Mar 18th - 1:14 pm
Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco said this afternoon he expects there will be a “compromise” on increasing the state’s minimum wage in the final spending plan.
DeFranciso and his Republican colleagues huddled for more than a hour behind closed doors as a final deal on the 2013-14 state budget reamins elusive.
“I think there’s going to be some compromise on the minimum wage,” he told reporters. “There’s going to be some compromise on various tax credits and tax cuts. That’s what’s going on. We’re trying to come up with something that will take into account the concerns that people hiring people have that’s an increase in the minimum wage.”
As the Syracuse Republican was speaking, a protestor in favor of the wage hike silently held a sign behind him reading, “Occupy a living wage.”
DeFrancisco added that he couldn’t get into specifics over the size of the increase, whether it would be phased in or whether the final deal could include a “training” or “youth” wage.
The Assembly Democrats back a $9 minimum wage, while Gov. Andrew CUomo’s $142.6 billion plan includes an $8.75 minimum wage, up from the current $7.25.
The coalition-led Senate included language supportive of a wage this year, but did not provide specifics on what the wage would ultimately be. The increase would raised in three phases.
Swirling around the Capitol today is a new push for ending the surcharge on the 18a assessment, which remains in the mix as Senate Republicans seek to wring some tax credits and cuts for businesses from Democrats.
It is expected to be a long night for lawmakers and the governor, but optimism remains for some sort of a deal to be reached by tonight so bills can be printed and voted on later in the week.
Cuomo is pushing for an extension of the so-called millionaires tax, due to expire in 2014. With the tax rate upheld, the issue would be removed from the political debate in a statewide re-election year for both the governor and 213 legislative seats.
Mar 14th - 3:32 pm
Sen. Gustavo Rivera is losing his chief of staff, Conchita Cruz, who is returning to work on the Hill in Washington after spending just over two years working for the Bronx Democrat.
Cruz is taking a new job as deputy chief of staff to Colorado Rep. Jared Polis. (This will be her second time working for the Democratic congressman. She served as a legislative aide in his office after he was elected in 2008 as the third sitting openly gay member of Congress and the first non-incumbent openly gay man to be elected to serve on Capitol Hill).
Cruz, who multi-tasked a lot during her stint with the senator, but has a particular interest in immigration law and reform, will be replaced by Meghan Lynch, who was previously the chief of staff for Bronx Council Member Annabel Palma and also worked for former Bronx BP Adolfo Carrion.
“While I am sorry to see her leave our office, I am heartened that Conchita will be returning to Washington to work on immigration policy at this critical moment when we are so close to passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Rivera said said in a statement.
“I am extremely excited to be welcoming Meghan Lynch to my staff, whose background in health policy and social services will be a tremendous asset as I begin to work as the new ranking member of the Health committee.”
Rivera has also promoted Katrina Asante, who has worked in his office since 2011, to the role of deputy chief of staff.
Rivera took office in January 2011 after defeating former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. in a high-profile 2010 Democratic primary.
Prior to his election to the Senate, Rivera worked as a political operative himself, doing a stint as chief of staff for now-Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ campaign and in US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office.
Mar 11th - 3:09 pm
It turns out there’s more than one way of reading the Senate budget resolution.
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos disputes the notion the chamber’s one-house budget resolution backs an increase in the state’s minimum wage, namely that it is an admission the chamber will continue to study the proposal.
“I said we would consider it. Some have written I support it, but what we’ve said in our budget resolution we would consider it along with other business tax credits and incentives,” he said after a meeting with legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon.
The coalition of five independent Democrats and 30 Republicans has a budget resolution measure supportive of a minimum wage hike to take a effect this year, and then include two more phased-in increases. The resolution doesn’t specify how much the current $7.25 wage would ultimately be increased.
“I said I would consider it,” Skelos said. “I still think for a number of individuals, especially for the young, it would mean higher unemployment.”
But Klein, the co-president of the Senate, called the resolution’s language straightforward and didn’t dispute our earlier characterization that the measure backs the wage hike.
“The language is very clear,” Klein said. “We have in our one-house budget resolution an increase in the minimum wage. The increase would start this year and subsequent increases would be done over the next few years.”
Meanwhile, Klein took issue The Daily News’s report that the resolution strips away funding for the SAFE Act.
“That was totally taken out of context,” Klein said. “What the Senate coalition wants to do is expand the database as the governor proposed. But we want to take it one step further …. to actually add to the registry also gun crimes. That way people can know who was convicted of a gun crime. That’s how we’re going to keep the streets of New York City specifically who were convicted of gun crimes.”
Skelos, however, didn’t take issue with that assertion.
“It’s an awful lot of money to be spending and we’re prepared to think that has to be spent, or ever,” he said.
The Senate has been under the coalition leadership of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference and 30 Republicans, plus Democrat Simcha Felder, since January. They are expected to pass the one-house resolution today.
Mar 11th - 2:17 pm
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. this morning announced he and fellow Hispanic clergy members will be participating later this month in an all-night vigil en route to Washington, D.C. to protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices deliberate cases involving same-sex marriage.
According to Diaz’s latest “What You Should Know” email, members of the New York Hispanic Clergy organization will start their vigil on March 25 at midnight when they board buses bound for the nation’s capital.
Once in D.C., they will join up with the National Organization for Marriage at 9 a.m. on March 26 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Once we arrive in Washington D.C., we will join people traveling from all over this nation – including Puerto Rico – to bear witness in favor of traditional marriage to remain between a man and a woman,” wrote Diaz, who is a a Pentecostal minister.
“You should know that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has always been in the forefront, throughout the nation, in the struggle to stop same sex marriage. It is also a fact that for many years, NOM has been raising funds, and coordinating every march and demonstration in the state of New York and everywhere else.”
“You should remember that when Governor Andrew Cuomo used his office and staff to raise money and to orchestrate the passing of gay marriage in the State, it was the National Organization for Marriage among others, who took the fight on their shoulders.”
“With their help, we organized different rallies and demonstrations where thousands of people came together, in front of Governor Cuomo’s office in Manhattan, On the steps of the Supreme court of Bronx County and in many other places.”
“Now, One more time, NOM is giving us the opportunity to join people from all over the nation, in what could be our last opportunity to deal with same sex marriage once and for all. Due to the fact, and you should know, that with the ruling of the United States Supreme Court, same sex marriage will be legal or illegal in every state in the nation, including Puerto Rico and any other colony of the United States.”
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Diaz Sr., a conservative Bronx Democrat, has long been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. He was the only Democratic member of the Senate to vote “no” when the bill came to the floor in June 2011.
The measure passed because four Republicans crossed the aisle to join the rest of the Democrats in voting “yes.” Only one of those four – Sen. Mark Grisanti, (a Buffalo Republican who used to be a Democrat) – remains in the Senate.
Mar 11th - 12:34 pm
The governing coalition of five independent Democrats and 30 Republicans in the state Senate will consider an unspecified minimum wage increase in the budget, according to a one-house resolution document reviewed by Capital Tonight.
The Senate’s plan would increase the state’s minimum wage over three installments. The first increase would take effect in calendar year 2013, with the scheduling of the next two increases up for negotiation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Democrats.
Here is the budget resolution language:
The Senate will consider modifications to the Executive proposal to increase the minimum wage. Like wages for many workers, the minimum wage has not kept up with the pace of inflation. The Senate will consider phasing in any minimum wage increase over three years beginning in 2013. The Senate believes that any discussions on an increase in the minimum wage must consider: (i) the impact on workers and business’ ability to maintain and create jobs; (ii) the total compensation of employees; (iii) wages authorized under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the impact on the youth employment rate, and; (iv) the overall impact on New York’s economy. The Senate’s goal of creating vibrant and expanding opportunities for families requires that the State enact measures to provide all New Yorkers the ability to find meaningful and financially viable employment and work together to ensure a more stable and prosperous New York.
The document outlining the Senate’s budget resolution also acknowledges that the current minimum wage in New York of $7.25 has not kept pace with the rate of inflation and doesn’t include or exclude indexing future increases.
Though a final dollar amount and phase-in schedule for the minimum wage increase isn’t given, the budget resolution is a key sign that Senate Republicans are open to at least having a vote on the wage increase, which has broad support in public opinion polls, including the Siena College survey released today.
But keeping the final dollar amount and the phase-in schedule unspecified, the Senate coalition is signaling — strongly — the willingness to negotiate on the issue.
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein this month had said he was hopeful a minimum wage increase would be in the final budget.
Senate Democrats have maintained that a minimum wage increase could be accomplished now, given the party’s numerical majority in the chamber.
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, who shares the Senate presidency alongside Klein in the chamber, had maintained throughout the budget season that his GOP conference was concerned that a minimum wage increase could impact jobs and small businesses and had pushed a package of business taxes, most of which wound up in the Senate budget resolution.
The wage increase had been one of the more contentious issues in the relatively drama-free budget negotiations. The spending plan must be approved by April 1, but lawmakers and Cuomo are expected to approve on a budget very early this year, possibly by March 21, in order to accommodate the Easter and Passover holidays.
Cuomo’s $142.6 billion spending plan calls for a minimum wage increase of $8.75 to take effect July 1.
The Democratic-led Assembly last week backed a $9 minimum wage, approving a measure that would also increase future hikes to the rate of inflation.
Cuomo today at his cabinet meeting said he would prefer to see the minimum wage increased in the budget, but hasn’t ruled out pushing for a hike later in the legislative session, which runs through June.
Mar 8th - 1:45 pm
Senate Republicans today unveiled a package of tax and spending cut measures, along with proposals for stimulating job growth.
A spokesman for the Senate GOP said “elements” of the the measures introduced today would appear in the Senate’s one-house budget, expected in the coming days as state lawmakers look to pass one of the earliest budgets in recent memory.
The Senate GOP would codify a self-imposed 2 percent spending cap (a perennial proposal from the conference) and would seek to eliminate the corporate tax on small businesses over the next four years, a $250 million cut.
Provisions also include a 10-percent Personal Income Tax exemption for business income by 2016, a move that would impact 800,000 small businesses that pay personal income taxes.
Other measures are aimed at regulatory reform and spurring job creation.
“There’s been much discussion at the Capitol about a lot of different issues, but when the members of our conference are in their districts, the issue they hear the most about is jobs,” Senator Skelos said. “Helping businesses to create new private sector jobs has to be priority one. Other states are taking major steps to attract new businesses. With our plan, we would make New York much more competitive by reducing taxes on small businesses and manufacturers, cutting energy costs by allowing the utility tax surcharge to expire, and eliminating burdensome and redundant rules that inhibit job growth. If we lower the cost of doing business here, the businesses, jobs and people will follow.”
That Senate Republicans are focusing on tax cuts for businesses is not wholly surprising and many of the measure sought in the package were proposed in prior years.
But the call for tax and regulatory cuts come as Assembly and Senate Democrats, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are pushing for a minimum wage increase this year. The governor included a $8.75 minimum wage in his budget, but Assembly Democrats this week backed a $9 proposal.
Senate Republicans would likely need some form of a business tax cut or credits in order to accept any minimum wage increase.
Cuomo has said that if the wage hike isn’t included in the budget this month, he and lawmakers would seek the increase later this legislative session, which is scheduled to run through June.
So far, the one-house budgets from the Senate coalition and Assembly Democrats are both expected to seek restorations for a $120 million hit mental health programs took when Cuomo sought to plug a $500 million hole in order to resolve an ongoing dispute with the federal government with Medicaid overbilling.
The budget is due April 1, but lawmakers could have a tentative agreement with Cuomo on the broad framework of the budget by as early as the end of this week.
Cuomo has said it is unlikely he will issue messages of necessity to waive the three-day aging process for bills.
Mar 8th - 1:55 am
A town official in Rensselaer County has taken partial responsibility for a tax break State Senator Cathy Young received on a property she owns near Albany. In an e-mail Young’s staff released to the media, North Greenbush Town Assessor John Harkin apologized to the Olean Republican:
“Sorry for any troubles this has certainly caused you in the past few days.”
The Albany Times Union Broke the story Thursday Morning, accusing Young of double-dipping after receiving the school tax relief, a basic STAR exemption, on her North Greenbush condo, and her home in Olean. Harkin told Young in the e-mail that after researching the issue he discovered:
“The exemption was on the property prior to your purchasing it. I have the STAR application confirming the date of the exemption sent in by the previous owner.”
Harkin went on to explain the exemption remained on the property “erroneously.” Harkin also suggested his office wasn’t solely responsible for the error.
“While a careful reading of the School Tax bill would have revealed this fact it appears there was no affirmation action taken by either you, or your husband to claim this STAR exemption. It certainly appears to me that this was an honest error by both parties.”
Young, who previously explained her husband handles all of the family’s financial matters, released a short statement Thursday Night:
“I am very relieved that this is cleared up, and the town was able to trace that the exemption was applied by them erroneously. The amount will be paid in full tomorrow.”
Young’s office said the exemption was worth about $200 a year. Young purchased the North Greenbush condo in 2001.
Mar 6th - 5:50 pm
The Senate once again approved the legalization today of mixed-martial arts in New York, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the Assembly.
The bill was approved 47 to 14, gaining the support of Republicans and Democrats in the coalition-led Senate.
Opponents of the legalization bill say the sport is far too brutal to be allowed in the state, but some backers of the United Fighting Championship league have pointed to unrest with a Las Vegas-based union as the reason why the measure continues to fail in Albany.
Supporters, meanwhile, point to the benefits the legalization the sport could have on economic development and tourism.
“New York needs to capitalize on opportunities that would continue strengthening our economy,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement. “I applaud Senator Griffo for leading the charge to legalize MMA in New York to help create new jobs, generate revenue, and bring our state in line with nearly every other state.”
The main sponsor of MMA legalization, Sen. Joe Griffo, has hoped that a UFC event could even come to Utica, which he represents.
Activity at the Capitol today had a Groundhog’s Day-like quality to it. Once again, lawmakers approved ostensibly one-house bills (in the Assembly, lawmakers there approved there latest ban on the controversial natural gas drilling process known as hydrofracking for the third time since 2010).
And as they did before, the pro-MMA lobby brought in fighters like Ronda Rousey to sell the sport to skeptical lawmakers.
But the main roadblock is seen in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, where Speaker Sheldon Silver remains ambivalent.
“On the one hand I think it’s something that I personally do not approve of,” Silver told reporters this morning. “On the other hand, you can turn on the television at any time and it’s there and available for my children and grandchildren to watch. We can’t wall off our children from seeing this because it’s readily available to them.”
And yet, things could change. Silver’s new deputy in the chamber, Majority Leader Joe Morelle of the Rochester area, backs the legalization of mixed-martial arts.
Silver acknowledged today that it’s likely some form of UFC-style fighting will be allowed.
“I think at some point there will probably be an approval in this state,” Silver said. “I can’t tell you when.”
Mar 5th - 7:34 am
Mary Louise Mallick, a veteran Senate staffer during the Joe Bruno years, is returning to the chamber – this time to work for the IDC.
IDC spokesman Eric Soufer confirmed Mallick, who is currently working in state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, will be joining the conference as its finance director starting next week.
He also forwarded the following quote from IDC Leader Jeff Klein:
“Mary Louise is one of the sharpest, most experienced budget professionals in Albany. I know she will be a tremendous asset to the IDC, so I look forward to her joining our team.”
Mallick will be a member of the IDC’s senior staff, along with Soufer, John Emrick (chief of staff), Dana Carotenuto (policy director and deputy chief of staff), and Shelly Andrews (counsel).
(NOTE: To be clear, I’m told Emrick will still be the IDC’s main person “in the room” during budget talks).
Mallick’s first day at her new post will be Tuesday, which means she’ll be arriving just as budget negotiations – the first ever for the IDC – shift into high gear.
Mallick served as Senate finance secretary when Bruno was majority leader. In her new position, she’ll be working opposite her former deputy, Robert Mujica, who is now the Senate GOP’s chief of staff and finance secretary.
She left the Senate at the end of 2006 to serve as acting executive director of UAlbany’s Biosciences Development Corporation, and a year later went to work for DiNapoli as deputy comptroller for budget and policy analysis.
She eventually rose to the title of “first deputy comptroller.”
But Mallick was bumped from that position by DiNapoli in late 2010 to make room for his former Assembly colleague, Pete Grannis, after he was booted from his job as DEC commissioner by then-Gov. David Paterson.
At the time, DiNapoli gave Mallick the title of “senior policy advisor.”
Reached for comment late yesterday, Mallick referred all questions to the IDC.
Feb 28th - 5:39 pm
Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione introduced a measure this afternoon to overturn the major provisions of the gun control law that passed in January, striking out the new restrictions on assault weapons, high-capacity magazine rounds and additional requirements for registration and mental health reporting.
Marchione’s bill comes after a large rally of more than 5,000 people at the Capitol pushed for the law to be overturned.
The bill also comes after she pushed an onlnie petition gathering signatures in support of turning back the law, a key achievement for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
It is highly unlikely that the measure would pass in the Democratic-led Assembly or that Cuomo would sign it into law.
In an interview in her office late this afternoon, Marchione acknowledged that the bill faced an uphill climb, but said she would sign onto an amicus brief in the New York Rifle and Pistol Association’s lawsuit.
“I will continue to fight for the legislation,” Marchione said. ”I can’t promise anything to people, but I’ve told them I will continue to fight.”
As for informing Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos — who voted in favor of the law – Marchione had told him in advance that she planned to introduce a bill to overturn the SAFE Act.
“I’ve spoken with Senator Skelos previously as well as many of my other colleagues to let them now I was moving forward with this legislation,” she said.