Nick Reisman

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GOP-Aligned Advocacy Group Launches TV Campaign For Tax Overhaul

A Republican-allied advocacy organization has launched a $1.5 million TV and digital ad campaign ahead of this week’s vote on the tax overhaul legislation in the House of Representatives.

The ad from the American Action Network is targeting New York House Republicans and their voters as some GOP lawmakers from New York have expressed reservations with the package that would limit deductions for state and local taxes.

A version of tax reform backed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate would end SALT deductions entirely.

“Across America, working families are in desperate need of tax reform that increases take-home pay, creates jobs, and strengthens our economy,” said AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss. “It’s not surprising that Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress are trying to jeopardize reforms that would put an extra $1,200 into the pockets of middle-class families. We’re asking these members to make the choice to help middle-class families over helping Pelosi.”

The group is spending up to $20 million on TV, radio and direct mail as well as other advertising methods aimed at 50 House districts across the country.

Here’s an example of one of the ads, which focuses on Rep. Claudia Tenney.

Albany Assesses A Coming Budget Gap

From the Morning Memo:

New York’s expected budget gap is growing larger — a more than $4 billion deficit heading into the next fiscal year now poses a challenge for Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers as they prepare to run for re-election.

“I can’t say it’s looking terribly positive to be honest with you,” said Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald of the Albany area. “Personal income tax collections are lagging behind. There is a hope that eventually that will pick up once Washington makes a decision what they’re going to do.”

It gets worse in future budget years — deficits growing to $6 billion and then $8 billion. And even if spending is capped at a 2 percent increase, the budget gap shrinks to $1.7 billion next year.

The gap is one of the largest the state has had to face when Cuomo took office dealing with a $10 billion deficit.

“I think we have to be very pragmatic and realistic going into this year’s budget that as much as we’re trying to catch up from what was lost in 2008 and 2009, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to advance as much as we would like to this year,” McDonald said.

The problem stems in part from delayed tax payments, which budget officials say is due to uncertainty over tax reform on the federal level. Cuomo says if Republican tax plans are enacted, ending deductability for state and local taxes, New York’s revenue would eventually be impacted.

“Then you would have to decimate health care, education or you would have to find additional revenue,” Cuomo said last week on a conference call with reporters.

But Republican state lawmakers say more work can be done to control spending.

“It’s always a challenge and we have to take a look at what we are spending and we are spending too much in New York state,” said Assemblyman Ray Walter, a Republican from East Amherst.

Walter pointed to economic development spending and tax incentives he says don’t work.

“These are things that we need to take a hard look at and are we getting the bang for the buck,” Walter said. “If we’re not, let’s work on cutting those expenses and using that money elsewhere it’s needed.”

Citing Unfunded Costs, Cuomo Vetoes Pension Bill

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday evening vetoed legislation that would boost pension benefits for deputy sheriffs and county corrections officers, writing that legislators failed to fund the cost of the measure.

“I support our corrections officers and deputy sheriffs, and I recognize their important public safety responsibilities,” the veto message states. “However, I have repeatedly vetoed similar or identical bills because they offer additional pension benefits without any funding.”

If approved, the fixed costs for counties for retirement would be as much as 7 percent of a county’s ongoing payroll costs and account for $100 million in spending annually, Cuomo’s office said.

Cuomo called the increased costs a “substantial burden” on taxpayers and could risk an increase in property taxes.

Rubin Leaving State Operations Post

Director of State Operations Jamie Rubin will leave his post in December, sources late Monday afternoon told NY1’s Zack Fink.

Rubin was appointed to the job in January after serving in several roles in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, including as commissioner of Homes and Community Renew and as one of the top official in charge of recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

The job, which oversees day-to-day functions of New York, is a key one for any gubernatorial administration.

Rubin’s departure comes as Cuomo’s chief of staff, Maria Comella, is leaving in January. She will be replaced in the post by Linda Lacewell, a longtime advisor to the governor.

Watchdog: Halt Development Spending Until Transparency Achieved

A good-government watchdog on Monday called for a halt to economic development spending until transparency measures and other new controls are put in place as a safeguard against corruption.

“First, does the legislature and public know how economic development funds are being spent? Second, do we know whether they are being awarded fairly and cleanly? Third, is the public getting a good return on their economic development investments?” testified Alex Camarda of Reinvent Albany to an Assembly panel. “Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are unknown today just as they were when we last testified before this committee in February 2017.”

The renewed scrutiny on economic development spending comes as prominent upstate developers and a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo are set to go on trial next year as part of an alleged bribery and bid-rigging scheme for economic development projects.

State lawmakers and reform groups last year called for new transparency measures in the wake of the arrests, which include Joe Percoco and ex-SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros. But those measures did not go far in the Legislature.

“The legislature did not pass a Database of Deals. It did not pass a Clean Contracting procurement reform package,” Camarda said. “It did not pass pay to play controls for state vendors. It did not pass a bill clarifying that state controlled nonprofits are subject to FOIL. In fact, the legislature did nothing despite state economic development programs being engulfed by the biggest bid rigging scandal in state history.”

Tenney Has A Pension Stripping Measure For Congress

Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney is nearly a year out of the state Assembly, but she has a bill that seems inspired at least in part by Albany.

Tenney on Monday announced the introduction of a bill that would block members of Congress convicted of corruption from receiving their pensions.

The measure drew on the case of Democratic former Rep. Chaka Fattah who was found guilty of fraud earlier this year.

But in Albany, pension forfeiture has been a hot topic for years. Voters last Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would allow for public officials to be stripped of their pensions if convicted of a felony related to their office.

“Loopholes like this enable career politician syndrome and the pervasive culture of corruption that have become the status-quo in both Washington and Albany. The job of a public official is to advocate for their communities and constituents, not benefit from the office they hold,” Tenney said.

“Any elected official who betrays the public’s trust and is convicted of corruption should immediately have their pension revoked. The No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act will end a loophole that benefits political elites at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. This bill is the first step of many to reform our government and restore the Jeffersonian ideal of the citizen-legislator.”

The measure also announced just as the jury in the corruption trial of Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey signaled it was deadlocked.

Spano Says He’s Considering Senate Bid

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano in a phone interview Monday said he is considering running for the Senate seat being vacated by Westchester County Executive-elect George Latimer.

“In its early stages, it’s very early, there’s still a lot of conversation that has to happen,” he said. “It’s certainly something that I’m considering.”

Asked if he was the preferred candidate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Spano said, “I haven’t gotten that sense.”

“I’m a big fan of the governor’s and I support his agenda,” he said. “I have not had a conversation with the governor. He is one of the people I would reach out to when I want to make a decision.”

Spano’s brother Nick held a neighboring seat in the chamber until 2006, when he was unseated by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, now the Senate minority leader.

But Spano, a former Republican turned Democrat, said he would support Stewart-Cousns as leader and push for a unified Democratic conference when asked about joining the Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC, a bloc of eight Democratic lawmakers, has come under pressure to form a new alliance with mainline Democrats in the Senate.

“My goal for us would be for us to have a unified Democratic caucus,” Spano said. “We have a lot of challenges presented to us by Washington. If I’m in the Senate, I would be supporting Senator Stewart-Cousins.”

Spano is term limited from seeking another four years as the mayor of Yonkers, a post he’s held since 2013, when he was elected out of the state Assembly.

Spano is not the only Democrat considering a run for the seat. Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, a Yonkers lawmaker, is also weighing a run. Kat Brezler, a White Plains teacher and Bernie Sanders supporter, is fundraising.

The suburban district includes parts of Yonkers and runs to the shore of Long Island Sound in Westchester. Spano said the next lawmaker does not have to come from Yonkers, but shoul be a “global perspective” for the district.

“Obviously I have previous experience at the state Capitol,” he said. “I’m a mayor of a local government and I know now first hand what the effects are both hand that can be felt in a city like Yonkers or one of the towns and villages.”

Zemsky: START-UP NY A Success

A signature economic development program conceived by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a success, the administration’s top economic development czar said Monday after an at-times contentious appearance before state lawmakers at a public hearing in Albany.

“I think we’ve created an environment where a lot of those businesses that have traditionally left upstate aren’t leaving,” said Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky.

“We have a lot of examples. We could go through the START-UP report. I think on a per job basis when you look at we’ve got well over a hundred million dollars of economic impact.”

The program provides 10 years of tax free operation in New York for businesses that set up on or near college campuses. Businesses have pledged to create 4,403 jobs. So far, 1,135 jobs in the first three years of the program have been created, according to a report released in April.

The program has come under scrutiny and criticism for the $53 million ad campaign that was attached to it and lawmakers have continuously questioned START-UP’s effectiveness as a vehicle for creating jobs.

All told, New York has laid out nearly $6 million in tax breaks over the last three years for companies participating in the program.

Zemsky, speaking with reporters after his appearance before an Assembly panel on economic development, once again defended the advertising campaign as a means of turning around the state’s perception.

“START-UP NY is an important piece of the puzzle,” Zemsky said. “It doesn’t transform upstate New York in of itself, but all these things working together I think are having a transformative impact on upstate New York and I think it’s very important.”

Upstate New York this decade has not grown in population and has struggled to retain or increase jobs at the same pace as downstate New York. The New York City metropolitan area has largely recovered in the wake of the economic recession.

Parts of upstate New York, economic experts have said, has failed to see a similar recovery.

During his appearance at the Assembly’s economic development hearing on Monday morning, Zemsky had at an-times pointed exchange with Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter of western New York.

Walter questioned whether the job growth in western New York could be tied to state spending. Zemsky strongly disagreed, insisting the state’s help has aided in ending a downturn that last “forty freaking years.”

At another point during an exchange with Walter, Zemsky responded “Yep, yep, yep, blah, blah, blah.”

While Zemsky was touting the program, it no longer has an executive director since earlier this year. Zemsky on Monday suggested that job would be eliminated.

Wilson Plans Decision On Gov Run Before Christmas

Republican Harry Wilson in a radio interview on Monday said he would make a decision as to whether he will run for governor before Christmas.

“Over the next several weeks I’ll be coming to that final decision,” he told Fred Dicker on his TALK-1300 radio show. “That’s going to be a 24-7 commitment.”

Wilson, a businessman and the 2010 Republican nominee for comptroller, insisted he would not base his decision on the loss of a potential rival for the GOP nomination, Rob Astorino, who failed to win a third term as Westchester County executive.

Astorino subsequently bowed out of the 2018 race for governor.

Rather, Wilson said he is considering the impact the campaign would have on his family. At the same time, he said the losses by Astorino and fellow Republican Jack Martins in Nassau County aren’t impacting his decision, either.

“I think ultimately Rob was running for a third term and that’s challenging in any environment,” he said. “I’m really not basing my decision as to what people may or may not do. I’m really focusing it on how it effects my life.”

Wilson is among a handful of Republicans considering running for governor next year, including Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

Brezler Sends Out Fundraising Email For Senate Bid

Democrat Kat Brezler on Monday released a fundraising email in her bid for the state Senate district being vacated by Westchester County-elect George Latimer.

“I am running because we need universal health care, we need to ensure a quality education for every child, and we need to create real campaign finance reform on the state level,” Brezler wrote in the email. “I am a public school teacher and a lifelong activist. I’m proud of what I have accomplished but I know to affect real and lasting change in our community, I have to demand our message be heard in Albany.”

Brezler is a teacher and a co-founder of People for Bernie, a pro-Bernie Sanders organization.

Her fundraising email comes as Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer has expressed an interest in running for the seat. Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano is also considered a potential candidate for the suburban district.

Should be a special election to replace Latimer, the party nominees would be selected by committee members rather than in an open primary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is yet to schedule one.

Brezler signaled her campaign would have an outsider flavor.

“I’ll be taking on the corrupt political system who funds Democratic campaigns,” she wrote. “I need your help.”