Assembly

Moya Decries The Politics Surrounding DREAM Act Passage

From the Morning Memo:

Another budget has been approved in Albany without the DREAM Act — but supporters aren’t giving up.

The bill’s top supporter in the Democratic-led Assembly, Queens lawmaker Francisco Moya, in an interview Tuesday said he hoped the measure would have new life in the post-budget session.

And he hopes Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes it a priority from now until the end of the legislative session on June 16.

“His support for the DREAM Act is there and this is a time he can demonstrate it’s really a priority this year and get to the floor of the Senate this year,” Moya said.

But the bill, which would provide tuition assistance for undocumented immigrants, has a significant roadblock with Republicans in the state Senate.

GOP lawmakers have run hard against the passage of the bill, especially in upstate and suburban battleground districts where support among voters for the proposal is thin.

Moya, however, said the injection of campaign politics is unfair, especially given the rhetoric from Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on immigration.

I think it’s politics getting in the way of actually having good public policy take effect. the fact they’ve used this as a campaign slogan to run against candidates in their districts is a real problem here,” Moya said.

“I think we cannot let the national tone of politics, the way Donald Trump has been running an anti-immigrant campaign, letting it trickle down here in the state of New York, to allow that to come here and block a piece of legislation that’s been allowed in other states in the country… I think it’s time for us who have led the way on so many issues to allow chidlren who are undocumented the opportunity to go to college.

Heastie Talks Clinton Visit

Hillary Clinton’s planned visit to Albany on Monday will include a meeting with Democratic state lawmakers, a meeting Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said was a wise way of having her connect with her supporters ahead of the April 19 primary.

Heastie acknowledged the meeting in part was likely to have Clinton spur state legislators to get out the vote for her in the nominating contest against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“I’m sure that’s part of it. She’s running for president,” Heastie said. “She’s in the middle of the campaign. One of the biggest mistakes that an elected official could ever make is taking places for granted. All politics is local. I think she feels good about what’s going to happen here in New York.”

The meeting location itself hasn’t been disclosed, but won’t be taking place at the Capitol.

“It will be off campus, it won’t be at the Capitol,” Heastie said, joking, “It will be at an undisclosed location.”

A source familiar with the plans said it will potentially take place at the Renaissance, a recently refurbished hotel in downtown Albany steps away from the Capitol. Lawmakers will be invited to bring one staffer each for the closed-door event.

“She wants to come and talk to us about her vision and thank many of us who are supporters of hers,” Heastie said. “I think it’s good for her to come here and connect with some of her biggest supporters not only in the state but in the country.”

Heastie Says Budget A Dream Come True For Assembly

The $156 billion spending plan is a dream budget for the Assembly Democratic conference, Speaker Carl Heasite on Friday told reporters in a news conference.

“I think this is exactly the type of budget Assembly Democrats dream about except this year it became a reality,” he said.

Unlike Senate Republicans, who had to accept a minimum wage increase to $15 in the New York City area, Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly are largely happy with the final agreement, which also includes a 12-week paid family leave program and a boost in education aid by $1.5 billion.

“The members couldn’t be happier with what we accomplished in this budget,” he said. “I think this is one of the finer if not the finest budget I’ve ever participated in.”

Assembly Democrats didn’t get all they wanted, of course. Funding for undocumented immigrants to receive tuition assistance, known as the DREAM Act, remains stalled. A proposal to boost taxes on the wealthy, also, fell by the wayside.

The tax hike proposal came as tax rates are set to expire next year. The budget does include a $1 billion tax rate cut phased in over eight years that impacts joint filers earning less than $300,000 — a win for Senate Republicans.

But Heastie said the tax increase talk for the rich won’t go away.

“Sometimes you put an idea out and you hope it catches fire,” Heastie said. “Next year, we have to deal with what to do on income taxes. I’m not disappointed we didn’t get it done. I think our point was made.”

Meanwhile, Assembly Democrats were able to stave off the most contentious aspects of the budget for New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Costs shifts” for the City University of New York and the Medicaid program.

Heastie insisted he wasn’t caught in the middle of a fight between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio, though he called them both “strong-willed” people.

However, Heastie said the Assembly would have pushed back on the New York City provisions regardless of who occupies the mayor’s office.

“He is in some regards is irrelevant because these kinds of cuts would face the same kind of opposition from Assembly Democrats,” he said.

The minimum wage is part of a packaged deal, however. Upstate, the wage will increase to $12.50, with an economic analysis determining whether and when the wage grows to $15.

While the wage falling short upstate may upset some Democratic lawmakers, Heastie said the agreement was a solid one.

“It’s always about compromising. There are some members who would have liked to have seen $15 going to the rest of the state faster,” he said. “Some from rural areas were more concerned about the impact. But I think we struck a good balance. I’d say within reason the entire state will be at $15.”

Clinton To Meet With Assembly Democrats On Monday

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign swing through Albany on Monday will include a meeting with Assembly Democratic lawmakers, multiple sources on Friday said.

No time or location has been determined for the meeting with Clinton.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been a supporter of Clinton’s bid for the presidency and Clinton counts a number of Democratic lawmakers in both both chambers of the Legislature as supporters.

Clinton’s focus on New York comes as the state later this month holds its April 19 primary for both the Democratic and Republican presidential races.

Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders plans on competing for the primary in her adopted home state.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday found Clinton, a former secretary of state who represented New York in the U.S. Senate, leaders Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 54 percent to 42 percent.

$30 Million Expected In Budget To Mitigate Power Plant Closures

Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Cathy Young, R-Olean, said the final budget will include a $30 million dollar pool to mitigate the impact of closed or mothballed power plant facilities. Both legislators represent communities that stand to lose significant income tax revenue.

In January, NRG notified the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency that it would decrease its total payment-in-lieu-of-taxes by nearly $7 million. The fund will cover eighty percent of the loss.

“This funding will be available to give relief to the city, school district and Chautauqua County and their taxpayers who would be severely hurt by the loss of the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) from the NRG power plant,” Young said.

Meanwhile, Erie County, the Town of Tonawanda, and the Ken-Ton School District were looking at about a $6 million loss as a result of the Huntley Station closure.

“We’ve also changed the funding mechanism that was enacted into law last year to make it easier for localities to access these funds,” Schimminger said.

The Ken-Ton School District was facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit. While nobody was ready to say much before everything’s official, a district spokesperson said this would have a major effect on the financial outlook.

“The district is grateful for Assemblyman Schimminger and all who worked so hard to make this opportunity possible for the Ken-Ton community and school district,”  Community Relations Coordinator Patrick Fanelli said.

Lawmakers: Budget Remains Under Negotiation

Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo touts a budget “framework” on key issues, state lawmakers insisted Wednesday afternoon concerns ranging from Medicaid funding to a $15 minimum wage remain unresolved.

“It’s still being negotiated to be honest with you,” said Sen. Rich Funke, a Republican from the Rochester area. “It’s still being negotiated.”

Senate Republicans continue to raise concerns with a $15 minimum wage, even as Cuomo says a $1 billion income tax cut for joint filers earning $300,000 is on the table and the wage increase itself would be phased in over time periods across the state.

“I think we have differences between upstate and downstate for sure when it comes what minimum wage is,” Funke said. “Frankly, I think we talk too much about minimum wage, I think we should talk about workforce development.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, meanwhile, has been at odds with Cuomo over a $250 million cost shift for Medicaid funding in New York City. Cuomo in a gaggle reporters insisted the Medicaid issue had been resolved, but offered no details.

Heastie said the issues surrounding Medicaid funding for New York City remain an open issue, but have improved as the day continued. The savings under Medicaid would be a “collaborative” effort.

“We’re working on language. It’s better than it was,” Heastie said. “We’re closer. Some of the ideas the city would have to pay up front is off the table.”

The budget itself is due to be approved by tomorrow, though lawmakers said they hoped that could still happen with an agreement tonight.

“I really hope we’ll have this figured out by tonight, to be honest with you,” said Funke. “I know the leadership group is going to get back together and we’ll come to some resolution by tonight.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle added: “We continue to operate under the premise that we’ll be finished by tomorrow and we work in good faith to make that happen.”

Income Tax Cut Under Discussion, But No Deal On Budget

A personal income tax cut is on the table in the state budget negotiations, legislative leaders confirmed after a lengthy meeting behind closed doors with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But an agreement on the 2016-17 state budget, which must be approved by the end of this week, remained elusive.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan emerged from the talks with Cuomo to say little.

Lawmakers and Cuomo remain divided over a Medicaid cost shift for New York City of up to $250 million, an issue Heastie said remains a troubling for the Democratic conference in the Assembly.

At the same time, an agreement on increasing the state’s minimum wage from $9 to $15 remains a stumbling block for Senate Republicans.

A tax cut package for the personal income tax is on the table, both Heastie and Flangan confirmed after the leaving the meeting, though they did not elaborate on the details of what is being discussed.

The tax cut, some sources say, could be as high as $1 billion. The measure could be part of an effort to lessen the impact of the minimum wage increase, especially for small businesses which often pay a personal income tax.

The tax cut package being included in the talks was first reported this morning by Politico New York.

Senate Republicans earlier in the year had called for a income tax cut rate package that was part of a broad-based 25 percent cut in the state’s tax rate, that once fully phased in would cost $3.5 billion in relief. Once fully phased in, the plan would cost $3.5 billion.

At the time, Senate Republicans insisted the measure was not linked to an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15.

Lawmakers said strikingly little after leaving the meeting with Cuomo and left individually. Heastie was in the meeting the longest, more than two hours.

As he was being trailed by a gaggle of reporters after leaving the meeting, Heastie joked to an aide, “I feel like this is The Walking Dead.”

Medicaid Cost Shift Rankles Assembly

State budget talks on Tuesday careened into a broader debate over Medicaid funding for New York City, which Assembly Democrats raising concerns over a $250 million “cost shift” from the state to the city.

“Medicaid is still not resolved,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said earlier in the afternoon. “I’ve been clear with the governor since day one: Until Medicaid is resolved, it’s very difficult for us to come to a budget resolution.”

The cost shift was an initial proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $154 billion budget, which is due by Thursday.

Even as lawmakers appeared to coalesce around other facets of the state budget, including an increase in the state’s minimum wage, the Medicaid issue complicated the budget picture.

“We’re still concerned of having the city in a punitive way having to cover $250 million,” Heastie said. “It’s a big, big concern for the conference.”

Cuomo in a press briefing with reporters indicated the Medicaid issue was not aimed at New York City, but rather at the state having picked up costs through the program’s cap.

“What that has done is you really have no incentive to cut costs because it’s irrelevant,” Cuomo said.

The sentiment that this is a statewide concern, not aimed at New York City, was echoed by IDC Leader Jeff Klein following a meeting with Cuomo.

“We’ve moving in the direction of making sure that we can get some money for the city of New York, additional money, but in return require the city to come up with some savings as well as every other locality in the state,” Klein said.

Heastie left that same meeting before Klein and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, breezing passed reporters to say nothing had changed.

Assembly Democrats left the Capitol early Tuesday evening with no plans to return for the night.

Lawmakers earlier in the day expressed confidence budget bills could be printed this evening. Flanagan in the afternoon said it was likely the first bill to print tonight would be a state operations bill.

The budget is due Thursday.

Heastie: ‘Albany Is The Art Of The Compromise’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday insisted paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage remain on the negotiating table, though an agreement remained elusive this afternoon on the broader $154 billion budget.

The lack of a deal comes lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo debate a small wage increase for the upstate region north of Westchester County.

At the same time, GOP and Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly agree in concept on a 12-week paid family leave program, but differ on how it would be paid for and how the benefits would be phased in for workers.

“Albany is the art of the compromise. We’ll see what happens at the end of the day on minimum wage and paid family leave,” Heastie said. “The members are fully aware that sometimes you have to compromise up here in Albany.”

Meanwhile, there’s concerns from New York City Democrats over the costs shifts in the Medicaid program that Cuomo has proposed.

“I think in some regards we are able to move forward, but there’s still some outstanding issues about how the city of New York comes out of this,” Heastie said. “There’s different iteration because you have to factor in the cost of the minimum wage. But I think the conference is OK with where we have to go.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown of California this afternoon announced he was signing a law that would increase that state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022.

Heastie said the California move — making that state the first to increase its minimum wage to $15 in the nation — not a factor in the budget talks.

“We congratulate California, but we still feel we to get done what we have to do,” Heastie said.

He was unsure, however, whether there could be an agreement could be reached in time to avoid Cuomo issuing messages of necessity to waive the three-day aging process for bills.

“I don’t know, I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re hoping to still get an on-time budget without messages.”

Upstate Democrats Raise Concerns With Wage Talks Falling Short

Assembly Democrats from north of the New York City region are concerned a potential minimum wage compromise could fall short for upstate.

Among the potential compromises for the wage agreement would be for New York City and the suburbs to reach $15 over several years.

Upstate workers, meanwhile, would hit a target of $12.50 or $13, with future increases linked to inflation.

“I think it’s setting up a dangerous precedent with the $15 minimum wage and the way we’re splitting it up with three different regions of the state,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Utica. “We really are one state and we should focus on one solution.”

The agreement comes as state budget talks edge toward a resolution this week, with the minimum wage one of the key sticking points toward an agreement.

A slower phase in for upstate New York could bring Senate Republicans along on the issue. Brindisi in an interview said the Democrats from upstate have raised concerns with Speaker Carl Heastie.

“I think the speaker is well aware of the upstate Democrat concerns,” Brindisi said. “The problem is the Senate Republicans from upstate are not on board with doing anything for upstate.”

Under a potential agreement, New York City’s minimum wage would be increased to $15 over three years. Long Island and Westchester County would reach $15 within four years. The current minimum wage in New York is $9.

Brindisi acknowledged the increase from $9 to $13 could be a significant one for upstate wager earners, but may not go far enough.

“If it’s up to the upstate Democrats, we’d like to have one wage for the entire state,” he said. “The way it is now, we’re looking at a three-tiered system. Againg, you still have people living below the poverty line.”