Bill de Blasio

De Blasio Grilled On Tax Cap For New York City

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Albany to talk about the potential cuts in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget that would impact the Medicaid program and the City University of New York.

Instead, the mayor was grilled in a five-hour session by more than a half dozen state lawmakers on placing a property tax cap on New York City.

“The middle class is leaving in leaps and bounds,” said Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island. “I see that on Staten Island. This is going on long before you became mayor.”

The tax cap talk at the joint legislative hearing on the state budget and its impact on local governments was dovetailed by the GOP-led Senate approving, once again, a cap on property tax increases for New York City.

The hearing on Tuesday is part of “tin cup day” at the Capitol, in which local government officials — namely the mayors of the state’s largest cities — comment on the proposed state budget.

Every New York City mayor’s testimony looms large each year. De Blasio’s has been closely watched, given the public disagreements he has had with Cuomo and the animosity with Senate Republicans.

But the questions over the tax cap weren’t just limited to Senate Republicans. Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy, as did Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, quizzed the mayor on the tax cap.

Never mind that de Blasio insisted multiple times that he has no plans to draw more revenue from the tax by increasing the rate and that his proposed budget itself increases spending by less than 1 percent.

“I’m telling the people up front that I’m working everyday on property taxes,” de Blasio told Lanza. “One thing I’m adamant about is presenting budgets that do no include a property tax increase.”

The mayor, however, reiterated multiple times during the course of his testimony that he remains philosophically opposed to the measure.

“I don’t agree with it philosophically and practically as well,” he said.

The questioning on the tax cap proposal was so relentless that it clearly frustrated the mayor’s aides.

“Can someone explain to me why the City has spent four hours talking about property taxes today in Albany?” tweeted de Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton.

The state has had a cap on local and school property taxes in place since 2011. The measure limits levy increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year the cap is unexpected to allow for an increase of less than 1 percent, leading to some school and local government officials to call for more leeway in the measure.

But supporters of the cap, including Cuomo, say the cap is working as it was intended to do: Limit the growth and cost of local government on property and homeowners.

During his testimony, de Blasio disagreed with the notion that middle class property owners were being driven out of the city.

“We are seeing a number of people coming into our city I would certainly not define as rich,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say every net new resident we have is a wealthy person.”

The New York City cap approved by the Senate on Tuesday would allow for a supermajority on the city Council to override the measure in the event of an emergency, a provision de Blasio also questioned.

“A supermajority is not easy to come by and no one likes to increase property taxes,” he said.

At the same time, Republicans advanced an argument that Cuomo himself had initially made: The city should start to take on more costs associated with these programs. Cuomo has since said he is willing to work with the city to find efficiencies in spending.

Republican lawmakers questioned de Blasio’s overall argument regarding a cost shift proposed by the governor in the $154 billion budget for CUNY and Medicaid.

“The bottom line is that the city is awash in money right now,” said Sen. Cathy Young, a Republican who chairs the Senate’s Finance Committee.

At one point, Young even used an analogy that he been deployed by a Cuomo budget spokesman about an uncle financing a mortgage.

At the end of his testimony, de Blasio sought to steer the conversation back to the cost shift in Cuomo’s budget and a relative lack of public information.

“Overall,” de Blasio said, “there’s just a lot of elements of this budget that we don’t have the full facts on.”

Poll: De Blasio Handling Homeless Better Than Cuomo

de blasio cuomo 1More New York City voters think Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing a better job on the issue of homelessness than Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released today. That’s despite an executive order the governor implemented last year giving municipalities authority to provide shelter to homeless individuals during extreme weather conditions.

The poll found that 33 percent of NYC voters believe the mayor is handling the issue better, while 28 percent side with the governor. The remaining slate of voters – 39 percent – are undecided on the issue.

Good news for both Governor Cuomo and the mayor: the poll found that the approval rating for both executives has sneaked up since October. Governor Cuomo is up two points, bringing his approval rating 65 – 29. Mayor de Blasio is up five points with an approval rating of 50 – 42.

An issue sure to help the governor among New York City voters is a hike in the state’s minimum wage. The poll found that three out of four New York City voters support raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

De Blasio Fundraises Off Cruz’s #NewYorkValues

deBlasioAfter criticizing Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s knock on Donald Trump’s “New York values” Mayor Bill de Blasio is fundraising off the back and forth.

“With your support we made history in 2013,” de Blasio writes in the fundraising appeal sent Tuesday morning. “Since then I’ve been working hard to stand up for New York values every day. We created universal pre-K for every eligible child in the City, expanded after school and passed the first ever rent freeze for our tenants.”

Cruz squared off last week in a GOP presidential debate against New York businessman Donald Trump, who the Texas senator is in an increasingly tight race with for the first-in-the-nation voting in Iowa on Feb. 1.

In the debate, Cruz doubled-down on Trump’s “New York values” which he framed as being about big money, big media and socially liberal values on abortion.

Trump responded by pointing to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But soon, Trump’s Democratic critics, including de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were in the mix criticizing Cruz’s comments as well.

“Here’s what Ted Cruz doesn’t understand about us: we are proud of our New York values,” de Blasio wrote in the fundraising email. “They start with celebrating our diversity, taking care of each other, and working to make New York a fairer city for all of our citizens.”

Least anyone be confused that he’s sticking up for Trump — whose comments on Muslim and immigration have been blasted by Democrats and Republicans alike — de Blasio added there’s a lot of things Trump has said that “deserve condemnation.”

“This wasn’t just an attack on The Donald – it was an attack on the 8.4 million men and women I’m proud to represent as Mayor.”

Cruz has responded to calls from Cuomo and de Blasio that he apologize with a snarky list of “apologies” to New Yorkers.

WFP Sides With de Blasio in Budget Battle

The Working Families Party is siding with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in his looming budget battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dinging the governor for undercutting progressive policy proposals with “drastic” cuts to Medicaid, CUNY and more that will leave the city with a close to $1 billion shortfall by the fiscal year 2017.

The WFP, which has long been a booster and supporter of de Blasio and hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with the governor, politically speaking, issued a statement from its state director, Bill Lipton, who was careful to praise Cuomo for focusing on “crucial issues” like a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage, paid family leave, universal pre-K and supportive housing, noting that the party has been organizing on these fronts for some time.

But Lipton also said there is “more to do,” like restoring “progressivity” to the state’s tax code, closing the carried interest tax loophole, and investing in a new “social contract” on public education that ensures full funding for schools – including universal pre-K (an early de Blasio priority) – and restoration to the public university system to pre-recession levels.

The labor-backed party also would like to see Cuomo do more on criminal justice reform and to address climate change, though Lipton allowed he has made “significant strides” on those issues.

When it comes to New York City and the cuts the governor proposed, Lipton deemed this a “core leadership test” on which the governor “fell short.”

“He had a chance to take the high road and unite New Yorkers across our great state,” Lipton continued. “Instead, he chose to single out New York City for drastic cuts to CUNY, Medicaid and more that could impact hundreds of thousands of hard working families. It’s hard to understand why he would diminish a speech with such important progressive milestones.”

Earlier today, de Blasio vowed to fight the cuts Cuomo proposed “by any means necessary,” saying he would seek support from both houses of the state Legislature in that quest.

Of course, he might have some trouble in the GOP-controlled state Senate, where majority lawmakers aren’t particularly fond of the mayor, thanks to his support in 2014 of the Democrats’ failed attempt to re-take control of the chamber. And there has been bad blood between de Blasio and his fellow Democrats in the Assembly, too, though the mayor has been trying to repair that relationship of late.

Cuomo, meanwhile, rejected the claims that his budget proposal hurts New York City, saying it’s “absurd” to expect that increases in funding to fight homelessness and and expand infrastructure wouldn’t require spending offsets elsewhere.

De Blasio Blasts Lack Of Federal Help For Puerto Rico

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted on Wednesday federal inaction when it comes to helping Puerto Rico straighten out its dire financial situation.

At the moment, no plan was included in an omnibus spending bill backed by the House of Representatives designed to aid Puerto Rico, which could lead to one of the largest government defaults in U.S. history.

“The omnibus bill released last night lets down 3.5 million of our fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico and 5 million more stateside, including 700,000 in New York City,” de Blasio said. “While the bill includes two health related provisions that will help the Commonwealth, it’s lacking the comprehensive action needed to prevent this fiscal crisis from turning into a humanitarian one. We have a moral obligation to our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico.”

The mayor singled out nearly every elected official who has worked on the issue, save for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose staff has visited the commonwealth multiple times in the last several weeks. Cuomo, who traveled to Puerto Rico earlier this year, has said helping Puerto Rico through its financial crisis is a top priority for New York.

“I’ll continue to partner with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Congressmembers Velázquez and Serrano, Senator Schumer, and our entire delegation in pursuit of the federal action that is so urgently needed,” he said.

Cuomo and de Blasio this month did sit down for a private dinner at a Manhattan restaurant, but all accounts indicate neither man was ready to bury the hatchet on their feud.

De Blasio: Don’t Close Borders To Refugees

deBlasioNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a package of statements supporting the effort to bring Syrian refugees into the United States and also blasted the comments made by Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie and Donald Trump.

The statements come as elected officials around the country — mostly Republican officeholders — have called for a halt in bringing refugees from Syrian into the U.S. following the Paris terrorist attacks last week.

Governors in more than a dozen states, too, have said they oppose having refugees settle in their states, though their power is limited when it comes to federal immigration policy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is yet to release a statement on whether New York should take in Syrian immigrants.

“We should not close our borders to any group of people fleeing the atrocities and horrors of terrorism,” de Blasio said in a statement. “To do so is to hand terrorists a victory over our democracy, strengthened over the years by Americans who died or risked their lives for it. We are a strong country. We can protect our country with the appropriate and intensive screening and accept refugees seeking our protection at the same time. New York City is a proud immigrant city, and we will not turn our back on that history or the people being persecuted and fleeing war.”

Meanwhile, de Blasio knocked Christie after the New Jersey governor insisted on stringent rules for Syrian immigrants and saying he would not make an exception for “orphans under the age of 5.”

“Because Chris Christie is an elected official, his comment is an embarrassment to this country,” de Blasio said. “If he were in any other profession, it would be dismissed out of hand for the callous, heartless and prejudiced statement that it is.”

Trump, meanwhile, was singled out for his statement calling for the monitoring of mosques.

“First and foremost, we always will abide by the U.S. Constitution which prohibits discrimination against religions,” de Blasio said. “We will adhere to the words of our Founding Fathers, not Donald Trump. Mosques don’t commit acts of terrorism. People do. NYPD will investigate the crime, not close down places of worship. Finally, NYPD is recognized today as having the top anti-terrorism unit in the world. Our anti-terrorism efforts continue to evolve and improve as we’ve become more knowledgeable about activities across the globe.”

And finally, de Blasio called Muslim-Americans and those living in New York City a “crucial ally” in the fight against terrorism.

“ISIS does not discriminate and has killed members of many races and religion,” he said. “The Muslim community is as deeply concerned about terrorism as other communities are. NYPD investigates the crime, not a group of people. That will not change.”

Q-Poll: NYers Divided On de Blasio

deBlasioA Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday was a mixed bag for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, with voters there split on the way he is handling his job as mayor.

The poll found 46 percent of voters disapprove of his handling of the mayor’s office, while 45 percent approve.

The numbers were essentially unchanged from August, when New York City voters were evenly split, 44 percent to 44 percent, de Blasio’s handling of his job.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, fares better in the city, where 63 percent approve his handling of his job as governor, while only 29 percent disapprove.

The stark contrast for the governor and mayor in the poll comes after de Blasio went public in July with his frustrations with Cuomo and what he said was an inclination toward aiding Senate Republicans in Albany at the expense of what was needed in the city.

Since then, the governor and mayor have been in something of a cold war, with both men at odds are a variety of issues that has led to each move being scrutinized through the lens of the feud.

But de Blasio faces some questions about his re-election, with voters by a margin of 48 percent to 42 percent believing he does not deserve re-election in 2017.

The poll of 1,155 New York City voters was conducted from Oct. 22 through Oct. 28. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Cuomo and De Blasio Reach Agreement on MTA Capital Program

deblasiocuomoGovernor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Saturday, announced an agreement to fund the MTA Capital Program.

The $26.1 Billion program will be the largest in the history of the city of New York, promising to renew and expand the current MTA program over the next five years.

The plan has been a point of contention between the governor and De Blasio. Cuomo has urged a larger investment from the De Blasio administration during press availabilities in recent weeks.

“You can look at the numbers. The 11 percent, Mayor Bloomberg invested about 11 percent of the capital budget, and we are asking the city to contribute about 11 percent into the capital budget,” Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Wednesday.

The resolution does not match up with what MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast pitched lawmakers in July. In a letter, he asked the state to contribute $8.3 Billion to the program, leaving the city with a $3.2 Billion investment. More >

Cuomo Knocks de Blasio — Again — Over MTA Funding (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over how to close a gap in the capital budget of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The latest theater for the debate was held on Brian Lehrer’s radio show on WNYC this morning, when Cuomo was critical of de Blasio not supporting a large share of the capital fund being contributed to be by the city.

“The city has to do its fair share,” Cuomo said. “I can’t say to Buffalo you should fund the New York City subway system and New York City that’s sitting there with $7 billion surplus funds isn’t doing its fair share. I can’t. I can’t.”

Cuomo and the MTA are pushing a plan to close the $9.8 billion gap in the $32 billion plan that would increase contributions from both the city and state.

Cuomo is backing a state plan to increase its capital program share by $7.3 billion. New York City, he believes, should add $3.2 billion — a $2.5 billion increase. More >

De Blasio Raises For Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold

deBlasioAs he prepares a presidential campaign forum in Iowa to discuss inequality, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a fundraising email for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold, urging supporters to back the “true progressive.”

“Russ fights for the issues you and I care about: debt-free college, raising the minimum wage, fighting income inequality, and supporting hardworking families,” de Blasio writes in the fundraising email sent on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s the one who cast the lone vote against the terribly flawed PATRIOT Act in 2001. He’s the one who authored historic, bipartisan campaign finance legislation to curb the influence of corporate money in our elections. He’s a champion for the people of Wisconsin and our nation — not special interests. Russ is the one we need in the Senate.”

Feingold was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin from 1993 through 2011, losing re-election to Republican Ron Johnson. Feingold is launching a comeback campaign against Johnson for next year’s election to win his old seat back.

De Blasio has sought a more prominent platform in recent months to promote his causes — especially when it comes to income inequality — while also promoting a more liberal vision for the country as a whole. The mayor, though, has raised eyebrows among fellow Democrats for holding off on endorsing Hillary Clinton, whose Senate campaign he worked on in 2000, in the presidential race.