Feb 17th - 8:32 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a full-throated cry during his brief public appearance at the tail end of caucus weekend to restore New York to its rightful place as the “progressive capital of the nation,” which – in his eyes – requires action this year on raising the hourly minimum wage.
“Minimum wage because if you work full-time you shouldn’t be below the poverty rate,” Cuomo said to cheers from a small crowd of caucus-goers. “If you work full-time you shouldn’t be poor, and if you work full-time you shouldn’t have to choose between eating and paying your rent. That’s why we have to raise the minimum wage.”
But speaking to reporters before he took the stage, Cuomo was more circumspect, admitting President Obama’s call during last week’s State of the Union address to bump the national minimum wage to $9 an hour – 25 cents more than the governor himself has proposed here in New York – had complicated the debate here.
Obama also called for indexing future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation – something liberal advocates, as well as Democrats in the Senate and Assembly, have called on Cuomo to do, too. But his plan does not call for that.
“That’s one of the complications that happened now,” Cuomo said. “We proposed increasing the minimum wage to 8.75 an hour.”
“The president came out and said that he is proposing a minimum wage at nine dollars. We now have to justify the federal law and the possibility and probably that it passes as a state law. So that’s a little more complex, and we’re in the process of working through now.”
“…The Republicans say: As long as this is going to be done federally, why do we need to do it in the state of New York? I understand that. That assumes it happens federally, and if it actually passed federally at nine dollars, they would have a point.”
“But there’s a long way between here and there.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver quickly amended the minimum wage bill in his house (which already included indexing) to match Obama’s. But Cuomo said tonight he doesn’t see the need to re-propose his plan, noting there are many proposals on the table now, and everyone is fairly clear on where everyone else stands.
“The conversations are ongoing,” the governor explained. “We’re at the table we understand what everyone’s position is. We understand what the federal law is. What we have to figure out is what is the likelihood that the federal law will actually pass, or not, and if it’s going to pass, when, I don’t know. Depending on who you talk to.”
Cuomo did open the door to the possibility of taking his minimum wage proposal out of the executive budget, which he has argued he included there because increasing how much low-income New Yorkers earn has the potential to help boost the economy. (Businesses that oppose the move disagree heartily).
If minimum wage stays in the budget, Cuomo has the option of forcing it down the throats of the reluctant Republicans by forcing them to choose between a standing firm in their opposition to raising the hourly wage and shutting down the government.
Most observers don’t think things will come to that. In fact, due to the timing of the Easter and Passover holidays this year, the budget is expected to be early – perhaps completed within the next two weeks.
“We’ll see we’ll see where we are at the end of two weeks,” Cuomo said of the minimum wage debate. “Either it will be done in the budget or at the end of session.”
Cuomo received some support from Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was also on hand for caucus weekend. (I can’t recall when he has ever missed one). The state’s senior senator insisted the outlook for Obama’s $9-an-hour plan is “promising” – at least in the Democrat-controlled US Senate, which is expected to have the proposal on the floor by spring.
Schumer rather pragmatically said he doesn’t see why New York shouldn’t move forward with its own minimum wage increase plan, insisting that to wait for Congress to act isn’t necessary.
“I think each should go on their own and do the best they can,” Schumer said. “I don’t think one complicates the other in any way at all. I think the president was right to call for it nationally, and I think the New York Strate is right to go forward on its side.”
Feb 15th - 11:43 am
ICYMI: From today’s morning memo:
Thanks to President Obama, New York’s fight over raising the minimum wage just became a whole lot more complicated.
During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the president proposed hiking the federal hourly wage form $7.25 to $9 an hour by 2015, which just so happens to be 25 cents higher than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed.
(For the record: It’s also 50 cents LESS than candidate Obama proposed back in 2008).
Adding insult to injury, Obama also called in his speech for indexing the minimum wage to inflation, which would trigger automatic future increases and take this controversial political football out of play indefinitely.
Indexing is something New York Democrats have been pushing very hard. But, much to their chagrin, it was not included in the minimum wage proposal Cuomo inserted into his 2013-14 spending plan.
Not surprisingly, players on both sides of the New York debate rushed to capitalize on Obama’s proposal.
Senate Republicans, who have been dragging their feet on this issue in hopes that something – anything – might come along to halt what seemed to be the inevitable wage hike here in New York, immediately recognized the political cover the Democratic president’s plan might provide them.
“Since New York’s minimum wage is tied to the federal minimum wage, Sen. Skelos agrees with the governor that it should be set at the federal level,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos.
“In light of President Obama’s proposal and our intention to keep New York businesses from being put at a competitive disadvantage, it may be best to wait and see what the federal government does before the state acts.”
Democrats in the Senate and Assembly also cheered Obama’s plan, recognizing the potential for increasing the pressure on Cuomo to reconsider indexing.
Feb 13th - 11:57 am
Independent Democratic Conference Leader and Senate co-president Jeff Klein today is cheering President Obama last night in his State of the Union address called for a $9 federal wage that would be indexed to inflation.
The announcement from the president comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing a $8.75 minimum wage from the current $7.25, which is also the current federal rate. Unlike Obama’s plan, Cuomo would not tie future increases to the rate of inflation.
“I applaud President Obama for calling upon congress last night to immediately pass a minimum wage hike. As many business, labor, and faith leaders agree, our nation’s lowest wage workers need a raise. If congress has the courage to raise the federal minimum wage, millions in our country, from workers to business owners, stand to benefit. But if recent history is any guide, we cannot depend on congress to build consensus around important economic decisions. That’s why we need to seize the moment here in New York to provide our state’s working families with a sensible raise that they so desperately need. And that’s why, over the next several weeks, I will continue to make passage of a serious statewide minimum wage increase my top legislative priority. After all, New York’s workers–and businesses–cannot afford to wait any longer.”
Klein at an Albany news conference yesterday said he would be willing to negotiate a compromise on the minimum wage increase, and Senate Republicans have said they would be open to either a phased-in hike or a training wage.
We noted in today’s morning memo that the Obama proposal — which would likely be altered as well if it were to pass a split Congress — could spur some on th left to push Cuomo for a higher minimum wage propsoal.
Feb 13th - 10:32 am
From the second item in the CapTon morning memo:
The overlapping proposals between President Obama’s State of the Union address last night before Congress and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State in January are pretty clear.
Both pushed for expanding pre-Kindergarten. Both gave passionate and emotion-filled efforts to push for gun control in the wake of mass shootings around the country. Both devoted time to increasing the minimum wage.
Naturally, Cuomo and Obama were both accused of swinging to the left or taking a left-hand turn when, critics allege, they ought to talking about budgets and jobs.
And while the two men may be emphasizing a liberal agenda, it’s not just because they’re both, largely middle-of-the-road mainstream Democrats. These issues also poll very, very well. In New York, increasing the minimum wage is supported by 80 percent of New Yorkers consistently.
The new wrinkle is Obama’s wage proposal, though. The president wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 and tie future increases to the rate of inflation. Cuomo’s would increase New York’s wage from $7.25 to $8.75, with no indexing. .
The federal push to raise the wage to $9 will certainly be altered, just like Cuomo’s proposal (Senate Republicans are open to negotiating a phase-in or a training wage, Cuomo has signaled a willingness to talk).
But if Obama is out there backing a $9 hike federally, that may embolden state lawmakers here on the left to push New York’s proposal even higher.
Jan 21st - 12:49 pm
President Obama in his second inaugural address made references to at three civil rights milestones in American history, with two of them being based here in New York.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said.
Seneca Falls, in the state’s Finger Lakes region, is considered the birthplace of the women’s rights movement in American history after a multi-day convention in 1848.
The 1969 raid of a Greenwich village gay bar called Stonewall and the resulting riot, similarly, is crediting with being the spark of the first LGBT-rights movement in the country.
Of course, New York is the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, doing so in 2011. It was the vote in the state Senate that President Obama says was his inspiration for eventually stating his public support for same-sex marriage, the first sitting president to do so.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is not at the festivities in Washington, D.C. as he puts together his budget proposal, makes similar references to Seneca Falls and Stonewall when he invokes New York as the “progressive capital of the nation.”
Obama made a reference to the same-sex marriage debate in his address as well:
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” he said.
Jan 21st - 11:39 am
Here is the full text of President Barack Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Speech as prepared for delivery.
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Jan 10th - 7:59 am
One of the many announcements in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address yesterday was the creation of a cabinet-level “energy czar” position that the governor filled by poaching a top staffer from President Obama’s Department of Energy.
Richard Kauffman, who was in the audience at the Empire State Convention Center for the speech, is returning to New York from Washington, where he has been serving as senior advisory to Energy Secretary Steve Chu.
But it turns out Cuomo isn’t the only statewide elected official luring staffers away from this federal agency.
AG Eric Schneiderman has hired Damien LaVera, deputy director of the Energy Department’s public affairs office, to serve as his senior advisor and chief spokesman, the AG’s office confirms.
One of LaVera’s responsibilities will be to coordinate the AG’s press offices – both upstate and down – and handle day-to-day outreach to members of the media.
LaVera, a Wappingers Falls native and graduate of SUNY Binghamton, is a veteran communications and political operative.
He has spent the past 14 years in Washington – including four years working for the Obama administration. In his current post, he led the response to the 2011 Solyndra scandal.
In case you’ve forgotten, Solyndra was the politically connected solar company that pocketed a half billion dollar government loan, only to shutter its doors, fire workers and file for bankruptcy.
The Republicans had a field day with this, while the Democrats accused them of using the situation as a tool to undermine investments in clean energy.
Prior to joining the Department of Energy, LaVera served as deputy communications director at the Democratic National Committee, where he led the party’s rapid response program during the 2008 general election and traveled with DNC Chairman Howard Dean to at least 35 states as part of the chairman’s 50 State Strategy.
Schneiderman and Cuomo have been involved in a sometimes not-so-subtle power struggle and game of one-upsmanship since the 2010 campaign.
I’m sure the fact that they’ve both lured aides away from the exact same Obama agency is just a timing fluke, but it’s a damn interesting coincidence of which political insiders are sure to take note.
Schneiderman lost a communications staffer – Danny Kanner – to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. LaVera will be picking up some of Kanner’s old portfolio, and also assuming some responsibilities of Jennifer Givner, another former AG spokeswoman (she handled upstate) who went to work for the Cuomo administration last year.
Jan 2nd - 6:13 am
In the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House followed the Senate’s lead and voted last night to pass a package avert big spending cuts and tax increases on most Americans.
The vote was 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting “yes” on letting income taxes to rise for the first time in 20 years.
One hundred fifty-one Republicans and 16 Democrats voted “no”.
None of them were New Yorkers, although Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, a Syracuse Republican who lost a rematch election to Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in November, apparently did not cast a vote.
UPDATE: Apparently, Buerkle did vote “no” after all. She told the Syracuse Post-Standard a glitch in the electronic voting system prevented her vote from being recorded, and she has asked the House Clerk to record her in the negative in the congressional record.
Several members of New York’s delegation – including Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko and Republican Rep. Chris Gibson – issued statements explaining that they weren’t thrilled with the final product, but felt compelled to vote “yes” because the alternative – letting taxes rise and cuts take effect – would be far worse.
President Obama issued a statement after the vote, making clear he was glad the agreement brokered by VP Joe Biden and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell had passed, but does not believe it goes far enough.
“I think we all recognize this law is just one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy and broaden opportunity for everybody.”
“The fact is the deficit is still too high, and we’re still investing too little in the things that we need for the economy to grow as fast as it should.”
“And that’s why Speaker Boehner and I originally tried to negotiate a larger agreement that would put this country on a path to paying down its debt while also putting Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, and providing investments in areas like education and job training.”
“Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough support or time for that kind of large agreement in a lame duck session of Congress. And that failure comes with a cost, as the messy nature of the process over the past several weeks has made business more uncertain and consumers less confident.”
Obama made it quite clear that he “will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up through the laws they have passed.”
He did not take any questions from the press. After eight minutes of speaking (his full statement appears after the jump), he jumped onto Air Force One for an overnight flight to Hawaii to resume his holiday family vacation that had been interrupted by the fiscal cliff fight.
Dec 7th - 6:24 pm
President Obama’s administration sent this letter to House Speaker John Boehner today requesting a combined $60.4 billion supplemental aid package to help East Coast states recover from Hurricane Sandy.
The letter, released by the White House this evening following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s news conference, says Sandy’s damage is second only to that of Hurricane Katrina.
“As a result of these events, thousands of individuals were displaced, and millions lost power. Thousands of stores and businesses were damaged or closed, and fuel distribution was severely disrupted, further complicating the recovery effort. New York and New Jersey-two of the Nation’s most populous States-were especially hard hit by these storms, Recovery efforts continue today throughout the region. All told, although estimates of the total damage of Hurricane Sandy remain in flux, current projections are that Sandy is on track to be the second or third most costly natural disaster in U.S, history, behind Hurricane Katrina (2005) and close to Hurricane Andrew (1992).”
The aid request is roughly $20 billion less than the initialy combined request from Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
But Cuomo said in the news conference that he would prefer $60 billion now as opposed to $80 billion several months down the road.
“The president sending up the bill is the first step … but it is a powerful first step and it is a powerful message,” he said.
Both Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer praised the proposal’s flexibility in how the money can be spent, a move that the state’s senior senator said would help its passage.
“The fact that this package has been so carefully put together makes it easier for us to sell it in the Congress,” he said.
Nov 15th - 2:45 pm
With the president in town, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the area’s elected officials toured the storm-ravaged borough of Staten Island on Thursday.
Obama said he would was making Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan the “point person” for the recovery effort.
“He’s going to be working with the mayor, the governor, the borough president, the county officials to make sure that we come up with a strong, effective plan,” Obama said.
Cuomo, of course, is a former HUD secretary himself in the second term of Bill Clinton, a job he frequently mentions whenever talk turns to the federal government or housing issues.
“It’s not going to be easy. There’s still going to be some, believe it or not, complaints, or the next couple of weeks,” the president said. “I’m very proud of you New York, you’re tough, you bounce back, just as America always bounces back.”
But aside from pointing Donovan, who used to run NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, to the spotlight role for storm recovery, Obama kept his comments general.
He notably did not mention climate change concerns.
Bloomberg endorsed Obama just days before his election to a second term largely because he felt the Democratic incumbent was best equipped to deal with climate change.
But Cuomo reiterated his concerns that New York’s infrastructure must be rebuilt to handle the “extreme weather” that’s hit New York three times in the last two years.
“We must re-knit the fabric of tattered communities. we must re-think and redesign for the longterm because extreme weather as we have learned is the new normal,” Cuomo said.
The governor has requested $30 billion worth of supplemental aide from Washington in order to help with the recovery effort. Unlike the FEMA reimbursement aid, the supplemental package must be approved by Congress.
In press gaggle earlier today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Cuomo’s specific plan is yet to be seen by federal officials.
Well, we can’t comment specifically on that plan, as we haven’t seen it, but the administration continues to provide all available resources to support our state and local partners, as well as affected families. The administration, as you know, has obligated more than $1.5 billion to support response and recovery efforts, which includes more than $600 million now, already approved in direct assistance to hundreds of thousands of individuals impacted by the storm. And we will continue to work with the governors on ongoing recovery efforts, including supporting their efforts to develop appropriate long-term housing plans for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.