CBC: What To Keep, What To Cut In Budget

From the Morning Memo:

A letter to state lawmakers this week from the Citizens Budget Commission think tank gives elected officials a roadmap for what aspects of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal should be kept, altered or rejected totally.

The group is supportive of the slowed growth in spending, keeping design-build method of contracting in the budget, a reformed Brownfield proposal and the enhancements being made to the Rainy Day reserve fund.

Among the measures of the $142 billion budget to take out, the CBC recommends rejecting the education tax credit, which is being pushed by religious organizations and advocates for private schools.

The tax credit is actually aimed at helping both private and public schools through donations, but the bill is opposed by the state’s teachers unions and faces opposition in the Democratic-led Assembly.

The CBC, however, takes issue with the credit’s cost.

“The measure creates an enhanced, potentially costly subsidy for private education,” the group wrote. “Benefactors of education charities should continue to enjoy the same benefits available for other charitable contributions.”

Meanwhile, the budget commission is questioning what it he sees as “excessive economic development spending” — a facet of state spending plans that has grown steadily over the years.

In particular, the CBC points to the spending on tax credits of questionable value for film companies and as well as spending $1.5 billion of financial settlement money on a new round of competitive grant and incentive money for economic development.

“These proposals should be rejected and a moratorium declared on expansions in this area until the benefits of existing programs can be examined carefully and unsuccessful programs terminated,” the group wrote.

Finally, the CBC raises an alarm about pension fund deferrals, which it says is basically borrowing from the pension fund, with $3.2 billion having already been loaned by the end of the current fiscal year, March 31.

An additional $395 million is requested in deferrals for the coming budget year, which the CBC says should be rejected.

Here and Now

Happy “House of Cards” day! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 9:30 a.m., the New York Gaming Facility Location Board meets, ESDC, 37th Floor Conference Room, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., acting NYS Tax and Finance Commissioner Ken Adams discusses the governor’s tax exemption for the wine, beer, cider and spirits industries, Flagship Brewery, 40 Minthorne St., Staten Island.

Also at 10 a.m., Stop the Pipeline holds a press conference on why it is calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to block the Constitution pipeline in the Southern Tier, LCA Press Room (130), Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 11 a.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s NY Broadband Program, Swain Ski Resort, Celeste and Sean Schoonover, 2275 County Road 24, Swain.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera and representatives of a nonprofit organization that operates a job training program for former inmates, homeless residents and people treated for substance abuse, The Doe Fund, hold a news conference; Burnside and Jerome avenues, the Bronx.

At 1 p.m., the final joint legislative budget hearing is held on the workforce development portion of Cuomo’s 2015-16 spending plan, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., the president of the NAACP’s state conference, Hazel Dukes, serves as guest speaker during an event marking the observance of “Black History Month,” attended by senior citizens assisted by several agencies and featuring artwork, a biographical presentation, cake, music performed by the Terri Davis Quartet and a poetry reading; The Carter Burden Center for the Aging Inc.’s The Carter Burden/Leonard Covello Senior Program, 312 E. 109th St., Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., Adams discusses the governor’s property tax relief program, 20 Dorchester St., Huntington Station, Long Island.

At 7:15 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at the DC37 Black History Month celebration, 125 Barclay St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

As a new report shows that more than 97 percent of area principals and teachers are deemed effective or highly effective, educators across the state are rallying against a plan by Cuomo to make the rating system tougher.

Though 95 percent of New York’s teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in 2013-14, there are some exceptions.

A day after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Albany to try to convince state lawmakers that he should remain in charge of turning around the city’s lowest-performing schools, Cuomo challenged that assertion with a new report highlighting those schools’ struggles.

In the report, Cuomo linked legislators’ names to chronically failing public schools in their districts in a provocative move to win support for his education reforms.

Cuomo’s report cited 178 failing schools across New York – the same number used in a Families for Excellent Schools (F.E.S.) report released Wednesday, which calls for a state takeover of those schools, a major component of Cuomo’s education reform proposals.

Republicans in the state Assembly pushed Cuomo to release school aid runs so that districts can better plan their budgets and tax levies, which are due to go before voters this May.

Two of St. Lawrence County’s Republican Assemblymen say they are outraged by Cuomo’s proposal to tie the DREAM Act to funding for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Opponents call this “political blackmail.”

As ferocious battles rage in Congress, statehouses and courtrooms over the legal status of undocumented immigrants, an evolution has been underway at some colleges and universities. They are taking it upon themselves to more freely, sometimes openly, make college more affordable for these students, for whom all federal and most state forms of financial aid remain off limits.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is taking credit for starting the “Who’s your daddy?” serenade against pitching great Pedro Martinez during the 2009 World Series between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. But the famed Yankees’ Bleacher Creatures are calling a balk.

Despite the insistence of sergeant-at-arms Wayne Jackson that it was time for session to begin, former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver shuffled up to former Red Sox and Mets pitcher, grinning as the soon-to-be Hall of Famer signed him an autograph.

Maggie Miller, the state’s chief information officer, faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers at a budget hearing yesterday afternoon about the Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting emails of state workers that are more than 90 days old.

More >

Extras

Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman is exploring a sale of the tabloid and has retained the firm Lazard to assist in the process.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won’t be the first governor to visit Cuba since the US began to normalize relations with the country. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is going next month.

President Obama’s nominee for attorney general cleared a hurdle as a Senate panel signed off on US Attorney Loretta Lynch over the objections of some Republicans.

The FCC approved net neutrality by a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”

The 2013-14 teacher evaluation rating data found 95 percent of the state’s educators were either effective or highly effective.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress a “mistake”, but stopped short of directly criticizing the controversial leader.

Former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV cast Sen. Adriano Espaillat as too old and tired to run for a third time for the seat Rep. Charlie Rangel is expected to vacate at the end of 2016.

Speaking on the eve of today’s anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, US Attorney Preet Bharara said his office and the law enforcement officials it works with have taken the hard lessons of the last 22 years to heart.

The Staten Island Advance supports de Blasio in his disagreement with Cuomo over education policy, and calls on local lawmakers to do the same.

It was sports star day (unofficially) at the state Capitol.

The CBC says New York should stop borrowing from the pension fund and use $2.5 billion of the $5 billion surplus to reduce the oustanding liability from past borrowing.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo is favored to succeed Heastie as Bronx Democratic Party chairman, but his record – including a “no” vote on same-sex marriage and the Women’s Equality Act – has rankled some progressives.

See where New York’s congressional delegation members ranked on the NLCV’s annual environmental scorecard.

“If they were in orange jumpsuits, you’d think they were ISIS hostages.”

New York State had the nation’s most unionized workforce in 2014, thanks largely to its very heavily unionized public sector.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took somewhat of a pass when asked to assess the progressive credentials of 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Clinton still has a long list of demands – though no more crudites or lemon wedges – for the paid speeches she continues to deliver.

Carly Fiorina tore into Clinton during a speech at CPAC.

Attorneys for former Gov. Rick Perry have asked a Texas appeals court to dismiss felony charges against the possible 2016 presidential candidate on free speech grounds.

Google Inc. is making its largest bet yet on renewable energy, a $300 million investment to support at least 25,000 SolarCity Corp. rooftop power plants.

Teachers at the popular PS 321 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope are turning to parents for help in opposing Cuomo’s education reforms.

Two llamas on the lam! (Sadly, no longer).

Klein Releases New Deal-Inspired Jobs Plan

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Thursday released a jobs plan that he says is modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program.

The jobs package proposes using $5 billion in financial settlement funds for infrastructure projects with the creation of the Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund and the Community Jobs Program.

The creation of those funds is expecting to create 97,000 jobs and 40,000 jobs respectively.

“A New Deal for New York will help revitalize our crumbling infrastructure while providing a hand up for thousands of New Yorkers who want nothing more than the opportunity to work, save, and provide for their families,” Klein said in a statement. “This plan takes a page out of the Roosevelt era that helped lift millions of Americans out of the shadows during the Great Depression and modernizes it to meet the challenges of a 21st century workforce. We have the sufficient resources and labor at our disposal and I am confident this plan will have a positive ripple effect throughout our state for many years to come.”

Potential projects for funding under the programs include the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge as well construction in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Upstate Transit Authorities, local governments, state agencies and other public authorities.

Local water and sewer districts could also apply for upgrades to their system within the fund.

The $1.5 billion Community Jobs Program would provide job training opportunities while investing in projects like helping rebuild parks, libraries and other small-business development projects.

Coalition Urges Heastie To Drop MMA Support

A coalition of women’s groups, business and labor organizations is urging Speaker Carl Heastie to drop his stated support for the legalization of mized-martial arts, according to a letter obtained by Capital Tonight.

In the letter, the coalition known as MMA Go Away writes to Heastie that the sport, which has been the subject of intense lobbying in recent years at the Capitol, is “hostile” to women given its level of violence.

“With your election as Speaker of the State Assembly, the women of this state are looking forward to a new day in Albany. As we celebrate the historic progress reflected by your ascension to Speaker, it is equally important to send the forceful message that the Assembly is fully committed to being a voice for women across every corner of the state,” the coalition wrote in the letter. “The issue of violence against women stands out as blight on our society, and nowhere is that violence more disturbingly displayed than in mixed martial arts culture. Thus, we strongly urge you to oppose the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts this session.”

The letter signed by NOW-NYC and Assemblywoman Michelle Solages.

Heastie has been a previous sponsor of the MMA legalization legislation, though he removed his name from the sponsorship of bills so as to not show a preference for any particular piece of legislation.

The Bronx Democrat did tell reporters that he remains personally supportive of MMA, but would leave it up to his conference whether there is a vote on the bill this year.

Heastie’s predecessor, Manhattan Democrat Sheldon Silver, was opposed to the legalization of MMA.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle last week re-introduced his MMA legalization bill.

The bill is expected to be voted on in the state Senate later this year, where it has passed multiple times.

MMA Letter by Nick Reisman

Heastie: ‘Disappointment’ In 30-Day Amendments

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said on Thursday he told Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week he was disappointed that the 30-day amendments to his budget proposal tied policy to appropriations.

In particular, the governor is linking his outside income disclosure proposals and reforms to travel reimbursements to spending in the $142 billion budget, including the comptroller’s office and capital projects.

“The governor and I have spoken and he knows about my disappointment in how he presented the 30-day amendments,” Heastie told reporters at a news conference.

“It kind of ties the Legislature’s hands to act,” he added.

In many respects, that is indeed Cuomo’s point: Lawmakers can strike out or approve language in the budget, but they cannot alter it. Cuomo and lawmakers, of course, could negotiate new budget bills wholesale before the deadline.

Heastie said he still wants to have a budget approved by the March 31 deadline.

“We don’t want to play the blame game, we want to get an on-time budget,” he said.

The speaker, who is negotiating his first budget with Cuomo since taking office last month, wouldn’t speculate on whether lawmakers could mount a legal challenge to Cuomo’s wedding of policy to spending.

“Again, I expressed my disappointment to the governor,” he said. “There’s a lot of things the Legislature could consider, but I think in the midst of all that the governor seems to be in a good place where we’re actively in discussions for having a budget.”

Heastie: Keep DREAM Act As A Standalone Bill

Add Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to the list of legislative officials who want the DREAM Act separated from the education tax credit.

“We’re going to pass it as a standalone today and we believe should be passed as a standalone,” Heastie said of the DREAM Act.

Both measures have been lashed together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in his 30-day amendments last week also yoked the measures to funding for the Tuition Assistance Program.

“We don’t believe they should be linked it, either,” Heastie said. “We’re moving forward today believing they should be considered on their own merits.”

The Democratic-led Assembly today is expected to approve the DREAM Act, a measure that would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

Senate Republicans are largely opposed to the bill, but support the tax credit legislation, which is backed by religious organizations and is aimed at helping non-profits receive donations that aid scholarship funds.

“The investment tax credit will be another standalone issue that we decide as a conference,” Heastie said. “All of these issues are on the table, but we wanted to move forward with the DREAM Act today.”

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb this week said he wanted TAP decoupled from the DREAM Act as well.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos after exiting a leaders meeting on Wednesday said he wanted all three issues unlinked.

In Report, Cuomo Points To Failing Schools

More than 109,000 students in New York are enrolled in one of the 178 schools deemed to be failing, according to a report from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The report comes as Cuomo tries to make it easier for the state to take over troubled schools through his $142 billion budget proposal.

A school is considered failing based on being in the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide based on the combined English-Language Arts and math scores while not showing progress in test performance or have had graduation rates below 60 percent of the last three years.

Of the 178 schools on the failing list, 77 have held that designation for the last 10 years, with a quarter million students passing through the schools.

The broad majority of these schools — 9 out of 10 — are heavily minority or poor.

Cuomo is pushing a plan based on a Massachusetts law that would put a failing school into the hands of either a non-profit, another district or an appointed turnaround expert.

The full report can be found here.

NYSFailingSchoolsReport (1).pdf by Nick Reisman

Kolb: ‘Malarkey’ Cuomo Doesn’t Invite Leaders

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb isn’t buying claims that Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t control who attends legislative budget meetings in his office.

“I think that’s a lot of malarkey,” Kolb said on Thursday.

Cuomo’s first closed-door budget meeting of the season included Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who is no longer the co-president of the chamber after Republicans gained a full majority in the Senate last year.

“It’s up to the Legislature who they want to invite, how they want to conduct the process,” Cuomo said.

Klein’s inclusion in yesterday’s leaders’ meeting was the product of a conversation with Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Cuomo said.

But having Klein in the room is an opening for both minority leaders in the Assembly and Senate, they say, to have them included as well.

“Andrea Stewart-Cousins and myself should absolutely be in the room,” Kolb said.

He noted that the mainline Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans have more votes — and actual constituents — than the IDC.

“All due respect to Jeff Klein, he’s got five members,” Kolb said. “I think we all have information to share, we have great ideas. Our conference is known for great ideas and solutions.”

Cuomo To Cuba On April 20 (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will lead a trade mission of state officials and business leaders to Cuba on April 20, his office on Thursday announced.

In doing so, Cuomo will become the first chief executive of a U.S. state to travel to the Communist country after President Obama announced diplomatic relations would be normalized.

“I am pleased to announce that New York will be the first in the nation to conduct an official state trade mission to Cuba since President Obama’s announcement,” Cuomo said. “This mission will be a tremendous stepping stone for our State’s relationship with Cuba, and will help open the door to a new market for New York businesses. Creating an environment that supports growth and economic development is one of our administration’s top priorities, and Global NY is the perfect example of how we’re taking that approach to the international stage. As the first state to launch a trade mission to Cuba in this new era, New York will continue to stand at the forefront of opportunity.”

Updated: Cuomo will not be the first governor to travel to Cuba, after all. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will be making the trip next week.

Cuomo announced in January he would lead the trade mission as part of a larger effort to promote New York business overseas.

The governor also plans to travel to Mexico, Israel, Italy, Canada and Japan as part of the trips.

The overseas trips could burnish Cuomo’s foreign policy credentials even as he is no longer considered a possible candidate for president in 2016.

Cuomo has insisted he would travel to Cuba strictly to discuss trade, namely the state’s agriculture sector, and not the country’s oppressive government.

He was questioned last month about Cuba’s record on human rights, especially its treatment of its gay citizens (Cuban leader Fidel Castro has previously acknowledged the “injustice” of the country’s treatment of gays and lesbians).

“There are issues that concern me about Cuba and issues that I would like to address, but you wear different hats and there are different purposes,” Cuomo said at the time. “This is going to be about a trade mission and meeting with trade ministers and trade relations in the agriculture sector. It’s not really conducive to having a conversation about locking up gays.