Archive for March, 2014

Lawmakers Approve $138B Budget

The state Legislature approved the 2014-15 state budget on Monday evening, about 45 minutes before the midnight deadline for the start of the new fiscal year.

The $138 billion budget is the fourth on-time budget in a row, the first time that has happened since Nelson Rockefeller was governor.

The Senate and Assembly completed work on debating and voting for within roughly 60 minutes of each other respectively.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had issued messages of necessity in order to hasten the aging process for two budget bills: Health and Education, Labor and Family Assistance.

The Assembly will return to work on Tuesday for a regular session day.

The Senate is not due to return to Albany until April 23.

Senate Democrats Push Hostile Amendments

Senate Democrats on Monday pushed a variety of so-called hostile amendments — additions to budget bills that are used more to prove and raise a political point of what is not in the 2014-15 budget.

All the amendments were ruled “not germane” to the budget bills.

The amendments included a measure aimed at stripping pensions from those convicted of public corruption, increase aid to municipalities by $340 million, a delay in assessing teacher evaluations when it comes to the Common Core standards and a moratorium on allowing high-volume hydrofracking.

At the same time, the mainline conference pushed increased small business aid as well as increased public school funding.

The votes on the measures aren’t on the amendments themselves, but whether they actually relate to the subject at hand.

“As state leaders, we have a responsibility to use tax dollars wisely to grow New York’s economy and assist struggling middle class families, public schools and small businesses,” Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The 2014-2015 State Budget could have, and should have, done more to help middle and working class New Yorkers and I am disappointed that the Senate Majority Coalition voted against our amendments. The Democratic Conference will continue to fight for common sense solutions to the issues facing our state.”

Assembly Majority Leader Morelle With An Update On Budget Votes

As of 9 pm Monday night, the Assembly had been in session since the morning. And members will stay there until every budget bill has been voted on. Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle joined us with an update on where things stand.

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Citizen Action’s Karen Scharff Says Push For Public Campaign Financing Continues

Good government groups are unhappy with the final state budget. They say Governor Cuomo failed to deliver on the public campaign finance package he has been promising for four years. Also, they are not happy to see the end of the Moreland Commission. Karen Scharff, the Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York, joined us to discuss.

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Onondaga County Executive Mahoney On Moreland Commission, Other Budget Issues

The state budget includes measures aimed at fighting corruption, including tougher penalties for bribery and changes at the state Board of Elections. But it does not include funding for Cuomo’s anti-corruption Moreland Commission, which means the panel will be dissolved. But the commissioners are still declaring victory. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney joined us to talk about that and some other budget matters.

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Skelos: Property Tax Package ‘A Critical Component’

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos called the property-tax rebate program designed to nudge local governments on cutting costs a “critical component” of the agreed-to spending plan.

In an interview, Skelos said the multi-year rebate program was designed to shore up relief programs like STAR that were taken away.

“This is slowly trying to get back that type of property tax relief for those paying property taxes outside of the city of New York,” he said.

The tax plan would require local governments to budget within the state’s cap on local property tax levy increases and then in a second year find ways to share services. Property taxpayers would then receive the difference in the tax increase in the first year.

The property tax “freeze” was proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his January budget proposal.

The measure was altered to allow for shared service programs currently in place to be considered.

“It is tough for the local districts, but many of them already are looking at efficiencies, shared services, some areas are sharing superintendents,” Skelos said.

“So I think there are some positive steps going, but we want to look for them to continue to look for efficencies in their school district, their municipality.”

Skelos even adopted some language that Cuomo has used to spur local governments on cutting costs, noting the state has budgeted within a self-imposed 2 percent limit on spending increases.

“If we can do it, certainly our local government can do it,” he said.

Pushing Four On-Time Budgets In A Row, Cuomo Issues Message Of Necessity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is issuing messages of necessity to waive the constitutional three-day aging period for two budget bills, a senior administration source told NY1’s Zack Fink.

The messages will allow state lawmakers to approve both the education bill, as well as the health budget bill, before the midnight deadline for the new fiscal year.

Cuomo has touted three on-time budgets in a row and had been pushing for a fourth on-time spending plan — the longest streak since Nelson Rockefeller was the governor.

The governor has limited his use of messages of necessity compared to his predecessors, but has used the mechanism on major items such as his gun control law and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The full $138 billion budget is due by Tuesday, the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year, though state officials point out the revenue bills have already been approved in advance of the deadline.

Meanwhile, the senior official said Cuomo’s proposal to allow prison inmates access to higher education courses won’t be considered by the Legislature. Instead, the proposal will shift toward soliciting private funds for the program.

Extras

Tenants PAC is prepared to back Oliver Koppell against IDC Leader Jeff Klein in a primary if the former councilman opts to run.

Moreland Commission co-chair/Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick says people “erroneously thought we were super cops,” urges anyone with tips to contact local prosecutors.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is a self-professed Red Sox Fan, was loudly booed before he threw out the first pitch at Citi Field’s Opening Day.

De Blasio appered unperturbed by the boos, saying: “I’m a sports fan and I think sports fans have a right to express themselves any way they want.”

On the eve of another anti-SAFE Act rally, the gun rights advocates are sniping at one another.

CNN has tapped POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman to serve as a political analyst, bolstering its political coverage ahead of the 2014 elections.

MetLife was hit with the largest New York fine against an insurer – $50 million – to settle allegations that its international operations sold insurance in the state to multinational companies without proper licensing.

Click here to see the RFAs approved by the Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board that will be required of casino operators and developers seeking a license.

New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness puts a new twist on Cuomo’s property tax “freeze.”

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams quietly introduced a bill requiring businesses with 10 or more employees working at least six months each to provide paid vacation days.

Coming off the heels of a colder-than-normal March, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center is poised to stay open deep into April and perhaps even May.

OGS RoAnn Destito confirmed she gave Homeland Security Commissioner Jerry Hauer a special “verbal” waiver to carry a handgun in state offices only as recently as January.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City has raised $333,243 for victims of the East Harlem gas explosion.

The state budget deal includes a tax credit for touring stage productions that hold their technical rehearsals in New York.

The state last year allocated $27.7 million for the implementation of a database and technology to support the SAFE Act, and $7 million has already been spent.

Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six.

The influential healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU has endorsed Lori Boozer in  the race to replace disgraced former Assemblyman William Boyland.

After blowing up last week at the DN’s Ken Lovett, Assembly Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper said she wants reporters confined to chairs at the front of the chamber.

Soros-Backed Group Bemoans Public Financing Compromise

The group supported by Jonathan Soros, Friends of Democracy, blamed both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders for compromising on a public financing system that limits the donor-matching program to the state comptroller’s race.

In a statement from Friends of Democracy’s David Donnelly, the group accuses Cuomo of an “abdication of leadership” in the final push to include a statewide public financing system.

“Friends of Democracy is deeply disappointed with the failure of Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to address the systemic corruption in Albany through a comprehensive publicly funded Fair Elections program. Governor Cuomo’s abdication of leadership during the budget process resulted in little or no reform when an historic opportunity was at hand. One silver lining is the Senate Republicans’ willingness to vote for public funding for one state office as a pilot program. While we vigorously disagree with the scope and the content of this pilot program, we are encouraged that the vote may be a sign of openness for further negotiations.”

Cuomo had included a statewide campaign financing system in his January budget proposal that was based on the New York City model.

However, the final agreement limits the system to the comptroller’s race and is considered a “pilot” program.

Senate Republicans have been staunchly opposed to the use of taxpayer funds for elections, but did agree to a host of ethics reform legislation under the umbrella bill known as the Public Trust Act that tightens anti-corruption and bribery penalties.

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is now attempting to negotiate a new, phased-in public financing proposal to be considered in the coming weeks.

What happens with public financing by the end of the June legislative session could have deep political ramifications down the road.

Advocates had hoped for some action in the budget process, considering that the governor tends to hold maximum leverage in the negotiations. A broader program could shore up his left flank as well as he heads into re-election.

Friends of Democracy is a deep-pocketed organization that has vowed to get involved in state legislative races heading into the election season.

Cuomo To Skip Nassau Dems’ Dinner Tonight

The legislative budget debate, which is expected to drag on into the night, is preventing Gov. Andrew Cuomo from attending a Democratic dinner in Nassau County where he was scheuled to co-headline a tribute to retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said he received a call from Cuomo aide Joe Percoco a little over an hour ago with the bad news. But Jacobs also received a heads up last night that the way things were shaping up at the Capitol, it was possible Cuomo would need to stay in Albany to make sure the budget vote went smoothly.

Jacobs and Cuomo have been at odds lately, thanks to the chairman’s call for the governor and his GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, to reject the Independence Party’s endorsement in hopes of starving it out of existence.

Astorino, who was unlikely to receive the party’s nod anyway, quickly heeded Jacobs’ call. But Cuomo has hedged, preferring instead to let Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano blast Jacobs at an unrelated Red Room press conference.

During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Jacobs, a former state Democratic Party chairman, insisted his difference of opinion with Cuomo on the Independence Party has nothing to do with the governor’s decision to skip tonight’s dinner.

“We knew going in when we picked this date that there was a distinct possibility that the governor would not be able to attend because budget wrangling would be going on in Albany,” Jacobs said. “And as I understand it, there is a lot of budget wrangling going on in Albany.”

Jacobs said Pelosi is still scheduled to attend the event, as are a number of McCarthy’s congressional colleagues, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.