Marcellino Named Majority Whip

Sen. Carl Marcellino was named Thursday to the majority whip post vacated by retired ex-Sen. Michael Nozzolio.

In doing so, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is turning to a fellow Long Islander who he also appointed chairman of the Senate Education Committee in 2015.

“I am honored that Senator Flanagan has placed his trust in me to hold this important leadership position,” Marcellino said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to help advance our Conference’s goals and deliver the votes we need in the Senate to pass critical legislation that will create jobs, reduce the tax burden and provide record support for our schools.”

Marcellino’s previous leadership position was vice chairman of the Senate Republican conference.

Citizen Action Email Compares Cuomo To Trump (Updated)

An email blast from the liberal advocacy group Citizen Action on Thursday compared Gov. Andrew Cuomo to President-elect Donald Trump.

“When it comes to cutting taxes on millionaires and billionaires and working to privatize public education, Governor Cuomo has a lot in common with Donald Trump,” the email states. “A court ruled that New York State must give public schools billions more in funding. It’s been 10 years and New York still owes $4.3 billion to our schools. In the state budget he released this week, Governor Cuomo proposed getting rid of that funding commitment altogether!”

It continues: “Because 58 percent of the missing state funding is owed to students of color, Gov. Cuomo’s move only serves to perpetuate racism in our education system. That isn’t right.”

The email was signed by Karen Scharff, a co-chair of the labor-backed Working Families Party, which has been at odds with Cuomo on enacting a variety of liberal policies over the years.

The email urges supporters to sign a petition in support of boosting education aid.

Cuomo in his budget presentation on Tuesday noted approved budgets on his watch have cumulatively added more money to school aid spending than other governors in recent history.

Cuomo wants to add nearly $1 billion in new spending for education.

Updated: Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded.

“Enough with the lies, Karen Scharff,” he said. “This budget keeps the millionaires tax, cuts taxes for 6 million middle-class New Yorkers and puts in another $1 billion for education funding which Gov. Cuomo put more funding for education than the last four.”

He added the court ruling does not dictate the state must spend the $4.3 billion.

WFP Supports Striking Momentive Workers

With just a few hours to go before President-elect Donald Trump take office, New York’s Working Families Party is using what it anticipates will be “wholesale attacks on working people” by the incoming administration and its allies to highlight the plight of several hundred striking workers at Momentive Performance Materials, a chemical plant in Waterford.

“Many workers at the company have seen their wages slashed and their jobs outsourced,” Bill Lipton, WFP state director, wrote in an email to supporters this afternoon. “Now management wants to slash healthcare for current workers and completely eliminate healthcare and life insurance for retirees – many of whom are dealing with illnesses related to their exposure to deadly chemicals at the plant.”

“Now more than ever, we need to stand strong against all attacks on workers, whether they come from Trump or his hedge fund billionaire friends.”

Lipton’s email includes a link to an online petition that expresses solidarity with the Momentive employees.

The unionized workers, who are members of CWA, walked off the job last November after contract talks with the company failed. Momentive is owned by Apollo Global Management, a New York City-based hedge fund that acquired General Electric’s advanced materials division, which includes the Waterford operation, for $3.8 billion in 2006.

According to a TU report, the actual ownership of Momentive is fairly complicated – a corporate web that includes six billionaires on the Forbes magazine list of the nation’s 400 richest people, including Stephen Schwarzman, founder and CEO of the Blackstone Group, who was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as his chief job creation adviser.

Interestingly, though we have heard a lot from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how he plans to stand up to any Trump policies he deems harmful to New York (and also work with the new president when possible, particularly when it comes to infrastructure), he hasn’t yet said anything – to my knowledge – on this particular strike. The governor has taken actions to help end worker-employer disputes of this sort before, though usually when they are of a higher profile nature, politically speaking.

Interview Coincides With Catsimatidis Donation

Republican businessman and supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis donated $10,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign in a contribution dated last Friday.

Two days later, the radio show hosted by Catsimatidis aired a friendly interview with the governor, who unveiled plans to introduce a bill aimed at reviving the 421a tax abatement following an agreement with real-estate developers and private-sector labor unions.

The interview featured Catsimatidis at one point praising Cuomo over his push to have the Second Avenue subway completed before the end of the year.

“Congratulations on the Second Avenue Subway,” the host said. “You must wear a size 13 shoe. You put your foot down, and you got it done.”

Catsimatidis, a Republican candidate for mayor in 2013, has given to Cuomo’s campaigns in the past. The governor, too, has made previous appearances on Catsimatidis’s radio show on AM 970, most recently in December.

Cuomo has over the years scaled back his one-on-one interviews with reporters who cover him on a daily basis in Albany.

Those appearances do not as closely coincide with donations. Records show Catsimatidis last contributed to Cuomo’s re-election campaign in July.

Catsimatidis, a prolific campaign contributor, frequently has had high-profile figures on both the statewide and national level appear on his radio show.

Schneiderman Provides “Legal Roadmap” For Sanctuary Cities

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday released a “legal roadmap” for New York cities who wish to protect immigrant communities under the incoming presidential administration of Donald Trump.

At the same time, Schneiderman provided legal guidance that would in essence allow local governments to enact in law so-called “sanctuary” policies.

“Public safety relies on trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. No local law enforcement agency should have to undercut that trust just to carry out Donald Trump’s draconian immigration policies,” Schneiderman said.

“The legal guidance and model policies my office released today give local governments the tools they need to protect immigrant communities from any over-reach by federal agencies. New York has a long history of welcoming immigrants and embracing diversity. Now, more than ever, we must stand up for our values of inclusion and pluralism.”

As released by the attorney general’s civil rights bureau, the policies outline the limits local law enforcement can participate in federal immigrant enforcement efforts, including refusing to enact non-judicial warrants in civil cases, denying requests by federal officials in holding people longer than 48 hours and limits on the access Immigration and Customs Enforcement or border protection officers can have with those currently in custoy.

And the policy provides guidance for limits on sharing and gathering information that would be used by federal immigration enforcement.

Such sanctuary measures have been adopted in cities like Syracuse and New York City.

“Cities have long been welcoming and inclusive places and I am proud Syracuse is standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters in that tradition of diversity,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. “As long as I am Mayor, we will not use our resources to enforce federal anti-immigrant policies. I appreciate the Attorney General standing with cities like Syracuse and offering his support as we make these decisions for our citizens.”

Here’s the outline of the guidance as provided by Schneiderman’s office:

Guidance.concerning.local .Immigration.enforcement.1.19.17 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

DiNapoli: School District Tax Growth Limited To 1.26 Percent

School districts once again will be setting their budget proposals that will limit the amount they can increase property taxes to under 2 percent.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli this week calculated the allow levy growth for school district budgets will be limited to a 1.26 percent cap.

The calculation impacts levies for 677 school districts as well as 10 cities, including the “Big Four” districts of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

In a statement, DiNapoli said school districts can fall back on reserve funds, but others may not be as lucky.

“For the fourth consecutive year, school and municipal officials will need to plan around a tax cap below two percent,” said DiNapoli. “My audits have shown some school districts will be able to rely on ample rainy day funds to offset the low growth in revenue, but others must examine their budgets to determine where they can limit spending or cut costs in order to stay under the cap.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152.3 billion budget proposal increased education aid by about $961 million.

School districts over the years have sought unsuccessfully to make the tax cap, in effect since 2012, a “hard” 2 percent cap.

A New Middle Class Tax Cut? Not Quite

To hear Gov. Andrew Cuomo tell it this week, the proposed $152 billion budget includes a tax rate reduction for those who earn $40,000 and above.

“At the same time, we do a Middle Class Tax Cut for 6 million New Yorkers. From $40,000 to $150,000, the rate would go from 6.85 to 6.45 and $150-300,000, 6.85 to 6.65,” Cuomo said according to his office’s transcript of the budget presentation. “And these would be phased in and they would continue to drop as the years go on.”

He added later: “On the legislative agenda side, we’ll reduce middle class taxes, we’ll have a historic high in education aid.”

This is all true in an academic sense, but also true in the same way the minimum wage is increasing this year.

In other words, as EJ McMahon at The Empire Center pointed out this morning, these tax cuts for middle earners were already approved in last year’s budget plan.

Indeed, the very rates that Cuomo talked about on Wednesday night, phased in through 2025, will begin in the 2018 tax year.

The tax cut talk came as Cuomo was also pushing for the extension of a surcharge on those who earn more than $1 million a year, due to expire at the end of the year.

Conservative Party Chairman: Extending Tax Could Hurt Senate GOP

From the Morning Memo:

Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long urged Senate Republicans in an interview on Wednesday to resist Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to extend a tax on the wealthy due to expire at the end of the year.

“The Republicans ought to do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t get extended,” Long said in the interview. “I believe we need tax cuts across the board for everybody.”

Long also suggested that allowing the tax to continue — which he considers to be an increase in taxes — could hamper Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan should he run for governor next year.

“To extend the millionaires tax, it’s not an extension, it’s imposing new taxes on the state of New York,” Long said. “The law was supposed to expire this year. “Any legislator who votes for new taxes from a Conservative Party point of view puts themselves in jeopardy.”

Flanagan has said he is opposed to keeping the surcharge on upper-income earners in place as backed by Cuomo.

Cuomo wants to keep the tax in his 2017-18 state budget proposal. The plan also includes a middle-income rate cut which Long called insufficient.

“It all sounds like apple pie when you want to have a middle class tax cut and punishing the successful people, but really what you’re doing is driving the successful people out of the state,” Long said.

Long, meanwhile, blamed Cuomo for the out-migration in New York.

“It’s shrinking because of the leadership he has provided,” Long said. “My answer to this is what’s happening in the nation, I hope the legislators will follow suit and understand what’s happening across the nation and that is change.”

Collins Says He Didn’t Violate Insider Trading Rules

From the Morning Memo:

Buffalo Rep. Chris Collins, a staunch Donald Trump supporter and frequent surrogate, admitted to having conversations about a New Zealand-based medical biotechnology company with the president-elect’s Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, but insisted he never disclosed any non-public information to his fellow congressman.

The nature of their dealings gained attention after Price, a Georgia Republican, was grilled yesterday by Democratic senators during his confirmation hearing about purchasing stock in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington State, said she remembered Price telling her he bought into the company after having a conversation with Collins.

The nominee admitted he did have a conversation with Collins, but insisted there was nothing in their discussions that could be considered a “stock tip.” Collins’ office reaffirmed that claim in a statement.

“During his more than 15 year relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics, Congressman Collins has had thousands of conversations about the debilitating impact of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and the need to help the millions of people suffering from this disease,” the congressman’s spokesman Michael Adams said.

“Along the way, he has spoken with hundreds of people, Dr. Price was one of those individuals, as he stated today during his testimony.”

McAdams said Collins has never disclosed any improper information and has followed all ethical and legal standards set by the House. He criticized Murray for launching what he seemed a partisan attack and “insinuating something nefarious occurred.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also gotten in on the action, releasing a statement that noted Price’s admission that Collins’ involvement, which, according to the Democrats, raises questions about both of them.

“This is extremely troubling and the people of Western New York need immediate assurances from Collins that no House ethics rules or federal laws were broken,” DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly said.

Collins owns more than 17 percent of shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, according to the company’s website, making him its largest stockholder. He has had a 15-year relationship with the company, according to McADams, who added:

“He is very proud of the progress the company has made over the years and hopeful it will develop a potentially life-saving treatment for the millions of individuals suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.”

On Jan. 5th, Public Citizen, a non-profit watchdog organization, wrote a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Congressional Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation into the stock market activities of both Collins and Price. Following Price’s testimony, the organization renewed that call.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Rochester Democrat who authored the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, is also calling for an investigation.

Republicans Question Policy In Budget

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are uneasy with the inclusion of broad policy concerns in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending proposal.

Cuomo in his budget plan included issues such his slate of ethics reforms and criminal justice law changes that have little fiscal impact.

“I don’t think that’s the appropriate place for it, but it’s his prerogative,” said Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

The governor’s maximum leverage during the year comes during budget season and it’s not unusual for him to include language in the Article VII bills that aim to see controversial measures approved with a much easier path.

Nevertheless, it rankled some Republicans who may be at odds with the policies, including Finance Chairwoman Cathy Young.

“The Senate strongly disagrees that policy should be included in the state budget and there is a lot of policy language interwoven in the appropriations bills,” she said. “We believe that the state budget should be focused on the state budget and fiscal issues such as education, infrastructure, our hospitals and nusring homes.”