Congestion Pricing Remains Tough Sell In Senate

From the Morning Memo:

A plan that would allow for tolls along Manhattan roadways at peak times continues to face an uphill climb among Republican lawmakers from New York City in the state Senate.

Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island called the proposal released last week by the Fix NY Commission “insulting” and “discriminatory.”

Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn said the proposal is “an additional cost” on his constituents that is akin to a tax hike.

And Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters at the start of the week that he remained skeptical.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for congestion pricing in New York City — aimed at reducing car-clogged traffic in lower Manhattan and bolster revenue for mass transit in the process — remains a wrinkle in a legislative session with a number of complications.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has feuded with Cuomo over the years, continues to push on the opposite end of the spectrum for a tax increase in the rich.

Republicans rhetorically think de Blasio should put some money into the MTA even as they tread lightly on congestion pricing.

“I think something has to get accomplished,” Golden said. “There are several plans out there. I think it has to be studied. What are the best options for us and the city of New York has to be a partner here.”

Getting Republicans in the narrowly divided state Senate on board for congestion pricing is just one piece to the puzzle. Assembly Democrats from the boroughs outside of Manhattan, as well as the suburbs, will be integral to an agreement.

At the same time, an agreement could be cut that benefits upstate lawmakers and spur them to support the proposal.

Still, deals on congestion pricing in Albany has been elusive. Mayor Michael Bloomberg a decade ago sought a congestion pricing only to have it bottled up in the Assembly.

Golden in an interview acknowledged the cost and its “negative impact” on commuters who drive, but added he wanted a fix to the transit troubles plaguing the subway.

“I think we have to look at it strongly to find out how we can get the MTA structured in a way so that it’s up and running effectively and soon,” he said.

Lanza, however, remains more strident in his opposition and has proposed an alternative that puts tolls on bridges — something the Fix NY Commission sought to avoid.

“The Fix NY plan is insulting. It’s discriminatory. It really is outrageous,” he said. “That’s not a plan, that’s an insult and I’ll fight it with every breath I have.”

Reed Senses Fundamental Shift Toward Middle In Both Houses

From the Morning Memo:

Southern Tier Republican Rep. Tom Reed was not happy about the short federal government shutdown, which ended,at least temporarily, Monday.

During a conference call Tuesday, Reed blamed the shutdown on extremist politics on both sides of the aisles.

In particular, he believed far-Right and far-Left members of the Senate affected the decision making of that house’s leadership. But Reed senses both congressional houses are beginning to move away from extreme partisanship.

The congressman said the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of representatives with a focus on bipartisan solutions of which Reed is chairman, is contributing to that shift.

“During the last few days during the government shutdown, I was proud that we sat in a room for an hour and a half and discussed in a culture of trust, different proposals to address the government shutdown, to address the issue of immigration and the Dreamers as well as border security issues,” he said.

Reed believes the movement is bleeding over to the Senate as well. He pointed to the bipartisan Common Sense Coalition led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, which is getting credit for breaking the shutdown.

Reed said he believes moderates can help lead the conversations on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, immigration, and possibly avoid waiting until February 8, the next shutdown deadline, to pass another continuing resolution.

“I think what you’ve got to do is build off the foundational cultural shift that’s represented by the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House and the Common Sense Coalition in the Senate and through those relationships, have good faith negotiations to deal with the issues of the day,” Reed said.

In general, the congressman said both houses could benefit from a decentralized leadership model. He said he expects the Problem Solvers Caucus will release a proposal soon with solutions about how to fund military and non-military budget lines on a more long-term basis.

Here And Now

Good morning and happy Wednesday! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany, but has nothing public scheduled. Mayor Bill de Blasio is in Washington D.C. to meet with fellow mayors at the White House. There is no session today, but lawmakers are still in Albany for joint budget hearings.

Your schedule:

At 10 a.m., AARP, the Asian American Federation, Hispanic Federation, NAACP and Urban League join Tony Award-winning actress Priscilla Lopez, Senator Jesse Hamilton and Assembly Members Marcos Crespo and Yuh-Line Niou for launch of policy solutions agenda to address disparities in health, economic security and livability that are hurting New York state’s communities of color; City University of New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., New York Farm Bureau will outline its top state priorities for the 2018 legislative session as well as its response to the Executive Budget during a press conference call with reporters.

At 11 a.m., the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, will hold a public hearing to consider the potential for sports betting in New York State. Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will make an announcement at Camelot of Staten Island Drug Counseling and Treatment Center Seaview Hospital, 460 Brielle Avenue, Building H, Staten Island.

At 1:30 p.m., Rep. Claudia Tenney will host a press conference at the Central New York Veteran’s Outreach Center in Utica, New York to donate her salary from the first day of the government shutdown to the organization. The Central New York Veterans Outreach Center provides charitable, educational, social and housing services to Veterans in need across Central New York. 726 Washington Street, Utica.

At 2:30 p.m., Sen. Cathy Young and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein will hold a joint legislative budget hearing on workforce development, Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 3:30 p.m., Rep. Elise Stefanik will tour recent flooding in Malone, Town Office at 27 Airport Rd., Malone.

At 6 p.m., Senate candidate Shelley Mayer will open her Senate campaign offices, 437 Ward Ave., Mamaroneck.

At 6:30 p.m., Hochul will deliver remarks at Legacy of Shirley Chisholm Screening and Conversation Museum of the City of New York 1220 5th Avenue at 103rd Street, New York


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is slated to meet with President Trump on Wednesday. De Blasio is expected to be part of a group of mayors who will attend a meeting at the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Park Slope home was the destination for immigration activists Tuesday night; they marched through Brooklyn to protest the senator voting in favor a short-term federal funding bill Monday that did not include protection for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.

Schumer said Tuesday that funding for wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as being pushed by the president is “off the table.”

The battle over dreamers is getting hotter after a brief government shutdown over the issue.

Joe Percoco was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s right-hand man, one of the most powerful people in state government, prosecutors said Tuesday. They allege that he abused that power, pocketing bribes from two companies in exchange for official favors.

Percoco used that influence he wielded in Cuomo’s office as leverage to enrich himself, prosecutors said Tuesday at the second day of trial.

That selling of influence translated to $300,000 in bribes in order to construct a power plant in the Hudson Valley, prosecutors alleged.

Percoco’s attorney had a different take: A public servant and fishing buddy who is being punished for doing legal favors.

“Wherever the governor went, Percoco went.”

Special counselor Robert Mueller is interested in an exchange Trump had with the acting FBI head last year in which the president asked him how he voted.

Attorney General Jeff Session was interviewed last week by Mueller’s team as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

States are confronting how to contend with the pros and cons of the new tax law and its impact on their tax code.

Over the coming days and weeks, observers should get a glimpse at the inside workings of Cuomo’s administration, with some of his top aides expected to testify and one of his closest confidants implicated in the bribery scheme.

The Department of Investigation has found that the chair of public housing lied under oath about the housing agency’s lead paint inspections in 2016.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, high-level members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration criticized a budget proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would have the city pay for more improvements and emergency repairs of the struggling subway system.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is filing a lawsuit against the country’s largest opioid manufacturers, arguing they are fueling the crisis.

It’s official: Albany’s new arena football team is the ‘Empire.’

One day after federal lawmakers voted to end the government shutdown, Rep. Elise Stefanik was back in the North Country.

State lawmakers and good government advocates Tuesday called for a $2 million campaign to promote the coming U.S. Census in New York in order to ensure every state resident is counted. Due to sluggish population growth, the state’s representation in Washington could erode even further into the next decade.

The Upstate New York Poison Center is warning people not to eat Tide detergent pods since they’re dangerous.

St. John Fisher College is the first college in Monroe County to begin stocking epinephrine auto injectors around campus and training campus officers on how to administer them to those having severe allergic reactions.

The city of Rochester has sent the Rochester Rhinos a stadium eviction letter.

A Newcomer has thrown his hat into the ring in the race for New York’s 24th Congressional District. Scott Comegys, an alpaca farmer, comes into the race as a Democrat with no prior political experience. He announced his candidacy at the Palmyra Community Library on Tuesday.

A downstate assemblyman has reintroduced legislation that, if passed, would lower the blood alcohol concentration level of a DWI statewide to .05.

Rep. Louise Slaughter was in town Tuesday touring a new multi-million dollar facility in Monroe County.

The New York State Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Mohamed Albanna cannot take his seat on the Lackawanna City Council.

Surgeries are being rescheduled at the Buffalo VA Medical Center following contamination concerns.

State and federal financial investment leaders announced $14 million in New Markets Tax Credits Tuesday to help further develop the historic Northland Central complex in Buffalo. Crews continue to work on the vacant complex, which includes a 93,000 square foot manufacturing training facility for hundreds of new and skilled workers.

An ice jam in Cattaraugus Creek led to a tense few moments late Tuesday morning in Sunset Bay.

Rep. Tom Reed is discussing the impact the recently signed tax reform legislation will have on the manufacturing industry.

An accuser of former public radio personality Garrison Keillor alleges he committed a variety of offenses over a period of several years.

Cuomo insisted in a statement that DACA recipients would not lose Medicaid benefits, regardless of congressional or Trump administration action.

New York Democrats launched an advertising campaign to push back against the federal tax legislation.

The state is expanding programs that are aimed at having girls study science and technology.


U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer withdrew funding for President Donald Trump’s border in negotiations over immigration issues with the White House, according to a Democratic aide.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned last week by the special counsel’s office investigating potential collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign – the first time a cabinet member is known to have been interviewed.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada — along with the 10 other remaining countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — would work toward creating a revised trade agreement.

FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly threatened to resign from his post after being pressured by the Trump administration to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Trump reportedly made “a rare admission” of regret to aides after sending then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer to fight with the press over reports detailing the crowd size as his Inauguration Day ceremony.

In opening arguments today, prosecutors called Joe Percoco Cuomo’s “right-hand man,” while defense attorneys deemed the former top administration aide, a mere public servant with limited influence over state government.

“This case is about corruption – the old- fashioned kind,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone told the jury at the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan. He described it as simply a high-ranking official taking money from wealthy individuals for government favors.

Defense attorney Barry Bohrer described the prosecution’s key witness, disgraced lobbyist Todd Howe, as someone who “has kidnapped the truth in this case and is holding these men hostage.”

NYC is suing major pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic, seeking $500 million in damages for current and future costs from what Mayor Bill de Blasio described as “corporate drug pushers.”

Trump faces an uphill climb to re-election in 2020 against a slate of prominent potential Democratic hopefuls, according to new polling from CNN conducted by SSRS.

Tesla had remained largely quiet in the solar panel tariff debate, although it did indicate its opposition to the duties last summer. Its Buffalo factory gives it a hedge against the new tariff because the company is building a source of domestic panel production that will allow it to avoid the new duties.

Cuomo says recipients will remain eligible for state-funded Medicaid even if the DACA program is terminated.

Cuomo’s proposal to allow the MTA to collect property taxes in neighborhoods served by mass transit would usurp the city’s power to raise its own revenue, according to the de Blasio administration.

Cuomo proposed new legislation to extend the storage timeline for forensic sexual offense evidence kits, or rape kits, at hospitals as part of his 2018 Women’s Agenda.

NYC is suing a Chelsea landlord who turned his rent-stabilized, four-story walk-up into an illegal hotel using Airbnb and then ignored inspectors’ repeated citations and brushed off thousands of dollars in fines.

Daniel Derenda – who retired last week as Buffalo police commissioner – has started work for one of the world’s largest private security firms that provides security at Buffalo City Hall.

New York has sold $35 billion of bonds backed by the personal-income tax, a levy that Cuomo wants to largely do away with to protect residents from being hit by new federal limits on state and local tax deductions.

New York state could adopt its own version of net neutrality under legislation being announced by state lawmakers.

NYCHA chairwoman Shola Olatoye did not tell the truth during her sworn testimony about lead paint inspections before the city council last month, a letter from the Department of Investigation obtained by the Daily News reveals.

The Capital Region town of Bethlehem is facing a potential housing boom with more than 1,200 units in the construction pipeline, new town supervisor David VanLuven said during his “state of the town” address.

Cuomo: ‘We Are Going To Fix’ Tax Law

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that changes the state’s tax laws as part of an effort to soften the blow of the federal tax legislation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hours later in a statement reiterated his push to work around the tax law and pledged to work with lawmakers “to get it done.”

“As we’ve said many times, this administration refuses to join the federal government in raising taxes on our hardworking families,” Cuomo said. “We are reviewing the federal changes and we will propose legislation to address the impacts arising from our coupled tax system and offer new protections from this federal assault. This is what was passed in Washington, and we are going to fix it in New York. We look forward to working with the legislature to get it done.”

The bill approved Tuesday would allow taxpayers to deduce their full payment of their property taxes and restore other deductions. At the same time, the measure changes the reference to the federal tax code to reflect the code that was in effect prior to Dec. 1 of last year.

All told, the measure is expected to save taxpayers $1.5 billion.

“As each day passes, we continue to discover new ways that this disastrous federal Republican tax bill hurts New Yorkers and tips the scale in favor of the wealthy and corporations,” Cuomo said. “The elimination of full state and local deductibility alone is an economic missile aimed at this state that will cost New Yorkers more than $14 billion.”

Cuomo wants to create a payroll tax that would either replace or work on a parallel track with the state’s existing personal income tax.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday said it was unlikely there would be an agreement on the specifics of a payroll tax by the end of next month.

Assembly Republicans Back Domestic Violence Legislation

Assembly Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a package of measures aimed at curtailing domestic violence and provide support for survivors.

“Victims of domestic violence must deal with the ramifications for the rest of their lives. Its physical and psychological impact ravages families and communities far too often. As legislators, we have a sworn and solemn duty to protect those we represent and this task force was a critical step toward eradicating this societal crisis,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said.

“We have heard directly from people dealing with domestic violence and taken great pains to craft a package of bills that will address each facet of the domestic violence crisis. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this important effort.”

The measures include a new statute in the penal law that is based on the existing hate crime statute. Another provision would create a new crime of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

Courts would also be allowed to award temporary spousal support when issuing a temporary order of protection.

And another measure would create a statewide public education campaign to promote health relationships and also be aimed at students to recognize warning signs.

“It was an honor to have hosted one of the Assembly Minority Conference’s public forums on domestic violence in Glenville. The event fostered an opportunity for local stakeholders to discuss the complex issues surrounding domestic violence in our community and statewide,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh.

“These forums that my colleagues and I held throughout the state helped us to raise awareness and identify the need to enforce harsher penalties for abusers, provide affordable and accessible emergency housing and increase funding for critical support programs for victims. The several proposals we have outlined would take great strides toward addressing this very serious issue, and I am hopeful that our colleagues in the Assembly and Senate join us in promoting the importance of this effort.”

Senate Passes Bill Mitigating Impact Of Tax Law

A bill approved Tuesday in the Republican-controlled Senate would mitigate the impact of new federal tax law by softening the blow on those who would pay higher state taxes as a result.

The bill would allow taxpayers to deduce their full payment of their property taxes and restore other deductions. At the same time, the measure changes the reference to the federal tax code to reflect the code that was in effect prior to Dec. 1 of last year.

All told, the measure is expected to save taxpayers $1.5 billion.

The bill was backed by Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn aligned with the GOP conference.

“Today, the New York State Senate acted on an important bill sponsored by Senator Felder that will protect hardworking New Yorkers from $1.5 billion in new and higher taxes, and prevent the state from receiving a windfall from recently enacted federal tax changes,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pursuing a broader change to the state’s tax structure with the potential of a payroll tax that could either replace or work in parallel with the existing personal income tax.

The federal tax law caps state and local tax deductions at $10,000 — a move that is expected to impact high tax states like New York and California.

The state Senate bill approved Tuesday would remove the existing state prohibition on itemizing a state income tax return if the taxpayer decides to take the higher federal standard deduction. It also makes a technical amendment to the sing non-dependent filer in the state’s income tax code.

SD-37: Schorr Wants To Empower State IG

Republican state Senate candidate Dan Schorr on Tuesday announced an ethics platform that would bolster the powers of the state inspector general’s office.

As backed by Schorr, the state IG would be given broader jurisdiction to oversee the Legislature and independence from the governor’s office. At the same time, the IG would be empowered to review claims of sexual harassment.

The IG would serve for a five-year term, providing some insulated independence from the governor’s four-year term.

“This continual parade of corruption trials of New York’s public officials has become a national embarrassment,” Schorr said.

“New Yorkers are the ones on the hook for these corrupt deals, and it’s partly why we pay the highest taxes in the nation. We can’t maintain the status quo and expect anything will change. The way to clean up Albany is to empower a truly independent authority, create transparency and elect outsiders with a record of reform. I will take my background as a prosecutor, auditor and investigator to clean up Albany and bring integrity back to state government.”

Schorr, running for the open 37th Senate district in Westchester County, is a former Yonkers inspector general, a prominent post in city government.

The proposal comes as the corruption trial of former gubernatorial aide Joe Percoco gets underway this week.

Lawmakers Want $2M To Promote Census In New York

State lawmakers and good government advocates on Tuesday called for a $2 million campaign to promote the coming 2020 U.S. Census in New York in order to assure all residents are accurately counted.

The concern is that people in immigrant communities will be under counted in part due to a fear of federal officials and hardline immigration policies from President Donald Trump’s administration.

The push for the campaign is backed by Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Democrat. But at a Capitol news conference this morning, Crespo said the issue should be a bipartisan one for New Yorkers.

“All of us have a reason to care deeply about the success of a proper count — making sure New York state doesn’t continue to give up billions of dollars in resources in particular at a time when this administration has demonstrated a disdain for states like New York,” he said.

New York could lose as many as two congressional districts in the 2022 round of reapportionment due to population loss. In 2012, New York lost two seats: One in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley region and another in Brooklyn.

The state had previously spent $2 million in 2009 to promote the 2010 Census. Crespo said he wants this campaign to focus on non-traditional means of communication to spread the word about the survey.

Cox: Cuomo Trying To Silence Republican Criticism

New York Republican Committee Chairman Ed Cox in a radio interview on Tuesday claimed Gov. Andrew Cuomo was trying to squelch criticism of him in the lead up to the trial of his former close aide, Joe Percoco.

Cox was responding to criticism of Manhattan GOP Chairwoman Andrea Catsimatidis, who said Monday that “Gov. Cuomo and Joe Percoco have been running the governor’s office like a mafia movie.”

In an interview with Fred Dicker on “Focus On The State Capitol” Cox declined to criticize the remarks.

“That’s what these people were doing. They were talking about crates of Ziti,” Cox said, referring to the euphemism for bribes allegedly used by Percoco and lobbyist-turned-witness Todd Howe. “It was right of The Sopranos.”

But the remarks were criticized by Republican Assemblyman Ron Castorina, a Staten Island lawmaker, who indicated it was an ethnic stereotype. Instead of agreeing with Castorina, Cox suggested Cuomo was working back channels to criticize Republicans.

“He’s not going to shut us up,” Cox said. “He’s working all the back ally ways of Albany to try to shut us up.”