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Newsday: The budget environment

Newsday: The budget environment

Daily Point

EPR is an EPR project that seeks to balance wetlands.

Even though the deadline for a new budget for the state is midnight, state legislators are being sent home Thursday. Environmental disputes over wetlands protection, and the recycling program known by extended producer responsibility (or EPR) are two of the major issues that slow down budget negotiations.

Wetlands first.

No one disputes the necessity of additional protections. The issue is about the acreage at where mandatory permitting would start. Protections are currently only available for freshwater wetlands greater than 12.4 acres. Steve Englebright (long island chairman of the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee) wants to lower that threshold to a mere 1 acre.

Environmentalists agree that this would be a great idea, but they argue that the Department of Environmental Conservation is unable to monitor such a high level of detail. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told The Point that one acre is too large for the Department of Environmental Conservation. We live in a realistic world.

CCE, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Nature Conservancy were just a few of the environmental organizations that wrote to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Wednesday asking him to intervene.

We stated in the letter that we would find it unacceptable if Assembly refuses to negotiate on the acreage threshold mandatory permitting. The Governor and Senate made concessions that were good-faith efforts to move towards the Assembly position. The Assembly must continue to seek a middle ground, especially for policy components with significant budget implications. The only way to ensure that our wetlands are protected is through compromise.

Esposito replied that Heastie had responded. The Assembly, Senate, governors office and senators are talking and have settled on a figure that is roughly between 1-12.4.

Encouraged, many of these groups, along with others representing local governments and recyclers, wrote to Heastie Thursday asking for similar involvement in order to ensure that EPR, which aims at making producers responsible for reducing packaging, increasing recycling, and is not pushed to the end of the session, is included in the budget.

Esposito stated that we appreciate the work of Heaties in clearing these logjams.

Clearing logjams in Albany is the true March madness.

Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Buffalo (dollar) Bills

The Buffalo Bills are on track to receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds for the construction of a new stadium as part of a deal with Gov. The Point asked Kathy Hochul about the political contributions of Terry and Kim Pegula, billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills.

The husband, who made millions in fracking, and his wife donated $55,000 to the then governor. According to state campaign finance records for 2014, Andrew M. Cuomo was the recipient of $55,000. They have also made smaller contributions through their Pegula Sports and Entertainment company and personally to Buffalo-area politicians such as Mayor Byron Brown. The company has also donated $12,000 to the Committee for Economic Growth since 2017. This group is funded largely from Buffalo-area businesses and focuses on local politicians.

The group contributed $12,500 to nowGov. Kathy Hochul has contributed $10,000 to now-Gov since 2018, with the remainder coming in January when the most recent campaign finance filings were due.

Hochul claimed that Hochul has not received any contributions since then from the Pegulas and Pegula Sports and Entertainment or the Committee for Economic Growth.

As the details of the stadium deal were scrutinized, there has been more criticism. In addition to direct contributions, Hochuls primary challenger Tom Suozzi has been pointing out that Hochuls husband Bill is general counsel for Delaware North. Delaware North has long operated concessions at Bills Highmark Stadium.

Hochul wrote last year that she would withdraw from all matters involving the company. A new addendum clarified that Hochul cannot take formal or informal actions to benefit her company in any direct, foreseeable, and proximate manner. Suozzi, a critic of the Bills deal, suggests that it violates such promises.

In a statement, Hochul’s spokeswoman said this week that Hochul was committed following the highest ethical standards. She also stated that Delaware North was not a party in the negotiations. Any future decisions regarding vendors at the new stadium will be made solely by the Bills.

Separately the Seneca Nation decried Hochul’s hardball with it in order to make millions in long-sought gambling revenues and targets the states share of more that $400 million toward the new stadium.

While the politics surrounding the proposed deal continue to unfold, many Bills fans, and most importantly Bills owners, seem to be celebrating in some way.

The Pegulas expressed gratitude for Governor Hochul’s efforts and unwavering dedication throughout this process. Although there are still many obstacles to overcome, we believe that our public-private partnership between New York State and Erie County, headed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz and the National Football League, will get us there.

Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Blind justice

Credit: CQROLL CALL/R. J. Matson

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Final Point

Get involved now!

It is that time of year again: the end of another reporting period for congressional campaign fundraising.

You can hear the exclamation points.

We have only 18 hours to go before the EOQ deadline. Jesse Garcia, chairman Suffolk GOP, requested donations for Nick LaLota CD1 candidate in an email on Thursday.

The missive was subject-lined “We need to keep Zeldin’s Congressional Seat!”According to!, the campaign needed $9,518 in contributions to reach its goal.

The rhetoric of seemingly arbitrary numerical benches marks has become commonplace, an argument to raise a few more dollars at the buzzer. The deadline can be used as a sales pitch to increase overall numbers. Campaigns can then point to the boosted numbers as proof of momentum and support when the filings are made public shortly after.

This is why there has been a frenzy. It also extends to other forms such as campaign communications like Twitter. Kara Hahn, a CD1 Democratic candidate, stated that on Thursday, $5 or more would be a good amount to help us reach our end of quarter fundraising goal by midnight.

Sometimes candidates will make additional arguments to justify why they need the money now. Perhaps Robert Zimmerman, a public relations executive and CD3 Democratic candidate, tweeted Thursday that the deadline for filing was the first campaign deadline and thus crucial for establishing a baseline. CD3 has a 5-county sweep of the newly drawn district. Please chip in to help us reach the goal of creating a district-wide support coalition to reach every #NY03 voter.

Some voters might find the constant stream of frantic requests annoying. Sometimes, however, you can learn something from the pleas. For example, a Thursday email from Anthony Figliola (a former Brookhaven Town deputy Supervisor).

The email highlighted some of the issues Figliola claimed he was hearing as he knocked on doors, including inflation or school curriculum complaints. The email serves as evidence that Figliola, despite party support for LaLota, is running in CD1.

The email stated that I was the only America First Conservative in the race and asked for your help.

Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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