Apr 26th - 2:55 pm
Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly on Wednesday unveiled legislation that would require the Department of Taxation and Finance to release the tax returns of all statewide elected officials and President Donald Trump.
“It may seem as if this is an issue that we have tried and failed to solve, but it’s not,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron. “Like so much else in the Trump era, the states have enormous power here.”
Trump so far has refused to release his state or federal tax returns. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at a news conference Wednesday said the president has “no intention” of releasing his returns, but insisted Trump had divulged enough financial information.
The bill would require a five-year look-back period for the release of the state returns and comes as Republicans in Washington plan a tax reform bill this week.
“The fact the president can personally benefit is just rather extraordinary that we would not have any transparency or disclosure,” said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy. “So we do think we have the authority in New York state to seek this disclosure.”
The measure dovetails with a separate bill that would require presidential and vice presidential nominees to release their tax returns in order to qualify for the ballot in New York.
“We think this parallel track requiring tax returns at the state level be released now and tax returns be prospectively released if someone wants to run for president or vice president is very important,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman.
“It’s so important what President Trump is hiding in his tax returns.”
While the bill is being circulated in the Democratic-dominated Assembly, its fate is uncertain in the Republican-led Senate.
“We are always happy to have a serious discussion about what constitutes sound public policy for the state of New York, but this sounds like a P.R. stunt,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif.
Apr 26th - 2:19 pm
Democratic former city Councilman Robert Jackson this week filed with the state Board of Elections to challenge incumbent Sen. Marisol Alcantara, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference.
Jackson was among the challengers in 2016 in the crowded Democratic primary to replace Adriano Espaillat following his vacating the seat for the House of Representatives.
Alcantara was ultimately successful, with her campaign effort supported by the IDC. She later joined the conference, which has swelled to eight members in the last several months on the additions of Sens. Jose Peralta and Jesse Hamilton.
Jackson’s bid marks the first of the mainline Democratic challengers to an IDC incumbent.
The feud between the IDC and mainline conference erupted once again this year as Republicans retained control of the Senate with the aid of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Fedler, a Democrat who sits with the GOP conference.
Alcantara this week also filed with the Board of Elections to run for re-election.
Apr 26th - 12:46 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted a $2.5 billion bond for water quality and infrastructure upgrades contained in the state budget, saying in Auburn on Wednesday it wasn’t a “cheap solution” to a statewide problem.
Cuomo was in Auburn ostensibly to highlight the state’s efforts to cleanup Owasco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes which has been targeted for filtering of blue-green algae.
“The $2.5 billion is obviously a lot of money, but it’s a statewide problem,” Cuomo said. “It’s not a cheap solution to this, but you don’t want a cheap solution to this.”
Elsewhere, communities in eastern upstate New York have been under the strain of chemical contamination, with problems arising in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and Newburgh.
Cuomo blamed a trio of broad issues for the water problems: Aging infrastructure, the classification of safe levels of chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency and economic development.
“It’s threatened by development. It’s threatened, quite frankly, by the success of our economy,” Cuomo said, pointing to home building and the success of the state’s Greek yogurt industry.
“We’ve done a lot of things to stimulate the agricultural industry and that’s great,” he said. “But that also generates issues and a lot of those issues end up in the water.”
The $2.5 billion approved in the state budget includes money for a variety of quality control concerns, upgrades and testing, but some environmental organizations believe it is only a fraction of what is needed to strengthen the state’s water needs.
Cuomo wrapped the concerns in a broader message about conservation.
“Your basic responsibility is to leave the place better than you found it,” he said. “Every philosopher says that. Every religion says that in its own way.”
Apr 26th - 12:07 pm
UPDATED 2:30 p.m. – The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a digital campaign in response to a new amendment to the Republican health care plan. The proposal, seen as a potential compromise between the Conservative House Freedom Caucus and more moderate Republicans, would allow states to opt out of provisions that guarantee patients with preexisting conditions receive coverage and don’t pay more.
Also written into that amendment, according to the DCCC, is an exemption that would keep those protections in place for members of Congress, should their state seek the waiver. A spokesperson for the committee said it’s a clear indication they understand the potential impact of the legislation on patients.
“Removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions will go down in infamy as one of the most heartless acts of this Republican Congress. As proof of the repeal bill’s devastating impact, Representatives Zeldin and Tenney are exempting themselves from the punishment they are willing to inflict on their constituents,” said DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske. “This digital ad campaign will educate voters in targeted districts about this morally bankrupt Congressional Carveout.”
Among the GOP representatives who the campaign is targeting are Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Lee Zeldin (NY-1), and John Faso (NY-19). The committee said while Tenney and Zeldin have not publicly committed to voting for the plan, they have been very supportive of repealing the Affordable Care Act in general.
“It’s shocking that Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies would claim to have any credibility left as they sit in Washington watching Obamacare collapse around them. Democrats are desperate to deflect attention away from their failed record – which has caused premiums to skyrocket, restricted choices for consumers, and suffocated small businesses with higher taxes and more regulations,” National Republican Congressional Committee Regional Press Secretary Chris Martin responded.
Apr 26th - 11:50 am
The credit rating agency Moody’s in a report released Wednesday found the free tuition program as approved in the 2017-18 state budget is unlikely to have a negative impact on the credit of the state’s public universities.
For the most part, any bump in enrollment will be offset by tuition dollars already being paid.
The program once fully phased in would provide free tuition to students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year and will cost $160 million. The state budget agreement also included a $200 tuition increase.
“The new scholarship may contribute to a modest increase in overall enrollment, but we believe it is more likely these funds will supplant tuition dollars already paid by students from middle-income families,” said Moody’s Associate Managing Director Susan Fitzgerald. “Therefore it is unlikely to result in substantial new enrollment or funding for New York’s public universities.”
However, a spike in enrollment because of the scholarship program could lead to negative side effects for both the state and city public college systems, the report found.
As a result, SUNY and CUNY schools would need to find additional ways of covering new costs or finding new ways of raising revenue.
At the same time, an enrollment increase could move some students away from private colleges in the state, negatively impacting institutions that have less money and are more regionally known.
“Many of these schools already confront a highly competitive environment and even small shifts of enrollment to the public sector could have a negative effect on their already tight financial situations,” Fitzgerald said.
Apr 26th - 11:14 am
The state’s tax collections declined in the fiscal year that ended March 31 by $300 million, according to a year-end cash report released on Wednesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
Percentage-wise, the decline is a relatively small one, only 0.4 percent from the previous fiscal year.
And DiNapoli in a statement said the state’s cash position remains relatively strong.
“While personal income tax and consumption tax receipts exceeded the latest projections at the end of the fiscal year, they were more than offset by lower business tax collections,” DiNapoli said. “The state remained in a strong cash position starting the new fiscal year, because of factors including General Fund spending that was well below projections and unspent funds from financial settlements.”
All told, the state’s receipts from the fiscal year hit $156.4 billion, a 2 percent increase from the previous year. The received an 8 percent boost in federal aid during 2016-17 fiscal year.
Apr 26th - 6:30 am
From the Morning Memo:
Less than week after the legislative session in Albany is scheduled to end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will attend a New York City fundraiser in his honor with former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden and Cuomo have cultivated a public friendship in recent years, with the former veep touting the governor’s work on infrastructure spending in the state.
The fundraiser in June — benefitting Cuomo’s 2018 re-election campaign — surfaced the same day the governor announced new staff appointments in his office, including a former top aide to Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
With Maria Comella serving as chief staff, Cuomo now has a trio of women — Melissa DeRosa and Kelly Cummings included — at the helm of his administration to run the government and focus on big picture strategy.
He’s also turned to Republican staffers. Cummings worked as a communications director for the state Senate Republicans as did his budget director, Robert Mujica.
At the same time, Cuomo has retained a mix of former Obama and Clinton staffers in his office. And, perhaps not insignificantly, he took on a new speechwriter with an international affairs background.
Comella, however, was the hire that raised eyebrows, given her experience running a presidential campaign.
Cuomo has insisted he’s focused on being governor and has been planning a bid for a third term with fundraisers and moving his former top aide, Bill Mulrow, to chair the 2018 effort.
Apr 26th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
It will be a few months until ride-hailing officially arrives upstate, but Uber is already making its presence known in Western New York, projecting the creation of up to 700 jobs in Buffalo alone.
The company hosted a job fair yesterday in Amherst, where officials registered dozens of potential drivers.
“The best part of Uber as work is flexibility; you can work anytime,” said Buffalo resident Sandeeb Kumar. “You can select your time at your convenience, and it’s a good source of income.”
The company’s doing more than just recruiting. It is also continuing PR initiatives it began even before the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to an agreement as part of the recently approved budget to legalize ride hailing outside NYC.
While lobbying to bring ride-hailing to upstate, Uber often noted that Buffalo was the only region with a National Football League team that didn’t have the service. Kim and Terry Pegula, the owners of the Buffalo Bills and the Sabres hockey team, were among those pushing for legalization.
So it wasn’t a big surprise when Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the Bills and Sabres, announced a partnership with Uber yesterday. They’ve already announced they plan to integrate the company’s phone app with the My One Buffalo app, which is used during games, concerts and events.
Hall of Fame running-back Thurman Thomas is set to deliver swag and tickets to the football team’s official draft party to a handful of people who use the app today.
Uber had a similar promotion where they teamed up with a local food truck to give away free tacos last month.
Apr 26th - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
Cities that refuse to coordinate with federal immigration enforcement efforts cannot be stripped of federal funding, a judge ruled in a blow to President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday.
The issue is an acute one for cities in New York which have affirmed their status as “sanctuary” communities in recent months, including New York City, Syracuse and Albany.
“While I expect this fight to continue, it is my hope the administration can put this destructive chapter behind them and focus on solving our country’s important issues, including funding infrastructure, creating jobs for working-class Americans, and developing a meaningful urban agenda to tackle the serious challenges facing America’s cities,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner in a statement.
The case, expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, comes as some Democratic lawmakers in Albany have sought to expand the sanctuary status to the entire state as California lawmakers have done this year.
“I think Trump is not fooling around,” said Republican state Sen. Marty Golden. “I President Trump is going to stop funding going into cities across this great, great nation allowing criminals to stay in our communities. It’s just plain wrong.”
As for the sanctuary statehood move, Golden said Republicans in his conference are staunchly opposed.
“I don’t see this passing in our state,” he said, “nor should it pass in any state.”
Apr 26th - 5:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
Two bills that would place new restrictions on tobacco and nicotine use in New York advanced in the state Senate on Tuesday to the cheers of anti-smoking advocates.
“We think that senators heard our message loud and clear, they stood up to the tobacco industry, so we’re pleased they moved two of these bills today,” said Julie Hart of the American Cancer Society Action Network.
One bill tackles electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, and would have the increasingly popular nicotine alternative fall under the Clean Indoor Air Act.
“It’s just a habit that we have made unacceptable through society and this is now starting to encouraging new users and it’s the opposite of what’s good for the public health,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan.
Another bill would increase the tobacco purchasing age statewide from 18 to 21.
“We want to prevent young people from starting and that’s the most important thing because the older you are when you have your first cigarette, the less likely you are to start,” said Sen. Diane Savino.
The bill known as Tobacco 21 passed the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday. But it has already been made law in eight counties around New York.
“From a business prospective, for the retail industry in our state, it makes more sense to have a consistent application across the state,” Savino said. “They all have to comply with it. Our chain stores, our retail outlets.”
In the Democratic-led Assembly, the bill regulating e-cigarettes has already passed in previous years. But the tobacco 21 legislation is yet to advance to the full Assembly floor.
“We’ll talk about them internally with the conference,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “I think cigarette smoking is terrible and I hope people wouldn’t do it. We’ll have to see if the conference is ready to move forward with those.”
Both measures had been initially included in the state budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but dropped by the end of the negotiations.