Archive for March, 2013
Mar 31st - 1:00 pm
The Independent Oil & Gas Association asked JCOPE to investigate whether Artists Against Fracking, a group formed by Yoko Ono and son Sean Lennon, is violating the state’s lobbying law.
Hillary Clinton’s indecision about 2016 has frozen in place the very early — but for some potential candidates, very important — presidential maneuvering on the Democratic side.
Three pro-Hillary super PACs have formed in recent months — none with the formal blessing of Clinton or anyone in her inner circle. And, for good measure, a Virginia lobbyist last week formed the first specific anti-Clinton super PAC.
Now that the budget is done, the TU would like to see some movement on campaign finance reform.
About 234 workers at the Thruway and Canal Corporation will lose their jobs Wednesday.
“Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature,” said Sen. Marco Rubio.
In the past 15 months, NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn has led her colleagues in overriding 10 Bloomberg vetoes. That’s compared with just one in all of 2011 and zero in 2010. And the number is climbing fast.
The Poughkeepsie Journal: “Sometimes, it seems like Gov. Andrew Cuomo is living in an alternative universe.”
Local agencies that provide services to the developmentally disabled are scrambling to deal with aid cuts to OPWDD.
A source tells the DN Assemblyman Vito Lopez refused to testify before JCOPE because of a related criminal probe being conducted by Staten Island DA Dan Donovan.
Teacher evaluation systems have been established across the country as a method of trying to improve instruction. Except oddly, almost every teacher is passing.
Does lottery cash really go to support NY schools? The Post-Standard investigates.
Mar 29th - 8:53 pm
Same-sex marriage supporters are feeling pretty optimistic this week. The Supreme Court justices appeared to be leaning toward throwing out the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. But the fate of California’s Proposition eight seemed less clear. And predicting the outcome of a Supreme Court hearing is always a bit tricky. Albany Law School professor and New York Court Watcher author Vin Bonventre discusses the cases.
Mar 29th - 8:53 pm
Glenn Bain of the New York Daily News, Jon Campbell of Gannett, Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union, and Capital Tonight’s Nick Reisman join Liz to break down the week’s events.
Mar 29th - 8:53 pm
Local governments found several things to be happy about in this year’s budget, including the pension smoothing plans, increase infrastructure funding, and measures to keep Medicaid costs down. But officials did not get everything they asked for. New York State Association of Counties president and Orange County Executive Ed Diana explains.
Mar 29th - 4:46 pm
Posted by Liz Benjamin in [...]
Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a number of prominent statewide and regional business groups Thursday at the Executive Mansion, where he and top members of his administration pushed the merits of the newly passed $135 billion budget.
The Adirondack Town of Newcomb got creative is its quest for state funds to fix Route 28N.
Dana Rubenstein says NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn’s paid sick leave deal has “at least neutralized one of the most powerful weapons” in the arsenal of her mayoral rival, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Mayor Bloomberg called the compromise bill “better than previous iterations,” but he still plans to veto it.
Is paid sick leave the next liberal “litmus test“? Looks that way.
The budget gives more money to the MTA, but also includes a “sneaky $20 million transit raid,” according to Streetsblog.
CSEA thanked the Legislature for improving Cuomo’s budget, but said “New Yorkers are still seeing too many misplaced priorities.”
EJ McMahon is glad there’s no binding arbitration language in the budget.
The budget also takes a step towards restoring funding a successful grant program for spinal cord injury research.
“This is not about my dad,” Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. said of his decision to endorse same-sex marriage. “This is about an evolution that I’ve had over the last few years.”
Stephen Baldwin admitted in court that he failed to pay New York state income taxes for three years, and agreed to pay $400,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties.
NYC Councilman Jim Gennaro defended Quinn in a letter to the NYT: “So City Hall is not “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” How is that page-one news?”
Tenants PAC is holding a fund-raiser honoring Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk will be there, too.
The federal government announced $1.4 billion in aid Friday to transit agencies affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Jim Reith, the former radio and TV talk show host, will start a new job Monday doing public relations and community outreach for Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program.
The Buffalo Niagara region had a 0.2 percent annual growth rate from February 2012 to February 2013 that matched the sluggish pace of upstate job gains but lagged badly behind hiring increases statewide and nationally.
And…a little Friday afternoon fun:
Mar 29th - 2:12 pm
The ink is still drying on the 2013-14 state budget, but expect Gov. Andrew Cuomo to begin a pivot to post-budget session needs as the state Legislature leaves Albany until April 15.
Cuomo likes to say that 70 percent of his job is running the operations and pulling the levers of state government, decidedly unsexy, but nonetheless important stuff like building a new bridge, ensuring state resources are at the ready for a disaster and rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.
But the work that is scrutinized most by the press is what the second floor can get done on the third floor, where the Senate and Assembly operate at the Capitol.
Cuomo laid out an expansive agenda for his third year in office, perhaps recognizing that it would be easier to get a decidedly liberal agenda through now than it would be when all statewide offices and 213 legislative seats are up for election.
The governor has already gotten what he wanted on gun control, extending the millionaires tax a year early and increasing the state’s minimum wage.
But there’s still plenty of things Cuomo wants and — in some cases — needs to get done in order to satisfy core constituencies a year before he gears up for a statewide re-election campaign.
There are 30 session days remaining in the legislative calendar.
Here’s a smattering of what’s left, based on a read of his State of the State briefing book:
The governor would no doubt love to answer the question, “What has Andrew Cuomo done for women?” by pointing to the women’s equality package, a 10-point package of measures that take aim at workplace and housing discrimination, domestic abuse and, most controversially, abortion rights.
Cuomo has said he is writing his own version of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure that’s sponsored by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Critics of the proposal, based on the bill has introduced by the Yonkers Democrat and minority leader of the Democratic conference, would expand abortion rights to include partial-birth abortion. Supports of the measure deny that’s the case, saying it simply codifies Roe v. Wade in New York should that ruling be one day overturned at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Like everything these days, the vote hunting in the Legislature will be in the state Senate, currently led by a coalition of 31 Republican conference members and five indepenent Democrats. Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has said he is opposed to the RHA in its current form. The measure is shaping up to be yet another test for the coalition and Skelos’ governing partner, Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx. And while Democrats do not have majority control of the chamber, they do have a numerical advantage. Still, there are at least two Democratic lawmakers in the mainstream conference, Sens. Tim Kennedy and Ruben Diaz, who are opposed to abortion.
While the women’s equality legislation will be the most high-profile of Cuomo’s post-budget efforts, the campaign finance one will be a debate closely watched by political junkies and insiders. A broad coalition of groups – some of them backed by labor organizations — are undertaking a concerted effort to reform the state’s campaign finance laws and put in place a public matching system that’s estimated to cost about $130 million.
If successful, Cuomo would be reforming a system he is incredibly adept at raising cash from, having more than $20 million in the bank for his re-election effort more than a year out.
It’s not clear where New York would get the cash for the public financing system, which would be based off the New York City model. Cuomo has said he would pursue an “off-budget” revenue source that doesn’t come directly from taxpayers, but so far that has not been specifically laid out.
Senate Republicans have generally opposed “taxpayer-funded” political campaigns, so the off-budget source could be used to allay those concerns.
The more pressing matter be convincing lawmakers that a public matching system is within their best interests. It’s far easier for a governor or attorney general candidate to collect thousands of small-dollar donations. It’s a lot harder to do that when you’re an relatively unknown legislative candidate.
If public financing becomes dead on arrival, look for the transparency bill as first mentioned in the State of the State to become a more focal point. The measure would require donations above $500 to be disclosed within 48 hours.
Despite an 11th hour push in the budget negotiations, lawmakers could not agree on the scope and reach of an effort to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in order to stem stop and frisk arrests in New York City. Again, it’s a measure that may have trouble passing the Senate, with some Democratic and Republican lawmakers not completely on board.
Dropped early on in the budget talks, Cuomo and lawmakers could not agree on how much influence the Legislature should have when it comes to siting three upstate casinos. Cuomo wants his own gambling commission to make the determination, and is mindful of what happens when monied casino interests try to influence state lawmakers. But the problem, as articulated by Sen. Tom Libous, is that New York City voters — due to have the highest turn out this year because of the 2013 mayoral race – may not be enticed to approve a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling in the state with the first round of casinos going north of the metropolitan area.
A behind-the-scenes source of contention erupted yesterday when Latino lawmakers expressed reservations the budget did not include funding for the children of undocumented immigrants to attend college. Sources said yesterday the concerns have grown so much that one lawmaker told a top Cuomo aide the governor would have a “Latino problem” if the DREAM Act wasn’t taken up later this legislative session. Skelos, the Senate GOP leader, has expressed a willingness to look at the Dream Fund, a different proposal that would take private money.
To keep those lawmakers on board, Cuomo will have to at least make a strong case that he backs either or both of those measures before those tensions bubble up beyond a symbolic no vote on a budget bill.
Mar 29th - 11:55 am
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli weighed in on the passage of the 2013-14 state budget this morning, saying in a statement the on-time budget three years in a row was no small feat and the reflection of an “efficient process.”
But the comptroller said he remains concerned with the growing public authority debt and a reliance on “significant non-recurring actions.”
“It also includes several new provisions that extend the state’s reliance on public authority debt to meet the state’s spending needs. New York’s debt burden is among the highest in the nation, making the goals of meeting critical infrastructure needs while remaining within the state’s debt caps more difficult,” DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli said “necessary steps” were taken to address issues with the STAR rebate program, but not enough was done to increase oversight of the $2 billion special education program.
The comptroller’s office negotiated significant changes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to allow local governments to smooth out pension costs against future savings, a controversial proposal that was opposed by the governor’s own state Democratic Party co-chairwoman, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.
DiNapoli said his office is now conducting a detailed analysis of the 2013-14 state budget and plans to release a report soon.
Mar 29th - 11:31 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning released a video message this morning touting three on time budgets in a row following the Assembly’s completion of the $142 billion spending plan late last night.
In the video, Cuomo said while a string of on-time budgets should not be a major milestone, the streak comes after years of late spending plans that often stretched well into the summer time.
“This week we see another example of the progress we’ve made together. In partnership with the state Senate and Assembly, Democrats and Republicans working together, we have agreed to pass a balanced budget well before the April 1 deadline. This is now the third budget in a row we have passed on time. And while three budgets on time in a row shouldn’t sound like much, this is the first time this has happened in almost 30 years.”
As he has before, the governor sought to draw a stark contrast to the days before he took office in state government.
“The government in Albany hardly worked and when it did it worked for the lobbyists and the special interests than it did for the people,” Cuomo said in the video.
Cuomo touted the budget’s tax cuts aimed at families and businesses, saying that most New Yorkers haven’t had as low a tax rate since Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers in Brooklyn.
“Overall everyone in New York state pays less taxes than they do when I took office,” Cuomo said, adding, “I had hoped to reduce taxes on the very rich. However, the economy has not rebounded and we could not lose roughly two billion dollars in revenue at this time.”
He also called the $7.25 minimum wage too low, and that raising the wage to $9 by the end of 2015 “the right thing to do and the fair thing to do.”
He added, “New York is coming back. New York is raising and we are building on our strengths.”
Mar 29th - 10:56 am
From the morning memo:
“Compromise” for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is an art.
And the “art of compromise” is how Silver described the $375 million family rebate program yesterday when he revealed he was not completely thrilled with some of the program’s details, including the timing of the $350 check to a wide swath of families just before Election Day.
No matter, it’s in the budget, which passed just before the stroke of midnight on Thursday, marking the state’s third on-time budget in as many years. It’s also the earliest state spending plan to pass in 30 years. And it has been 30 years since three budgets in a row passed before the April 1 deadline.
Taken as a whole, all of the documents are compromise plans, forged between Republican and Democratic lawmakers and the adopted framework of a powerful and popular governor, Andrew Cuomo.
The first two budgets adopted during Cuomo’s tenure were largely the ones he wanted with some alterations thrown in by lawmakers who recognized a mandate when they saw one.
This time, Cuomo did not get everything he wanted and initially the spending plan seemed tailored to acknowledge that.
Almost immediately, a plan for siting casinos was dropped from the budget negotiations.
Eager to strike a deal in order to meet the aggressively early budget schedule this year, a stripped-down plan seemed likely.
But then Cuomo pushed forward with a minimum wage increase, an overhaul of marijuana laws and even alterations to the SAFE Act.
So in the end, lawmakers adopted a compromise budget that re-approved the millionaires tax, tossed in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits for families and businesses and raised the minimum wage.
That some lawmakers were upset with the final plan is not a surprise, nor is it unusual. Still, backbenchers in the Assembly on Thursday felt emboldened to speak out against the details.
A string of Democrats and Republicans blasted the proposal to cut $90 million in funding for service providers for the developmentally disabled. Democratic Assemblyman Tom Abinanti went as far as to call them “the Cuomo cuts” and accused the governor of not yielding on the reductions.
Latino lawmakers, too, were deeply unhappy with the exclusion of DREAM Act funding in the final spending plan and a “dilluted” minimum wage.
Cuomo began that year with a renewed emphasis on progressive and liberal causes, promises he’ll have to deliver on by 2014, when he runs for a second term.
Lawmakers are on break now until April 15, a two-week stretch that we should expect to see Cuomo take full advantage of heading into the post-budget session.
Mar 29th - 6:36 am
Good morning, New York, you have a budget!
Shortly after midnight – and after about 12 hours of debating and voting by the Assembly, give or take – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders sent out a press release trumpeting the “early passage” of the 2013-14 budget.
As expected, the education budget bill, which is where (inexplicably) the SAFE Act amendments were lodged, sparked the most contentious debate on the Assembly floor.
There was also an impassioned rank-and-file effort to reverse cuts in programs for the developmentally disabled.
Latino lawmakers are upset the final budget didn’t include the DREAM Act.
While the budget was being hailed by Cuomo and lawmakers, fiscal watchdogs raised warning flags about a plan they say has misplaced priorities.
While meeting with reporters yesterday, a senior Cuomo admininstration official “noted with some delight” that legislative efforts to give the governor less control over economic development spending was not part of the final budget.
Confusion over how the new state budget will affect Upstate University Hospital increased Friday night when hospital officials announced the spending plan will restore $9.3 million to the teaching hospital after all.
Albany schools may still be in difficult fiscal straits because an unexpectedly high increase in state aid dollars “evaporated.”
It would be not at all surprising if the governor holds a Red Room press conference some time today to further tout his success in getting three on-time and/or early budgets in a row for the first time in some three decades. So far, we have no press advisory for Cuomo’s plans.
In non-budget news…
There’s a paid sick leave deal in NYC that would eventually force companies that employ more than 15 people to give full-time workers five compensated days off a year when they’re ill.
Under the compromise proposal hammered out by NYC Council Speaker/mayoral hopeful Chris Quinn, a sick-leave mandate would initially apply to companies with 20 or more employees and kick in April 1, 2014.
Mayor Bloomberg says he considers the field of candidates jockeying to replace him “really depressing.”