Nick Reisman

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Cox Dismisses Flanagan For Governor Reports

Republican Chairman Ed Cox on Wednesday in a Capital Tonight interview dismissed reports Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is contemplating a run for governor in 2018.

“Let me say, he is not thinking about it,” Cox said in the interview to air tonight on TWC News. “He is focused on his job as majority leader of the state Senate — a tough job — particularly when you have a governor who for the first time in two centuries was not delivered to the legislators.”

Flanagan is reportedly discussing a statewide campaign for next year, potentially taking on Gov. Andrew Cuomo who is seeking a third term.

Cox in the interview was also complimentary of Flanagan preserving the Senate Republican conference’s relationship with the Independent Democratic Conference in the chamber to preserve the majority coalition power sharing agreement.

Cox said it was “absolutely” the right move to make in the narrowly divided chamber.

“Jeff Klein and the seven members of the IDC, they are very serious about public policy and to have them as partners in this, people who work out what’s good public policy and then go forward with that larger majority and presenting it, it makes things work,” he said.

Cuomo’s Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing

The helicopter carrying Gov. Andrew Cuomo and two of his aides made an emergency landing at Stewart Airport in Newburgh on Wednesday as he was returning to New York City.

Cuomo was returning to hold meetings at his Manhattan office after delivering his sixth State of the State address at SUNY Albany.

“After delivering his final regional State of the State in Albany, Governor Cuomo was on a state police helicopter traveling back to New York City for meetings in the office,” Cuomo spokesman James Allen said. “Just before 4 p.m., the helicopter filled with fumes that smelled like smoke and the pilot made an emergency landing at Stewart Airport. The cause of the issue is being investigated and the helicopter is currently undergoing maintenance. The Governor and two aides were on board, along with security and the pilot. No one was injured and everyone has been safely transported back to the city.”

The incident comes as Cuomo has sought to have the State Police purchase a new helicopter that would also include his transportation around the state. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has questioned the expense of the purchase.

Cuomo Wants To Cap Prescription Drug Costs

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a plan that would cap the cost of prescription drugs reimbursed under the Medicaid program in an effort to curtail price gouging.

“The skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs is an issue that the nation has been grappling with for years and as we have so many times before, New York is prepared to show the path forward,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Perpetually rising drug costs hurt the wallets of taxpayers and the bottom lines of businesses, but for those who desperately need lifesaving medicine and cannot afford it, the consequences can be dire. The idea that in 2017 someone who has fallen ill might not have the opportunity to recover simply so someone can line their pockets with a few more dollars is unconscionable and must be stopped immediately.”

Cuomo’s proposal would create a “price ceiling” as set by a state review board for drugs reimbursed by the Medicaid program. The measure would require a 100 percent rebate for any amount that exceeds a benchmark price as backed by the board.

Another component would create a surcharge by any amount in which higher cost drugs exceed the benchmakr recommended by the board, with the proceeds sent to a fund overseen by the Department of Financial Services and allocated to insurers to lower the cost of premiums.

And Cuomo wants tackle the business practices of pharmacy benefit managers, intermediaries who act as brokers to negotiate the price of drugs for insurance plans. Cuomo would have the managers register with the state and be subject to new regulatory guidelines such as financial disclosure.

Flanagan Considering Run For Governor

Add Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to the list of Republicans considering a run for governor in 2018, sources told NY1’s Zack Fink.

Newsday first reported about the buzz in GOP circles of Flanagan’s potential statewide run.

Flanagan, who ascended to the top post in the chamber following the corruption charges against Nassau County lawmaker Dean Skelos in May 2015, first joined the Legislature in 1987 and was first elected to the Senate in 2002.

Flanagan had been considered a potential candidate for the 2014 race for governor as well as Suffolk County executive.

Republicans also considering a campaign in 2018 include Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and businessman Harry Wilson.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to run for a third term next year. Cuomo’s office over the last several days has been sharply critical of Flanagan after talks for a special session in December fell apart in December.

Cuomo Seeks To Revive Ethics Measures

Delivering his final State of the State address on Wednesday in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to revive a slate of ethics measures he proposed at the end of 2016 that lawmakers declined to take up in a special session.

The session would have paved the way for a likely pay increase for state lawmakers, the first in nearly 20 years.

But lawmakers remain philosophically at odds over two of the main ethics issues contained in constitutional amendments Cuomo wants passed: A full-time Legislature that bans private-sector employment and term limits for state elected officials.

And, with a legislative pay raise off the table until at least the end of 2018, it’s unclear what leverage Cuomo has over lawmakers to approve the measures.

In his address delivered at SUNY Albany’s performing arts center, Cuomo acknowledged the frustration lawmakers have voiced over the last several weeks, even as his office has been firing back at legislators who have sought greater oversight of economic development spending in his administration.

Cuomo, however, did extend something of an olive branch on Wednesday, by also alluding to the arrest of his former top aide aide Joe Percoco and prominent upstate developers in a bid rigging case.

“It happened in my office,” Cuomo said.

All told, Cuomo proposed 10 different ethics measures, including a stalled proposal to ban unlimited political giving through limited liability companies and bolster the power of the inspector general to oversee SUNY and non-profit spending.

Decrying the bridgegate scandal in New Jersey — which has tarnished the reputation of his Republican ally Gov. Chris Christie — Cuomo called for an inspector general at the Port Authority, a bistate entity, calling the scheme to close the George Washington Bridge out of political revenge “very, very troubling.

Cuomo and the Legislature have over the last six years approved new ethics legislation virtually every year, addressing the disclosure of outside income and a variety of campaign finance law changes.

“We have passed ethics reform every year since we started,” Cuomo said while adding, “with all that it’s still not enough.”

The address on Wednesday was the sixth and final of the regional State of the State addresses Cuomo has delivered since Monday, unspooling proposals ranging from an effort to control property taxes, revamp airports and create a connected 750-mile rail trail across the state.

Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget proposal is due to be released by Tuesday.

Cuomo Wants To Boost The Hemp Industry

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday proposed an effort to boost the state’s hemp industry through research and, yes, a hemp summit.

Cuomo also wants to expand the state’s hemp agriculture pilot program and increase the number of permitted sites that can grow hemp.

“New York is a beacon for innovation, smart growth and emerging industries – and with this proposal, we will continue to diversify and grow our agriculture industry, while supporting research and development and creating jobs throughout the state,” Cuomo said.

“We will position New York at the forefront of a growing agricultural sector that is ripe with economic opportunity, and capitalize on our agricultural assets to provide farmers with top-notch resources enabling them to grow the hemp industry for decades to come.”

Industrial hemp contains less than .3 percent of THC and has generated $573 million nationally.

Cuomo Procurement Plan Would Emphasize American-Made Goods

The state would be required to give preference to purchasing American-made products in a procurement proposal announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The plan, unveiled during the sixth leg of Cuomo’s State of the State tour in Syracuse, would apply to any state purchases of more than $100,000.

“Nowhere on Earth can you find another workforce that rivals the skill, quality and dedication of American labor,” Cuomo said.

“It’s time that our nation recommit itself to these hardworking men and women and New York is prepared to lead the way forward. When we Buy American, we not only keep our companies and our employees where they belong, but we foster growth and development in leading industries right here at home. This initiative will reinvest in the talent that made this state and this country what it is today and strengthen our role as a global leader in manufacturing for years to come.”

At the moment, “buy American” provisions in procurement is limited to steel purchases of more than $100,000.

The proposal is in line with what is backed by Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, who endorsed the idea to The Buffalo News.

The Cuomo plan would expand that provision to include all goods and products, not just for construction or renovation products.

The move was praised by labor groups like the New York state AFL-CIO.

“Our hard-earned tax dollars, as well as our jobs, should not be sent overseas, particularly when we have the best skilled workers in the world ready to do the job,” said the group’s president, Mario Cilento. “With Buy American, we will be creating good manufacturing jobs and strengthening local economies, including right here at home in New York.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo also on Wednesday announced a plan to study the feasibility of tunnel options to replace the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse as the region mulls the future of its transportation configuration.

“The economic resurgence of Central New York requires major infrastructure investments to support that growth for generations to come,” Cuomo said. “Cutting through the heart of downtown Syracuse, I-81 is long overdue for a complete revitalization, and we must carefully explore every option to ensure what is best for the economic vitality of the region. This project presents once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform an outdated, deteriorating highway into robust, efficient economic driver, and we must not let it go to waste.”

County Execs Decry Cuomo Property Tax Plan

From the Morning Memo:

Two Republican county executives who have their eye on running statewide next year blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest proposal to control property taxes in the state, unveiled Tuesday in his State of the State address given in Westchester and on Long Island.

Cuomo proposed a plan that appears similar to the one underway in Onondaga County, led by his Republican ally, County Executive Joanie Mahoney.

In short, the plan would place the onus on county executives to work with local governments on ways of saving money, sharing serves and consolidating government functions.

The proposal would be placed before voters in a referendum.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who was at SUNY Purchase for Cuomo’s unveiling of the plan, knocked Cuomo’s claims the state has little to do with local property tax costs.

There was a lot of talk in the last election about fake news, and what we heard in today’s lecture from Governor Cuomo was clearly little more than a slick propaganda effort designed to mislead voters on what really accounts for high local property taxes,” Molinaro said.

Both Molinaro and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino blamed mandated spending as required by Albany for the squeeze on their budgets.

In his statement, Astorino called the speech by Cuomo “shameless.”

“At today’s political rally masquerading as a State of the State address in Westchester — potential Democratic candidates for county executive were invited, but not the actual county executive,” he said.

“In his ‘speech,’ Mr. Cuomo blatantly suggested that my administration is responsible for state-driven property tax hikes. I would remind the governor that I have never once raised the County tax levy — not for seven straight years — while Mr. Cuomo’s state mandates have ravaged County, municipal and school budgets. Mr. Cuomo’s state mandates consume almost all of what the County collects in property taxes, leaving us with very little to actually run county government.”

Cuomo has over the years repeatedly made efforts to curtail property taxes a theme of his administration’s policy for suburban and upstate counties, capping property tax levies at the rate of inflation, which has routinely been under 2 percent.

But local governments have complained the cap was never coupled with enough mandate relief or an increase in state aid, which has been frozen over the last half decade.

Cuomo’s office pointed to a major mandate initiative — the effort to control the cost of Medicaid — as a capstone of mandate relief.

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo, the State has eliminated growth in the local share of Medicaid, which will save counties $3.7 billion over five years,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “Regardless, this shouldn’t be an excuse to prevent local governments from coming together and developing a plan to ease the property tax burden by cutting costs — something both the state and the taxpayer have done for quite some time.”​

New IDCers Get Committee Posts

From the Morning Memo:

The newest members of the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate have been handed the gavel of committee chairmanships in Albany.

Freshman IDC Sen. Marisol Alcantara, who replaced Rep. Adriano Espaillat in the chamber, will be chairwoman of the Senate Labor Committee.

Jesse Hamilton, a former member of the mainline Democratic conference who left for the IDC late last year, will be chairman of the Senate Banks Committee.

“As our conference grows, I’m proud that Independent Democratic Conference all of our members will continue to lead the way by serving on key Senate committees where they will shape policy and legislation that matters to all New Yorkers,” said Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, the IDC leader. “I congratulate my members on their new positions and their deep dedication to this state.”

Sen. David Carlucci will be chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection panel.

Sen. Diane Savino will be a vice chairwoman of the Finance and the Code Committees, having previously served as chair of Labor and Banks.

Cuomo’s Office Blasts Cox’s Shadow Tour

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is not pleased with the birddogging by Republican Chairman Ed Cox.

The GOP chairman is making an effort to attend all six of Cuomo’s State of the State regional addresses being given today in Westchester and on Long Island. He will give two more on Wednesday in Albany and Syracuse.

On Tuesday, Cox reiterated that Cuomo is focusing on a run for president, and not the state.

Cuomo’s office isn’t amused by Cox’s shadowing of the governor.

“Ed Cox sat mute when the top republican in the state was convicted of corruption and unplugged his phone when his former Republican standard bearer went on a racist rant about the President and First Lady, said spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “He has no credibility and his nonsensical protest of the Governor’s agenda to help the middle class, make college affordable and make it easier for New Yorkers to get childcare is equal parts out of touch and appalling.”

Azzopardi is referencing the racially charged remarks Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino gave to a newsweekly last month.

Cox did retweet a GOP county office who referred to Paladino as an “asshat.”