, and regions within states will raise the ante.
You need to know what is available to you, at the State and local level, to understand the innovative advantages of higher education partnerships through Start-Up NY through the traditional funding programs to the competitive environment of the CFA (the Consolidated Funding Applications to the basics of the more traditional programs.
We have successfully worked with clients to obtain new funding, to retain credits, to apply through regional CFA applications and to take advantage of the new Start-Up NY program.
New York is well-served by the presence of two strong public university systems and one of the nation’s top collection of Independent (private not-for-profit) institutions. Students have long traveled from around the world and across the country to obtain the top flight secondary education provided right here in New York. The economic footprint tied to these institutions is extensive and vital to their host communities.
The Governor and the Legislature are very interested in this policy area, as evidenced from State of the State initiatives to innovative budget programs. But in previous years, budget crises had resulted in deep cuts to tuition assistance and opportunity programs, as well as public operating funding, so there is rebuilding that must be done.
But the higher education world is changing. With declining traditional student enrollments facing our State and region, institutions are struggling to survive. Some are innovating, adding new programs and expanding to offer graduate courses. More are moving into the online space, providing educational opportunities to non-traditional learners as well as technology-savvy younger students. In New York, to change, grow, expand, or to migrate courses into a new delivery mode requires the approval of the approval of the State Education Department. We have extensive experience, working with department staff and the Regents, to obtain approvals and facilitate innovation.
Revenues, Fees and Taxes
If a State budget is forecast to grow at two percent per year and if local property taxes are supposed to be capped, unless the economy and job growth can provide the offsetting revenue boost, additional funding will need to come from somewhere. The revenue world is the vital side of the financial plan, because it dictates the resources available to provide the spending. It is a zero-sum game: If something is to be removed, something else of equal size and value must replace it.
New budgets carry with them new “revenue enhancements” but these are the taxes, fees and other money-generating ideas that are slated to address the growth, as well as to offset the losses from any proposed reductions in taxes. Added to the math are dedicated funds and the revenue sources and ideas attendant to those independent areas of expenditure, and the landscape gets more troublesome.
Revenue initiatives are contained within the proposed Executive Budget, but are subject to alteration or replacement by the Legislature. The Department of Taxation and Finance, the Division of the Budget and numerous revenue-generating agencies all play important roles in the process, from the generation of new ideas to the detailed implementation of the budget language. The battles over individual revenue initiatives pit funding proponents against those who are most directly penalized. It can often split industry groups on the best approach to achieve desired outcome, from outright opposition to language tailored to minimize specific impacts.
We have worked extensively in the world of revenues, from traditional taxes and fees to dedicated funds. We have worked with clients and coalitions to successfully seek and obtain substantial revenue reductions, and have blocked and altered the outcomes of other initiatives.
Transportation is a vital business. In moving people and goods, governments need to make crucial decisions about where to grow and expand the network, and those decisions can impact you, directly or otherwise.
All the decision making is intermodal. It involves roads and bridges and vehicles, but it touches on alternate means – transit on wheels, rails, water or wings; freight by truck, rail, ship or air. Who gets priority? Where does the funding flow? Should the regulations governing the mode be more or less stringent? There is a government entity behind each of those decisions. And those entities are connected to an administration, directly or in some shade of independence, but there is a legislative body that also wants to influence the area, from broader boundaries to the most microscopic of decisions.
It is not a straight-forward process. It is a dizzying world of splits and shares, decision making at multiple levels of governments, utilizing an alphabet soup of planning entities and delivery systems. Is your project pay as you go or bonded? Are the funds promised, pledged, appropriated, allocated, committed, obligated? Is it in the 20 year needs plan, the 5 year capital plan or the operating envelope? Is it operating or capital, state-delivered or locally aided?
We can help you navigate the map. Having worked in the space inside government and within the industry, at some of the highest decision making levels, we know where you need to go and how to get there.