New York City and its mayor have a lot riding on the last two months of the legislative session as lawmakers return to Albany to consider the extension of city rent regulations, mayoral control of schools and a minimum wage hike.
The outcome could determine the rent and hourly wages of thousands of New Yorkers while significantly impacting the political fortunes of one city resident: Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Other items facing lawmakers include juvenile justice reform, charter schools, campus assault, limits on local property taxes and the Dream Act, which would extend financial aid to students who are illegal immigrants. Lawmakers returned Tuesday and expect to end their session in June.
This year, even more than usual, it is New York City that has the most to win or lose.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially included much of de Blasio’s agenda in his proposal, including the Dream Act, the continuation of mayor control of city schools and an $11.50 minimum wage for the city, though de Blasio wanted $13. These were stripped out, though, after facing obstacles in the Senate.
“Clearly that agenda is in trouble,” said Baruch College professor Doug Muzzio. “He ain’t going to get the Dream Act. He may get something on rent control. Is he going to get anything on the minimum wage? He ain’t going to get $13 an hour. He may get the $11.50 Cuomo wanted instead.”
Despite the opposition, the mayor is undeterred.
“Mayor de Blasio has been clear: Albany should pass an agenda that will lift up all New Yorkers,” spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said in a statement.
The state laws governing the city’s rent stabilization rules will expire in June. The rules regulate the rents of one million apartments occupied by more than two million city residents. Lawmakers could strengthen, weaken, or simply renew the rules, which progressives like de Blasio say ensure the city remains affordable at all income levels.
Mayoral control of schools is a key priority for the mayor. Cuomo supports an extension of the policy started under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Republicans want to hold detailed hearings before voting on a renewal.
Two other items — a minimum wage increase and the Dream Act — face longer odds. The minimum wage is now $8.75 an hour and is set to rise to $9 at year’s end. De Blasio has called for a $13 wage, but Senate Republicans have balked.
Despite that, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said it would be wrong to give up. “Even when others don’t agree with you, you continue to push the point,” the Bronx Democrat said. “You can’t just ignore the issue of income inequality or say it’s not politically expedient.”
The Dream Act in particular appears dead in the water this year. “We’re not going to do it,” Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos said last month.
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif listed three objectives for the session’s remaining months: a tax credit for donations to private or public schools, authorization of more charter schools and the permanent extension of a local property tax cap.
“We believe taxpayers need and deserve certainty,” Reif said.