Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Admin: City Of Albany Will Benefit From Budget Deal

Though the city of Albany’s shortfall is not addressed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendments, the administration moved Friday to allay concerns aired by the capital city’s mayor, Democrat Kathy Sheehan.

“We’ve been in constant contact with Mayor Sheehan’s office, as recently as this morning,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi, “and we anticipate reaching a final budget agreement that will benefit the residents of the city of Albany and New York State as a whole.”

As TWC News’s Geoff Redick reported this morning, the governor’s 30-day budget amendments did not include a $12.5 million in additional aid to help cover a structural gap in the city’s finances.

“We cannot raise this funding on the backs of the taxpayers,” Sheehan said at a news conference. “We have been doing more, with less, than any other large city in the state.”

DiNapoli Adds To Government Affairs Team

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Friday announced his office had hired former Hillary Clinton campaign aides Erin Stevens to become deputy comptroller for intergovernmental and community affairs and Christine Baal-Owens to lead community affairs as director.

Meanwhile, the comptroller’s office also added Tad Mack to become the regional director for the Finger Lakes area.

“Erin, Christina and Tad bring an impressive range of experience to our government relations staff,” DiNapoli said. “The Office of the State Comptroller deals with New Yorkers and community and elected officials from across the state on fiscal, policy and other issues. We need staff that can quickly and effectively help people and organizations navigate government and get them the assistance they need to address the challenges facing their communities and organizations.”

Stevens was most recently the political director for Clinton’s presidential campaign in New York. Previously, she served as DiNapoli’s director for executive operations.

A Brooklyn resident, she will be paid $150,000.

Baal-Owens was the state organizing director for Clinton’s campaign and has worked as the deputy political director for RWDSU and the legislative coordinator for 32BJ SEIU.

Direct Care Campaign Dismayed By 30-Day Amendments

The campaign pushing for funding in the state budget workers who provide direct care services to those with developmental disabilities is upset Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendments do not include the funding they have sought.

The coalition, bFair2DirectCare, has been seeking $45 million over size years to provide living wage benefits for workers.

The effort has garnered bipartisan support among state lawmakers.

“On behalf of the half-million New Yorkers invested in our fight for a living wage for direct care workers, we want to express our gratitude for the tremendous support we’ve received from members of the Senate and Assembly,” the campaign said in a statement. “Democrats and Republicans from every corner of the state see the importance of fair and just pay for the `living angels’ who care for people with developmental disabilities. We appreciate your vigor and your commitment and we need your help now more than ever.”

In the statement, the campaign needled Cuomo, saying his emphasis on other issues is out of step with the needs of the developmentally disabled.

“It’s clear he would rather talk about gondolas than living wages for the mostly minority and female workers who help these incredible New Yorkers live a fuller life as part of the community,” the group said.

De Blasio Gets WFP Nod

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party on Thursday evening voted to endorse the Democratic incumbents running for citywide offices, including Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor, running for a second term, for now faces a relatively easy path to the Democratic nod amid speculation he would be challenged from rival Democrats, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz or Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

The labor-backed WFP also gave its endorsement to Stringer’s re-election as comptroller and Public Advocate Letitia James.

“With Trump and Republicans in full control in Washington, New York City has the opportunity to show the entire world that there is a better way,” said Bill Lipton, New York State Director of the Working Families Party. “Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, and Comptroller Stringer have been leading in the fight to resist Trump and to build a city that works for all of us. We’re excited to continue fighting alongside them.”

For now, those primary challenges to the mayor have been staved off, though some may be waiting to see the outcome of multiple investigations into de Blasio’s political activities and fundraising methods.

Unions Vow To Keep Pressure On Labor Nominee

From the Morning Memo:

Unions on Thursday vowed to keep the pressure on President Donald Trump’s second nominee to fill the top post at the Department of Labor after his first nominee for secretary withdrew from consideration.

Organized labor groups and Democrats had kept up a campaign of sustained pressure against fast food CEO Andrew Puzder’s nomination to lead the department, pointing to his support for automation and opposition to minimum wage laws.

Puzder’s nomination was further put into doubt following allegations of abuse made by his wife, since recanted, as well his employing of an undocumented immigrant.

Trump on Thursday nominated Alexander Acosta, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board in President George W. Bush’s administration.

Acosta’s nomination is generally seen as more placeable to Democrats than Puzder, but unions will continue to scrutinize his record as well.

“We look forward to giving Alexander Acosta the level of scrutiny that any nominee to the DOL deserves,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “As a union that actively opposed the nomination of Andrew Puzder, a candidate clearly unfit to serve as the head of the Department of Labor, we will continue to ask questions about Acosta’s record and his commitment to protecting workers’ rights, and urge the US Senate to do the same.”

After years of setbacks and declining membership nationally, labor groups were seen as being on the offensive in the last year with successful efforts in some states to increase the minimum wage to $15 — a major union-led effort that initially began by focusing on fast food restaurants.

“We look forward to learning more about Mr. Acosta’s record as the confirmation process unfolds. If confirmed, we will hold Mr. Acosta accountable as labor secretary and do whatever it takes to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear in Washington,” said Aiesha Meadows McLaurin, a Burger King worker, in a statement released by the Fight For $15 group. “No matter who becomes labor secretary, we won’t back down for one second in our fight. We’ll keep taking to the streets, standing up and speaking out until we win $15 and a union rights for all.”

Cuomo Defends Thruway Signs As A Money Maker

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Williamsville on Thursday defended the disputed state signs erected along highways and the Thruway system as a way of advertising tourism in New York.

Cuomo insisted the signs, which the federal government contends are illegal because they do not follow required guidelines, are helping boost tourism.

“Obviously we’re meeting the law and we’re talking to the federal government about it,” Cuomo said. “They have technical questions about the signs.”

The signs advertise tourism, destinations and I Love NY-brand apps to motorists.

“It’s called making money for the people of New York and I’m proud of it,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo administration officials on Wednesday told a joint legislative budget panel the signs cost $8.1 million.

Cuomo rolled the cost of the signage into a broader tourism strategy he says is working.

“Revenue has gone up $9 billion this state. Tourism revenue — $9 billion for a $150 million investment. We’re getting tourism in upstate New York at levels we’ve never gotten before,” he said. “You’re darn right I’m going to advertise New York and tourism because we’re making money at it.”

Cuomo Offers Carrot In Property Tax Plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo added a sweetener on Thursday to his property-tax plan proposal: Any savings county and municipal governments approve, the state will offer a match.

Cuomo was in Williamsville to boost the property tax plan with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, a Democrat who endorsed the proposal at the event. Cuomo will travel to a fundraiser in the area later in the day.

Cuomo’s plan for controlling property taxes would require county governments to work with municipalities to develop shared services and consolidation plans, which would then be approved by voters in a referendum this November.

Cuomo maintains the proliferation of local governments in New York is one of the principle drivers of property taxes in the state, an assertion fiscal watchdogs have disputed.

Consolidation and sharing services has been a longtime push for the governor, who as attorney general also pursued similar efforts for local governments.

Poloncarz is the latest county executive to endorse the proposal, with county leaders in Broome, Nassau and Suffolk also backing it.

The proposal is similar to a consolidation plan backed by officials in Onondaga County, which is recommending the folding of city and county government into one entity. The proposal has been criticized by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democratic critic of the governor.

Savino: Not Enough Patients In Med Mar Program

Staten Island Sen. Diane Savino is pushing New York to open more dispensaries for medical marijuana and reach out to doctors to prescribed medically based cannabis in order to boost demand.

“Right now we don’t have enough patients for the existing license holders that we have,” she said in an interview. “We have an excess product. We don’t have excess patients. We still need to build the patient base, we need to engage more doctors.”

Savino raised the issue on Thursday in the joint legislative health budget hearing in Albany, telling Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top health officials she is opposed to granting more licenses to manufacture medical marijuana. Instead, she wants the state to grant licenses for opening dispensaries in different areas.

The current law as written doesn’t allow for that.

New York over the last year has sought to expand its fledgling medical marijuana program by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistance to participate and expanded the number of illnesses to qualify for the drug.

“It’s a very successful program and even across the country people have said it’s a very successful program,” said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker after his testimony. “We are growing it slowly. We are growing it aggressively, but we are growing it slowly.”

Zucker acknowledged, however, there is room to expand access for patients.

“The issue really is here is we have gaps in the state and we need to identify those — where people don’t have as much access and we are working on that,” he said.

Zucker Touts Hoosick Falls Water As Among Cleanest In U.S.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on Thursday touted efforts to filter drinking water in the village of Hoosick Falls, insisting it is “probably the cleanest water in the entire nation.”

“It’s very important to recognize that water in Hoosick Falls is not contaminated,” he said. “It is probably the cleanest water, among the cleanest water, in the entire state. For that matter, it’s probably among the cleanest water in the entire nation.”

His comments come amid renewed concerns in the rural village near the Vermont border after officials at Honeywell while testing for PFOA found levels of volatile organic compounds — an airborne contaminant that has been used in household products.

In comments to reporters after testifying before a joint legislative budget hearing on health care spending, Zucker said the state was practicing “aggressive” oversight at the Honeywell site.

“Honeywell is the corporate polluter there. We are monitoring,” he said. “It’s their responsibility to look at the soil — the soil evaporation process is the concern there. Honeywell is responsible for that and we have aggressive oversight — DEC and DOH — on that issue.”

But at the same time, Zucker sought to assure residents the water filtration system installed by the state have been working well by removing PFOA contaminants from the drinking water.

“It’s provided unbelievable success there,” he said.

Here’s some video of the exchange:

Cuomo Admin: Prescription Drug Plan Will Withstand Legal Challenge

The plan to have New York regulate and control the price of prescription drugs will withstand legal challenges, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top health officials told state lawmakers at a joint budget hearing on Thursday.

“We considered and worked on this project and proposal for a good long time because we are well aware that other states have had proposals challenged in the courts,” said Jason Helgerson, the governor’s top Medicaid adivsor. “We are confident the governor’s proposal will stand up to any legal scrutiny.”

The proposal is aimed at creating a price ceiling for drug costs, cracking down of “abusive business practices” of pharmacy benefit managers and impose a fee on high-cos drugs when sold in the state.

Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald, a pharmacist, is skeptical of the proposal and its $55 million cost.

“I think today’s hearing is giving some insight into their strategy, which is if they put up a very strong policy, the manufacturers will adhere to it,” McDonald said.

But at the same time, he was taken aback by the degree of certainty Helgerson and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had over the plan holding up in court given the struggles other states have had enacting similar policies.

“They were very clearly that it would. I was surprise to hear that,” he said. “Obviously it has not done well in other states, but at the end of the day there’s a $55 million price tag tied to this in the budget.”