Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo: Alcoa Closure Was A ‘Declaration Of War’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Massena earlier on Tuesday said the planned closure of an aluminum plant by Alcoa was a “declaration of war” by the company.

“This was not the negotiating table,” Cuomo told reporters. “This was a unilateral declaration of war, as far as I’m concerned. This was, ‘We’re closing the plant, period. End of discussion.’ We had to create the conversation.”

Both Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer announced an agreement reached with the company, costing the state $68 million, to keep the factory open for the next 3-1/2 years. The plant was due to close after the worldwide aluminum market fell.

Schumer added they he, too, was taken aback by the sudden closure of the factory, which would have meant the slashing of 600 jobs.

“They were in such a frenzy because the price of aluminum was so slow, they overlooked the fact that there were things we could do to help them to keep this plant open, which I think ultimately they wanted to do,” Schumer said. “They didn’t get consult us. I was shocked they didn’t consult us.”

Cuomo and Schumer insisted that while the deal was only for the next several years, the state would continue to work to keep the factory open.

“The agreement is for 3-1/2 years, but the commitment is forever,” Cuomo said. “This plant has a major investment in it, it has had a major investment from the state for many years. This is 600 jobs that are vital.”

Meanwhile, the future of the plant could still hinge on what the aluminum market looks like several years from now.

“We hope in 3-1/2 years the price of aluminum goes up,” Cuomo said. “Hopefully the market will take care of it. If there’s a continuing issue, we’ll take care of it.”

This isn’t the first investment the state has made in Alcoa’s North Country plant.

Eight years ago, the state gave the company $5.6 billion worth of power credits for the next 30 years.

Cuomo and Schumer pointed to the energy subsidizes as one of the reasons why the company should remain open, along with the human element of the jobs lost.

“I think companies have to be a little more cognizant of the fact that — we understand bottom lines and they have to make money — but this is also about people and peoples lives,” Cuomo said. “I understand corporate profit, I also understand humanity.”

Alcoa Jobs Saved After New York Intervention

A $68 million agreement with New York state will keep jobs at Alcoa’s North Country factory in Massena, state and company officials announced on Tuesday at the plant.

The announcement came several weeks after the company announced the plant would close due to macroeconomic forces being placed on the world aluminum market.

“Senator Schumer and Governor Cuomo have been tremendous allies for Alcoa’s Massena operations for many years and we thank them for their continued support,” said Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld in a statement. “Today’s agreement helps better position the smelter in light of prevailing market conditions, providing this facility a bridge to a stronger commodity market and maintaining jobs in the North Country. We remain focused on ensuring our Upstream business is well-positioned to succeed throughout the cycle.”

The agreement secures 600 jobs at the plant for at least 3-1/2 years.

The plant’s announced closure came on top of an increasingly dire economic picture for upstate New York and the North Country in particular, which has lost jobs — and population — at a steady pace over the last several decades.

The announcement also comes in the wake of a state agreement that kept Heinz-Kraft from closing three plants in different areas of upstate New York, while state officials are working with the company to find a buyer for another factory that was due to close. The state is due to spent at least $20 million helping to upgrade those factories.

The news of Alcoa’s pending closure came amid more bad economic news upstate: Entergy Corp. is moving to close a nuclear plant in Oswego County, a move that state officials are fight as well.

Cuomo: More Ethics And Disclosure Than Ever Before

cuomogunsAmid the twin corruption trials of the former state legislative leaders, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday insisted the state’s ethics and disclosure laws are stronger than ever.

“We have passed more ethics and disclosure laws in Albany than ever existed before,” Cuomo said in New York City earlier in the day. “We’ve passed disclosure laws that, frankly, would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.”

Among those Cuomo cited included a new requirement that state lawmakers disclosure their outside legal clients, a measure that was approved in the wake of the arrest of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Final summations were made in the Silver case in federal court earlier today; the trial of ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos — who is accused of his using power to aid his son’s business interests — began last week.

“When you are in government you have to maintain the highest standards, you have to maintain the highest trust, you have to be a model of integrity,” Cuomo said. “I hope all those watching the trial understand that.”

New ethics and anti-corruption laws have been approved nearly every legislative session since Cuomo has been governor and he ran his 2010 campaign on the push to clean up Albany. But the state Capitol has been marred by a parade of public officials being led out in handcuffs.

“We’ve done lots, but we can never do enough,” he said. “There will always be dishonest people, there will always be people who find a way around the system.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo once again wouldn’t rule out curtailing donations to his campaign from Glenwood Management, the real-estate firm that has played various roles in the Silver and Skelos cases.

“Let’s see what happens with the trial. Let’s see what the outcome is,” he said. “If someone is convicted of a crime, then obviously not.”

Cuomo Vetoes Newspaper Carrier Measure, Teamsters Cheer

Teamsters Joint Council 16 on Monday praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of a measure that would have excluded some newspaper carriers from certain aspects of the state’s labor laws such as unemployment, minimum wage and workers’ compensation.

“Governor Cuomo is once again standing up for New York’s working families. This veto protects New York’s best-in-the-nation safeguards for commercial drivers against being misclassified as independent contractors,” said Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda.

The measure, backed by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Republican Sen. George Amedore, would have codified Department of Labor regulations for independent contractors at newspapers, as long as they meet a multi-faceted test.

“This bill sets forth a common sense test, consistent with the current guidelines and with federal standards, by which newspapers, delivery persons and agency staff will be able to easily determine an individual’s employment status,” the bills sponsors wrote in a memo. “Codifying the guidelines issued by the Department of Labor will foster the distribution of news to New York State residents widely, easily, and affordably while providing delivery persons with the freedom to engage in a form of small business or self-employment that affords them the freedom from constraints of traditional employment requirements.”

The bill was backed by the publisher of the Rochester newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle, who wrote to Cuomo earlier in the year urging him to back the measure.

“Preserving the affordable distribution of printed newspapers saves Teamster jobs in pressrooms, as many Pressrooms are represented by the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters,” publisher Michael Kane wrote.

But the teamsters argued the measure was a way around adhering to the state’s labor laws.

“The ink was barely dry on Commercial Goods Transportation Fair Play Act before anti-worker forces began trying to add loopholes,” Miranda said. “Employee misclassification is a growing problem across the country, but New York continues to set the standard for protecting workers from this practice. Governor Cuomo has sent a clear message to the business community and the legislature that no industry will get an exemption from these protections for commercial drivers.”

Left unmentioned is the challenging environment print media has found itself in over the last decade and falling circulation with the rise of the Internet and cheaply transmitted delivery over the Internet.

Business Council To Cuomo: Back LPG Storage Facility

The state Business Council released a letter on Monday that urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support a proposed liquid petroleum gas storage facility near Seneca Lake.

In the letter, the group argues that approval of the facility will expand both jobs and tax revenue in the Finger Lakes region.

“On a local level, this fuel storage facility will bring jobs and tax revenue to some of the Upstate communities that need them the most,” the Business Council wrote in the letter. “The Finger Lakes LPG storage facility will create 58 construction jobs and 17 permanent jobs. It will also help retain more than 130 jobs at the century-old salt plant used to supply the brine required for LPG storage, and bring more than $600,000 annually through property taxes to Schuyler County. This is not an insignificant impact, and would go a long way towards improving the local job market and overall business climate in Schuyler County.”

The letter comes after Cuomo earlier this month nixed the approval of a liquid natural gas facility for Long Island, arguing that such a move was “not worth the risk.”

The letter from the Business Council was sent a week after the Department of Environmental Conservation released draft permit conditions for the underground facility, which would be located on a 576-acre site in the town of Reading in Schuyler County.

Finger Lakes wineries have raised concerns with the placement of the facility near their operations, and worry the storage of liquid petroleum gas could reverse their efforts to turn the area into a destination.

But the Business Council argues the gas can and would be stored safely.

“Additionally, approval of this storage facility – designed and engineered to standards far exceeding those of the existing LPG facilities in the Finger Lakes that have been operating safely for 60 years – would signal to businesses looking to invest across New York that if a project meets the required environmental standards, it will be permitted. In contrast, unnecessary permitting delays send a strong, negative signal to businesses looking to invest in New York,” the letter states.

AndrewCuomo LPG Storage 11-20-15 by Nick Reisman

Cuomo To Refugees: The Door Is Open

In his strongest statement yet of support for Syrian refugees, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an email sent Friday morning to supporters wrote “the doors are open” to New York.

Cuomo on Tuesday at the Kennedy School at Harvard chided governors across the country who had said they oppose the settlement of Syrian refugees in their states, saying they have “politicized” the issue given they have no control over federal immigration policy.

At the same time, Cuomo has said he believes the federal government is up to the task of screening refugees following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.

“The next time the Republican candidates take to a podium, they’re going to try and confuse the issue, talk about how immigrants are the problem, to use this as a justification to make us afraid of them, and to further divide us,” Cuomo wrote in the email. “That’s not how we think in New York. Here in New York, we aren’t afraid of our immigrants, we celebrate them. As I’ve said many times before, in New York our diversity is our strength.”

He added “The Statue of Liberty is still in the harbor, and the doors are open.”

New York already has about 40 or so Syrian immigrants given refugee status who are residing in the state.

The email from Cuomo comes a day after the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to suspend the Syrian refugee program and strengthen background checks for immigrants.

In the note, Cuomo acknowledged the security concerns.

“Having said that, this is a complex issue,” he said. “We have to protect Americans. The Federal Government has to screen the people who are coming in. They have to do it right, do it exhaustively, but do so without giving up our soul as Americans.”

Cuomo Knocks Clinton Rivals, Invokes Father At Brady Campaign

cuomogunsFrom the Morning Memo:

Praising Hillary Clinton’s record on gun control, Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a gala event for the Brady Campaign on Thursday night invoked his late father and took a veiled swipe at her Democratic rival for the nomination in the presidential race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Cuomo spoke before an audience that included Clinton, the former New York senator and secretary of state, as well as U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, sister Maria Cuomo Cole and her husband, the father designer Kenneth Cole, as well as actor Paul Rudd.

Cuomo, in his remarks, expanded on his push to make the gun control issue an litmus test in next year’s election as he pushes for federal legislation to stem the flow of illegal weapons into the state.

“The gun issue is the best proxy of our time to judge the essence of a political official,” Cuomo said.

Praising Clinton’s record on gun control, he knocked her rivals without naming them specifically. Sanders has defended his gun control votes, pointing to the large number of gun owners in his state.

“We don’t have the political will because our government is intimidated by the political backlash,” Cuomo said. “When Hillary Clinton’s opponents say they don’t support gun control because they have rural communities in their state, they’re saying they’re afraid of the opposition.”

At the same time, Cuomo invoked his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died nearly a year ago, and the praise he had for the passage of the January 2013 law known as the SAFE Act.

Cuomo called the law a “groundbreaking piece of legislation.”

“It’s a piece of legislation I believe has already saved lives and served as a model for other states as to what could be done,” he said. “My father was very pleased when we passed the SAFE Act. We talked about the issue for many, many years. When we finally got it passed, he was happy.”

His father, in part, praised the measure because of the political hit his son took in having to marshal its passage through the Legislature (Cuomo has often cited his poll numbers dropping, especially upstate, following the passage of the law, which angered gun owners).

“In many ways my father loved the difficulties, because in many ways that was the true test of the political official,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo defended the passage of the SAFE Act moving so quickly through the Legislature, which he had negotiated and introduced soon after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut the month before.

“They really wanted time to organize their opposition,” Cuomo said of the NRA. “They were upset we passed it so fast. It’s funny, because I think this state and nation have been so slow in passing gun control and so many people have died unnecessarily.”

Cuomo refocused on the gun control issue earlier this year after the shooting death of an attorney in his administration, Carey Gaby, as well as the shooting at an Oregon community college.

“This is a man-made crisis that costs 33,000 lives per year,” he said. “It’s something we can solve. The answer is going to be federal legislation and that is the only way we’re actually going to make a difference.”

Cuomo, Schneiderman Team Up On Reducing State’s Litigation Risk

schneidcuomoOften seen as rivals for the spotlight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday announced a new alliance on mitigated the state’s litigation risk against state agencies.

“This administration has spent the last five years modernizing state government, making it more efficient and better able to serve the residents of the State of New York,” said Governor Cuomo. “With this new effort, we’re further raising the bar for performance and ensuring that New Yorkers are getting the government that they deserve. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his partnership in this important endeavor.”

The plan is for both offices to contribute staff with the goal of reviewing and improving policies and procedures when it comes to administrative hearings, collecting and preserving evidence and resolving claims, along with training to reduce the possibility of litigation.

At the same time, the joint executive-attorney general team will be analyzing previous and recurring litigation to avoid future situations.

“Public officials must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. This initiative will enable agencies to better serve the public while at the same time reducing the expense of litigation,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “I appreciate the Governor’s partnership on this issue to help ensure the public’s money is used as effectively and judiciously as possible.”

Litigation costs are no small matter for the state and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year in exposure.

The team up was even praised by E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center, a fiscal watchdog that hasn’t shied away from criticizing Cuomo’s taxing and spending proposals.

“Better litigation risk management should equate to better government and lower costs, a win-win proposition for New Yorkers,” McMahon said. “The partnership announced today shapes up as a real institutional breakthrough, and Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman deserve credit for making it happen.”

Cuomo: No Specific Threat Against New York

cuomogunsFrom the Morning Memo:

After a video released from ISIS that purported to suggest New York could be a target for an attack, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday night said no specific threat had been made, even as security measures are being enhanced.

“I want every New Yorker to know that their security is our absolute highest priority,” Cuomo said in the statement. “The video released by ISIS today contains old footage of New York, and there is no specific terrorist threat to New York at this time. After the Paris attacks, I directed state agencies to enhance their preparedness out of an abundance of caution and remain in close contact with local and federal authorities, including the FBI and NYPD through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and that vigilance continues today.”

Those security measures include heightened alert at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, increased surveillance by the State Police and National Guard as well as increased patrols by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“I encourage all New Yorkers to remain alert and report any suspicious activity, while at the same time not letting this disrupt their daily lives,” Cuomo said. “Remember that the terrorists’ goal is to let fear win – New Yorkers never have, and we never will.”

Cuomo in a gaggle with reporters in Rochester insisted the state was prepared to deal with the added security following the attacks in Paris.

“We increased security measures,” Cuomo said. “It costs us money, but I think it’s money well spent.”

Cuomo Pushes $15 Minimum Wage, Upstate Mayors Follow Suit

cuomominwageThe mayors of upstate New York’s two largest cities on Wednesday committed to increasing the minimum wage for public employees to $15 by 2021 as part of a broader push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reach the target wage statewide.

Cuomo made appearances in both Buffalo and Rochester, alongside those cities’ mayors, Democrats Byron Brown and Lovely Warren.

The announcement they would seek minimum wage increases for their workers comes a week after Cuomo announced he would increase the minimum pay for state workers to $15.

All of those announcements were preceded by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, a prominent Democratic critic of the governor, who increased city workers pay to $15 immediately.

The $15 minimum wage for public workers is largely symbolic: 500 workers in Buffalo would be impacted, while 10,000 workers statewide would see their wages increase to $15 over the next several years.

But the moves are designed to provide public pressure on the Legislature to follow suit later next year and pass a $15 wage for all workers.

The governor earlier this summer embraced an administrative move that will increase the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 over the next several years.

Cuomo, speaking in Rochester, spoke to the economic concerns of the middle class following a tepid recovery from the economic recession.

“People feel in the middle class and working families, they feel they are being left behind,” Cuomo said. “They feel this economy is not working for them. You know what? They’re right.”

The governor’s minimum wage rhetoric has increasingly pointed to concerns over those who earn poverty level wages.

“If you work full time you should not live in poverty, period,” Cuomo said.

Warren, the Rochester mayor, said the push to raise the wage to $15 for her was a matter of consistency.

“To be consistent, I believe I cannot advocate for one thing in the private sector without applying that same standard to City Hall,” Warren said.

Hours later at a similar event in Buffalo, Brown echoed her remarks.

“Raising the minimum wage is a smart, common-sense move that ensures opportunity reaches the people of our city and our state,” said Brown, who co-chaired Cuomo’s fast-food wage board this summer.

He said his own support for a $15 wage for city workers was a matter of “leading by example.”

“This can’t just be talk, this must be action,” he said.

Broadly speaking, business groups remain staunchly opposed to the $15 minimum wage. The current minimum pay in New York is $8.75 and is due to increase to $9 by the end of the year, based on a 2013 agreement in the Legislature.

Senate Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the chamber, have criticized the administrative increase in the wage for fast-food workers and have vowed to hold hearings on the wage proposal.

Cuomo has floated the possibility of linking the wage increase to a tax cut aimed at businesses, though the size and scope of the proposal remains unknown.