Mar 27th - 5:30 am
A majority of New York voters opposed the passage of the American Health Care Act, the Republican-backed measure that failed to gain enough votes for passage last week in the House of Representatives, according to a Siena College poll released on Monday.
At the same time, most voters approve of keeping and improving the still-in-place Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, by a wide margin, the poll found.
The poll comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed against the passage of the AHCA, an effort that ramped up last week after Republicans added a provision that would have required the state to assume the counties’ share of Medicaid costs.
Cuomo’s approval and favorably ratings both declined from last month’s poll, though many of the policies he is pursuing in the state budget plan remain popular.
The poll found New York voters opposed the American Health Care Act, which would have overhauled the current ACA, 56 percent to 27 percent.
At the same time, a broader margin, 67 percent to 30 recent, said they wanted to keep the Affordable Care Act in place.
Regionally, support for the Affordable Care Act is strongest in New York City, where 75 percent of voters want to keep it. However, 60 percent of voters in upstate New York and 62 percent in the suburban counties outside of New York City want to keep the measure in place, the poll found.
Not surprisingly, 69 percent of Republican voters want the measure repealed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday declared Obamacare is the “law of the land” and will be for the “foreseeable future.”
Still, New Yorkers are mixed on the results of the current health care law. Most, 75 percent, believe it has expanded access to health care. But a near majority, 49 percent, believe it has also hurt small businesses’ efforts in being profitable.
Cuomo, a vocal opponent of the measure, saw his popularity dip from last month.
The poll found his favorability rating stands at 54 percent to 30 percent, a decline from February when it stood at 60 percent to 34 percent. His job performance rating has dipped below water again, standing at 47 percent to 52 percent. In February, 50 percent of voters had a positive view of the governor’s job performance.
President Donald Trump’s favorability rating in his home state continued to decline to 33 percent to 63 percent. His job performance rating stands at only 27 percent in the deeply Democratic state.
On key issues facing Cuomo in this week’s end-game budget talks — extending a tax rate due to expire on millionaires, allowing ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City and free tuition for SUNY and CUNY schools — there continued to be majority support among voters.
The DREAM Act, a proposal that would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, and a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18, showed support of just over 50 percent among voters.
The poll of 791 registered New Yorkers was conducted from March 19 through March 23. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.
Mar 20th - 6:12 pm
The leaders in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly on Monday indicated they would push to change Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to require local governments to develop ways of sharing services and scale back his efforts to expand his office’s powers over the state budget.
“I think that we are generally in agreement that there should be the prerogative of the Legislature over the Senate and Assembly and I think we have a number of disagreements with the executive over allowing too much power to go to his authority over the budget,” Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.
Lawmakers met Monday afternoon for the start of the joint budget committee process — a meeting known in Albany as the “mothership” and initially held as a way of enhancing transparency in the opaque state budget process, but also a chance for lawmakers to lay out their public priorities in the talks.
While the Legislature has been loathe to surrender powers over making changes to the budget after its approved to Cuomo, the legislative leaders were also skeptical Cuomo’s consolidation plan would remain intact.
“It wasn’t in our one-house,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “The governor maintains its one of his priorities. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not something that I’d say, at least in our conference, any of the members were too happy moving forward with that.”
The plan would require local governments to work with county officials to find ways of sharing services and consolidating costs with an effort of finding concrete ways of reducing property taxes. The plan would be considered by voters in a referendum this November.
Cuomo has long sought to consolidate and scale back the size of local governments in New York, which he has blamed for the state’s high property taxes — an assertion budget watchdogs say is more tied to the cost of programs like Medicaid or employee pensions.
At the same time, lawmakers contend Cuomo is dangling aid to municipalities over local governments to force the sharing of services — a claim the governor’s office denies.
“Local governments are just saying that’s not really an appropriate carrot or a stick and frankly they deserve that money and they do a lot of shared services now,” Flanagan said.
But Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein suggested there would be a compromise possible on the issue.
“If indeed there’s a way they can do these efficiencies and enjoy the benefit of the local level, I think that’s something we can discuss,” Klein said.
Mar 16th - 3:39 pm
On the same day Western New York Republican Chris Collins will appear for a town hall on CNN, the eight Democratic county chairs in his congressional district are criticizing the choice. Rep. Collins will be on the Messy Truth w/ Van Jones tonight.
The Democratic chairs said it’s an insult to the voters in his district. Collins has refused to appear for a public town hall-style meeting in NY-27 despite demonstrations and even a billboard campaign asking him to do so.
“Mr. Collins has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of holding such a meeting, even calling town halls ‘useless.’ But when invited to appear on a cable television program with a studio audience in New York City that will not represent his constituents, Rep. Collins jumped at the chance,” the party leaders wrote.
They said Collins may find out the concerns of a New York City audience, where the show is taped, but he is continuing to avoid the people who vote for him.
“That is unacceptable, and that’s why we will support a vigorous campaign to replace Chris Collins in 2018 with someone who will actually represent New York’s 27th District,” the chairs said.
Collins spokesperson Michael McAdams said the congressman saw the Van Jones show as an excellent opportunity to discuss important issues in depth. He said voters in the 27th district will be able to hear exactly where Collins stands.
“Hardworking families won’t need to take time off to attend. They can simply turn on their televisions to CNN Thursday at 9pm,” McAdams said.
Mar 15th - 3:20 pm
The debate over the Independent Democratic Conference’s budget resolution in the Senate on Wednesday took a heated turn when IDC Sen. Marisol Alcantara accused Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris of “white privilege.”
Alcantara was taking issue with Gianaris needling the eight-member IDC, which has worked closely with Senate Republicans over the years, and quoted The Daily News which accused the IDC being in agreement with “Trump Republicans” in the chamber.
In her remarks, Alcantara said Gianaris is a “white man with a degree from Harvard.”
“I would like to know how many times my colleague has been called the n-word or a spic,” she said.
The comments led to an outcry from first Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco and later Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who urged calm in the debate over the resolution.
Democrats earlier in the day denounced the IDC and the Republican conference for not allowing votes on their own stand-alone budget resolution. Democratic members later noted the conference is led by an African-American woman, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Alcantara was first elected last year, and is one of three new members in the eight-member IDC.
Updated: Gianaris responded at the end of the resolution vote, pointing to his family’s own experience in Greece against the Nazis.
“I went to public school,” Gianaris said. “The very schools that I attended are being underfunded in this budget.”
He added: “I’m going to speak about it. I’m going to speak loudly about it. There’s no reason to make personal attacks, especially when they have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Mar 15th - 9:00 am
The eight-member Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate on Wednesday is unveiling its own budget resolution separate from the Republican conference.
The measure includes language in support of raising the age of criminal responsibility, support for the extension of tax rates on millionaires that expire at the end of the year and the backing of the DREAM Act, a measure that provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.
The resolution includes issues Senate Republicans are either broadly opposed to — such as the DREAM Act — or have had concerns about, including juvenile justice reform for 16 and 17-year-old defendants.
The move marks the first time the IDC has backed a separate budget resolution, a non-binding aspirational document that lays out goals for the budget negotiations, since its formation in 2011.
The IDC, however, insisted the one-house budget resolution of its own should not be read as a break with the Senate GOP as liberal advocacy groups press for juvenile justice reform and other long-sought issues this session.
Instead, IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx indicated in a statement this was aimed at furthering the policy debate with about two weeks to go before a budget agreement is expected.
“The state’s budget is due on April 1 and members of the IDC are committed to ensuring that the final document addresses the concerns of our constituents and all New Yorkers,” Klein said.
“We are committed to advance progressive issues and this is the logical step for a conference that’s growing in size Our one-house sets a clear slate of positions that will serve as a foundation during four-way negotiations during the budget debate.”
Raising the age of criminal responsibility has shaped up to be an especially key policy goal for the IDC.
In its resolution, the IDC includes language “that the state should assist in ensuring that 16 and 17 year olds receive the treatment and programming they need in order to avoid the repeated cycle of mass incarceration that many of our youth experience today. At the same time, we must ensure that the victims of crimes and the effect of criminal actions against society as a whole are also taken into consideration as we weigh changes to criminal justice policy.”
Meanwhile, the resolution also “expresses particular concern about 16 and 17 year old inmates incarcerated at the Rikers Island facility.”
Klein is one of the four men in the room negotiating the budget agreement alongside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In addition to the more high-profile policy issues in the budget talks, the IDC’s resolution also includes an elimination of the personal income tax for New York City residents earning $45,000 and less, efforts to make college more affordable and reduce student debt and support for a multi-state effort to close a “loophole” in carried interest.
Senate Republicans have worked well with the IDC, forming a majority power-sharing coalition when for a two-year term between 2013 and 2014. Senate Republicans maintain a majority with Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who sits with the GOP conference.
Mar 15th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
Mainline Democrats in the state Senate want to see stronger language for supporting raising the age of criminal responsibility, saying a mere expression of the issue won’t go far enough in the Republican-backed one-house budget resolution.
“Our kids deserve better than fake reforms and hollow talk,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.
“We need to raise the age and that means actually raising the age and ensuring that we treat our children as children and not just put them in different types of criminal courts or prisons. The Senate Democrats will stand up for New York children and we will not allow half-measures to take the place of real reforms.”
Added Laurie Parise, the executive director of Youth Represent, “We applaud the Senate Democratic Conference for championing Raise the Age legislation that will make us all safer by promoting successful reentry after criminal justice involvement and treating kids like kids.”
Raising the age of criminal responsibility has stalled in the Legislature over the last several years as juvenile justice reform advocates push the state to become one of the last to treat 16 and 17-year-olds as juveniles in most criminal proceedings.
The issue is being raised in the resolution as Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is pushing to have the provision included in the final budget agreement, insisting that he and his eight-member conference will not support a spending plan that fails to include raise the age.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has also called the issue a key one for him in the budget, saying in a WCNY interview on Tuesday he wanted an agreement that would ensure 16 and 17-year-old defendants were adjudicated in Family Court, not through a diversion court that would create a “separate class” of juvenile defendants.
But Klein’s push in the narrowly divided Republican-led Senate for the policy is being closely watched this year as liberal advocates once again put scrutiny on the IDC and their working relationship with Senate Republicans. Klein and the IDC have argued their arrangement has led to a number of victories for liberals, most recently a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program.
Mar 14th - 6:30 am
From the Morning Memo:
Senate Democrats on Tuesday will release a package of budget priorities for the 2017-18 spending plan due at the end of the month backing measures ranging from boosting funding for services to the homeless, ride hailing upstate and a college affordability plan.
The proposals come as the majority conferences in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly are releasing their one-house budget resolutions.
Senate Democrats back plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, want to see a package of ethics measures approved, and restore funding for elementary and secondary schools.
Meanwhile, the conference wants to see the MTA receive full funding and skirt budgetary “sweeps” of its finances.
“The State Budget should be more than a fiscal document, it is also an opportunity for us to enact real reforms and protections against Donald Trump’s agenda,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “New Yorkers deserve better than a budget full of half-measures, fake reforms, and inadequate action on the issues facing our communities. The Senate Democratic proposals will provide New Yorkers with the progressive action and economic development they deserve.”
The proposals were praised by labor officials and by the union-aligned Working Families Party.
“We applaud the Senate Democrats for standing up for a more progressive budget that gets to the heart of what New Yorkers really need, including worker protections and good jobs, affordable housing, quality public education and access to quality health care. They are priorities for working families and should be the priorities in Albany as well.”
Mar 13th - 4:14 pm
The eight years of Preet Bharara’s tenure as U.S. attorney changed Albany, ousting lawmakers convicted of corruption and peeling back the unsavory workings of state government.
“Probably no one in the past generation has had as much an impact on the way Albany does its business than Preet Bharara,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Bharara on Saturday said he was fired by the Trump administration as the Justice Department removed the final 46 Obama-era federal prosecutors. But Bharara’s departure was national news in part for the prominent, headline-generating post he held, targeting Albany dealmakers like Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, shaking the Capitol to its core in the process.
“I think he has had a really significant impact in the sense he has surfaced the real problems that we have,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York.
In Albany on Monday, some state lawmakers were disappointed to see Bharara leave, worried some of this more prominent and ongoing corruption cases may fall by the wayside.
“He is right now in the midst of a really important investigation in Buffalo, with the Buffalo Billion, and I would love to have seen him follow through on that,” said Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, a Democrat from the Buffalo area.
Others, however, were skeptical he would be able to transition from running the Southern District to becoming an elected politician as has been speculated, questioning whether he’d have the statewide base to do so.
Bharara has denied an interesting in becoming an elected official.
“It’s a separate thing being a public servant in terms of doing budgets and constituent work,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Capital Region, who as a member of the Assembly tangled infamously with Eliot Spitzer, a governor who failed to overcome the hard-charging attitude he carried as the state’s popular attorney general. “I think he’s great what does. He’d probably make a great judge, I’m not sure he’d make a great governor.”
Speaker Carl Heastie, who ascended to the post after Bharara’s office charged his predecessor with corruption, only shrugged when asked if the former prosecutor may consider running for governor.
“I wish him luck in his next endeavor,” he said.
And while some lawmakers are fans of Bharara for his efforts to investigate Democrats like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, they understood why he was removed.
“I wanted him to stay because I was a fan of what he was doing,” said Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. “That being said, I fully support the president’s prerogative in cleaning house, which I think every president does.”
And it remains unclear who Trump will nominate to permanently replace Bharara, though that office has historically focused on a range of issues, including violent and organized crime.
Mar 13th - 11:10 am
Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a higher education proposal that includes free tuition to state and city universities in New York, a scholarship program for students attending private in-state institutions and the DREAM Act aimed at undocumented students.
“Education is the great equalizer in our society, and a highly educated workforce is essential in the modern economy,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.
“Too many of our young adults are unable to earn an advanced degree due to prohibitive costs or they are saddled with unbearable debts once they graduate. The EducateNY program will help millions of New Yorkers earn advanced degrees and start investing in our economy rather than paying off loans for decades. The Senate Democrats understand that for our state’s long-term economic strength, we need to invest in our kids now.”
The proposal made Monday morning comes as the majority conferences in the Senate and Assembly are set to unveil their one-house budget measures and vote on them this week.
Under the Senate Democratic conference’s plan, families that earn up to $150,000 would be eligible for free tuition for the EducateNY grant program. The proposal is more generous than the plan backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose budget would make free tuition available for families earning a $125,000 threshold and less.
“Half-measures will not help struggling New York families and that is why Senate Democrats’ EducateNY plan is the best option for making college more affordable,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. “Senate Democratic proposals will ensure more of our students get a college degree without assuming crippling debt. Now is the time for real results, not unnecessary compromises that lessen the assistance we should be providing hard-working New Yorkers.”
At the same time, the conference reiterated its support for the DREAM Act, a measure that provides free tuition to undocumented students. The bill has stalled in the Republican-led Senate, with GOP lawmakers staunchly opposing the provision.
Cuomo has once again included the DREAM Act in his $152 billion budget.
Mar 13th - 5:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
Three weeks to go before the budget is expected to pass in Albany and lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have not spent much time publicly dwelling on ethics reform, a perennial issue that is often the subject of a hammered-out compromise.
“There are a whole host of things that need to be done and we are not taking a holistic approach to ethics in this state that would give people confidence in their state government,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat.
An ethics reform package has passed vitrually every year Cuomo has been in office. But critics in good-government circles say those reforms have only tinkered around the edges of what needs to be done.
“There more like watered down, salted down, whatever you want to say, they really haven’t had any teeth,” said Barbara Bartoletti, the legislative director of the League of Women Voters.
The argument for stronger ethics legislation may become even more amplified following the ouster of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office oversaw a range of corruption cases involving state lawmakers and continues to prosecute the case of former Cuomo aide, Joe Percoco.
Cuomo did include a package of ethics measures in the budget, reiterating proposals such as limits to outside income for lawmakers and term limits through constitutional amendments. Cuomo also wants to have lawmakers seek an independent opinion before accepting outside income.
“Let’s take an independent outside legal expert and go to that body to get a ruling on conflict of interest,” Cuomo said during a January budget presentation.
But this year, lawmakers are also trying to push Cuomo to accept some ethics laws regulating his office, including a measure that is designed to require those who serve on the governor’s regional economic development councils to disclose *their* outside income.
“Remember I think from where the members are coming from, this is billions of dollars,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “I think we are in a place where many people, including the governor and all of you and good government groups have screamed for transparency, so this isn’t any different.”
Cuomo has insisted that proposal is aimed at the Legislature trying to assert more power over economic development spending, which he opposes.