State Senate

Senate GOP Boosts Charter Schools, No ‘Concrete’ Talks On Taxes Yet

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week insisted he won’t seek a broad-based tax hike in this year’s budget, even as he sounds the alarm over potential cuts from the federal government.

“I don’t want to raise taxes,” Cuomo said during a stop at the State Museum.

But advocates for the poor who are pushing back against income inequality say Cuomo should back a tax hike in order to help bolster the state’s revenue amid the potential for billions of dollars in cuts.

“The only way to respond to cuts coming from President Trump and the GOP Congress is to look at fair share tax revenues,” said Michael Kink, the executive director of Strong Economy for All.

For now, lawmakers say after meeting behind closed doors with Cuomo that the talks continue.

“I think that right now the discussion has been a lot more on the policy and some one the spending items,” Heastie said Wednesday after meeting with Cuomo for more than an hour. “I don’t know if we’ve had a concrete conversation yet on revenue.”

Assembly Democrats want to hike taxes on the rich, those who make more than $5 million. Cuomo backs the extension of an expiring tax rate, which Senate Republicans want to sunset.

“No final resolution,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said after the leaders meeting with Cuomo of the millionaires tax, “but I’m very confident we’ll get there.”

The money raised by the taxes in part would go toward a potential boost in education spending, an apparent sticking point in the talks as lawmakers and Cuomo fight over what’s known as foundation aid in the budget.

“There’s a lot of talk about higher ed this year,” said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of Albany, “but we need to make sure we don’t lose the focus on K-12.”

Complicating matters is the Senate GOP push to bolster charter schools — putting them at odds with Democrats in the Assembly.

“It’s a very expensive area,” Flanagan said. “I believe we’ll find more foundation aid for charter schools because they are public schools.”

Cuomo has proposed a $960 million increase in education aid, but typically lawmakers successfully add even more spending for schools in the state.

Gallivan Delivers Petitions To Block Release Of Judith Clark

Sen. Pat Gallivan, a key Republican lawmaker who has negotiated juvenile justice reform in the state budget, delivered 10,000 petition signatures in support of blocking the release of Judith Clark, who drove a getaway car in a 1981 robbery of a Brink’s armored truck that left two police officers dead.

Clark was made eligible for parole by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who commuted her sentence earlier this year.

The move angered lawmakers from both parties and law enforcement organizations who oppose Clark’s release.

“Residents across New York have expressed great concern about the possible parole of Judith Clark,” Gallivan said in a statement. “Citizens who signed the on-line petition agree that releasing her from prison would minimize the lives of
those killed and is a slap in the face to all law enforcement officers who dedicate their lives to protecting our communities.”

Gallivan was one of the GOP negotiators on a measure that would raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18 as part of the state budget. A deal is close to being finalized that would include nearly all felony charges heading to criminal court and also include diversion courts for minors.

Supporters of her release, however, say Clark has expressed not only remorse for her role in the crime, but has “completely transformed herself and helped countless prisoners better themselves.”

“Also, about 1,000 people from all walks of life have written individual letters to the parole board, including Elaine Lord, the former superintendent of her prison, and Robert Dennison, the ex-head of the state parole board,” said spokesman for Clark.

Budget Update: Deal Nears For Raise The Age

From the Morning Memo:

Budget bills need to start passing today if the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are to be able to lay claim to an “on time” deal, which is constitutionally due midnight April 1.

There were conflicting reports yesterday as to whether there was a deal. Cuomo said yes – more or less, though conceded he was talking mainly about policy and not spending. Lawmakers and their leaders, however, contradicted the governor, saying nothing’s done until everything is.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan, a Buffalo-area Republican who chairs his chamber’s Corrections Committee, joined us last night on CapTon immediately after closed door meetings with the governor on the so-called “raise the age” issue – raising the age at which offenders are treated as adults from 16 to 18.

New York is one of just two states (along with North Carolina) that still does that, and the effort to end this practice has become a big rallying cry for Assembly Democrats and the IDC, as well as a big sticking point in the budget talks.

Though he was light on details, Gallivan said there’s more or less a deal, which will include diversion of offenders accused of certain non-violent crimes to family court. (Republicans are also pushing for more resources for the family court system, since it’s already fairly overloaded).

He also expressed confidence that there will be an on-time budget that is not merely an extender – an idea the governor floated to address big question marks regarding federal funding cuts.

Meanwhile, the left was angered yesterday when Cuomo said he doesn’t want to raise taxes in the final budget deal – a signal that he’s standing firmly against the push, led by Assembly Democrats and their liberal allies, to not merely extend, but also expand, the millionaires tax. He’s also not interested in a big education funding hike much beyond the almost $1 billion boost he proposed in January.

Another major issue still unresolved, according to Tom Precious of The Buffalo News: whether to drive more money to charter schools, as Senate Republicans want, or into the traditional public school systems, as Assembly Democrats insist upon.

All of these issues are apparently linked, as tends to happen this time of the year, with a push for the 421a real estate tax abatement by Republican lawmakers underway, along with Democrats trying to preserve foundation aid funding for public schools.

One major area of agreement: direct care workers employed in nonprofit agencies that serve developmentally disabled people will see $55 million for the salary hikes in the final budget, which is $10 million more than the $45 million organizations received in the respective one house proposals.

All parties return to the negotiating table today. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no announced public schedule as of yet.

UFT Backs Home Stability Support Plan

From the Morning Memo:

The United Federation of Teachers this week is backing a plan that aims to replace all existing state rent support for a new rental supplement with the goal of bridging the gap in subsidies and fair market rents.

The measure is backed by Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference.

“There are more than 150,000 homeless children in New York State, children whose learning is at great risk,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “Home Stability Support is a way forward for the state to help ensure that every child has a stable home. We’re proud to stand with Assembly Member Hevesi and Senator Klein in supporting this initiative.”

The proposal, backed in the Assembly’s one-house budget resolution, would be phased in over the next five years, including $40 million in the first year. The money would be used to provide subsidies to rental costs up to 85 percent of fair market rent.

The program would target families facing homelessness because of domestic violence or eviction.

A provision that would provide assistance for heating costs for upstate renters would also be included.

“The current homeless crisis impacts our local communities in so many ways, with school children and their parents bearing some of the greatest burdens,” Hevesi said.

“It’s well-demonstrated that homelessness leads to lower school performance and absenteeism, problems that generate longterm consequences for our state. Enacting Home Stability Support will help change this.”

Kaminsky: Don’t Delay Diesel Emissions Reduction

Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, along with 16 other lawmakers, called on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a letter this week to rescind the proposed delay of the Diesel Emmissions Reduction Act of 2006.

The provision was included in the Senate’s one-house budget plan, but not in the Democratic-led Assembly proposal.

“The rationale is twofold,” Kaminsky wrote in the letter.

“First, neither Governor Cuomo nor the Assembly saw fit to include the delay DERA in their budget proposals. Second, a financial plan has been provided through roughly $117 million coming to New York from the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund. These funds are designed specifically to support programs that clean up air quality due to dirty diesel.”

At the same time, funding the effort to reduce emissions will mean more money for “New York’s most vulnerable population — children — will have cleaner air to breathe” he wrote in the letter.

Budget.dera (1) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Flanagan: Violent Crime Definitions ‘Absolutely’ Part Of Raise The Age Talks

Defining a “violent” crime that would be prosecuted in criminal court versus family court are “absolutely” part of the talks surrounding raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said on Monday following a closed-door leaders meeting.

“Some of these crimes are pretty egregious,” Flanagan said. “That’s absolutely part of the discussion right now.”

The Assembly maintains the Senate isn’t simply seeking too broad a definition for categorizing violent crimes, however, but over classifying certain offenses.

“Issue isn’t violent offenses,” said Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland ion a Twitter post. “Senate wants non-violent offenses to go through an adult criminal procedure.”

Lawmakers are debating how to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York, currently at 16, to 18.

It’s a top concern for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has sought to move cases involving those under 18 into family courts. The long-sought issue remains problematic for Senate Republicans, however, who question which offenses should be diverted to family court.

Potentially key to the talks has been Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who told reporters prior to the meeting lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are “taking a very balanced approach.”

“I think we’re coming together and I think it’s just a matter of what say the judge has, what say the DA has,” he said.

The meeting in Cuomo’s office on the second floor of the Capitol lasted less than an hour. Heastie emerged first, quickly walking out of the office to declared there was nothing new to report.

Flanagan insisted the negotiations remain open for a broad agreement and not a “bare bones” deal at this time and there’s no discussion of going the budget extender route.

“I’d rather raise my arms in victory than throw up my hands,” Flanagan said. “I think we have an excellent chance of getting things done on time.

Gallivan Says He’s Hopeful For Raise The Age Agreement

The key Republican lawmaker involved involved in talks surrounding juvenile justice reform said Monday he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached this week on raising the age of criminal responsibility as part of a broader budget agreement.

But disagreements remain over how to try and even define violent crimes that would not be included in family court proceedings for defendants under the age of 18.

Lawmakers have been going through various criminal offenses to determine which crimes should be deemed violent enough to continue prosecuting in criminal court.

“I would say that’s the threshold issue: Violent crimes and violent individuals are people are who prey upon our communities and those are people we should rightfully be afraid of,” said Sen. Pat Gallivan, a western New York Republican. “Many of us believe there should be some level of accountability which in some cases includes prison sentences.”

The effort stems from having 16 and 17-year-old defendants to either family or juvenile diversion courts. The issue is a top priority to have resolved this week for the Democratic-led Assembly and its speaker, Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie.

Republicans, however, have been hesitant to embrace a wide menu of crimes that would be considered for diversion to a different, non-criminal court.

“My goal is try of figure out a way to do that while at the same time we protect public safety, we protect communities and we protect victims rights,” Gallivan said. “The conversation revolves around all those things.”

Nevertheless, Gallivan insisted talks have gone well. He met Friday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders to discuss the issue. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan last week after that meeting suggested several measures were being spoken of as a package.

“I’m hopeful that it can be (agreed to) and I would say the conversations that I’ve been a part of have been very productive,” Gallivan said.

Flanagan: ‘Everything Is Tied Together’

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Friday emerged from a closed-door meeting in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, saying “detailed” discussions were being held on issues such as raising the age of criminal responsibility.

“We are having true, legitimate, detailed policy-oriented discussions on that and other policy aspects of the budget,” Flanagan said after the meeting, which included Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Sen. Pat Gallivan.

Heastie has pushed for the provision, which raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18 in New York, to be included in the state budget agreement, expected to be finalized next week. Heastie wants the cases involving 16 and 17-year-old defendants moved to family court.

Gallivan is a key Republican lawmaker who has worked on the long-sought legislation.

But a deal on the measure remains elusive in part to Republican concerns over which crimes should be tried in family court, especially violent feloneis.

“We have diversity of opinions and demographics,” Flanagan said.

And, raising the possibility of a broader agreement in a budget package, Flanagan indicated measures were intersecting, as they tend to do in Albany during crunch time.

“Everything is tied together,” he said. “It’s not just one thing in isolation.”

Fighting For Children PAC Backs SD-30 Candidate

From the Morning Memo:

The political action committee that backs the passage of the Child Victims Act in the Legislature has endorsed Democrat Brian Benjamin in the 30th Senate district.

Benjamin is running in a special election to replace Bill Perkins in the chamber after his city Council election in May.

The special election is scheduled for May 23.

“We are proud to endorse candidates committed to reforming the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse to better protect the children of New York,” said Greene County businessman Gary Greenberg, founder of Fighting for Children.

“Brian Benjamin will be a great addition to New York’s Senate. His tireless commitment to families in Harlem and the Upper West Side prove he will be a strong ally in our efforts to protect all children from abuse.”

The PAC was formed as the Child Victims Act has struggled in the Legislature. The measure would make it easier for the survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

“I’m truly honored to have the support of Fighting for Children. Ensuring the long-term health and security of our community begins with providing resources for our children and protecting them from harm,” Benjamin said.

“That’s why I’m committed to stand with Fighting for Children in bringing lasting changes to our state’s statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes.”

Benjamin announced earlier this month he would join the mainline Democratic conference in the state Senate.

Felder Not Ruffled By Ortt Indictment

Sen. Simcha Felder has no plans to change sides should Sen. Robert Ortt lose his seat in the narrowly divided chamber.

Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who sits with the Republican conference in the chamber, gives them the needed 32nd vote to attain a working majority in the state Senate.

Ortt, a Republican from western New York, faces a three-count fraud indictment unsealed in Albany on Thursday. If Ortt is convicted on any of those counts, he is automatically removed from office.

But Felder insisted he believes both Ortt will have his legal troubles put behind him and has no plans to bolt the GOP conference.

“We live in the best country in the world, where people are assumed not guilty,” Felder said. “He will be vindicated and he will be back.”

Felder indicated he’s not looking at the Senate math at this point.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t believe in any parties. I’m not a religious believer in the Republican or the Democratic or any other party. I only believe in serving my constituents, period.”

As for if anything changes in the Senate member-wise, Felder insisted he wouldn’t do anything to hurt his Brooklyn constituents.

“If this dynamic exists, the only thing that makes sense for me is to remain with the Republicans and caucus with the Republicans,” he said. “Changing it in any way would mean I’m a masochist and I’m trying to hurt my constituents.”