Getting to Yes: New York State End of Session Negotiations Appear to Result in a “Framework.” Who’s Happy? Who’s Not?

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — State leaders have reached a budget agreement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The deal includes a framework for a four-year extension of rent regulations. It also provides for a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City’s public schools. The 421a tax abatement program for real estate developers will also be extended for six months.

Capital Confidential Bog

We have a deal — or at least the framework of a deal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced at an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon that they have struck a framework agreement on an omnibus end-of-session deal that includes a four-year extension of New York City’s rent laws, $250 million for non-public schools and a property tax rebate program worth $1.3 billion.

Minutes ago Governor Cuomo announced a “framework” for a budget agreement, the two news sites above announced different aspects of the settlement.

See Cuomo press conference here.

Over the next few hours and days more details will emerge, at first glance the tax credit for private, charter and parochial schools died and the expansion of the charter school cap “sort of” increased. Other issues were punted; mayoral control will be back next year.

Why was this year so contentious, so difficult and why was the “settlement” so limited?

First, a caveat: a settlement in concept,” or a “framework” has to be turned into legislative language and embedded in a series of bills, and “agreements in concept” have been known to fall part.

This year we saw new, more open, more consensus-building leadership in both parties. Carl Heastie on the Assembly side is completing his first legislative year as Speaker and John Flanagan only months into his job as Senate Majority Leader. Both have proven themselves to their conferences. The days of Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos are gone; the days of leaders “cracking the whip” are now days of listening to conference membership concerns.

The Assembly Democratic conference is heavily tilted toward New York City and the Senate Republican Conference tilted out of New York City, only three Republican Senators come from within the City.

Rent control, mayoral control and 421-a tax abatement are wholly New York City issues, the private, parochial, charter school tax credit a Republican issue due to the large number of dollars poured into their coffers from the charter school hedge funders.

Some laws are passed with expiration dates, called “sunset.” Both rent control and mayoral control expire at the end of the session. For the Democrats, rent control must be extended; it impacts 2.5 million renters in the city, mayoral control of schools is a de Blasio more than a conference issue. The four year rent control extension and the one year extension of mayoral control represent the importance of the issues to the Democrats; one critical, one, not so much.

Just Out – More Details:

The four-year extension of the rent laws would also include a four-year extension of the property tax cap. The two will now sunset together, rather than letting the tax cap lag for an extra year, the governor said. (To be clearer, the rent laws expired this year, while the tax cap, which was coupled with the rent laws in 2011, wouldn’t have expired until next year. The deal would mean they both end at the same time).

While the controversial EITC (tax credit) didn’t make it in, a $250 million fund for non-public schools for mandated services reimbursement would be made available.

The charter school cap would be reconfigured in order to add up to 50 new charter schools downstate and roughly 130 new charters upstate. SUNY or the state Education Department would be in charge of authorizing new charters.

More on the charter school cap from Chalkbeat here.

The state Education Department also would be required to give out more information to parents about things like teacher evaluations. The department would have to open up about test questions, growth patterns and other data, Cuomo said.

All negotiations require both sides to point to an issue that satisfies their constituencies. In this set the key item for out-of-New York City crowd was the extension of the property tax cap. The tax cap was due to expire next year, an election year, and there is little question the city law makers would have held the Republicans hostage in the same manner that the Republicans held the Democrats hostage this year.

The failure of EITC (tax credit) is a major victory for the teachers union and the many legislators that refused to fold in the conference; the $250 million for charter school “mandate relief,” I believe, is already in the budget: EITC’s demise is a major Heastie victory.

The “charter school cap reconfiguration” sounds like moving unused charter school slots upstate to New York City. “Opening up about test questions, growth patterns at other data,” needs more info.

In these types of deals everyone attempts to claim credit:

* The “three men in a room” all explaining to their conferences and the public supporters: their intransigence paid off.

* The governor, aloof during most of the negotiations, sweeps in to announce the framework, and, to the public appears to be the statesman who crafted the settlement

* The teacher union – the failure of the tax credit is a victory

* For de Blasio rent control is a victory, and, mayoral control a slap in the face.

Let me mention again, this is a framework; the thousands of pages of legislative language are the guts of the settlements. A few days from now, maybe a few weeks, someone will point to a paragraph, a sentence or a few words that got into the actual bill and will have an immense impact.

Negotiating contracts or negotiating legislation is an art form and a learned skill, a form of “Getting to Yes,” the award winning book that espouses four principles: 1) separate the people from the problem; 2) focus on interests rather than positions; 3) generate a variety of options before settling on an agreement; and 4) insist that the agreement be based on objective criteria.

In the education arena the power of the Opt-Out parents will not be assuaged by the minor points in the agreement, the movement will continue to gain traction across the state, unless, the new commissioner decides to address the testing issue, put the issue at the top of her agenda,

She arrives officially in two weeks.


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