Nick Reisman

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Gianaris Wants To Avoid Other Amazon-Sized Deals

Incoming Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris in a statement on Wednesday praised the New York City Council for holding a public hearing on the decision by Amazon to build a campus in Long Island City as the state provides billions of dollars in tax incentives in exchange for jobs.

“That is why I authored legislation to prohibit the use of secrecy agreements like the one imposed on the state and city by Amazon,” Gianaris said in a statement. “That is why I am taking on insider dealing in the real estate industry. The more we learn about this deal, the worse it gets, and I expect to come forward with even more proposals to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

The agreement will provide for $3 billion in tax incentives for Amazon tied to the creation of up to 25,000 jobs at a site in Queens.

“Three billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies for a wealthy corporation like Amazon is offensive,” Gianaris.

“I am working with my colleagues in government and allies in the community to oppose this deal, especially at a time when there are real needs across New York. Affordable housing is sorely lacking, the subway is in crisis, our schools are overcrowded and we haven’t summoned the political will to fund these critical priorities, yet our governments bend over backward to provide billions in benefits for the one corporation that needs it the least. New Yorkers expect more and we demand better.”

A majority of voters in New York City approve of Amazon locating an office in Long Island City in Queens, but are split over the $3 billion in tax incentives, a Quinnipiac poll released last week found.

Assembly Democrats To Meet

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats are set to meet later Wednesday ahead of an especially active legislative session in 2019 that could see legislation the chamber has long approved pass in the state Senate.

The focus has been largely on the other side of the Capitol where the state Senate meets given the narrow divide between Republicans and Democrats, the push by liberals to help the party when majority control and the landslide loss of the GOP on Election Day.

Next year, with Democrats leading both chambers with large majorities, long-stalled legislation touching virtually every facet of life in New York, from health care, to how we vote, to education and campaign finance reform stands a real chance of being made law.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is expected to once again lead a conference of more than 100 members in the 150-seat chamber. The Bronx Democrat who became speaker following the indictment of Sheldon Silver in 2015, Heastie remains popular with individual rank-and-file members given that he’s seen as a listener.

But there are challenges, not the least of which is the pay raise compromise presented to the Legislature, which boosts base salaries over three years to $130,000, but comes with strings attached: A cap on outside income, a virtual end to the stipend system for most leadership posts and the requirement that budgets pass by April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

The conditions give Gov. Andrew Cuomo leverage in the budget talks while also potentially triggering retirements of lawmakers who would not be able to divest from their businesses.

The recommendations of the pay commission have the force of the law unless the Legislature rejects them by the end of the year. That speculation was stoked on Tuesday when soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan blasted the pay raise conditions. Flanagan remains majority leader through the end of the month.

For now, there appears to be little appetite in either chamber to force a return to Albany before the end of the year — a move that would be a logistical challenge given the holiday season and the likelihood of lame duck senators not wishing to return to Albany.

But stranger things in Albany have happened.

Either way, it’s clear Heastie is not pleased with the compensation commission’s recommendations. Heastie’s criticism was from an institutionalist’s perspective: The Legislature, a separate branch, should have some independence.

Kaloyeros Receives 3-1/2 Years In Prison

Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic who made the Capital Region a landmark for high tech job creation and was found guilty of rigging economic development bids, was sentenced on Tuesday to 3-1/2 years in prison.

Kaloyeros is the latest person to be sentenced in a sweeping bribery and fraud case stemming from the Buffalo Billion, an economic development program created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a means of reviving the moribund western New York economy.

His attorneys in a statement released after the sentencing said he plans to appeal.

“While we are entirely respectful of the jury trial system, we firmly believe that Alain Kaloyeros is an innocent man,” said attorneys Reid Weingarten and Mike Miller.

“Alain committed no crimes in connection with his work on the Buffalo Billion program in Buffalo and Syracuse. He attempted at every stage to make sure that the people of the State of New York got the right contractor for the right job at the right price. Alain will be appealing his conviction.”

In addition to Kaloyeros, prominent developers Joseph Gerardi, Steven Aiello and Louis Ciminelli were also found guilty in the bid rigging case and were sentenced earlier this month between 28 months and three years in prison.

In a separate by related case, Joe Percoco, a former close aide to the governor, received six years in prison, while lobbyist John Galbraith Kelly received 14 months in prison.

Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

His sentencing comes after a host of prominent figures in New York state politics, academia and business defended Kaloyeros and urged leniency.

With his vanity license plate “Dr. Nano,” Kaloyeros had always cut an eccentric figure in the Albany area, becoming a one-man focal point for the development of a massive nanotechnology school adjacent to the University at Albany campus. At one point, he was the highest paid state employee, a status state officials argued was worth the money given his ability to attract business to the state.

Kaloyeros would host President Barack Obama there and received bipartisan praise from governors and state lawmakers who wanted to share credit for the success.

The Capital Region became a hub for high-tech jobs due in large part to an infusion of state cash and tax breaks, giving rise to the GlobalFoundries complex in Malta.

When Cuomo took office, he sought Kaloyeros to replicate the success in other upstate cities, including Buffalo.

In a radio interview with WAMC on Tuesday, Cuomo noted Kaloyeros was picked in part because of his long track record in the Albany area.

“Dr. Kaloyeros served five governors here in the Capital District, he must have worked for 20 years,” he said. “I’m a former DA, I’m a former attorney general, ADA and I believe in the justice system, and let the justice system operate. And I believe in the outcome.”

After the arrest of the developers, Percoco and Kaloyeros, lawmakers called for changes to the oversight of economic development contracts and reforms to the procurement process.

The Cuomo administration instituted its own internal oversight controls after the review of an outside consultant.

Flanagan: Pay Commission Has Overstepped

The commission on compensation of state elected officials “significantly overstepped” when it approved pay raises for state lawmakers and a cap on their outside income, Republican Senate leader John Flanagan said in a statement.

“The committee was never tasked with making any determination on that matter, and should not have made one. By doing so, they alone are deciding who is eligible to run for public office in New York and who is not,” Flanagan said in a statement on Tuesday. “Additionally, previous efforts to cap outside income were advanced via a constitutional amendment, and therefore, if challenged, this effort would likely be ruled unconstitutional.”

The commission’s report would raise the pay of state lawmakers to $130,000 in the coming years contingent on the passage of state budgets by April 1, which Flanagan also criticized.

“On top of that, I have concerns over tying future adjustments in pay to passage of on-time budgets,” he said. “Timely and responsive budgets are always the goal, but this so-called “reform” is an inherent conflict of interest that runs contrary to the separation of powers that should exist between the Executive and Legislature.”

The commission also backed an outside pay cap for lawmakers of 15 percent of their legislative salary as well as end to the stipend system.

Flanagan will remain majority leader until the end of the month after which Democrats will hold a majority in the chamber. Lawmakers can let stand the report or convene to overturn in it a special session before Jan. 1.

For now, several legislative sources have said it’s unlikely that lawmakers would overturn the recommendations of the commission, which would scuttle their first pay raise in 20 years.

Cuomo To Congressional Dems: Don’t Fund The Wall

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Tuesday urged Democrats in Congress to not provide funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as President Donald Trump has threatened a federal government shutdown over the issue.

“I have three pieces of advice: don’t give the president the wall, don’t give the president the wall, and don’t give the president the wall. The president wants as a wall as a political symbolic metaphor to vindicate his angry, divisive rhetoric in the campaign,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC. “That’s what he means by the wall. That’s why during the campaign I said he wants to build walls, we want to build bridges. He wants to separate people, he wants to divide people. We want to connect people.”

Trump met in the Oval Office on Tuesday with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become the new speaker of the House of Representatives in January. The meeting devolved into an at-times heated exchange over funding for the wall and border security.

“If the president was being more genuine and less political, he should have asked for border security, which is correct,” Cuomo said in the interview, which was conducted before the Oval Office meeting.

“You can’t have a controlled border entrance if you don’t have controlled points on the border where people are stopped from coming in. So, if he was reasonable and said look I want to make sure we have border security and we bring in a private firm and whatever it is, it’s lasers, it’s light beams, cameras, some places of fences, maybe even some places a wall. But that’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying I want a political monument to division. And their answer must be no.”

Cuomo, Sort Of, Denies He’s Paying Iowa Consultant

Last week, The Times Union reported Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign over three years has paid an Iowa-based consultant $280,000.

On Tuesday in a radio interview, Cuomo denied it. Or at least denied it was tied to any presidential campaign he would be launch.

“The last time you were with us you said you weren’t running for president,” said Alan Chartock of WAMC. “But since then, The Times Union reports your campaign has paid an Iowa political consultant $280,000 from 2014 to 2016. If you aren’t running, how come?”

Cuomo responded, “That assumes I paid an Iowa consultant $280,000 and if I paid an Iowa consultant $280,000 it would be news to me.”

Chartock said, “Interesting. So the report’s wrong?”

“Stranger things have happened,” Cuomo said.

As reported by The Times Union, Cuomo’s campaign paid the Iowa-based Analytics Media Group $278,876 between 2014 and 2016.

Cuomo, known for being something of a micromanager, may very well not know about the disbursements. Or, more likely still, the money may not be for cultivating a presidential campaign.

Cuomo Emphasizes Performance In Pay Hike

As lawmakers are poised to receive their first legislative pay increase since 1999, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is focusing on the stick, not just the carrot.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Cuomo pointed to the provision in the pay commission’s report released Monday that tied future phased-in pay boosts to performance. In this case, performance is considered a state budget that is approved before April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

“The way the world works now is people pay for performance,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC. “The raise is contingent on performance.”

Lawmakers’ base pay will grow from $79,500 to $110,000 next year and eventually reach $130,000. But those increases are tied to the passage of an “on time” budget — an issue that has been a major touchstone for Cuomo when it comes to governing.

There are indeed several sticks tied to the pay raise carrot, including a cap on outside income and an end to legislative stipends. The provisions have the force of law unless the Legislature acts by the end of the year.

Cuomo’s own pay would grow to $250,000, but the phase is tied to the budgets passing by the start of the fiscal year as well as a resolution of the Senate and Assembly. Unlike the Legislature, Cuomo’s pay raise is not being coupled with a ban or limit on the amount of money he can earn outside of his day job.

Senate Freshman Take Committee Chairs

Incoming Democratic freshman in the state Senate will lead key committees next year, according to a list of assignments released Tuesday by Majority Leader-designate Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

New lawmakers like Rachel May will lead the Senate Aging Committee, Ethics will be chaired by Alessandra Biaggi, Cities by Robert Jackson and the Alcoholism Committee chaired by Peter Harckham.

Meanwhile, subcommittees like the Women’s Health panel will be chaired by Julia Salazar and John Liu will chair the New York City Education subcommittee, a post held by Sen. Simcha Felder, providing potentially a tea leaf as to where he will land in the 2019 session.

Other key posts will be filled by Sen. Liz Krueger at Finance, Sen. Gustavo Rivera at the Health Committee, Sen. Brian Kavanagh will chair Housing, Sen. Shelley Mayer will lead Education and Sen. Brad Hoylman, who will chair the Judiciary Committee.

Democrats will have at least 39 seats in the 63-member state Senate when the new session convenes next month.

Pay Report Icily Received

From the Morning Memo:

There was very little enthusiasm in the statement released Monday evening by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie reacting to a 30-page report detailing a special compensation board’s decision to boost the pay of state lawmakers, but also limit their outside income to less than $20,000 and end the stipend system.

“I have not yet read the report in full,” Heastie said.

“As I review it, I will be guided by the principles of the sanctity of independence and respect for the legislative branch which are embedded in the New York State Constitution. Above all else, as a new legislature is about to be seated, these principles must be maintained.”

Lawmakers have maintained the purview of the commission was to determine legislative salaries, a narrowly defined focus as prescribed by the law that created the panel of former and current comptrollers in the first place.

The report released Monday and posted online did answer key questions, though, when it comes to how much wiggle room lawmakers would have with their outside pay. Answer: Not much.

The pay panel’s report in large part embraced legislation that has been proposed limiting legislative pay in the past, based on a model followed by the U.S. Congress. Income will be restricted to public-sector pay, military service, or the practice of medicine, with additional few exception.

The limits could very well lead to a series of retirements for lawmakers given the choice of giving up their business or their public office.

The commission’s recommendations have the force of law unless the Legislature acts by the end of the year, though that is being questioned.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, was pleased with the outcome. His pay will be raised should a joint resolution of the Legislature be adopted to $250,000 in the coming years. And Cuomo, who has received outside income of his own in the form of a book deal for a memoir published by HarperCollins, insisted lawmakers could clear up the legality of the commission’s decision by passing an income cap of their own.

“I do expect a challenge, for political reasons,” Cuomo said in an interview on WNYC radio Monday morning.

“But the Legislature can handle the ban, because if there’s any question of the commission’s authority – the Democrats are all in favor of a ban on outside income, anyway.”

Extras

The MTA is asking Brooklyn commuters to weigh in on its proposed fare and toll hikes Monday night.

Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is joining the crowded field in the race for Public Advocate.

An investigation is underway after a video surfaces of a group of NYPD officers trying to rip a year-old child out of its mother’s arms as they tried to arrest her.

Former FBI Director James Comey is urging Americans to vote President Donald Trump out of office in the 2020 election.

In Troy, the Troy Sanctuary Campaign, local clergy and other community leaders are holding a vigil tonight after the city council decided to table its decision on making Troy a sanctuary city last Thursday.

In a blow to anti-Planned Parenthood groups, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving whether states can disqualify Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.

Western New York labor leaders will set up in front of New Era Cap’s downtown Buffalo headquarters to publically ask the company to reconsider closing its Derby manufacturing plant. That closure is set for March 2019.

Westchester County has approved a 2 percent property tax hike in its new budget.

An audit found the state paid $33 million too much for kids’ vaccines.