Apr 17th - 5:19 pm
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who has made headlines by publicly opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a number of high-profile policy issues, today submitted her resignation from the position of state Democratic Party co-chair – a post for which Cuomo hand-selected her two years ago.
It has been speculated for some time that Cuomo would force Miner out of her political position, thanks to her criticisms of key elements of his agenda – especially where financially ailing upstate cities are concerned. But Miner insisted during a brief phone interview this afternoon that she was not pressured to depart.
“It’s time,” the mayor said. “I want to give them a chance to put somebody in there who can help them with a full slate of elections moving forward. It was my decision.”
But a Democratic source insisted that had Miner not resigned, she would not have received sufficient votes at the state party convention in Melville next month to be re-elected along with her fellow co-chair, Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright. UPDATE: Miner told Gannett’s Joe Spector that she won’t be attending the convention at all. Instead, she’ll attend a conference on cities in Boston.
UPDATE2: Miner spoke briefly with TWC’s Bill Carey, who told her about the Democratic source’s comment. Her response: “That’s laughable.”
Miner tendered her letter of resignation (which appears below) to Cuomo and members of the state Democratic Committee this afternoon. In it, she pledged to “do all I can to ensure Democrats continue to get elected to office this year and going forward.”
Miner and Wright were tapped by Cuomo to co-chair the party in May 2012. They replaced Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was a holdover from the era of former Gov. David Paterson. (Incidentally, Jacobs also insisted that he wasn’t forced to give up his state post, but rather had decided that the time was right after three years on the job for him to move on).
Miner was elected mayor of Syracuse – the first woman to hold the position – in 2009. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2013, and is barred by term limits from running again.
Last spring, Miner made headlines when she publicly questioned Cuomo’s plan – or lack thereof – to address the fiscal problems faced by cities like hers. She also penned an OpEd criticizing the governor’s proposal to let municipalities borrow to offset ballooning pension costs, calling that idea ”an acconuting gimmick.” A modified version of the plan did end up in the 2013-14 budget.
Apr 17th - 1:15 pm
Though voters are yet to consider a $2 billion bond act for education infrastructure and technology upgrades at New York schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday named a commission that would provide recommendations on how best to spend the money.
Included on the commission is Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman and former CEO of Google, a company that is best known for its search engine, but has also entered the laptop and tablet computer market in recent years.
In addition, Cuomo is also turning to Harlem Children’s Zone President and CEO Geoffrey Canada and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County.
“It is a simple fact that disparity remains in our education system, with some schools providing tablets in the first grade and others where the most sophisticated piece of electronic equipment is the metal detector that students walk through on the way to the classroom,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the State of the State, we called for a $2 billion Smart Schools Initiative to transform our classrooms from the classrooms of yesterday to the classrooms of tomorrow. This panel will help guide this bold initiative and reimagine our classrooms to provide New York’s students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”
The $2 billion borrowing proposal still has to be approved by voters, who are due to consider the ballot referendum this fall.
Cuomo proposed the bond act in January as way to improve technology in the classroom as well as potentially build more space for pre-Kindergarten programs.
Apr 16th - 4:42 pm
The Aetna Life Insurance Company is being hit with a half-million dollar penalty for violating consumer protection regulations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday announced.
The fine follows a Department of Financial Services investigation that found the insurance company used policy forms in violation of the state’s insurance law when it comes to group life insurance policies.
The company failed to inform policyholders of their rights that are guaranteed under the policies, DFS found.
“Making sure that policyholders know what they are paying for is a bedrock consumer protection requirement,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our administration will continue our work to ensure that consumers are fully informed of their rights and insurance companies meet their obligations.”
The Financial Services probe found Aetna had been using non-compliant policy forms over a nine-year period, between 2002 and 2011, for a half dozen group life policies.
“When insurance companies fail to comply with their consumer protection requirements, it can prevent New Yorkers from making informed choices. We will take action whenever insurers leave consumers in the dark about their rights and benefits,” said DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky in a statement.
Apr 15th - 4:33 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s forthcoming book “All Things Possible” has netted him an initial advance payment of $188,333 from publisher HarperCollins, his 2013 income tax filing shows.
Cuomo made his federal and state tax filings public on Tuesday — a traditional, but not required, public disclosure for statewide elected officials.
The filings show Cuomo also spent $35,127 on legal fees associated with the book. Cuomo last year was represented by Washington lawyer and power broker Robert Barnett when it came to negotiating the book deal.
The book, a memoir of Cuomo’s political and personal life, is due out in August.
Because of the advance, his total income grew last year to $358,448, and he paid $96,302 in federal taxes, an effective tax rate of 26.8 percent. Cuomo’s salary as governor is $175,277.
Cuomo gave $16,000 to HELP USA charity he founded and is now run by his sister.
Apr 15th - 3:14 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has certainly had a hot and cold relationship with the Tax Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that tracks the tax climate across the country.
Back in October 2012 his top aide blasted the Tax Foundation in a radio interview after New York was ranked dead last in terms of its tax climate.
“They basically took data and manipulated them to fit their world view,” Schwartz said. “They support a flax tax, not the progressive tax we have.”
This raised some eyebrows at the time, considering the governor’s own election campaign cited the Tax Foundation in its policy books when it came to high taxes in New York.
But today, things have changed, apparently both tax-wise in New York and the administration’s engagement of the foundation.
The Tax Foundation in a report released earlier found the changes to New York’s corporate tax structure warranted its ranking from 50th to 48th nationally.
Cuomo, in a statement, said the analysis showed the state was moving in the right direction.
“This year’s budget builds on positive reforms included in our three prior budgets, which have greatly improved the business and tax climate in the state and changed the trajectory of New York’s economic standing,” Cuomo said. “This dramatic improvement, demonstrated by the upward progress in today’s Tax Foundation report, serves as further proof that after decades of decline, New York is reclaiming its reputation as a great place to do business. My administration has placed a premium on making it as easy as possible to start or expand businesses in the Empire State, creating jobs and stimulating the economy, and the 2014-2015 budget continues that progress by providing tax cuts for manufacturers throughout the state, lowering the corporate tax rate to the lowest rate since 1968 and reforming the estate tax – all while holding spending growth below two percent.”
As Jimmy Vielkind reported in March, Schwartz had reached out to and consulted the Tax Foundation as the budget process was underway.
Apr 15th - 12:25 pm
A bill that would add New York to the multi-state compact for a national popular vote was approved on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“With the passage of this legislation, New York is taking a bold step to fundamentally increase the strength and fairness of our nation’s presidential elections,” Governor Cuomo said. “By aligning the Electoral College with the voice of the nation’s voters, we are ensuring the equality of votes and encouraging candidates to appeal to voters in all states, instead of disproportionately focusing on early contests and swing states. I am particularly heartened to sign this legislation as it embodies both in process and substance the Empire State’s tradition as a national progressive leader. Today, in signing this legislation, I am pleased to add New York to the growing list of states who have joined together to make this reform a reality.”
The measure allows the state to exercise its right under the Constitution to award its electoral votes in the manner it deems appropriate. So New York’s 29 electoral votes would pledged to the winner of the national popular vote in all states, plus the District of Columbia, but would take effect once enough states have approved the same legislation (the compact would have to cover a majority of the Electoral College’s 538 votes).
With New York joining the popular vote compact, it now has 165 of the necessary 270 electoral votes, or 61 percent.
New York in presidential politics is largely ignored, save for fundraising by the major party candidates.
Apr 14th - 11:42 am
New York’s long-sought Medicaid waiver was officially approved Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced.
The $8 billion waiver is $2 billion less than what Cuomo and state officials had been pushing for since last year, arguing that New York had sufficiently wrung savings from its costly Medicaid program to qualify for it.
After both Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio teamed up to push for the wavier and following some not-so-subtle pressure from the governor’s office on federal elected officials, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the waiver in February.
“We will finally be able use the billions in savings we generated by reforming the state’s Medicaid system to protect and improve health care services for millions of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In 2011, New York did what people said couldn’t be done: we overhauled our Medicaid system to save taxpayers billions while delivering better health care. This waiver amendment allows us to invest these savings in keeping Brooklyn’s hospitals open, providing new community based primary care clinics in neighborhoods that need them and preserving health care services across our state.”
Cuomo’s office says the state will spend the $8 billion “reinvestment” on a variety of avenues, with the bulk of the money going toward Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments, which are designed to stabilize the state’s health-care safety net by reducing avoidable hospitalization and emergency room visits over the next five years by 25 percent.
Apr 10th - 4:38 pm
As Stephen Colbert is poised to take over CBS’ “Late Show” following the retirement of David Letterman, Gov. Anderew Cuomo in a statement implored the head of the network to keep the program in New York City.
“With East Coast based host Stephen Colbert taking the reins of the “Late Show,” it’s clear we should keep the show where it belongs – here in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am calling CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves and urging that CBS continue the “Late Show’s” history of filming in New York’s own legendary Ed Sullivan Theater. Our state is a top destination for entertainment businesses to thrive and grow, creating jobs and economic opportunities for communities across the State, and late night programs are a major part of that success. We must ensure that the “Late Show’s” long and proud history of making the nation laugh from New York continues for years to come.”
Cuomo last year proposed an expansion of the state’s film-tax credit, which the Legislature approved. At the same time, the spending plan proposed a tax credit aimed at bringing The Tonight Show franchise back to New York City under the new host, Jimmy Fallon.
The credit provides a 30 percent tax break to “a television production that is a talk or variety program” that moves to New York.
Apr 10th - 1:20 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed back on Thursday against concerns raised by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that he “bargained away” the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in favor of an agreement on ethics legislation in the state budget.
Cuomo, speaking with reporters in Irondequoit, said the panel itself was created in order to get an agreement on anti-corruption charges.
“It was a temporary commission,” Cuomo said in a question-and-answer session. “I was not creating a perpetual bureaucracy.”
Bharara in a letter to the commission suggested the disbanding of the panel charged with investigating wrongdoing in the state Assembly and Senate was ending its work prematurely.
However, the governor pointed out the commission had indeed been created in response to a lack of legislative progress on ethics.
Cuomo, indeed, had been threatening lawmakers with an investigate Moreland Commission as far back as 2011, his first year in office.
Creation of the commission that year was averted when Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to an ethics package that included the newest incarnation of an ethics enforcement agency known as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, as well as the requirement that elected officials reveal more information on their outside income.
In 2013, lawmakers and Cuomo did not agree to a package of anti-corruption measures following a spate of arrests in the Legislature.
Cuomo went forward with the commission’s creation that July, appointing district attorneys and legal officials with the blessing of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Lawmakers pushed back against the commission’s authority to investigate the Assembly and Senate by challenging it in state court.
But in the end, a budget agreement included new measures aimed at curbing bribery and defrauding the government, though good-government advocates remain displeased it does not include a broader, statewide public financing system.
“I don’t believe we needed another bureaucracy for enforcement,” Cuomo said. “We needed laws changed and that’s what Moreland was about.”
Apr 10th - 11:11 am
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Thursday did not rule out investigating the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption itself and whether there was any interference from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in directing subpoenas.
The New York Times reported this morning that Bharara’s office was taking possession of records generated by the commission, which Cuomo created last year as a means to investigate legislative wrongdoing.
But Cuomo announced this month he was disbanding the panel following a budget agreement that led to new bribery and fraud penalties, as well as a system for public financing the state comptroller’s election this year.
Bharara, however, believes the commission is ending its work prematurely.
“From where I sit, when you begin something, you finish, particularly when you tell people you’re going to finish it,” Bharara told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer in a radio interview.
Despite the flurry of subpoenas and state money spent on the panel, Bharara said there’s more that needs to be done to fight corruption.
“I think the plain facts are it was disbanded before it’s time,” he said. “Nine months may be the proper gestational period for a child, but in our experience it’s not enough for a proper corruption probe to mature.”
The commission had subpoenaed state lawmakers for more information on their outside income, as well as for documents on spending by housekeeping committees of the legislative conferences.
The commission, however, had initially not sent subpoenas to politically sensitive entities for Cuomo, including the business-backed Committee to Save New York, which spent millions on his behalf supporting his 2011 and 2012 fiscal agenda.
A subpoena would eventually be sent to the state Democratic Committee, which has raised millions in soft money and aired TV ads supporting Cuomo.
Asked whether he was looking into wrongdoing by Cuomo’s office in the Moreland proceedings, Bharara demurred.
“I’m not going to prer-judge what we are looking at, what we will be investigating and where the facts will lead,” he said.
Pressed on what that meant, Bharara said, “What I’m saying is we’re going to look at the documents, we’re going to see what the facts are and if there are questions that are appropriate to ask as the public knows by know there are aggressive and strong willed people in my office who can ask those questions.”
Cuomo has maintained the commission was always due to conclude its work once an ethics agreement had been reached. At the same time, Cuomo’s office has said the commission was always meant to investigate legislative corruption following a string of high-profile arrests of lawmakers in 2013.