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Coronavirus hits state budget season

Senators work in the Senate Chamber at the

Senators work in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Albany. Credit: AP

Daily Point

The fine art of counting unhatched chickens

For Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislative leaders, the disruption of coronavirus coming amid budget negotiations is both good and bad. 

It’s great the state can adjust planning as the epidemic, which could greatly impact income and sales tax revenues, develops. But it’s difficult that there is no way to determine how many people in New York and elsewhere the virus will sicken or kill and the effect on the state economy.

State legislative leaders and State Budget Director Robert Mujica delivered their forecasted revenue consensus on Sunday, and it did mention coronavirus as a risk. The revenue forecast is $700 million over previous estimates, but that money has mostly come in this year when higher-than-expected Wall Street bonuses delivered a bump, according to Division of the Budget spokesman Freeman Klopott. 

Because of concerns over the coronavirus, though, the forecast does not assume that this increased revenue will recur. 

The state’s annual budget totals $178 billion, so neither the $40 million Cuomo has promised to fight the coronavirus nor the $700 million in unexpected revenue is paradigm-changing. The disease, though, could be, particularly because the state is already facing a $6 billion deficit largely due to Medicaid spending, something a pandemic will only worsen.

But a big danger is a crashing stock market that erases the taxable profits of New York investors, along with Wall Street jobs (think: income taxes). Another worry is a decline in consumer spending as the economy slows, and supply shortages in stores that could further hamper sales.

Asked what they were telling the state and other governments to project, a spokesperson for the state comptroller said: “It’s too soon to comment on the matter.” 

The budget, though, won’t wait until all is made clear.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Issues vs. electability

With one-time frontrunner Elizabeth Warren out of the 2020 presidential race, where will the senator’s New York supporters go? 

One data point is a February Siena College poll of registered New York voters, which found that Warren’s supporters were almost twice as likely to be liberal versus moderate or conservative combined. The Democratic respondents also slightly preferred the generic candidate they agreed with on the issues over the generic candidate they think can beat President Donald Trump. 

Those findings might suggest that a New York primary would see more Warren people move over to Sen. Bernie Sanders, her ideological issue-driven partner, than the more centrist former Vice President Joe Biden. 

This could be different from the situation nationally, where Democratic voters have signaled they care more about beating Trump than having a candidate who aligns with their policy positions. 

Bruce Gyory, veteran pollwatcher and Albany Democratic consultant, told The Point that the Siena finding would be something to keep a careful eye on: Is it “foreshadowing something,” he asked, or “an outlier that doesn’t pan out” given the opposing findings in other states?

There are other reasons to see New York supporters breaking for Biden here as elsewhere, Gyory suggested. The support that Warren retained on Super Tuesday was driven by highly educated female voters, a category in which Sanders has been less strong. Demographically speaking, those could be Biden voters now that Warren is out. 

An early test of the Warren block will be Michigan’s Tuesday primary, particularly in university towns like Ann Arbor and East Lansing, said Gyory. 

And of course, plenty can happen with the new frontrunners between now and New York's primary on April 28. 
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Rallying cry

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Final Point

GOP candidate enters race — and vaccination debate

Dave Franklin is the latest Republican to join the fray of those who oppose Long Island’s Democrat state senators.

The former Port Washington Police District commissioner, who lost his seat in a nail-biter election last year, plans to run against State Sen. Anna Kaplan, who represents the 7th State Senate district.

“They say when one door closes, another opens, and that everything happens for a reason,” Franklin wrote this week when he announced his candidacy on Facebook. 

Franklin said he lost his operations supervisor position with HBO when it moved its offices to Atlanta late last year. And in December, Franklin lost his bid for reelection as police commissioner, receiving 346 votes to Frank Scobbo’s 372.

As for his State Senate run, Franklin, 62, said he would be attentive to constituent concerns, and wants to cut spending and generate income. He said he supports, for instance, legalizing sports gambling, and is open to legalizing marijuana as well. 

“I think it’s inevitable, but it’s got to be done right,” he said of legalizing pot.

He also wants to change the state’s bail reform laws to give judges more discretion. 

Within hours of declaring his candidacy on social media, Franklin said, he received messages from local mothers concerned about vaccination laws, including the ban on religious exemptions that Kaplan supported last year. He told The Point that on Thursday, he attended a screening of "Vaxxed II," a sequel to the controversial 2016 “Vaxxed” documentary that came under fire from the scientific community and physicians.

Franklin, who has two adult children who were vaccinated, called the sequel “eye-opening.” He said he would not have voted for the ban on religious exemptions for vaccines.

“There’s reasonable doubt,” Franklin said of vaccinations. “I think you have to give parents the choice. Parents know how to take care of their children better than the state does.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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