Dec 17th - 9:35 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have created a commission to assess pay increases for non-unionized state workers designated management/confidential employees.
As he has in a veto of a previous version of the bill, Cuomo wrote the discussion of pay increases for those workers — commonly referred to as “M/C” employees should be dealt with in the “context of the state budget process.”
Cuomo also added in the veto message that his administration in June previously approved 2 percent increases for management/confidential employees — the first raises those workers had seen a salary bump since the onset of the financial crisis.
There are roughly 12,000 state workers with the M/C designation.
“Since taking office, my administration has implemented longevity and merit increases for various grades of managerial or confidential employees and has planned for other increases in the near future,” Cuomo wrote in the veto message. “But given the state’s traditional managerial role in this policy area and the unbudgeted costs that could be imposed as a result of this legislation, such a restructuring of compensation is better raised in the context of the state budget process.”
The veto comes as the Cuomo administration moves to reclassify about 1,000 members of the Public Employees Federation as management/confidential positions.
Cuomo’s veto message is below (it is number 550).
Dec 17th - 5:19 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not quite declare public financing and long-sought ethics reform legislation dead on arrival in Albany, but he acknowledged that now is the time in which lawmakers have the “greatest incentive” — a salary increase — and still won’t do it.
“I think this is the moment where in some ways — the greatest incentive for them to do it was now and with the greatest incentive they will not do it,” Cuomo said at a cabinet meeting today.
Cuomo has said he’s sympathetic to the push from state lawmakers, primarily in the state Assembly, to receive their first pay increase since 1998. Their salaries currently stand at $79,500.
But Cuomo has used the moment to demonstrate the difficulty of getting both the Assembly, controlled by Democrats, and the state Senate, which will be under Republican control next month, to create a public financing program for political campaigns or place limits on outside income for state lawmakers.
It’s a bit of jujitsu on the part of a governor who is frustrated with liberal critics and ethics reform advocates who have knocked him for not pushing hard enough on their issues while also side-stepping the politically fraught pay raise issue.
Cuomo said the pay increase, which would impact the new session of the Legislature due to be seated come January is “probably the single item they want most and wanted most in four years.”
Cuomo insisted today that he’s negotiating in good faith, but more or less indicated a special session to deal with ethics reform and a pay raise is highly unlikely.
The governor also lamented what he sees as essentially a Catch-22: He could give them the pay hike, but settle on ethics legislation, which would be the third reform package passed since he’s taken office as governor.
“What I could do is get whatever I can get and give them a pay raise,” he said, adding that he would be criticized for the move.
Dec 17th - 11:02 am
A long-awaited update on whether the state will allow high-volume hydrofracking is expected this morning at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet meeting, due to start at around 11:15.
One question surrounding Cuomo’s decision on the controversial natural gas extraction process is how it will square with a state Court of Appeals ruling from this June.
In that case, the state’s high court ruled local zoning measures can block hydrofracking operations — a move that was celebrated by environmental advocates and knocked by the energy industry for making any natural gas drilling operations all the more complicated.
Cuomo could potentially show deference to local governments when it comes to zoning, potentially muddying the waters with whatever the state allows to move forward.
Meanwhile — perhaps coincidentally — the state Department of Environmental Conservation in recent days conducted classes with engineers on “classical gas/oil fracking air emissions” with refresher courses on the state’s natural gas development history and regulatory guidelines for air emissions.
Dec 17th - 8:18 am
From the Morning Memo:
The direction of where the upstate economy will be headed for the next decade could be decided this week, as the state is expected to make major decisions on both where casino resorts will be built and whether to go ahead with hydrofracking, a controversial natural gas extraction process.
The state’s Gaming Facility Location Board will meet in Albany this afternoon with the expectation that it will offer its recommendation of which projects should receive up for licenses to build casino resorts. Up to four licenses are available in three regions of the state: the Capital District, the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes and the Catskills/Hudson Valley.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health is expected to release its findings on the safety of hydrofracking, the method of extracting natural gas that has created economic booms in other parts of the country, but has also sparked a massive environmental movement. Likewise, a long-sought decision on whether the state should begin granting permits for hydrofracking is also expected when this review is complete.
News on the tracking front could come today as the governor convenes his final cabinet meeting at 11:15 this morning.
What’s fascinating is how — publicly at least — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has kept both hydrofracking and casino siting at arm’s length as both decisions, either way, are expected to spark litigation.
Cuomo did push hard for the constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming beyond Indian-run facilities and then negotiated the enabling legislation that set the ground rules for commercial development, namely keeping the casinos north of New York City in the first phase.
But once that measure passed, Cuomo has insisted he’s leaving the casino siting up to facility board members, several of whom are close allies of his, including former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, former advisor Paul Francis, attorney Dennis Glazer (whose wife, Westchester DA Janet DiFiore, was Cuomo’s appointee to the state ethics panel JCOPE) and Kevin Law, the president of the Long Island Association who at one point was floated as a potential running mate for the governor.
As much as gaming regulators have sought to make the casino siting decision as open as possible, hydrofracking, meanwhile, has been one of the more opaque decision-making processes, frustrating both environmental advocates as well as the energy industry for the state of limbo and the decided lack of transparency in what the DOH is reviewing in making its determination.
Unlike so many policy areas, the hydrofracking decision has seemingly handcuffed Cuomo.
Having missed multiple deadlines to issue regulations, the process was thrown to the Department of Health to review the tracking impact. It’s important to note that the administration made a point of having Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens make that request of then-Health Commissioner Nirav Shah.
Pockets of upstate New York have been left in the economic doldrums for decades, including the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley.
The governor has adopted Buffalo and western New York as a cause to fight for, pumping millions of dollars of economic development funding into the area.
The Capital Region, too, has benefited from the state’s attention in recent years, beginning with the Pataki administration, as the growth of the high-tech sector took shape.
Whatever decisions are made this month on hydrofracking and casinos and no matter how much the famously hands-on governor tries to show he had little if anything to do them, the perception will be that these have been made by Cuomo.
Finding ways to boosting the upstate economy has bedeviled governors for more than a generation. What decisions the state makes — potentially all this week — could have lasting consequences for another generation.
Dec 15th - 1:16 pm
The plans for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s second term swearing-in are yet to be revealed, but the governor himself on Monday indicated he wanted a low-key affair.
“I am not one for in terms of the inaugural balls or fancy affairs,” Cuomo said on The Capitol Pressroom on Monday. “I don’t think there’s a tone for that.”
Cuomo’s first inaugural was a similarly quiet event compared to previous years which have featured concerts headlined by James Taylor and Jimmy Fallon for Eliot Spitzer and a laser show for George Pataki.
Cuomo said such pomp is not his style.
“We have really serious issues and problems that we haven’t seen in decades and I want to speak to that,” Cuomo said.
In 2010, Cuomo was sworn-in as governor in the Capitol’s “War Room” on the second floor — an expansive space outside of the executive chamber. Cuomo also used the day to re-open the second-floor suite offices that had been closed to the public since the Pataki administration.
Dec 15th - 12:56 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday in a radio interview said there will be “major decisions” made both on hydrofracking and the siting of casinos by the end of this month.
Cuomo, interview on The Capitol Pressroom this morning, said the long-awaited health review on hydrofracking is still on track to be sent to his office by the end of this month.
At the same time, the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board will meet in Albany on Wednesday to give its recommendations as to which projects could receive up to four gaming licenses to open resort-style casinos with table-top gaming.
“They are on time to be delivered by the end of the year, yes, and even though I’m not directly involved, it’s my understanding the casinos will also be done on time,” Cuomo said. “By the end of the year we should have positions on both that are clear and we’ll start the new year with some major decisions under our belt, so to speak.”
Cuomo up until now has only suggested the Department of Health’s review of the controversial natural-gas extraction process’s impact on human health would be sent to him by the end of the year.
The state has a defacto ban in place on high-volume hydrofracking as an energetic environmental movement has grown up around opposing the process.
The energy industry has been pushing hard for allowing hydrofracking in the state, especially in the Southern Tier were natural gas deposits are believed to be especially rich.
Cuomo has come under criticism for not making a decision on whether the state should grant hydrofracking licenses and the state has missed multiple deadlines to issue regulations.
Dec 15th - 12:35 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday adopted a peacekeeper role between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and police union head Pat Lynch amid the increasingly fraught dynamics in the wake of the Eric Garner case.
Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, has suggested that de Blasio and other elected officials stay away from police funderals.
But Cuomo today on The Capitol Pressroom downplayed the growing rift between de Blasio and the NYPD as protests continue following a Staten Island grand jury not indicting a police officer who held Garner in a chokehold that ultimately led to his death.
“I’m sure at the next funeral, God forbid that there is one, you’ll see the mayor of New York, you’ll see me and you’ll see Pat Lynch,” Cuomo said. “I know the mayor very well and I know Pat very well and I know we will be working together.”
Cuomo added that he understands why Lynch has in recent days has made critical statements in recent days, adding that police officers overall are doing an “extraordinary job.”
The comments from the governor come after a police lieutenant over the weekend was injured during one of the demonstrations.
“I also know that Pat has tremendous respect for the office of the mayor and understands the police need a good relationship with the mayor. And he also understands the mayor has a job to do,” Cuomo said.
He also disagreed with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said it was “racist” for de Blasio to have instructed his son Dante, who is black, how to handle interactions with the police.
“The mayor was speaking sincerely about concern for his son and his son’s safety,” Cuomo said. “I think Pat is defending the police point of view and the police perspective.”
Cuomo has spoken in recent days both to Lynch as well as activists including Russell Simmons and Jay Z regarding potential reforms to the state’s criminal justice system following the Garner case.
Cuomo has raised the possibility of forming a special prosecutor’s office to handle brutality cases as well as more transparency for grand juries in certain cases.
The governor reiterated that he’s planning to introduce a “comprehensive package” of criminal justice reforms that “will restore and improve confidence” in the criminal justice system.
Cuomo said he plans to unveil these proposals around the time of his State of the State address next month.
Dec 15th - 11:49 am
State lawmakers as a whole desperately want a pay raise, but not enough to pass new ethics legislation and campaign finance reform, including a public financing system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a radio interview on Monday.
“Collectively the Legislature has not shown a willingness that I believe is commensurate with a pay raise,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo, interview on The Capitol Pressroom, said he would consider a pay raise for state lawmakers if there was an “appropriate reform package.”
But he said that the measures he’s sought in exchange for the first legislative pay hike since 1998 are too much for state lawmakers, essentially conceding there’s no carrot big enough for long-sought government reforms such as public financing and closing a loophole in campaign finance laws that allow LLCs to contributed unlimited funds.
“The Legislature wants a pay raise as much as they’ve wanted anything,” Cuomo said. “Even for the pay raise, they’re not willing to do public finance and they’re not willing to do significant campaign finance reform. If they’re not willing to do a pay raise, they’re not willing to do it for anything else.”
Cuomo also took a swipe at “critics” who blasted him earlier this year for agreeing to a package of ethics reforms in the state budget they said didn’t go far enough. In the wake of those measures passing in the state budget, Cuomo shuttered the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.
“So far all the critics last year who said well, he could have gotten public financing if he really wanted to, here’s a Litmus test,” Cuomo said.
Nevertheless, Cuomo insists he’s negotiating in good faith even as lawmakers privately grumble he’s moving the goal posts on a pay raise.
“Let them call my bluff,” Cuomo said. “Let them stand up and say we’ll pass campaign finance. It’s easy enough call my bluff. But you haven’t heard it called, have you?”
Lawmakers earn $79,500 base salary, though many earn extra cash through stipends for legislative committee assignments and leadership posts.
A pay raise bill would have to come this month in order for the pay hike to take effect for the next session of the Legislature, due to be sworn in Jan. 1.
Dec 11th - 4:33 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated Thursday he wants to take it slowly on implementing potential changes to the state’s criminal justice system as well as police training in the wake of a grand jury not indicting a police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner.
“These are complicated issues and often you tend to have a knee jerk,” Cuomo told reporters in Albany. “I think on this one it’s more complex, we should talk it through and we should debate it.”
Two years ago, Cuomo pushed through a package of gun control measures that is known as the SAFE Act following an elementary school shooting in Connecticut.
Gun-rights advocates have criticized the legislation, in part, for being rushed into law quickly. Aspects of the gun control law face legal challenges and lawmakers have passed amendments to clarify the language.
Cuomo today said he would introduce a package of criminal justice reforms that could include the creation of a special prosecutor to handle police brutality cases as Senate Republicans signal their opposition to proposals that are already being floated.
But he also said questions remain as to what that special prosecutor’s purview would be.
For instance, Cuomo noted newly elected Brooklyn District Ken Thompson, who is black, is investigating the death of Akai Gurley.
“On what basis do you say he’s disqualified?” Cuomo said.
Cuomo had similar questions for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s request that his office be granted special prosecutor powers to investigate the deaths of unarmed civilians by police.
“I could argue that you want to go broader,” Cuomo said of the AG’s request. “Why just shootings? It doesn’t cover the Eric Garner case.”
Nevertheless, Cuomo said he wants to reform the system in the wake of the Garner case, saying that now is the time to do it considering that people have their attention focused on the issue.
“I believe there is room for improvement,” Cuomo said. “I believe there are reforms we can make. I don’t want to respond quickly or politically to just this current situation, because I don’t believe it’s just about Eric Garner or that it’s just about Ferguson.”
Dec 11th - 3:58 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the relatively poor sales of his book, noting that he hasn’t much time to do publicity for the tome, “All Things Possible.”
Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Thursday that between campaigning and helping care for father, who spent a multi-week stint in the hospital, he has not had much time to do an out-of-state tour for the memoir.
“I released a book in the middle of the campaign,” Cuomo said. “I’ve had a couple things that have kept me in town, personally. I have not yet really done the book tour.”
Cuomo added he’s only done one book signing so far, an event held at Barnes and Noble in New York City.
“It’s just a function of doing the tour, doing the publicity, to sell the book,” Cuomo said.
The governor did, however, promote the book on television, including an interview with Charlie Rose and read the “Top 10″ list on The Late Show with David Letterman. Cuomo also did a round of satellite tours with local TV stations, including one with Capital Tonight.
Cuomo’s book recounts his both his political and personal life, providing an insider’s account of the legalization of same-sex marriage, plus a reflection on his divorce from Kerry Kennedy.
“I’m proud of the book, I think people can find lessons in the book that can be helpful,” Cuomo said. “I have to do the book tour and book selling if you want to sell the book.”