Nick Reisman

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Commission Approves Pay Raises For NY Pols

Elected officials in New York are in line to receive salary increases for the first time in decades based on the recommendations approved Thursday by a compensation commission composed of current and former comptrollers.

The pay commission backed pay raises for the governor, the lieutenant governor, attorney general and state comptroller as well as the 213 members of the state Assembly and Senate as well as cabinet officials in the governor’s administration.

At the same time, the compensation commission backed limits to how much lawmakers can earn in the private sector, placing a cap of 15 percent of their public salary. The commission also backed ending stipends or “lulus” for most leadership positions in the state Assembly and Senate.

The outside income limit would take effect at the start of 2020.

It’s not clear if the commission itself, approved by the Legislature and governor earlier this year to review the salaries of elected officials, can institute such change without another vote of the Legislature. The law creating the commission did link legislative pay to unspecified “performance” of the Legislature.

Under the recommendations outlined on Thursday, the governor would be paid $250,000 by 2022, up from the current $178,000. The salary would be phased in to $225,000 in 2020 and $250,000 in 2021. Lawmakers would also receive a phased-in hike from $79,500 to $130,000 by 2021.

The lieutenant governor’s salary would reach $220,000 in 2021, growing from $151,500 to $190,000 in 2019, $210,000 in 2020.

The legislative pay raise will begin to take effect in January, reaching $110,000. Their base pay would then go to $120,000 in 2020.

Once fully phased in at $130,000, the Legislature and governor would be the highest paid in any state in the country.

The commission also backed increases for the state comptroller and attorney general, increasing gradually from $151,500 to $220,000 by 2021. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli abstained from voting on the pay raise for his office.

The median household income in New York is $62,909.

For lawmakers, the pay raise would be the first pay raise in 20 years. Pay hikes for lawmakers have long been tied up in politics, with the last salary increase linked to an expansion of charter schools and a reform that stipulated lawmakers would not be paid while the budget was left unapproved after the start of the new fiscal year.

In subsequent years, pay raise pushes have fallen flat. Judicial pay, which had been increased in tandem with legislative salaries, was decoupled from this process and subjected to a pay commission.

The legislative pay commission was formed as a means of removing politics from the matter, but also insulating lawmakers from taking a vote for an issue that is likely anathema to voters for a Legislature known for its parade of corruption arrests in recent years.

Still, lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about the need for a pay raise. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told the pay commission last week that many of his members face middle class financial concerns, such as student debt, caring for children and aging family members.

Faso: No Plans For Post-Office Life Yet

Rep. John Faso in a phone conference call with reporters on Thursday morning said he has no plans for life after he leaves elected office next month.

“I literally have no idea what I’ll be doing in January, so I certainly can’t tell you what I’ll be doing two years from now,” he said.

He also batted down a report this week that he is being considered for the chairmanship of the state Republican Committee.

“I have not expressed any interest in it and no one has expressed any interest to me,” said Faso, who was defeated for a second term last month by Democrat Antonio Delgado.

But Faso acknowledged there are problems Republicans in New York they should be addressed, pointing to the growing enrollment advantage Democrats hold in the state.

“It’s a significant deficit the Republicans have,” he said. “I think we need to do some self-analysis on this question.”

Faso’s race in the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley was one of the more closely watched campaigns around the country. He said in the call this morning he was surprised by the result.

“I felt I was going to win right up until about 10 on election night,” Faso said.

He added that if Republicans lost up to 40 seats in the House of Representatives, he would be among the incumbents to be defeated.

“I think that these are factors largely beyond your control,” Faso said. “In that context, I guess I wasn’t surprised, because we wound up losing 40 seats.”

Faso was critical of President Donald Trump’s trade policies, calling the president’s tweet that expressing confidence a trade is easy to win as “patently absurd.”

“Trade wars are not easy to win,” he said. “They’re not easy to win and the have unforeseen consequences that are negative for businesses in our district.”

Stewart-Cousins Says Senate Dems Will Back Outside Income Limits

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement on Thursday said her conference next year will advance legislation aimed at limiting outside income for state lawmakers.

Her statement comes as a commission examining compensation for statewide officials and members of the Legislature will meet for the final time later today and issue a report next week on whether to grant lawmakers their first pay raise in 20 years.

“I recently discussed my views on salary increases with each of the legislative pay commission members, and I was clear that a raise for New York State legislators is appropriate following twenty years of no increases,” Stewart-Cousins said in the statement.

“For many years, the Senate Democratic Conference led the fight on ethics reforms against staunch Republican opposition, and forced a vote on our gold standard outside income bill modeled after Congress. That vote was unanimously supported by our conference members at the time. Now that we will be in the Majority, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I continue to support that legislation and expect to secure its passage in the upcoming Legislative Session. We will also continue to advance other crucial reforms.”

Lawmakers earn a base pay of $79,500 and many earn more with legislative stipends for leadership posts and committee chairmanships.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said any pay hike for the Legislature should be paired with a limit or ban on private-sector income for the Legislature.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he is open to limiting outside pay, but does not want to link it to any pay raise for lawmakers.

Both Sides Of Amazon Debate See Vindication In Q-Poll

From the Morning Memo:

New York City voters like having Amazon building an office complex in Queens, but are weary of $3 billion in tax breaks being given to the company in exchange for up to 25,000 jobs.

That was according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday — giving ammunition to both sides in the debate over the company’s plans for New York City.

For supporters of the plan, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, it was a vindication that social media isn’t reflective of the public sentiment at large. A majority of voters, 57 percent in New York City, like the idea of Amazon coming to Long Island City in Queens.

But opponents of the plan pointed to the skepticism the tax incentives, an issue that split voters. The incentives only kick if the company can prove the jobs were created.

“New Yorkers are making clear they agree that too much inequality exists in our communities and giving billions of taxpayer dollars to trillion dollar corporations makes things worse, not better,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, two prominent opponents of the deal. “It is also clear that the more people learn about the deal, the less they like it.”

The lawmakers have also not signaled they’ll back off from plans to pursue oversight of the deal or file a legal challenge against it.

Q-Poll: Tax Breaks For Amazon Jobs Splits Voters

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 in exchange for 25,000 jobs, a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday found.

The poll found voters approved of the Amazon move 57 percent to 26 percent, with a similar margin of Queens voters, 60 percent to 26 percent, supporting the decision.

But the $3 billion in tax breaks linked to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs over a 15-year period is being received with less enthusiasm: 46 percent approve of the incentives, 44 percent do not. But Queens voters, 55 percent to 39 percent, approve of the incentive package.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed back against the criticism of the tax incentive package, saying Amazon would have taken its headquarters elsewhere and to other states that had offered similar, if not larger, proposals.

Cuomo has received mixed support for his handling of the Amazon deal, with 34 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving.

Most voters, 31 percent, say the biggest issue for Amazon in Queens is housing, with 25 percent concerned about transit and 20 percent worried about the quality of life.

The poll of 1,075 New York City voters was conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4 and has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

Reinvent Albany’s Pay Raise Compromise

The good-government Reinvent Albany’s road map for the first legislative pay raise in 20 years would reshape how state lawmakers in New York are paid.

Currently, members of the Legislature earn a base salary of $79,500 while also earning per diems for official legislative business as well as stipends for leadership posts and committee chairmanships.

The Reinvent Albany proposal would end this system:

-Increase the Legislature’s take-home pay by 50 percent, bringing the current pay to $120,000.
-Restrict outside income to 15 percent of what lawmakers would earn, coming out to $21,750.
-Overhaul per diems by capping them aggregate at $175 per day multiplied by the number of session days, plus one extra day for each week of the session.
-Increase the pay of agency and department heads by 50 percent, or create more flexible salary bands.
-End stipends for all lawmakers accept for the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker.

Under this proposal, top lawmakers would earn $145,000.

“Statewide electeds, lawmakers, and agency commissioners deserve a significant raise,” said Alex Camarda, the senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany. “But compensation changes should also include major restrictions on outside income, virtual elimination of lulus, and caps on per diems.”

A commission led by former and current comptrollers will determine this month whether lawmakers will receive their first legislative pay hike since 1999.

Lawmakers are facing calls to ban or limit private-sector pay. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he’s open to the idea, but said it would not be appropriate to link it to a pay raise.

Healthcare Association Of NY Lays Out Single Payer Complications

There are broad-based policy and political complications with single-payer health care, Healthcare Association of New York President Bea Grause told the Rockefeller Institute last week.

Grause in a talk at the think tank pointed to the failure of similar legislation in Vermont, a bill that ultimately failed to pass. She pointed to the need to recruit primary care doctors as well as the math surrounding potential savings for single payer.

The single payer bill in New York is facing renewed discussion as Democrats next month will assume majority control of the state Senate. The measure has been approved multiple times in the state Assembly.

“We have a lot to talk about in 2019 — certainly single-payer will be part of that,” Grause said. “I hope as part of that conversation we talk not just about whether or not to publicly finance healthcare, but to have a deeper and a richer conversation around, ‘What are we actually financing and is it meeting the needs of 19 million New Yorkers?’”

The full talk can be found here.

Gianaris Bill Would Curb Appeal Of Insider Real Estate Deals

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris this week is backing legislation meant to prohibit benefitting from insider government information that could lead to a lucrative real estate deal.

The legislation comes after reports of Amazon employees purchasing properties in Long Island City prior to the company’s announcement it would build its second headquarters there, along with a location in north Virginia.

The bill being introduced by Gianaris would make it a felony for insider dealing when it comes to using non-public government information to buy or sell real estate.

The measure is the latest provision to be called for following the announcement last month Amazon’s headquarters would be built in Queens as part of a landmark economic development agreement with the state.

Gianaris, a Queens Democrat and the incoming deputy majority leader, is a prominent critic of Amazon receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks in exchange for bringing up to 25,000 jobs in the next several decades.

The jobs are expected to pay on average $150,000 — leading some to fear the move will only further stoke an affordability crisis in the New York City real estate market.

“Trading on insider information is illegal with securities and should be illegal with real estate,” Gianaris said. “No one should be cashing in on confidential inside information.”

Here and Now

Good morning and happy Wednesday!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and will attend a labor rally. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will be traveling to Washington, DC today to meet privately with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Happening today:

At 10 a.m., NYC Councilman Mark Treyger hosts a rally with city and state elected officials to call for more interpreters in more languages at city polling sites, City Hall steps, Manhattan

Also at 10 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Higher Education holds a public hearing on state funding for SUNY and CUNY, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, second floor, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Public Housing meets jointly with the Committee on Aging, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosts a Hanukkah and menorah lighting ceremony, with New York City Councilman Andy King in attendance, Riverdale YM-YWHA, 5626 Arlington Ave., the Bronx.

At 1:30 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Technology meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., NYC Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. hosts a rally with dozens of small-business owners against a recent trend of business awning violations, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., transit activists with the Riders Alliance will rally and inform fellow transit riders about the need for state lawmakers to fully fund transit modernization plans in the coming year’s budget, Queens Plaza E/M/R subway station, eastbound platform toward Forest Hills and Jamaica.

At 6 p.m., state Sens. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Michael Gianaris hold a fundraiser reception in support of newly elected state Sen. Jessica Ramos, Anheuser-Busch, 125 W. 24th St., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is a guest at the New York Building Congress’ Industry Recognition Gala, Grand Hyatt New York, 109 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, state Sens.-elect Julia Salazar, Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson, and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick attend the JFREJ Awards Gala, Community Church of New York, 40 E. 35th St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Eliot Engel, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYC Councilman Andy King have partnered with Columbia University Medical Center and CaringKind, the Heart of Alzheimer’s Caregiving, to host “A Care for the Caregiver Series Event on Alzheimer’s Disease,” the Williamsbridge NAACP ECEC, 680 East 219th St., the Bronx.

Headlines…

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel’s Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn’s cooperation as “substantial.”

Flynn was ousted as the national security advisor after he was found to have lied regarding his contact with Russian officials. Since then, his accounting of events has been a closely guarded secret in Washington.

U.S. senators briefed by the CIA director said they came away from the meeting certain that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

National Security Advisor John Bolton says President Trump plans another meeting with the leader of North Korea.

There is a clear timeline and schedule for trade negotiations between China and the U.S., Chinese officials said amid a 90-day truce in the trade war.

The stock market continued to plunge this week amid investor anxiety over the trade war.

Gov. Cuomo will be sworn in for a third term on Ellis Island after spending much of his re-election campaign criticizing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Amazon has hired SKDKnickerbocker, a powerhouse consulting firm, to help it navigate the world of New York politics as it builds its headquarters in Queens.

A lawsuit alleges Republican Chad Lupinacci, now the Huntington supervisor, sexually assaulted an aide while he was in the state Assembly.

Making his first public appearance of the week on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio answered some of the questions regarding the employment status of emergency management commissioner Joe Esposito.

Michael Ryan is used to hearing it from critics, but now they want his head. Prominent officials are calling for the executive director of the city’s Board of Elections to resign, including the city comptroller, the good-government group Common Cause, and Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams.

The New York Police Department has a new fleet of 14 drones. The department said on Tuesday that the potential uses include search and rescue, hard-to-reach crime scenes, hostage situations, and hazardous material incidents.

Winter is coming, and so are new Game of Thrones MetroCards. Starting Tuesday, several subway stations began selling the limited edition MetroCards which depict some of the most iconic moments from the HBO megahit.

New York City taxi regulators approved new pay standards for app-based car services Tuesday that they say will raise drivers’ annual earnings by $10,000 a year, making it the first U.S. city to set such minimum pay standards.

Sitting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk right now is a bill that could change the rules of sexual abuse in private schools forever. If signed, it closes a decades-old state loophole that has allowed private high schools to not report allegations of sexual abuse.

The sanctuary city debate arrived in Troy Tuesday night, as residents and lawmakers discussed the issue during the city council’s public safety meeting.

It’s the season of giving, and New York State lawmakers are adding a special request this year held near and dear to their wallets. A pay raise for state lawmakers has languished in politics for years in Albany, and it’s becoming an increasing bone of contention for legislators.

Three Amber Alerts in as many weeks in the Rochester area is not a common occurrence. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is speaking out about this unusual string of alerts.

With the year coming to a close, the Rochester Housing Authority is celebrating 12 low-income families who are now homeowners through their homeownership program.

More than nine months after the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo announced the creation of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, dozens of cash offers have been made to clergy abuse victims.

The New Era Cap company has given official notice that the Derby location will be closing early next year. The company says it will close its doors between March 15 and 29.

Mayor de Blasio is spending less and less time at City Hall, leading some to question whether he’s lost focused.

The proposal to change admissions criteria at New York City’s elite high schools is running into opposition from parents at community meetings.

Rebate checks for property taxpayers are heading out the door as the year winds down.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Trump administration to speed up the implementation of a new law that allows for the use of a new firefighting foam at airports that does not contain a toxic chemical.

The College of St. Rose is among the schools hit with a lawsuit in recent weeks over their accessibility to the visually impaired.

The federal government has signed off on a $15 million aid package to fight poverty in Syracuse.

Just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz once said, “There’s no place like home.” Tajiri the Giraffe captured the world by storm in the past two years, leaving fans sad to hear he’d be leaving by the end of the year.

Heastie: Outrageous To Say Dems Won’t Address Upstate Needs

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a radio interview Tuesday pushed back against claims Democrats next year won’t address the needs of upstate New York.

“It is the most outrageous thing I think I’ve heard,” Heastie said in an interview with WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “I’ve toured this state, particularly upstate New York, every year that I’ve been the leader.”

Democrats will control both chambers of the Legislature next year for the first time in a decade. Heastie is from the Bronx and incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is from Yonkers in Westchester County.

“Have no fear,” Heastie said, “we respect every single part of this state.”

He pointed to broad needs for New York as addressing concerns faced statewide including “good jobs, education, health care and great transportation.”

“All of those things will be looked at,” Heastie said. “Yes, a lot of things have to be done with the MTA, but we know there are transportation needs throughout the state.”