Feb 12th - 6:27 pm
New York has started plans to provide an alternate water source for the village Hoosick Falls, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced.
State and federal officials since last month have advised residents of the village to not drink or use the water, which was found to have been contaminated with the hazardous chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.
“Protecting the health of New Yorkers is paramount,” Cuomo said in a statement. “My administration is taking aggressive action in Hoosick Falls because no one should have to question the safety of their water. We are working closely with our local partners, and will continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard the public health.”
The announcement came hours after high school students at the Hoosick Valley Central School District called on state officials to provide an alternate water source. In a news release, Cuomo’s office noted that no PFOA contamination has been found in the district’s water and the state has already put in motion plans to install a water filtration system at the school.
At the same time, the state plans to authorize an emergency allocation of $10 million from the Superfund for the water source, while also planning to purchase and install water filtration systems for 1,500 homes in Hoosick.
On Thursday, the Department of Environmental Conservation determined both Saint-Gobain and Honeywell were responsible for the contamination of PFOA in the water supply. The state’s investigation into the contamination continues.
State health and environmental regulators have defended the state’s response to the water contamination, insisting the moved as quickly and deliberately as possible when discovering the PFOA contamination.
The first results showing a contamination came in December 2014, with further tests being conducted in July.
Feb 12th - 8:51 am
Overtime at state agencies grew by $55 million in 2015 to a record $716 million, according to a report issued on Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The report found the largest spike in overtime was with the State Police, which last year was part of the sweeping, month-long effort in June to re-capture two escaped killers from Clinton Correctional Facility in the North Country region.
“State employees worked 16.8 million overtime hours last year, at a record cost of $716 million,” DiNapoli said. “New York’s state agencies need to ensure that overtime use is justified, while ensuring that work is done safely and effectively.”
The largest overtime share among state agencies were the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the Office of Mental Health.
Combined, the three agencies made up 65.3 percent of all overtime hours and nearly 63 percent of the overtime costs, some $450.3 million.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration defended the use of overtime, pointing to the overall state workforce under executive control has decreased from 127,392 in January 2011 to 118,311 at the end of the current fiscal year, March 31.
At the same time, overall personnel costs, which includes overtime, is down by $136 million compared to the previous administration.
“Overtime is used carefully and only when needed,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “The alternative would be a larger, more bloated, and more expensive state bureaucracy that New York taxpayers simply can’t afford.”
Feb 11th - 3:03 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in western New York on Thrusday to tout a $200 million expansion of the drug manufacturer Athenex, which is expected to bring 900 jobs within the next five years.
There’s just one catch: The money isn’t actually approved yet.
To that end, Cuomo pledged that he wouldn’t “sign” the budget without the money being in there for the project.
In his remarks in Dunkirk, Cuomo references his recent hand injury, which resulted in surgery and the wearing of a rather large bandage.
“It should be done by April 1,” Cuomo said of the budget before referencing the hand he needed surgery on last year. “But coincidentally, I have a broken hand, at the time. My right hand was broken. I sign with my right hand. My right hand is so broken that if the budget does not have $200 million in it, I cannot sign that budget, period. So we’re going to have the $200 million in the budget.”
The governor doesn’t actually sign the budget once it is approved by the state Legislature. Once it’s approved, Cuomo can line item veto the budget, but does not sign off on it.
Cuomo has used the term before to describe various budget ultimatums in the past, which has been taken to mean he wouldn’t agree with state lawmakers on the spending plan unless a specific item is in the final deal. Last year, Cuomo pushed for his preferred education policies — including a new teacher evaluation plan linked to test results — that was tied to a boost in education spending.
Cuomo announced the plan alongside two Republican lawmakers: Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Sen. Cathy Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee. Both pledged to back the proposal.
Feb 10th - 4:40 pm
A trio of state investigations from disparate agencies into the tritium leak at Indian Point will be integrated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a letter on Wednesday released by his office.
In the letter, Cuomo directs Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Public Service Commission Chairwoman and CEO Aubrey Zibelman to coordinate their departments’ inquiries into the contamination of groundwater near the nuclear plant in Westchester County.
The announcement comes after the facility’s owner, Entergy Corp., reported the level of tritium in the water had increased by 80 percent since its initial report.
“The trends of unexpected outages and environmental incidents like these are extremely disconcerting,” Cuomo said. “On February 6, I directed the Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health to investigate the cause of the radioactive leak. Operational problems at Indian Point have been under investigation by the Department of Public Service since my directive in December 2015.”
Now Cuomo is having his administration “thoroughly explore” whether operational problems at the plant may have caused the leak.
“Representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Public Service will be onsite as part of these investigations,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo has long been a critic of Indian Point and has called for the facility to be shuttered, raising concerns about the plant’s proximity to a densely populated area in the metropolitan region.
Feb 10th - 3:44 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to federal regulators on Wednesday urged them to reject a proposed merger of two banks that he says would have a major impact on consumers and jobs in upstate New York.
In the letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Cuomo wrote the acquisition of First Niagara by Key Bank would hurt customers by limiting access and reduce competition.
At the same time, Cuomo is concerned the bank merger would eliminate jobs as well, especially in western New York.
“The proposed acquisition of First Niagara by Key Bank would have a devastating impact on consumers and businesses in Upstate New York, and I urge the federal government to reject the application. This proposal would reduce retail banking competition, limit consumer access and convenience, and ultimately eliminate jobs throughout the region,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. :Blocking this deal is the right thing to do – plain and simple – and my administration will not hesitate to stand up for New Yorkers by opposing this acquisition.”
Cuomo joins a growing list of western New York and Buffalo-area elected officials who have raised concerns with the merger, including Rep. Brian Higgins and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, too, has raised concerns about the merger’s impact on jobs in the Buffalo area.
Feb 10th - 2:11 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday released an eight-page report that highlight the potential benefits of a $15 minimum wage in New York.
Cuomo is backing a phased-in minimum wage increase to $15 in the current legislative session amid opposition from business groups and skepticism from majority Republicans in the state Senate.
In the report, the Cuomo administration and the state Department of Labor point to the 2.3 million residents in the state — about 25 percent of the workforce — will have their pay boosted, increasing spending power by $15.7 billion into the economy.
At the same time, the report points to most minimum wage earners being adults, with half of them being 35 years or older living outside of New York City.
The current $9 minimum wage, the product of a 2013 agreement between Cuomo and the Legislature, is “not a decent living wage” and only pays $18,720 a year for a full-time worker, the report states.
And getting to the heart of the business-backed argument that a wage hike would cost jobs, the Department of Labor’s data found employment increased following a wage hike.
“If you work full time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty – which is why it’s time for New York to lead the way and pass a $15 minimum wage,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“This report demonstrates that raising the minimum wage will provide new opportunity and restore economic justice to millions of New Yorkers. Our proposal will lift families out of poverty and create a stronger economy for all, and I urge lawmakers to help us fight for fair pay for working families this year.”
The report released in packaged press releases aimed at highlighting the impact specifically in different regions of the state such as the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and New York Ciy.
Business groups, however, weren’t buying the claims.
The Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate said the report “falls short” of a deep analysis.
“For example, it does not look at the real impacts that a 67-percent minimum wage increase will have on small businesses, family farms, non-profits, local governments and school districts,” the group’s executive director, Greg Biryla, said in a statement. “It also fails to mention any potential job losses, tax hikes or cost-of-living increases that will occur if this mandate is enacted.
“The public deserves more from the state Labor Department than a self-serving report that regurgitates the slogans of minimum wage advocates and provides unsupported assertions about how a new wage mandate will benefit businesses.”
The National Federation of Independent Businesses dismissed the report as “propaganda.”
“Small businesses across New York have continuously expressed their very real concerns on the impact of the Governor’s incessant and misguided push to increase their labor costs,” said NFIB state Director Mike Durant. “We find this alleged analysis absent the comprehensive examination worthy of such state resources.”
Feb 8th - 4:47 pm
Former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia on Monday was confirmed by the Republican-led Senate to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals.
Garcia’s confirmation in the full Senate came the same day as Chief Judge Janet DiFiore was formally sworn in to her new post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo across the street in the top court’s chambers.
“I want to congratulate Michael Garcia on his confirmation as an Associate Justice of the NYS Court of Appeals,” said Sen. John Bonacic, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Mr. Garcia’s depth of legal experience, and his knowledge of the law will serve him well in his new role. I wish him much success as a new member of the Court.”
Garcia replaces retired Judge Susan Read and is Cuomo’s first Republican nomination to the court.
The announcement of Garcia’s nomination coincided with the Senate briefly delaying the approval of DiFiore’s confirmation. After Cuomo’s office announced Garcia’s nomination, the Senate Republicans confirmed they would move forward with the consideration of DiFiore.
Cuomo on Monday seemingly addressed the question over whether there was a trade of Garcia’s nomination for DiFiore, joking that he wanted to nominate a fellow “Queens boy” to the bench.
With the pending retirement of Judge Eugene Pigott next year, the entire Court of Appeals is due to be composed of Cuomo nominees. The only other governor to appoint all of the court’s judges was the current governor’s father, Mario Cuomo.
Feb 8th - 4:24 pm
The presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton is pursuing “achievable goals” while the success of her rival Bernie Sanders is in part due to economic anxieties, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Monday in Albany.
Cuomo was largely in line with what Clinton surrogates — the candidate herself for that matter — have said as Sanders continues to perform well in polls ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and a week after she narrowly defeated him the Iowa caucuses.
“I think the Hillary campaign in many ways is more realistic in putting forth proposals that could actually be enacted,” Cuomo said. “She is putting out the ideal, what would you do if you were the only person, what would you do if you could snap your fingers. She has the benefit and the burden of actually getting things done.”
Cuomo confirmed Monday that he would be attending a fundraiser for Clinton in the coming days.
“I believe I’m the head of her New York leadership group, or whatever it’s called,” Cuomo said. “I’m doing a fundraising event for her coming up. I’ll do whatever I can do to help her.”
Sanders has harnessed the liberal base of the Democratic Party in recent months to give a stronger-than-expected challenge to Clinton, who has emphasized in the race her ability to accomplish programs and proposals.
The Clinton argument is remarkably similar to a approach Cuomo has taken with government: Words are nice, but governing with accomplishments is better.
“The question is not what would you like to see happen if you didn’t have to deal with Congrss and the other party, it’s what can you see accomplished,” Cuomo said. “I think these are achievable goals.”
He went as far as to speak tacitly in favor of governors running for the GOP nomination — John Kasich and Chris Christie are sitting governors, Jeb Bush is a former governor — who “tend in my opinion to be more reality-based” than their opponents.
As for Sanders’s success, Cuomo pointed to “an animated electorate” in both parties.
“I don’t think it’s problems quote-un-quote with Bernie Sanders,” Cuomo said. “You have a very animated electorate on both sides. You have a right end of the political spectrum that is animated that we talk about more and then you have a left side that is animated.”
Feb 8th - 3:46 pm
Over the course of his first gaggle with reporters in Albany since October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked at least multiple times about the appearance of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the state’s capital city on Monday.
And each time, Cuomo for the most part demurred.
“I went in, I did the event,” Cuomo said when asked about Bharara. “This was a major gathering for law enforcement people — judges, colleagues from all across the state. I think the turnout was magnificent. I think that was an endorsement of the selection.”
There were no plans for both men to meet today at the Capitol.
Both Cuomo and Bharara were literally face to face for the swearing in ceremony of the state’s new chief judge, Janet DiFiore, a former Westchester district attorney nominated by the governor to fill the vacancy created by the retired Jonathan Lippman.
The event of both men being in the room together was highly anticipated: Bharara has prosecuted some of state government’s most high-profile cases, winning convictions of both leaders last year in the Senate and Assembly.
Bharara was in Albany to address the New York Conference of Mayors as well as participate in a forum at WAMC public radio.
Both Cuomo and Bharara were in the packed Court of Appeals chamber — filled to overflow capacity — for the swearing in of DiFiore, which the governor administered.
Bharara at NYCOM didn’t reference either case brought against Sheldon Silver or Dean Skelos, nor did he stop to take questions from reporters at the event.
While Judge Eugene Pigott went through a long list of the VIPs in attendance of the state’s legal world and said Bharara’s name, Cuomo applauded politely and smiled.
During Cuomo’s remarks, Bharara was attentive and polite, smiling for most of the lighter moments.
Asked by reporters later about Bharara’s presence, Cuomo largely shrugged it off.
“How do you feel about him being here?” asked New York Public Radio’s Karen DeWitt?
“In terms of what?” Cuomo responded.
He pivoted to an area of public agreement between Bharara and him: the need for ethics legislation in state government.
“I think his point that we need ethics reform is the same thing that I’ve been saying,” Cuomo said. “We have a very aggressive agenda on ethics reform.”
Bharara’s office continues to investigate the state’s economic development programs in western New York, known as the Buffalo billion. Asked if there were any recent subpoenas issued, Cuomo said he has “heard nothing.”
“I’ve heard nothing,” Cuomo said. “When I say I’ve heard nothing, what does that mean? I’ve heard nothing. That’s what that means. I’ve heard nothing.”
Cuomo insisted he’s pushing for ethics legislation, adding that it’s up to individual New Yorkers to pressure state lawmakers, especially on the issue of limiting what state lawmakers can make outside of their government jobs.
Cuomo wants to cap outside pay of state lawmakers at 15 percent of their base income, which is currently at $79,500.
“I think you don’t really get to this issue until you resolve the fundamental conflict and the fundamental conflict is legislators are allowed to make outside income,” Cuomo said while adding, “Politicians listen to the people. The way they taught us is politicians. I think very often the people lead. I think people get it, but they have to take the next step and communicate with the legislators.”
Feb 8th - 3:09 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday indicated he was cool to the proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy in New York this year, saying he doesn’t think there is “any reason or appetite” to do so.
Cuomo was reacting to a proposal backed by the Democratic-led Assembly that would re-approve tax rates due to expire in 2017 that would increase taxes on those earning more than $1 million a year.
The Assembly Democratic conference also backs the creation of an earned income tax credit that would benefit lower-income earners.
But Cuomo was skeptical the measure should be taken up this year.
“I don’t believe there is any reason or appetite to take up taxes this year,” he said.
It’s a similar answer Cuomo gave last year, when his office was skeptical of a paid-family leave program advancing in the Legislature. Cuomo this year backs a 12-week paid leave program.
At the same time, Cuomo is fending off calls to alter the state’s cap on property tax increases. Local government officials as well as school district leaders are concerned the state’s cap — due to be less than 1 percent this year because of the low rate of inflation — will dry up revenue for cash-strapped municipalities and schools.
But Cuomo indicated he is not open to unlinking the cap to the rate of inflation, rather than having a straight 2 percent cap on tax levy increases.
“Politically they don’t want to override the 2 percent,” Cuomo said of local leaders. “It’s become a good housekeeping seal for budgetary diligence. If a locality wants to go beyond the cap, they can go beyond the cap.”
As for raising taxes?
“You have to think before raising taxes,” Cuomo said. “This state has been automatic pilot and these local governments have been on automatic pilot raising taxes year after year.”