Suffolk County’s red-light camera program will expire Dec. 1 unless...

Suffolk County’s red-light camera program will expire Dec. 1 unless lawmakers in Albany vote in advance to renew it. Credit: Steve Pfost

Daily Point

Waiting for word of a ‘Big Ugly’

Suffolk County’s red-light camera program will officially expire Dec. 1 if lawmakers in Albany do not vote in advance to renew it. The State Senate and Assembly are set to adjourn Friday, with no current plan to return to Albany before that deadline.

Such an extension bill usually requires a “home rule” message from the county and its local lawmakers because it deals with fees and revenue and affects the county’s budget — in this case, to the tune of $9 million collected a year.

But the county’s legislature met Tuesday without approving such a message, and with Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey telling The Point: “We can’t do a home rule without [legislative] bill numbers and sponsors which we do not have.”

It seems local politicians do not want their fingerprints on a safety-oriented program that has many vocal detractors.

In Albany, there was no visible progress by midafternoon on what would be called an “extender” bill for use of the cameras. Apparently, none of the Senate’s Long Island members are leaping up to rescue the use of the devices on Suffolk streets and roads that bring in big revenue and discourage red-light running. Still, they’re willing to accept a way to continue the program — complained about by some motorists and lawmakers for more than a decade — without loudly championing it.

McCaffrey said: “With planned changes in camera locations based on accident data — not revenue generation — I would be supportive of extension of the red-light camera program given the opportunity.”

One preferred method has been called the “big ugly” — a bundle of measures rolled together that wins swift approval in the final days, hours or moments of the session. Ugly, that is, because the process of passing it has the beauty and craftsmanship of a sausage being made.

Veteran lobbyists and lawmakers say the cameras’ inclusion in a “big ugly” would not require a home-rule message. That would be fine with a number of Suffolk legislators, who could vote “no” on the five-year extension.

An informed Albany source said, “They [Suffolk’s lawmakers] could have done a home rule message on the Assembly bill, which is A10032, but they did not want to … A big ugly is still in the mix but it is not certain there will be one.”

One Capitol denizen uninvolved in the legislation, who did not want to be identified, quipped that if the “big ugly” effort does not work, “Plan B is to take credit for killing the program.”

Nassau County, also facing an expiration date for its red-light cameras, handled the planned extension differently. When legislative leaders asked for a home rule message, the county’s legislature approved one, putting that program en route to renewal without a complicated dance.

— Dan Janison

Pencil Point

Zero down

Credit: Granlund

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Final Point

Report: Families with kids leaving NY

A report released Monday by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-supported think tank, has painted a picture of those who left New York State, which suffered the highest population loss in the nation between 2020 and 2023.

During those two years, 533,200 residents, or 2.7% of the population, moved somewhere else.

“New York’s high, persistent population loss and out-migration pose a serious challenge to the State’s long-run economic prospects,” the Institute said in its report.

The report found that households with children under 6 years old are more than 40% more likely to leave the state, as those households without young children. Those between the ages of 26 and 35 make up a disproportionate percentage of out-migration, compared with their percentage of the population. And Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are leaving the state at higher rates than their white counterparts.

The vast bulk of those leaving the state — about 90% — resided in New York City. And more than a quarter of them are heading for either Florida or New Jersey — the two top destinations — with another 16% heading to neighboring Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and more than 7% leaving for California.

The COVID-19 pandemic has noticeably changed some of the state’s out-migration patterns, the Fiscal Policy Institute found. Now, those with a college degree are 59% more likely to leave the state than those without a college degree; before the pandemic, net out-migration was the same for those with or without college degrees. That’s likely due in part to the jobs they have as, unsurprisingly, those who can work from home are now more likely to leave than those who cannot.

But those trends don’t necessarily translate to trends when it comes to income. FPI found that with the exception of 2020 and 2021, high-income New Yorkers leave the state at a lower rate than the rest of the population. The institute, which advocates for higher taxes on the wealthy, said higher taxes are not a motivating factor in the decision to leave, as evidenced in part by the fact that many New Yorkers are heading for other high-tax states.

The study also examined why people are leaving New York. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, just 16% of those leaving the state cited housing-related factors. Now, 36% of those leaving said they were going elsewhere to seek better or more affordable housing. FPI also notes that the significant number of families with young children who are leaving is indicative of the role child care and other related costs plays in the decision, too.

“These recent trends in out-migration represent a failure to provide New Yorkers with the financial stability necessary to remain in the State as they build careers and families,” the Institute wrote. “This policy failure requires urgent policy action,” particularly in terms of housing supply and child care affordability, the FPI added.

— Randi F. Marshall

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