Jun 30th - 9:24 pm
One day after codifying the state’s fracking ban – the signature issue of his tenure at the helm of the DEC – the agency’s commissioner, Joe Martens, has informed his senior staffers that he plans to depart in July.
In an email being sent to all agency employees, Martens says it has been an “honor, an education and a gift” to head the DEC since 2011 – the first year Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office. He also informs staffers that his executive deputy, Marc Gerstman, will serve as acting commissioner “to ensure a seamless transition and continuation of the many initiatives we have in the works.”
An administrative source familiar with Martens’ plans says he will be returning to the Open Space Institute, of which he was president from 1998 to 2011, as a senior advisor.
“I could not be prouder of the way you responded to each and every emergency Mother Nature threw at New York State (and there were many),” Martens writes in his email. “Most recently, our Rangers and ECOs demonstrated their unique skills to help track down and bring dangerous felons to justice. I’m also proud of the leadership we have shown in virtually every one of our program areas.”
“…Throughout all of these initiatives, you continually worked to improve and streamline the way we do business,” the departing commissioner continues. “I am perhaps most proud of the way you have worked creatively with our local government partners as well as our stakeholders: business, agricultural and environmental, to solve problems. Collectively, we have put into practice the belief that when we work together, the public and private sector, we are all better off.”
Though he will likely be best remembered for heading the DEC during the long debate over fracking, which started during former Gov. David Paterson’s administration – in other words, before Martens took the helm – a number of other environmental initiatives were started or accomplished on the outgoing commissioner’s watch.
In his email, Martens mentions everything from lowering the cap on greenhouse gas emissions and securing funding for long-neglected flood control structures and coastal erosion projects to banning the sale and importation of elephant and rhinoceros ivory and undertaking “one of the largest additions to the forest preserve in the state’s history.”
“And, at long last, we concluded our review of hydraulic fracturing and decided that there was simply too many unknowns and the possible risks too great to allow it to go forward,” Martens concludes.
Martens is one of the few commissioners from Cuomo’s first term still on the job. Rumors of his departure have been circulating for some time, and it was once speculated that he might be replaced by former Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who was the last “yes” voting GOP senator still in the chamber until he lost his seat in the 2014 elections to Democratic Sen. Marc Panepinto.
Last December, after the initial announcement that the Cuomo administration had decided to ban fracking in the Marcellus shale, I asked Martens during a CapTon interview if he had plans to depart his DEC post.
“I have no plans,” he responded with a laugh. “If I was going to leave, I would have left before this decision came out, because this took a lot of work.”
Jun 29th - 11:59 am
From the Morning Memo:
The 2015 legislative is over and in the history books. For the moment, there appears to be little desire by state lawmakers in either the Senate or the Assembly to return to Albany later in the year, barring some sort of emergency.
But despite an end-of-session slate of bills passing that included needed extensions for rent control, the property tax cap, the 421a tax abatement and mayoral control of New York City schools, it’s likely unresolved policy questions will linger through the rest of the year.
For starters, there’s still the question of the 421a tax abatement and what changes will be made by January that both labor unions and developers can agree upon when it comes to the prevailing wage. If the question isn’t resolved in six months’ time, the abatement will expire.
In a more politically nettlesome area, there’s the minimum wage increase. A broader wage hike faltered during the session, despite a last-minute push from Gov. Andrew Cuomo with his allies in labor, the Hotel Trades Council.
Cuomo instead convened a wage board at the state Department of Labor to review potential changes to the minimum wage for workers in the fast-food industry, giving a nod to a growing campaign for better wages in that sector. Still, Cuomo himself has not embraced the campaign’s push for a $15 minimum wage. His proposal at the start of the year would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state.
New York’s minimum wage, now at $8.75, is due to increase at the end of the year to $9.
Whatever the wage board determines, advocates will likely be emboldened for a more expansive and larger wage hike in the future.
Senate Republicans have been in the past resistant to a minimum wage hike. Next year, however, is an election year and one that is due to be a politically difficult one for the GOP in New York with the White House on the line. Then-Sen. Nick Spano, a vulnerable Republican, carried a previous minimum wage increase bill as he faced a difficult re-election. It did him little good, however, when he was defeated by Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
And speaking of Senate Democrats, the rent control agreement could be revisited before it is due to expire. Stewart-Cousins told The Daily News that should the conference win a majority next year, the laws could be looked at for strengthening tenant protections before the 2019 sunset. The comment underscores the dissatisfaction among Democratic lawmakers in both chambers over the rent control agreement for not going far enough, especially when it comes to ending vacancy decontrol.
Finally, there’s the fall out from the negotiations themselves, in which Assembly Democrats viewed Cuomo as having ganged up with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan against their speaker, Carl Heastie.
Cuomo concluded the legislative session with few, if any, Democratic allies in the Senate or Assembly, making governing for the remainder of his second term all the more challenging.
Jun 25th - 8:26 am
From the Morning Memo:
The framework is there, but the meat of the deal being added to its bones is another issue.
A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo sat with the top legislative leaders to announce a framework, end-of-session agreement “in concept,” state lawmakers took those caveats to heart.
“See, it wasn’t a deal yesterday, it was a framework, because there are still some outstanding issues,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “There were some items that weren’t settled. It was really about letting people have an idea about what items will be discussed if at the point we reach a final deal. There’s still a lot of outstanding issues on each of the items.”
Assembly Democrats, in particular, insisted the agreement was not yet locked down as rank-and-file members try to exact some last-minute changes.
Both the Senate and Assembly adjourned on Wednesday night without coming to a conclusive end to the legislative session and without bill language being printed.
One Senate Republican, John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, said it was just a matter of the specific language being haggled over at the final moments.
But lawmakers and their staff certainly seemed prepared last night for an extended session. Just as the Senate adjourned, dinner arrived for lawmakers and staff.
The unfinished business in the Big Ugly underscores the deep dissatisfaction among Assembly Democrats — mainly from New York City — over the agreement reached on extending rent control laws for New York City.
“Well, we’re still contemplating whether we can make some tweaks in the bill and so forth,” said Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, a Brooklyn Democrat. “The big thing for me, obviously, is the rent laws.”
The tentative framework, in addition to rent control’s extension, included a $1.3 billion property tax rebate program, a 12-month extension of mayoral control for New York City schools and a re-approval of the state’s cap on property tax increases.
Democrats on Wednesday afternoon were still holding out hope that Heastie would be able to improve the finer points of the agreement, such as raising the threshold limit in vacancy decontrol to $3,000.
“We are counting on the speaker to do everything that he can to deliver,” said Assemblyman N. Nick Perry. “I’m sure he’s mindful of that.”
Heastie himself offered no predictions to reporters on when the deal would officially set in stone, pencils would be put down and bills printed.
The speaker was seen on Wednesday night leaving Cuomo’s office by an alternative exit to avoid reporters. Later, while walking quickly back to his office, Heastie said no deal was reached.
“Nothing’s closed down,” he said.
Jun 24th - 3:31 pm
There’s a general consensus around Albany that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio got the short end of the stick in the so-called framework deal announced yesterday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders, but the mayor is trying to put a positive spin on things, saying today there’s still time for things to change while the deal remains open.
Speaking to reporters earlier today, de Blasio heaped praise on the Assembly Democrats, (even though his support among conference members has reportedly been eroding steadily over the past several weeks), saying they have been “consistently responsive to the city’s concerns,” and adding: “They’ve been serious, they’ve been resolute, and they’ve gotten a lot done, particularly on issues like rent regulation.”
De Blasio went out of his way to thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who stressed during his own chat with reporters that the framework deal is just that – a framework – and nothing has been nailed done just yet.
The mayor said there are “very promising signs” at the Capitol when it comes to rent regulation, and that 421a is “very much on the table.”
“There’s a real dialogue happening on that right now,” de Blasio continued. “So I think we all need to step back and see where this process is leading us…And, you know, we don’t know if the session is going to end today, tomorrow, or some other day, but, you know, we’re focused right now on what’s going on with both the rent issue and the 421-a issue.”
De Blasio was asked whether it was a mistake for him to campaign on behalf of, and raise money for, the Senate Democrats in their failed effort to re-take the majority, given the fact that it angered the Republicans and made them predisposed against his Albany agenda. His response? “No.”
(It should be noted that the Senate Republicans aren’t the mayor’s only problem – or even his biggest problem – at the Capitol these days. His on-again, off-again relationship with the governor appears to be very much off, and some Democratic lawmakers who are disappointed with the rent deal as it currently stands are accusing Cuomo of siding with the Senate GOP against the Assembly Democrats during negotiations in large part to spite the mayor).
The mayor was also asked about the fate of his affordable housing plan if the 421a tax abatement program for real estate developers lapses. (The framework deal includes a four-year extension, but the whole thing will expire if the labor unions and real estate industry fail to reach a prevailing wage agreement within six months). Again, de Blasio was reluctant to accept that the framework is the final word on this issue, saying:
“There’s a real dialogue going on right now on 421-a. Our focus is on greatly intensifying the affordability that can be achieved through 421-a. I’ve spoken to this issue many times, as to the vision we have for making 421-a a real vehicle for greater affordability for New Yorkers. Some very serious discussions are happening right now and we have to see where that leads us.”
Capital NY’s Laura Nahmias reported earlier this afternoon that some Assembly Democrats are pushing for changes to the rent agreement, including an increase in the threshold for vacancy decontrol, though the governor’s office denied that was the case.
Jun 23rd - 2:23 pm
The Legislature’s top leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced a framework agreement “in concept” for range of outstanding issues including rent control, the 421a tax abatement and mayoral control of New York City schools.
The state’s cap on property taxes was extended for four years, as was rent control.
In a blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio, mayoral control of New York City school was extended for only 12 months, while the cap on charter schools will be raised by 50 in the city and 130 elsewhere in the state.
The mayor had sought a permanent extension of mayoral control, but later settled for a three-year expiration backed by Assembly Democrats.
“The outcome of the negotiation was the best we could do was one year,” Cuomo said.
Lawmakers and Cuomo also announced a $1.3 billion property tax rebate program for the upstate and suburban counties.
The education tax credit — which was being pushed by private and parochial school backers, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan — was not agreed to, either. Instead, lawmakers and Cuomo announced a $250 million reimbursement program for mandated services at private and parochial schools.
Details on the agreement were scarce, however.
Both Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan were yet to brief their conference members on the details.
Cuomo made the announcement alongside Heastie and Flanagan in a hastily arranged Red Room news conference at the Capitol.
Whether any details will change remains to be seen. Cuomo is leaving Albany to attend a graduation party for his daughter, leaving lawmakers at the Capitol to be briefed on the details.
For both leaders, Cuomo sought to frame the deal as a good one.
“I believe the rent package that he has obtained is a major step forward,” Cuomo said of Heastie. “You have certain voices that say rent regulations should just go away. That’s not going to happen any time soon. But he has done a extraordinary job that addresses the entire spectrum of the problem.”
The rent control issue was the subject of an intense focus by Assembly Democrats, who sought an end to vacancy decontrol, which was not ultimately part of the final agreement.
“We’re always going to be about compromises,” Heastie said. “We stake out our positions early on and do the best that we can to get it done.”
No deal was reached on criminal justice reform measures such as raising the age of criminal responsibility and dealing with police brutality cases.
Cuomo will go the executive order route on both. The governor will move 16 and 17-year-old offenders to alternative facilities, while he will appoint Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for a year a special prosecutor to handle certain cases involving police-related deaths.
Other issues were pushed further down the road.
The 421a tax abatement was extended for six months, while labor groups sort out a prevailing wage component. If a prevailing wage measure is agreed to, the abatement is extended for four years. Without an agreement on the prevailing wage, the measure will lapse.
For Senate Republicans, the tax rebate was a key component for their upstate and suburban constituents.
“The tax rebate is real to real people again,” Flanagan said. “That’s something that I think people are clamoring for.”
The framework signaled the first real light at the end of a long tunnel for the end of the session, which has been extended a week after it was due to conclude after rent control laws lapsed briefly and lawmakers agreed to a temporary extension that lapses tonight at midnight.
The last six months have been astoundingly unpredictable at the Capitol as both legislative leaders at the start of the year — Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos — were ousted from their posts following their arrests on corruption charges.
Cuomo, who has dealt with personal issues starting with the death of his father in January and later the breast cancer diagnosis of his girlfriend Sandra Lee, acknowledged the challenging the year in his remarks.
“It is a very robust agenda, with very big items,” Cuomo said. “It really is a job well done. They just have to close it.”
Jun 22nd - 9:39 am
“We are nowhere,” said one insider familiar with the negotiations currently taking place among the Senate, Assembly and Governor Cuomo. I suppose no one really expected a huge breakthrough over the weekend. Especially with the Hallmark Holiday of Father’s Day sunday. Democrats also have a fundraiser tonight at Yankee Stadium that ( as first reported by the great Ken Lovett) Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will skip.
It’s kind of a bummer for the speaker, as he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the stadium. Oh, well.
But let’s take a step back and look at how we got here. Right from the get-go, the newly-elected speaker made it clear that his conference was all about rent. He refused to engage in any discussions about linkages. And he made his top priority the singular focus of his negotiations. Some now view this as a rookie mistake. If you only want one thing, and you make that known, the other side is going to hold that one thing over you – simply because they know how badly you want it, and you’re not giving them anywhere else to go.
Heastie was talking about ending vacancy decontrol, which began in 1993 and was greatly expanded in 1997. The notion that in this climate the state Legislature would be willing to roll back more than 20 years of precedent strikes some observers as not only absurd, but nakedly naive.
Moreover, insiders say after insisting on no linkages, Heastie then went and did exactly that on Friday night when the Assembly introduced a bill with straight extenders for rent regs and mayoral control of the New York City schools. Heastie also rejected a proposal to raise the minimum wage in New York City beginning next year up to $11.50 per hour – something that has been a big priority for Mayor Bill de Blasio. But the speaker was unwilling to compromise on rent in order to accept it. Again, a singular focus.
Defenders of the speaker say it’s a little more complicated than that. They believe it’s “two against one” inside the notorious three-men-in-a-room lair – meaning Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (himself a rookie, and technically even greener than Heastie), are siding against Heastie on rent.
Sources say the Senate was willing to include some sweeteners on rent including “inflaters” that would supposedly keep more apartments under rent protections longer. But people close to the Assembly counter that they start at too low a threshold to be effective. If the governor has a plan for rent, they maintain, why doesn’t he release it? As we all know of course, Cuomo once famously admitted to keeping his bill language secret. I think Jon Campbell of Gannett even sang a song about that in the 2013 LCA show, if I am not mistaken.
Cuomo and Flanagan also want to make it even easier for charter schools to reject, and even kick out, students who don’t do well academically and might tarnish the pretty statistics charter schools often paint to suggest they present a much better alternative to traditional public schools.
Another facet of this is de Blasio. Republicans introduced what’s known as a “big ugly,” according to this solid weekend reporting from Josefa Velasquez and Jessica Bakeman. This bill extends mayoral control of city schools for just one year.
Both Cuomo (at least he did back in February) and the Assembly Democrats want three years. If it is only one year, then de Blasio has to come back up to Albany next year and beg for more during an election year. Observers say that could give Republicans an opportunity to put de Blasio on the shelf for the 2016 elections. In other words, “We will give you more time, if you don’t actively campaign – again – against our members.”
Apparently Senate Repubs still have some very raw feelings over the mayor’s involvement in the 2014 elections, even though one could fairly argue that his involvement actually contributed to Repubs PICKING UP seats in swing districts. Whatever. Next year may be a tough one for Repubs since it is a presidential. Let’s also remember that de Blasio’s predecessor (who, admittedly, was the single largest individual contributor to the Senate GOP conference at the time) got seven years for mayoral control. One year is kind of a diss.
Anyway, It’s all very complicated and still a bit of a log jam right now. I wonder what our old friend the wood frog thinks about all this…
Jun 17th - 9:57 pm
With a deal on a host of expired or soon-to-lapse measures not reached, the Legislature plans to remain in Albany beyond the final scheduled day of the session.
The Republican-led Senate on Wednesday night ended its work for the evening around 9 p.m. and planned to return on Thursday at noon.
“We’re taking this one day at a time,” said Sen. Cathy Young, a Republican from Olean. “The situation is very fluid right now; kind of like the weather in western New York.”
There was some initial concern — mostly from Democratic lawmakers — that Senate Republicans would leave town after approving an eight-year extension of rent control on Monday that includes income and residency verification requirements opposed by the Assembly.
For now, that won’t be the case. At any rate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had threatened to use his power to keep lawmakers in Albany in order to strike a longer-term deal on rent control.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie earlier in the day acknowledged that it was expected, even without an agreement, lawmakers would be back at the Capitol the following day.
Heastie emerged from a Wednesday night meeting with Cuomo, saying no agreement had been reached.
“See you tomorrow,” he said.
Asked if there was any likelihood Friday was in play for lawmakers to be here as well, Heastie deadpanned: “See you Friday, see you the next day.”
Still, there were suggestions that lawmakers and Cuomo had made some strides during the day.
Heastie briefed his conference on potential frameworks for agreements with the governor and Senate Republicans, but was yet to reach consensus within the conference on moving forward with a specific plan.
Cuomo is trying to link the passage of an education tax credit to stronger rent control laws for New York City and the surrounding area.
A source told NY1’s Zack Fink that lawmakers were still discussing a potential deal through a tax deduction for families with children in school, worth up to $3,000 per dependent and capped at $12,000.
But despite the lack an agreement on the core measures, deals on other issues fell into place, including a deal on protecting nail salon workers.
The Senate and Assembly, meanwhile, both passed a measure aimed at combating rape and sexual assault on college campuses through new reporting requirements and an affirmative consent guideline for sexual encounters.
“With the passage of our “Enough is Enough” legislation, New York State has raised the bar for protecting students from sexual assault on college campuses,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We started to lead the nation last year by implementing a strong, uniform policy across the SUNY system and this new law ensures that every school – public and private – lives up to that standard. This is a profound step forward on an issue that impacts schools across the country and has been swept under the rug for too long. As Governor and as a parent, I am proud to see this bill passed by the state legislature. Our students deserve nothing less.”
Jun 17th - 8:37 am
From the Morning Memo:
Today is, ostensibly, the final day of the legislative session, at least according to the calendar.
It appears likely, however, that lawmakers will remain at the Capitol through the week as key issues such as rent control regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools and the 421a tax abatement are yet to be locked down.
At the same time, issues with no expiration date are yet to be sorted out: The education tax credit remains in the talks, while some state lawmakers continue to hold out hope for a compromise on juvenile justice reform.
“I expect there will be continued discussions until we leave here. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but we’re trying very hard and some folks in the Senate are trying very hard,” Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a Brooklyn lawmaker, said of the juvenile justice talks.
But the pace of progress in talks with two rookie legislative leaders and a governor with waning popularity has been slow.
Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright summed up the current state of the negotiations in a statement released at around 10:30 on Tuesday night, saying state officials are “getting nowhere fast” with the talks on rent control.
“I am disheartened, disappointed and supremely frustrated with the tone of current three-way conversations on important end-of-session business,” Wright said in the statement. “Rent laws have expired, tenants are living moment to moment waiting for action and quite frankly, we’re getting nowhere fast. Two million New Yorkers may soon hear news that greatly displeases them and hinders the well being of their families. If we’re disappointing two million New Yorkers, who exactly are we legislating for?”
That’s not say to some progress is being made in the final days.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s legislative leaders announced a pact on combating sexual assault and rape on college campuses. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters following the Tuesday evening leaders’ meeting that an agreement would come soon for protections for nail salon workers.
Four years ago, rent control had lapsed and had to be extended with stop-gap measures as lawmakers and Cuomo haggled out the issue.
At the time, the negotiations were dominated by seemingly more pressing issues, such as a vote on same-sex marriage and a cap on property taxes.
Now, as Cuomo completes the first year of his second term, negotiating such a grand bargain package with major accomplishments is a distant memory.
But with rent control expired now for two days, some observers saw the posturing — from both sides — as being a little too late in the day.
Privately, Senate Republicans are grumbling about the rent control negotiations, which appear to be the dominate concern in the closed-door discussions, and whether the Assembly Democrats are budging from their positions on strengthening the regulations.
Flanagan, post-leaders meeting, stuck to his script as he had earlier in the day: The Senate was still pushing for income and residency verification in rent controlled units, provisions that Democrats have rejected.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie left the meeting to brief his conference, though he told reporters the discussions were yet to reach anything conclusive.
“There’s still so many unresolved issues,” Heastie said following the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any blueprint to how session is ended.”
Jun 16th - 8:22 pm
No resolution is expected this evening on key issues before state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state’s top legislative leaders said.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan met with Cuomo for about an hour on Tuesday night in his office in what appeared to be the final leaders’ meeting of the day.
“There’s still so many unresolved issues,” Heastie said following the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any blueprint to how session is ended.”
Both Heastie and Flanagan indicated agreements are yet to be reached on a range issues, including an extension of rent control for New York City and the surrounding areas, as well as the 421a tax abatement, both which have now lapsed.
Flanagan said he continued to push for the Republican conference’s version of a rent control extension, which requires verification of income and residence, while setting an eight-year expiration.
Assembly Democrats on Monday approved a two-day extension after previously approving an extension that included an end to vacancy decontrol.
Cuomo has linked the passage of stronger rent control laws to the creation of an education tax credit supported by private and parochial schools. Assembly Democrats, including Heastie, oppose the linking of the two issues.
“We continue have the same concerns that we did before,” Flanagan said. “The basics I’m continuing harping on because I think it’s valuable: income verification, primary residence, a real legitimate tax credit, the property tax cap is still the number one overarching issue. That should be made permanent.”
Heastie, meanwhile, did not entirely rule out an extension of rent control for the remainder of the year, which could then be dealt with in January.
“I guess there’s always options, but at this point we’re still talking,” he said after the meeting.
Cuomo has said he will keep lawmakers in Albany beyond Wednesday should a broad agreement on rent control not be reached.
Flanagan insisted Senate lawmakers will remain in town as long as needed.
“We will stay here as long as we need to in order to get the peoples’ business done,” Flanagan said.
Jun 16th - 8:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
The pressure on Assembly Democrats to back the education tax credit continues unabated.
The latest effort is from Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who sent a letter to Capital Region residents calling on them to push Assemblywoman Pat Fahy on the bill.
In the letter, Scharfenberger specifically mentions Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rebranded version of the legislation, the Parental Choice in Education Act, which is aimed at spurring donations to public schools as well as scholarship programs that benefit private and parochial schools.
“It would also help generate for important programs in our public schools in Albany, Bethlehem and Guilderland and other surrounding districts,” the bishop wrote in the letter. “as well as help teachers who spend their personal funds on classroom supplies.”
Nevertheless, the tax credit is deeply opposed by the New York State United Teachers union, which draws support from the Democratic-led conference.
But the measure’s most prominent backer, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, this year once again personally traveled to Albany to lobbying lawmakers with Cuomo at the governor’s mansion on the issue as well.
The letter comes on top of an aggressive campaigned aimed at Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly to pass the tax credit legislation, which Cuomo is linking to the passage of rent control in New York City.
Lawmakers have not been pleased with the tone of some of the mailers or the robocalls. Some of the calls, in particular, have irked members as the caller ID displays the name of the lawmaker, leading some constituents to believe they are getting inundated with unwanted calls from their local legislator.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Monday prior to meeting with Cuomo that the tax credit legislation remains a “difficult” bill for his conference to approve.