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Grassroots Bulletin

March Newsletter

Governor Cuomo Proposes 18-a Extension


Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget, released in January, includes an extension of a little-known tax intended to fund the operation of energy-related agencies and authorities such as the Department of Public Service (DPS) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  The tax, known as the Article 18-a assessment, is paid by all energy customers through their utility bills and is set to expire on March 31, 2014. That outcome now seems uncertain at best.

In 2009, the assessment was increased six-fold by then Governor David Paterson to help bridge a budget shortfall. Cuomo’s proposal extends the increase for another five years at a cost to business and residential customers of almost $3 billion.

Senate Republicans and members of the business community have publicly opposed the extension and called on Cuomo to remove it from his budget proposal. Senate Energy Committee Chair George Maziarz (R-Niagara) also circulated a letter to Senate colleagues asking them to pressure Cuomo to remove the extension. “This is a regressive tax that hurts not only our businesses and schools, but also our neediest citizens who are struggling to pay their monthly utility bill…We should not support extending [it] for another five years, given its negative impact on consumers and businesses alike,” the letter reads.

Senator Maziarz’s letter has received bi-partisan support from Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens). Avella also signed on to a letter circulated by Con Edison in the fall of 2012 that asked elected officials to support a repeal of 18-a.  Avella went on to co-sponsor legislation that would revert 18-a to its pre-2009 level.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently indicated his support for the proposal, noting the revenue hit the state would take if the assessment was not extended. “I don’t believe we can afford the $500 million that may be involved in it,” he said.

Federal Budget Cuts Begin Today  

Because Congress was not able to agree on a budget that reduces the deficit, mandatory cuts to federal spending (known as ‘sequestration’) kick-in today.  Congress pushed the budget cuts back until March 1 from January 2 by passing the ‘American Taxpayer Relief Act’ just before the close of 2012.  That deal also reduced the scheduled 2013 sequestration cuts by $24 billion, from $109.3 billion to $85.3 billion.

The sequestration trigger was established as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was a deal to raise the debt ceiling.  With its mandatory spending cuts to defense (9.4%) and nondefense (8.2%) spending, it was thought that Congress and the president would find alternative methods to achieve the $1.2 billion in deficit reduction.  Since initiating that delay, the president and House Republicans remain at odds on an alternative to meet the deficit-reduction targets.

What sequestration will ultimately mean to Con Edison, New Yorkers and the nation depends on how long it is in effect.  Some economists suggest that the short-term impacts will be minimal.  The Obama Administration and others warn that sequestration will slow air traffic, impede the implementation of a new cybersecurity Executive Order, and make the country more vulnerable to terrorism as federal workers are laid off.  New Yorkers could be impacted as 8.2% cuts will be imposed on:

    •  Sandy relief aid distributed this fiscal year
    •  The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
    •  Head Start and Early Head Start
    •  Job search assistance and training

In order to escape a complete shutdown of the federal government on March 27, Congress and the president will need to agree on a plan that meets the fiscal year 2013 mandated deficit reduction goal through spending cuts, tax increases or a combination of the two.  If an alternative to sequestration is not achieved at this time, the stand off between House Republicans and the White House will likely result in a series of short-term funding agreements or a government shutdown similar to what occurred in 1996.

Bloomberg presents $70.1 Billion Budget  

Mayor Bloomberg approved legislation requiring the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability to create the New York City Renewable Energy Portal. The portal will provide online information and links to city, state, and federal programs and agencies that may be involved in the installation of renewable energy systems. It will also contain a cost-calculator and other tools so that the public can determine the feasibility of installing a renewable energy system. A link to the portal will be displayed on the Department of Buildings website, as well as any other city agency website that pertains to sustainable growth or environmental policy.

“New York State and New York City offer a myriad of programs and services to assist property owners in potentially adopting renewable energy systems within their homes and businesses.  These programs currently cannot be found in a central location which may limit the ability for some New Yorkers to learn how to implement these renewable energy options,” Bloomberg said.

The New York City Council unanimously approved the bill earlier this month. A copy of the enacted legislation can be found here.  

Lunch and Learn

March 22nd, noon to 1 p.m.
Edison Room - 4 Irving Place

Now in its 38th season, Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) is one of America’s foremost and most versatile ensembles.  Dedicated to engaging audiences throughout New York City and beyond, OSL performs approximately 70 concerts each year.  During the Lunch & Learn, OSL and will be discussing the history of the orchestra, their public school education programs and possibly playing some music. To learn more about Orchestra of St. Luke’s, click here.

Con Edison & FIRST Robotics

13th Anniversary New York City FIRST Mega-Celebration of Science and Technology
NYC Championships
March 7-9, 2013 – 9am-4:30pm
Jacob Javits Convention Center - THIS EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to interest and inspire students in mathematics and science. The FIRST Robotics Competition is the largest high school event of its kind that develops critical skills in science and technology in a super-charged learning atmosphere. The corporate and community sponsored competition involves more than 20,000 students, teachers, mentors and engineers, on more than 300 teams across the country.

New York City FIRST along with over 200 robotics teams from the New York tri-state area, Brazil, Canada, Turkey and the United Kingdom will compete over a three day mega competition weekend, with winning teams advancing to the global competition.

The FIRST Mega-Celebration brings three intense robotics competitions under one roof. Watch as FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST LEGO® League student teams compete to win the regional competition and for a chance to go onto the global competition.

Con Edison's support helps FIRST to continue offering its FIRST Competition in New York, giving greater access to FIRST Robotics to thousands of children in schools in all five boroughs and Westchester County. In addition, Con Edison volunteers donate hundreds of hours a year, acting as mentors to dozens of teams and staffing the competition.  To see more of Con Edison’s partnership, click here.

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