Nick Reisman

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Donovan Opposed To House GOP Health Care Bill

Republican Rep. Dan Donovan House of Representatives announced he would not vote for the GOP-backed health care bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare has burdened New York families with unaffordable premiums, rendered some insurance plans unusable because of high deductibles, and caused people to lose their doctors,” said Donovan, a Staten Island Republican, in a statement. “But recognizing that the status quo is failing isn’t, on its own, a compelling reason to vote ‘yes’ on the current replacement plan.”

And Donovan was critical of the proposal to shift the county share of Medicaid in New York onto the state government, saying it would unduly harm New York City. The measure is backed by two Republicans from upstate New York, Reps. Chris Collins and John Faso, as a way of getting more New York members on board.

“The provision excludes New York City, putting an unfair and disproportionate burden on City residents to cover the state’s exorbitant Medicaid expenses,” Donovan said. “We need healthcare reform – including promised Medicaid reform in New York where we spend more than Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined – but it shouldn’t be done on the backs of already overburdened City residents who will undoubtedly have a tax increase forced on them to pay for this eminently unfair policy.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has railed against the Medicaid amendment, saying on Wednesday it would result in a tax hike for New Yorkers.

Rep. John Katko, a central New York lawmaker, previously announced he is opposed to the bill.

Senate GOP Turns Their Focus To Workers Comp

Last year, Senate Republicans grudgingly accepted an increase in the state’s minimum wage and 12 weeks of paid family leave. This year, the Senate GOP signals they aren’t willing to make the same deal.

“Last year we gave away stuff,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco, the deputy majority leader. “We increased the minimum wage. Whether that’s good or not, somebody has to pay for that stuff and whether it was good or not there was no corresponding relief to businesses.”

Senate Republicans on Wendesday called for long-sought reforms to the workers compensation system in New York, including efforts to create a more efficient hearing process.

“If we don’t do something fast, make sure the system is changed for workers comp, which is a big component for the cost of doing business, then we’re making a big mistake,” DeFrancisco said.

Opponents worry this would create a less generous safety net. But Republicans say it’s about making the state more business friendly, and are pushing to include the measure in a final budget agreement that is expected next week.

“This is part of the discussion and we had this in our one-house budget resolution, language in there to bring reform,” said Sen. George Amedore.

And the push stood in contrast to a press conference that occurred at the same time at the Capitol Wednesday in which Democratic lawmakers and New Yor City Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed to increase taxes on the rich.

“It’s not government’s responsibility to create jobs,” said Sen. Fred Akshar. “It’s government’s responsibility to get out of the way so businesses can thrive and prosper and I think by reforming the workers’ compensation system we are providing that opportunity.”

Workers compensation reform last was approved in 2007 in New York and lawmakers say the changes were positive, but some, including the requirment for an annual report, were never followed through on.

Cuomo: Medicaid Move Could Hike Income Taxes

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in yet another statement issued Wednesday on the House Republican proposal to have New York assume county Medicaid costs warned an income tax increase would be likely if the plan was put in place.

In the statement, Cuomo warned the provision, backed by New York Republican Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins, would result in a 26 percent tax increase on “middle income” New Yorkers.

“If this bill is passed as is, our federal representatives will be responsible for massive income or sales tax increases or devastating cuts to New York’s healthcare system,” Cuomo said. “That is the plain reality. No political rhetoric can change it. New Yorkers will hold them accountable for their vote. This is radical conservative ideology at work rather than real public policy to help the very people of this state who elected them.”

This statement in some respects is also aimed at Republican lawmakers in the Senate, whose majority leader, John Flanagan, on Tuesday said he was skeptical of the Medicaid takeover plan and its impact on the state’s finances.

In a separate statement, Cuomo released figures that tallied how much hospitals in Faso’s 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley would lose if the American Health Care Act is approved, finding $13.6 million in cuts for the more than dozen facilities.

The House bill is facing a backlash, however, from conservatives in Congress who believe it does not go far enough in scrapping the Affordable Care Act. A vote is scheduled for Thursday and, if it passes, would most likely be changed in the Senate.

NYSAC: Don’t Forget Indigent Relief

The state Association of Counties is urging state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to agree to a budget that includes the state assuming partial cost of indigent legal defense services.

The measure has long-stalled in Albany following multiple gubernatorial vetoes: Cuomo has cited the cost as well as the need to include the funding in the “context” of the budget.

NYSAC believes $370 million in relief is needed for the legal services for the poor, which would satisfy a 1963 Supreme Court ruling.

“The real cost shift took place 50 years ago, and property taxpayers have been paying for this state program ever since,” said NYSAC President William Cherry. “Our county leaders and State Lawmakers have been working for years on a sensible legislation that would relieve property taxpayers from this state burden. Now is the time to enact that language in the State’s spending plan.”

Cuomo’s $152 billion budget proposal does include a plan that would expand a recent state settlement that includes public defender case cap loads. But NYSAC finds fault with this, since it would require the counties to put up the expnaded indigent defense services cost.

“I believe we have made the case. That our public system of defense in New York can be vastly improved,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. “We have bi-partisan and strong support within the Legislature to implement the necessary reform, and I encourage our Senators and Assembly Members to support these reforms. These costs have always been the state’s responsibility, but they shifted those to property taxpayers. Now we have an opportunity to both strengthen public defense and lower the property taxes allocated to these services.”

Destito Calls On ‘Every Woman’ In Assembly To Pass Child Marriage Bill

RoAnn Destito, the commissioner of the Office of General Services and a former state lawmaker, directly called on women in the state Assembly to pass legislation that would outlaw child marriages in New York.

“The Senate has passed this bill and now the Assembly needs to act,” Destito said at a news conference in the Capitol called by Cuomo’s office on Tuesday morning.

“Every woman in the Assembly needs to vote yes on this legislation and ensure that it gets done. It is our duty to stand up and fight for these young women and girls and we must pass this bill to ensure they can lead long, healthy and happy lives.”

State law currently allows children as young as 14 to marry in New York. Those 14 and 15 can marry with judicial and parent approval. Those age 16 and 17 may do so with the consent of their parents.

The legislation stalled last year in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, though was introduced two days before the session adjourned.

Legislation, backed by Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, would raise the minimum wage to 18 for marriage in New York. However, 17 year olds could marry with the consent of a judge and their parents.

DeFran Lashes Out At Cuomo

Syracuse Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco in a radio interview on Wednesday morning lashed out Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he hopes a strong candidate runs against him next year, even raising the possibility of his running himself next year.

“I certainly hope we field a good candidate and give it the best shot for the taxpayer who is bearing the burden of these policies,” DeFrancisco told Fred Dicker on Talk-1300.

He added: “We need someone with a much more conservative philosophy. I’m going to support whoever gets the nomination as long as they have the right philosophy.”

And he didn’t shut the door to running himself next year as Cuomo seeks a third term. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, the Suffolk County lawmaker who edged out Flanagan in a 2015 leadership vote to replace Dean Skelos, has also said he’s interested in running.

“I never say never, but I don’t see it happening,” DeFrancisco said. “I get frustrated on so many occasions that I would love to run. But realistically that is something that has to be looked at carefully.”

The threat may be an empty one for the deputy majority leader who has been at odds with the governor on a variety of issues over the years and hasn’t been afraid to make them known.

But the comments are unusual ones to make amid the height of the budget talks and with a spending plan due to pass next week. Still, DeFrancisco even raised the possibility of the talks on key issues such as raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18 and a plan to provide free tuition to public colleges and universities as going beyond April 1, the start of the fiscal year.

DeFrancisco was critical of the plan to provide free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools, saying taxpayers will still ultimately foot the bill for the plan that would benefit families who make less than $125,000. He indicated there was opposition, too, within the GOP conference to a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility, a key issue for the Independent Democratic Conference, which has pledged to vote as a bloc against a budget that does not include the policy.

“This year I think the disagreement is just as strong in conference on raise the age and free tuition as it was on the minimum wage,” he said.

Ultimately, Senate Republicans voted to back a minimum wage hike that phases in to $15. DeFrancisco, however, says this year may be different.

“People succumbed to the pressure of an on-time budget which has to happen or the world is going to end,” he said.

The interview came with Dicker, who has been critical of Flanagan’s leadership in the Republican conference. Flanagan on Tuesday signaled he was concerned with the proposal on the federal level to have the state assume county Medicaid costs. DeFrancisco, however, embraced the proposal.

Cuomo Turns To Policy Wonk 1

As he continues his fight against a federally imposed state takeover of county Medicaid costs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is turning to his longtime Medicaid czar Jason Helgerson.

The Wisconsin import, an instrumental figure in the state’s redesign of its costly Medicaid system, appeared in a video blasted out by Cuomo’s Twitter account on Tuesday evening calling the plan backed a Reps. Chris Collins and John Faso as a “war on New York” and a “budget buster for the state.”

“The best thing to do is call your member of Congress,” he says in the video. “You need to make your voice heard.”

The amendment, now part of the House Republican-backed health care bill being voted on Thursday, is a “horrific piece of legislation.”

On Wednesday morning, Helgerson’s name was attached to an email urging New Yorkers to call their member of Congress to oppose the bill.

“With this attack on our health care, they’ve declared war on New York, and we need to stand up and show them New Yorkers won’t be pushed around,” he says in the video.

It is an unusual role for Helgerson who goes by the handle @policywonk1 on Twitter and has largely stayed above the fray when it comes to politics, even as he navigates the thicket that is Medicaid spending in New York.

The War Over Medicaid

From the Morning Memo:

In many respects, it’s the mother of all mandate relief.

And it’s something Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes would be a disaster for the state, assuming billions of dollars in county Medicaid costs just as the state has pulled out of the recession and is trying to spend money on more education aid, free tuition at public colleges and upgrade aging water systems.

For Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins, their amendment isn’t just helping deliver the votes for the House GOP’s health care bill. It’s the fulfillment of a campaign process for Faso, who had pledged to find ways to reduce property taxes if elected, using the issue as a cudgel over his opponent, Democrat Zephyr Teachout.

Cuomo, who had faced Teachout in a gubernatorial primary in 2014, did not endorse in the 19th congressional district race last year, a swing district race that sent Faso to Congress.

The battle comes after the Cuomo administration has been pressured to help counties more on costs mandated by Albany, an area where the governor’s office insists it’s already done the hard work, taking on the costs for the growth in the program while also pushing through a new, less generous pension tier five years ago.

But while annual cry for mandate relief may elicit perennial eye rolls at the Capitol, it’s a serious issue for county government leaders, already under pressure from a tax cap put in place in 2011 through Cuomo’s legislative maneuvering.

Counties are once again in the crosshairs by the governor, who wants them to find ways of consolidating and sharing services in the name of reducing property taxes, a component of his budget proposal.

Faso-Collins would represent a sea change for county governments and their relationship with Albany.

Cuomo on Tuesday railed against the plan, saying New York was being unfairly singled out. House Republicans and Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference were lambasted. President Donald Trump’s name was barely mentioned.

“My greatest fear from last year’s election has actually come true,” Cuomo said. “You would have a rabid, conservative ideology in Washington that would tell New York to drop dead.”

The governor, urging opposition to the amendment, seemingly suggested the Faso-Collins amendment was the product of a GOP death cult bent on harming New York.

“They have sworn allegiance to Ryan and the radical right,” he said. “And they are going adhere to that allegiance despite the cost to the people in their district.”

His office didn’t stop there.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was enlisted to release her second statement on the issue, blasting Collins, the man who unseated her in 2012.

“Mr. Collins has perpetuated a political scam on New York,” she said. “As Mr. Trump’s bag man he has had to buy votes to pass the Affordable Care Act and did it by promising counties relief from their share of Medicaid. He now wants New York State to pay his $2.3 billion political IOU.”

Soon after, Cuomo’s office distributed to reporters in the Legislative Correspondents Association a Buffalo News editorial critical of Collins’s proposal.

State legislators from both parties were alarmed the greatest change in decades to New York’s Medicaid program was being proposed and stood a chance of passage.

But they were more measured in their rhetoric, though worried about the long-term impact of essentially demolishing a system devised in the free-spending days of Nelson Rockefeller.

However, key to the budget talks, both Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie acted like Cuomo’s proposal to expand his executive branch power to make post-budget changes to how money is spent was already off the table by suggesting the Legislature will return later in the year to respond to any federal-level health policy changes.

Faso and Collins are temperamentally different people, running cold and hot respectively, even as both men have harbored gubernatorial ambitions. Faso was defeated in landslide in 2006 against Democrat Eliot Sptizer; Collins bowed out of running in 2010 after he compared then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Adolf Hitler and apologized.

Collins bought Trump 2016 stock relatively early, pressured in part by the conservative base of support for the New York businessman’s nascent and populist campaign. He can have sharp elbows at times, especially with the press, but has emerged as a frequent Trump surrogate on cable news.

Faso is a wonkish numbers guy, a former candidate for state comptroller and, as a lawmaker, a key figure for Republican George Pataki’s early state budgets that took a knife to state spending. He’s as low key and policy driven as much as Collins is TV ready.

Nevertheless, the fight between the two relatively new members of Congress and a governor with national ambitions is an increasingly personal one.

On Tuesday evening, the Collins team released this statement, knocking both Cuomo and Hochul, befittingly referring to his former opponent as the governor’s “sidekick.”

“Does Kathy Hochul’s willingness to defend Albany’s special interests know no bounds? Instead of protecting the hardworking taxpayers of New York, Kathy Hochul has left them holding the bag and footing the bill for Albany’s wasteful spending,” said Collins spokesman Michael McAdams.

“Governor Cuomo and his sidekick continue to run around with a $14 billion slush fund handing out pet projects like Santa Claus on the taxpayers’ dime. Enough is enough. It’s time they are held accountable for their egregious spending, and Congressman Collins is happy to do so.”

The eyes aren’t rolling so much over mandate relief now. But heads might.

Heastie: Members ‘Concerned’ Over Nuke Subsidy

A subsidy that would keep upstate nuclear plants from closing remains a source of concern for Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday said.

Opposition over the last several weeks to the subsidy, contained a broader plan meant to transition the state from fossil fuels, has grown over the last several weeks through a coalition of organizations that have highlighted the impact on utility ratepayers.

“I’d say the members are concerned,” Heastie said. “We want to make sure the state has enough power, but we also have a lot of unanswered questions about how the fee is derived, is the fee collected in a progressive way so there’s fairness to taxpayers. There’s just a lot of questions that haven’t been answered and we’d like to have those questions answered.”

The Assembly’s one-house budget resolution includes a proposal that would delay the implementation of the subsidy until a joint legislative hearing is held on the issue.

Wealthy New Yorkers Urge Millionaires Tax Expansion

Wealthy New Yorkers, including George Soros, Steven Rockefeller and the Responsible Wealth organization on Tuesday in a letter to state leaders urged for increasing taxes on the rich in the budget.

The proposal comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging lawmakers — mainly the Republican-led Senate — back an extension of expiring tax rates on those who earn more than $1 million.

Assembly Democrats want to have taxes increase on people who make more than $5 million in addition to re-authorizing the extesnion.

“As New Yorkers who have contributed to and benefited from the economic vibrancy of our state, we have both the ability and the responsibility to pay our fair share. We can well afford to pay our current taxes, and we can afford to pay even more,” the letter states. “Our state’s long‐term economic prosperity depends on strong investments in our people and our communities.”

Supporters of the tax hike say it would generate $6 billion in additional revenue if approved.