A truck dumps its contents of recyclable items on the...

A truck dumps its contents of recyclable items on the tipping floor at the Town of Brookhaven Material Recycling Facility in Yaphank on Aug. 30, 2023. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Daily Point

Fear stalks pols over cost-of-living burden

Election-year political fears of making any move that could hit New York taxpayers in the wallet proved decisive in crushing several big policy initiatives, as Albany’s annual legislative session ground to a quirky close on Saturday.

One surprise was the unexpected eleventh-hour death of a bill aimed at requiring large companies to decrease their millions of annual tons of packaging waste, known as the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act. It passed the Senate, 37-23, along party lines but the Assembly adjourned before bringing it to a floor vote.

Long Islander Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment based in Farmingdale, watched the Capitol proceedings carefully and expressed sharp disappointment at the result. She told The Point that proponents’ head counts projected they had the necessary votes to win Assembly approval. She disputed claims by opponents in a top-dollar lobbying effort that the measure would cost families $600 to $800 more per year in certain purchases.

While that environmental measure fizzled, another just as unexpectedly surged in the final moments to win two-house approval. It’s aimed at creating a 25-year dedicated fund of $3 billion annually — financed by fossil fuel corporations — to be used in coping with the expensive impact of climate change in the state.

Several observers told The Point Monday that the superfund bill might have rallied among Democrats so they could signify some environmental commitment — three days after Gov. Kathy Hochul ditched the long-planned introduction of Manhattan vehicle tolls touted as an environmental and revenue measure.

Hochul explained her “indefinite” delay of “congestion pricing” as motivated by “affordability and the cost of living and … to avoid added burdens to working- and middle-class families” — a concern she hadn’t previously expressed about the tolls.

As a follow-up, lawmakers in the Democratic majority shot down the possibility of increasing the MTA payroll tax to compensate for loss of the toll. The tax, when it began in 2009, cost Democrats at the polls.

For Suffolk County’s priorities, the state legislative session ended without a renewal of its red-light camera program worth an estimated $9 million in annual revenues to the county. Many Republicans have complained about the devices for years as nothing more than a “money grab” even as the county’s website still justifies it at length as a deterrent safety measure.

Elected officials in Suffolk seem to be passively resisting extension of the program past its scheduled Dec. 1 expiration. The bill necessary to extend the program had an Assembly sponsor but no local senators came forward to keep the cameras clicking.

New County Executive Ed Romaine issued no public appeal for it to be done. The Suffolk Legislature took no action on a required home-rule message to Albany. A larger omnibus end-of-session bill that could have included the extension without such a message never took shape.

Sources on both sides of the aisle told The Point that Suffolk elected officials see a “Plan B” in the works — to simply let it go and take credit for killing the unpopular fines that arise from running red lights. How the resulting budget hole would be filled would be a question for the county to answer later.

— Dan Janison dan.janison@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Left Out

Credit: creators.com/Tom Stiglich

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Quick Points

Dealers ante up

  • The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association is holding a reception Tuesday to support Gov. Kathy Hochul with suggested donations of $5,000 and $10,000. Perhaps the dealers should give the money to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to make up for the revenue the agency lost when Hochul guaranteed more cars would be on the road by killing congestion pricing.
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said it’s “hard to say” whether the Israeli operation that freed four hostages will affect cease-fire negotiations with Hamas. It’s hard to say that it will help.
  • Basketball player Caitlin Clark reportedly will not be part of the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Paris Olympics, creating yet another round of controversy surrounding Clark. But if she’s not one of the 12 best women’s players in America right now, why should she be on the team?
  • Trying to work her way back into the Republican veep sweepstakes, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said former President Donald Trump should select a woman as his running mate because women voters “want to have a woman talking to them about the issues they care about.” Do those issues include killing puppies?
  • A new CBS/YouGov national poll found that former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden, 50% to 49%, among likely voters while Biden leads Trump, 50-49, among likely voters in battleground states. Face it, folks, we’re a 50-50 nation.
  • New York ranks second nationally in the number of high school students who pass at least one college-level Advanced Placement test before graduation. Opt-out parents say standardized tests given by the state are bad, but standardized tests offered by a private organization apparently are OK?
  • State legislators who left Albany without devising a way to replace the $1 billion in annual toll revenue for the MTA were delivering a message to Gov. Kathy Hochul: It’s your mess, you clean it up.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com

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