Mar 11th - 3:38 pm
In the end, three of four incumbent Regents will remain on the board directing education policy for the state despite widespread angst in the Legislature over the implementation of Common Core.
Following Tuesday’s vote, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos knocked Democrats for supporting the re-appointment of the members.
“All I know is the Democrats today continued to vote for the status quo and are not listening to parents, they’re not listening to educators,” Skelos told reporters.
The vote on Tuesday was one of the more contentious Regents votes in recent memory, with Senate Republicans ending a long-standing boycott of the event to register what amounted to largely ceremonial no votes or abstentions.
A fourth Regent up for re-appointment, James Jackson, withdrew from consideration.
“It was more about showing they can continue to elect people than understanding the trauma that kids are facing,” Skelos said.
Skelos insisted the incumbents “should have been tossed, fired” based on the Common Core implementation.
The Long Island Republican added there should be a change to the process of appointing regents that would give the Senate more say in the process.
Despite the votes to re-confirm, several Senate Democrats voted against re-appointment, including Sens. Geroge Latimer, Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson.
And though some Senate Democrats made a point of their “no” votes for re-appointment, the Democratic conference in the end shored up whatever weak support in the Assembly there was for re-appointment.
“The process has been a joint session of the Legislature, it is a joint session of the Legislature and I think you saw it play out today,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters following the vote. “The Assembly could not elect regents on their own. Senators voted with members of the Assembly to provide the majority.”
As for supporting the re-appointment of incumbents, Silver said they deserved to remain on the board given their experience.
“They have been around, they listen, and that is the key thing,” he said.
Mar 11th - 2:35 pm
The Legislature is poised to re-approve three out of four Board of Regents members who are running for re-appointment, rejecting Republican-backed candidates proposed by the GOP conference in the Assembly.
A fourth Regent, James Jackson of the Albany area, withdrew from consideration on Tuesday after it was clear he didn’t have the votes.
So in the end, it was an anti-climatic conclusion to the Regent re-appointments considering how many votes Democrats have in the chamber.
But it was unusual to see some Senate Republicans end their long-standing boycott of the Regents vote and head to the Assembly chamber to cast largely protest votes against re-appointment.
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said his votes were being cast in opposition to the process as a whole.
Whether Republicans will want to participate in future Regents votes or push to change the selection process as a whole remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter blasted the Common Core implementation, saying it should be criteria to judge the state Education Department’s performance.
“To the extent this is a moment to bring change to the system — and remember how hard change is, especially for a large system like the education system — I welcome it,” Cuomo said.
For now, that doesn’t seem like it will be the case, though the rejection of Jackson could be a strong signal that lawmakers want change.
Cuomo said the flawed roll out of Common Core implementation was the Education Department’s fault, not his, considering the Regents are appointed by the Legislature.
“That is the Board of Regents. There should be scrutiny on this Board of Regents and who they are and how they’re selected because they run education in this state,” Cuomo said.
There is, of course, a political dynamic to the situation for Cuomo: His potential Republican opponent this fall, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, is trying to tie Cuomo to the Common Core implementation.
Mar 11th - 1:22 pm
Rochester area Sen. Ted O’Brien on Tuesday became the first Democrat in the chamber to oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to provide inmates in state prisons access to higher education courses.
O’Brien, a freshman lawmaker who flipped a district from Republican to Democratic following the retirement of Sen. Jim Alesi, indicated his constituents were roundly opposed to the plan.
“I feel a certain obligation to protect the public money and in my district I understand that this is not a popular sentiment,” O’Brien told me in an interview. “I have an obligation to represent the taxpayers.”
It’s a sign that upstate Democrats, even those like O’Brien who have what are generally considered to be a safe seat, are feeling increasing pressure from voters — and potential GOP opponents — on the school-in-prison plan.
“In this case, in my district, this isn’t the appropriate way to go,” O’Brien said, noting “the message is pretty clear” from constituents.
He added that he’s concerned families with students heading into college don’t have money themselves to pay for tuition, even in the state university system.
“Right now we don’t have enough money in the community college system,” O’Brien said. “The SUNY system is underfunded and hard-working men and women in our state are not able to get our kids to college without enormous loans and it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do at the expense of hard working men and women who want to go to college in this state.”
In defending the proposal, Cuomo has pointed to studies that have shown college classes in prison will reduce recidivism and ultimately save money by reducing the prison population.
“I understand the difficulty with the concept. I get it, but if you take a beat and say let’s assume you don’t care about the person in prison and yourself as a taxpayer, on the numbers it’s much less expensive to provide the education because the data show the recidivism rate goes way down,” he said in February.
Cuomo made the proposal last month during caucus weekend, which draws minority lawmakers and political figures from across the state.
Mar 11th - 1:03 pm
The Democratic-led Assembly will propose an expanded circuit-breaker to address property tax increases, but plans to reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to “freeze” hikes on the local level, Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday said.
“We’re going to be putting forth an enhanced circuit-breaker for the entire state that I think will give significant property tax relief,” Silver told reporters following a rally in support of the public financing of political campaigns. “It’s not a matter of freeze, we’re going to enhance the circuit-breaker.”
Cuomo’s budget includes both a circuit-breaker proposal as well as the freeze plan.
A circuit-breaker, generally supported by labor groups, would tie property tax increases to a household’s income.
The freeze, meanwhile, would pressure local governments to cap property taxes at 2 percent and then find ways to share services in the second year of the freeze. Property taxpayers would then receive a check making up the difference in the increase over two years.
Senate Republicans already indicated on Monday they will offer an alternative plan to the property tax freeze as well, though no details were provided.
In the Assembly, Silver said the concern from Democrats is that the freeze won’t cover enough taxpayers.
“Someone’s benefit is contingent on some other elected official doing something in order to make them eligible for the freeze,” he said.
Silver added, “It’s not about me, it’s about the Democratic conference in the Assembly. Their feeling is everyone needs property tax relief and we want to get it to the most people that we can and we felt the circuit-breaker is the way to go.”
The Assembly’s one-house budget bill is also expected to include the estate tax repeal that Cuomo supports, albeit in an altered form.
Silver said the conference supports an increase the threshold for exemption for the tax in order to accommodate small businesses.
The one-house budget resolution is expected sometime today, Silver said.
The Assembly’s budget will add $400 million to education aid more than what Cuomo proposed. At the same time, the resolution will support New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to increase taxes on the wealthy in order to fund universal pre-Kindergarten in the city.
The Assembly will include a program to publicly fund campaigns.
Mar 11th - 12:56 pm
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli gave NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget proposal a thumbs up for the short term, saying he made appropriate use of higher than expected tax revenues to reduce out-year budget gaps and to
But the comptroller also warned that the potential cost of labor negotiations on some 150 outstanding municipal contracts “casts a shadow of uncertainty on the city’s finances.
“While strong economic growth has boosted city revenues, Mayor de Blasio continues to grapple with ongoing structural deficits and labor contracts that have remained unsettled for far too long,” DiNapoli said.
“The final cost and structure of these agreements may not be known for some time. This plan is a strong starting point for the mayor and I urge him to remain cautious and look at the long-term picture.”
That concern echoes the assessment of DiNapoli’s New York City counterpart, Comptroller Scott Stringer, who recently called the contracts the “Achilles heel” of the de Blasio administration, and said budget chaos will ensue if the mayor doesn’t reach agreements with the city’s labor unions by the end of June.
DiNapoli’s analysis suggests that revenues could be higher than what the de Blasio administration has forecast, but found it still faces a number of large budget risks.
Besides the outcome of collective bargaining, other risks include the anticipated receipt of $1.2 billion from the planned sale of taxi medallions during fiscal years 2015 through 2017 and whether the Health and Hospitals Corporation will require additional financial assistance from the city. It is also unclear if federal aid for Sandy recovery will fall short of the city’s expectations.
DiNapoli left a blank when it comes to the question of funding for universal pre-K. De Blasio says his tax-the-rich plan would generate about $340 million to $350 million a year to enroll all the city’s four year olds, which is considerably more than the $100 million Cuomo has allocated in his 2014-15 budget proposal for pre-K statewide.
Another concern flagged by the state comptroller is the city’s projected growth in debt service and health insurance costs. Together they are expected to grow by $4.6 billion – or 47 percent – between FY 2013 through FY 2018, and to consume 24 percent of city fund revenue by FY 2018.
In recent years, DiNapoli notes the city has relied heavily on nonrecurring resources to balance the budget. The budgets for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 each count on about $2.5 billion in nonrecurring resources.
You can read DiNapoli’s entire report on the NYC budget here.
Mar 11th - 12:39 pm
The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee is feeling bullish that New York will help the GOP keep and perhaps expand its majority in the House this fall.
“New York, interestingly enough, especially in an off year for Republicans, holds great promise for some pickups,” Rep. Greg Walden said at an event Tuesday at the National Press Club.
Walden seems most excited about regaining the seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Owens, who first won during a 2009 special election marked by nasty GOP infighting. Though Walden said the NRCC isn’t getting involved in the GOP primary between Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny, he did point out the institutional support Stefanik has already accumulated.
“Elise is very poised, has experience and roots in the district as well – got out early, has a lot of endorsements,” Walden said. “They’re going to sort that out,” referring to Republican primary voters.
The GOP may have reason to feel optimistic about the seat. Aaron Woolf, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s pick, used to split his time between the district and New York City and until very recently had never been to Watertown. Woolf is now facing a primary challenge from Steven Burke.
“The Democrats’ recruit is from Brooklyn,” Walden said, referring to Woolf. “That’s a ways. My district is big, but Brooklyn to Watertown is a long way apart.”
Other Democratic seats Walden has his eye on include Rep. Tim Bishop’s, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s and Rep. Dan Maffei’s.
Initially, Walden did not mention Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is facing a rematch against Nan Hayworth, but he said not to read into that.
“No one will outwork Nan Hayworth,” Walden insisted.
Mar 11th - 12:08 pm
Regional unemployment rate figures from the state Department of Labor on Tuesday show unemployment has dropped in the state’s Southern Tier, an area of the state that has had prolonged trouble in attracting jobs.
In Broome County, unemployment fell from 9.7 percent in January 2013 to 8 percent in January 2014.
Neighboring Tioga County saw the unemployment rate fall from 9.9 percent to 8.2 percent during that same time period.
In Chemung County, unemployment also fell from 9.9 percent to 8 percent, statistics show.
To be sure, the unemployment in those areas still remains well above the average unemployment rate statewide, 7.3 percent in January.
The county with the lowest unemployment rate remains upstate Tompkins County, home to several colleges including Cornell, where unemployment stands at 5 percent.
Putnam County came in second at 5.4 percent, following closely by Nassau County at 5.5 percent.
The Bronx remains one of the most economically troubled areas of the state, with unemployment at 11.2 percent.
Mar 11th - 11:48 am
The western New York teacher who sat on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s panel to recommend changes to Common Core implementation dissented on Tuesday from the final product.
In a statement released by the statewide teachers union, East Aurora High School teacher Todd Hathaway graded the final report an “incomplete.”
“The report – and the process that produced it — is incomplete. The report was released suddenly, even as final comments were still being solicited. I had indicated the likelihood I would dissent and not allow the report to be spun as “consensus.” Nevertheless, the report was issued with my name attached. I am very concerned that the report tries to make it seem like all the discussion had been completed. In fact, the Executive Office repeatedly ignored my concerns and the legitimate concerns of others about inappropriate state testing, the misuse of invalid tests for evaluations and the lack of transparency in state testing. The result is that some of the report’s conclusions and suggestions do not hold up to scrutiny. I wouldn’t accept this kind of work from my students and I don’t accept it here.”
The report, released Monday evening, addressed concerns about student privacy, student assessment and teacher training, but did not touch on the teacher evaluation law that was approved last year.
Cuomo in a radio interview on The Capitol Pressroom Tuesday morning shrugged off the dissent from Hathaway.
“I don’t see anyway there could be consensus,” Cuomo said.
Mar 11th - 11:31 am
Lawmakers in both parties are pushing back against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to create a freeze on local property tax increases. The ruling majority coalition in the Senate plans to introduce an alternative proposal to Cuomo’s property tax plan this week.
“I expect a property tax proposal to be in the one-house budget. I think you’ll find it to be a little bit different than what the governor has,” Sen. Tom Libous said.
Details of the Senate proposal weren’t immediately available. But the break with Cuomo on the property tax freeze comes after local government officials and organized labor both opposed the plan.
“It has been a little bit of a problem for local governments. I think they’re concerned as to the way the governor has proposed that it’s going to really pin them down and cause a lack of services,” Libous, a Binghamton Republican, said.
One-house budgets aren’t binding documents. They’re simply roadmaps for the Assembly and Senate to lay out their agenda as budget negotiations take shape. Democrats, meanwhile, are also uneasy with the proposal.
“It’s so complex that we don’t believe very many homeowners would see anything from that program,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.
Senate Democrats urged leaders in the chamber to reject the tax freeze and include a circuit-breaker plan instead. Under that plan, property tax increases are tied to an household’s income.
One of them we support — circuit breaker — one of them we don’t support — the tax freeze, complicated system,” Krueger said.
But Cuomo is lobbying hard for his tax freeze. Under Cuomo’s plan, local governments must first limit levy increases at 2 percent and then find ways to share services in order to provide homeowners with a rebate check that amounts to a zero increase in taxes over those years.
Cuomo’s push to do something on the state’s high property taxes also has the support of most voters, polls have shown.
In a statement Cuomo’s top aide Larry Schwartz defended the tax proposal saying quote
“It’s clear that some local officials don’t want to be held accountable by taxpayers for staying within the cap and taking action to share services, reduce costs, and lower property taxes. Under the Governor’s plan, local governments and schools will be responsible for taking the right steps to get their fiscal houses in order, much like the state has already done .”
The $142 billion budget plan is due April 1.
Mar 11th - 11:01 am
Rob Astorino will hold one of his first major fundraisers as a Republican gubernatorial candidate on March 26, according to an invitation.
Tickets to the event, to be held at the Westchester Marriott, run as high as $5,000.
The invitation was emailed out to supporters by Astorino’s campaign manager, Michael Lawler, the former executive director of the state GOP.
“Rob is running for Governor because we live in the highest taxed, most regulated, and least business friendly state in the Country,” Lawler wrote in the email. “As a result, over the past three years we have lost over 400,000 of our fellow New Yorkers to other states. We need a leader who will help create good paying jobs, and foster growth and opportunity for ALL New Yorkers. Rob IS that leader.”
The invite comes the same day as The Wall Street Journal reports that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will hold a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser for Republican donors to support his re-election campaign.
Cuomo last reported $33 million in the bank for his re-election campaign.
Astorino’s county executive account, which has lower donor contribution limits, had $1 million.