Mar 27th - 12:46 pm
The state Assembly and Senate combined for nearly $1 million in legal fees last month associated with various sexual harassment scandals in one house and for representation related to the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption in the other, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
The Democratic-led Assembly was approved for $545,000 to “various recipients” in order to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit against one-time Brooklyn power broker Vito Lopez.
The former assemblyman resigned following a Joint Commission on Public Ethics report that revealed the details of abuse and harassment by Lopez directed toward his legislative staff.
Ultimately, two staffers sued Lopez and the Assembly in court, which was recently settled.
Meanwhile, the Assembly also spent $13,000 for outside legal counsel from Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in the appeals process for former Assemblyman Micah Kellner, who was accused of sending inappropriate texts and online chats with legislative employees.
Kellner did not run for re-election last year.
In the Republican-led Senate, $435,000 was approved in legal bills to Kirkland & Ellis, which is special counsel for the conference in the Moreland Commission investigation.
The commission ultimately shuttered last year following an agreement on ethics measures in the state budget.
The panel’s closure, as well as the evidence it generated, is being reviewed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Mar 27th - 12:24 pm
A bill that would lay out new ethics measures will likely be introduced today, while the remainder of the budget bills could be seen by Saturday night, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters on Friday.
“The balance I believe will be introduced by tomorrow night,” Skelos said.
Skelos, meanwhile, criticized Assembly Democrats for making a final push on the DREAM Act by linking the proposal that would grant tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants to a Senate GOP-backed property tax relief plan.
“It’s unfortunate for people struggling upstate and on the island that they would link property tax relief to giving free tuition to people who are here illegally,” Skelos said.
Nevertheless, it appears that a final agreement is coming together as lawmakers in both chambers said this morning they expect school-aid runs to be released as early as Sunday evening or sometime next week when the budget is being voted on.
A deal on the 2015-16 state budget could be at hand by as early as this afternoon or, more likely, at some point tomorrow.
Lawmakers have left town for the most part, but Skelos said he is staying in Albany on Saturday. Assembly Democrats are due to return on Saturday morning for an optional meeting, while Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie comes back to the Capitol this afternoon.
Skelos added that there was no linking of education aid to an effort to develop teacher evaluation criteria. Senate Republicans were still pushing to have the gap elimination adjustment completely closed in education spending.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has insisted on a budget that would link school aid to the development of education reforms, including tougher criteria for evaluations of teachers as well as a school receivership plan.
“Right now, it’s the normal working through shares, working through GEA which is important to us, the Assembly wants to drive more money to New York City, we want to have it regionally balanced,” Skelos said. “That’s the normal issue that exists at this time.”
The evaluation criteria is “the final piece” Skelos said, adding that it remains unclear whether a decision would be kicked ultimately to the Board of Regents, which oversees the semi-autonomous Department of Education.
“We want to make sure it’s strong and it means something,” he said of the teacher evaluations. “The Assembly is unfortunately trying to water it down and the Assembly is, unfortunately, trying to water it down.”
More ancillary issues continue to pop up: Lawmakers in both parties are making last-minute attempts to have spending diverted from the more than $5 billion windfall surplus that Cuomo wants to spend on rural broadband expansion, shoring up the Thruway Authority’s finances and an upstate economic development competition.
The budget is due by Tuesday, the end of the state’s fiscal year. If approved by then, it would be the fifth on-time budget in a row.
Mar 27th - 10:54 am
Why is this budget season different from all other recent budget seasons?
For starters, there has not been the much-derided three-men-in-a-room meetings that have dominated the budget discussions and the incremental coverage of the negotiations.
Instead, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been shuttling back and forth between the governor’s office. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken the unusual step of pitching his disclosure measures to the Senate Republican conference in person and on their turf on the third floor.
Cuomo has apparently been conducting some discussions over the phones as well and has spoken with individual lawmakers in person as well in breakfast sessions.
The budget talks, in short, have been conducted seemingly in different silos: Senate Republicans talking disclosure, Assembly Democrats negotiating education reforms.
But with that new structure come some disagreement with what’s going on and what’s actually on the table. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Thursday said a minimum wage increase was out of the budget. Heastie denied that was the case.
Having budgets discussed behind closed doors with just the governor and legislative majority leaders has long been a staple of Albany and a source of derision. Former state Sen. Seymour Lachman called Albany a “Potemkin village.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last month mocked the budget talks.
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has conducted a growing campaign to get herself into the room, and Cuomo would likely want to avoid the image of a black woman being locked out of the office (the Yonkers Democrat has apparently met in person with the governor, but not as part of the broader talks with the other leaders).
But increasingly this year, legislative leaders appear to be defusing their power and negotiating authority to individual members.
Rank-and-file lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate are in working groups developing policy in the budget, especially on education and ethics.
The negotiations do not appear to be falling apart like they did several times last year, and while legislative leaders may not be completely up on the minimum wage discussions, the knowledge of their members, to a greater degree than before, has been tapped into.
Mar 27th - 10:10 am
From the Morning Memo:
Assembly Democrats will be returning to the Capitol today and staying through tomorrow – their effort toward trying to get agreed-on budget bills into print before midnight Saturday in order to meet the three-day aging requirement and hit the April 1 deadline.
The fact that members of the majority conference will be sicking around in Albany on a Friday night is worth noting as yet another example of just how much things have changed in the post-Sheldon Silver era.
Silver, as longtime Capitol watchers are well aware, is an observant Jew. That meant he was routinely out of pocket from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday in order to observe the Jewish sabbath known as Shabbat.
Though central staffers worked through this 24-hour pause, no significant decisions could be made until Silver checked back in on Saturday night. And, as such, the members of his conference generally took a break right along with him.
It was not unusual for complaints to be lodged over someone trying to jam the Assembly just before – or worse, during – Shabbat, knowing the speaker would have a difficult time responding until his religious obligations were fulfilled.
Silver’s replacement, Carl Heastie, is not Jewish, and so is not held to the same negotiating constraints as his predecessor. He’ll be working through Friday and into Saturday, right along with his members, who are expected to attended closed-door conferences.
During a CapTon interview last night, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle acknowledged that this is a significant shift, though he also said accommodations will be made for observant Jewish rank-and-filers – of which Silver is now one. They will not be expected to attend conference, he said, and materials will be provided to them to keep them abreast of developments in budget talks (assuming any breakthroughs are made).
Working weekends is just a small example of the seismic shift that has taken place in the Assembly.
Lobbyists, lawmakers and staffers who have long been involved in the budget back-and-forth all admit that this year is vastly different in large part due to the change in leadership style between Heastie and Silver.
Mindful of the unhappiness among rank-and-file lawmakers about Silver’s top-down management technique, Heastie has been careful to involve his conference as much as possible as he tries to negotiate his first ever budget deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
This empowerment has been good for legislators – and also for lobbyists and activists who were quick to adapt to the new reality – but it has also slowed the pace of budget talks considerably, participants admitted.
Add to that Cuomo’s newfound sensitivity to the highly public criticism from US Attorney Preet Bharara and others of the traditional “three-men-in-a-room” budget negotiation model, which has led to the governor’s unusual in-person visits to the Capitol’s third floor, and you get the diffuse and sometimes chaotic situation that we’ve witnessed over the past several days.
For a while there, proposals were falling off the table and being put back on so quickly, it was often hard to tell where things stood.
It looks like legislative leaders and the governor are making progress, however.
They’re reportedly close to an ethics disclosure deal – though it should be noted that the word “close” has been employed for a good 48 hours now. Already, good government groups are criticizing what they’ve seen, with NYPIRG’s Blair Horner publicly panning the reforms under consideration as “weak tea.”
Education continues to be a sticking point, with a lot of finger-pointing and chest-beating over the apparent loss of the DREAM Act and Education Investment Tax Credit, though several eleventh-hour compromise solutions have been floated.
The teacher evaluation system also remains an open question. The independent commission idea looks to be dead, and talk is now centered on getting the Board of Regents to propose changes before the session ends in June. Neither the Assembly Democrats nor the Senate Republicans like the idea of tying the changes to state school aid, which could force districts to hold their May budget votes without a clear picture of how much support they’ll be getting from the state.
Morelle noted last night that districts have been in this place before, thanks to Albany’s decades-long history of late budgets. No one wants to return to those bad old days, he said.
As for the governor, he made no appearances yesterday, but issued yet another lengthy statement insisting he won’t sign off on more state education aid unless the budget includes reforms that address “accountability, performance and standards.” Cuomo also said he’s standing firm on ethics reform, and called debate over the inclusion of policy proposals in the budget a “red herring.”
Mar 27th - 5:33 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans say they’ll be returning to the Capitol for more budget talks today.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public schedule as of yet.
At 8:30 a.m., alcony holds its Women’s History Awards Networking breakfast, Hard Rock Cafe, 1501 Broadway, Manhattan.
At 9 a.m., more than 450 experts from a variety of scientific, psychological, social service and educational communities will gather at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center to deliberate the emerging connections between trauma, the science of brain development and lifetime health, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.
At 9:30 a.m., Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis holds a press conference to release a report on the Access-a-Ride program, Arrochar Friendship Club, 44 Bionia Ave., Staten Island.
At 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speak while hosting an event where state employees will help Bronx residents investigate whether they are entitled to unclaimed funds; rotunda, Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse Ave., the Bronx.
Also at 10 a.m., Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks will honor local Vietnam Veterans, Olmstead Lodge, 171 Reservoir Ave., Rochester.
Also at 10 a.m., Assemblyman Keith Wright holds a press conference with Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera on NYCHA funding, Lincoln Houses, 2130 Madison Ave. at 133rd Street, Manhattan.
Also at 10 a.m., during a ceremony at CUNY’s Hunter College, officials and relatives of a woman killed in an East Harlem building explosion display a memorial plaque and accept funds raised at the college for her family and for the not-for-profit housing organization Hope Community Inc.; lobby, Silberman School of Social Work, 2180 Third Ave., Manhattan.
At 10:15 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joins elected officials, unions and community groups to call on Albany to raise the minimum wage, City Hall steps, Manhattan.
At 10:30 a.m., Sen. Marc Panepinto will tour Black Squirrel Distillery and highlight the benefits of strengthening the maple syrup industry in upstate as well as his overall legislative plan for boosting the state’s agricultural economy, 1595 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo.
At 10:45 a.m., Rep. Nita Lowey joins officials from Westchester Community College for a roundtable discussion on impact of proposed Pell Grant cuts for local college students, Hartford Hall, 75 Grasslands Rd., Valhalla.
At noon, acting state Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses Cuomo’s property tax proposal, home of Claudia Blumenstock, 407 Taylor Rd., Honeoye Falls.
Also at noon, representatives of Jewish advocacy organizations call for US Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to support overriding an anticipated presidential veto of the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” during a news conference near the district offices of the lawmakers; 780 Third Ave., Manhattan.
At 12:30 p.m., Sen. David Carlucci holds a press conference on paid family leave at the “For Kids Only” Daycare facility, 577 North State Rd., Briarcliff Manor.
At 1 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s New NY Broadband Program, Sullivan County Government Center, Legislative Hearing Room, 100 North St., Monticello.
At 6 p.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, state Sen. Jessie Hamilton, the Democratic party district leader of the Assembly’s 43rd District, Shirley Patterson, and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon host a “Shirley Chisholm Women of Excellence Awards” presentation and reception, marking the March observance of Women’s History Month; First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, 450 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.
A fiery explosion yesterday afternoon in Manhattan’s East Village injured at least 19 people, damaged four buildings and led to the collapse of at least one of them. Four people were in critical condition; they were among 15 taken to area hospitals, including four firefighters, who sustained minor injuries. Four people were treated at the scene. AS of last night, officials knew of no one killed in the incident.
Nicholas Figueroa, a 23-year-old man who took a co-worker to lunch at the sushi restaurant whose basement was the site of the blast, has not been heard from since the explosion. His date is being treated for injuries she sustained during the explosion at Bellevue Hospital.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders appear close to an agreement on ethics policies that would increase what legislators have to disclose about the money they make on top of their government salaries. Cuomo said the effort made good on his pledge to bring more sunlight to Albany, but critics say what they’ve seen so far falls short of full disclosure.
In the latest sign of Albany ethics madness, lawmakers were forced to turn over Lou Gehrig bobblehead dolls given to them by the ALS Association this week because they’re deemed a violation of the Legislature’s gift ban.
The collapse earlier this week of a two-pronged plan to include in the state budget an education tax credit and the Dream Act, which extends tuition assistance programs to undocumented immigrants, has led to finger-pointing and a last-minute scramble for some kind of alternative plan before budget bills are signed on Saturday.
Eleanor Randolph on the budget negotiation process: “The real mockery, of course, is that the insiders’ club can exclude even insiders. The four men in that back room should make room for two more, one of them a woman. Six people is not a crowd by anybody’s count.”
The final budget will include nearly $440 million for anti-homeless services over the next four years.
Cuomo’s campus sexual-assault proposal faces an uncertain future, with lawmakers from both parties saying it shouldn’t be included in the state budget. The Legislature wants the governor to change his plan, and let them vote on it later on in the session.
Another point of contention in budget talks: How to spend the state’s $5.4 billion (and growing) windfall from financial settlements. A Cuomo spokesman said using the money is “central to the finances of the state and a core component of the budget.” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos wants more detail.
In yet another chapter of the ongoing push and pull between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo, a new front has opened, this time over public housing funds in the state budget. While the figure is $100 million from the state to the city in the state budget for much-needed repairs, Cuomo wants a state agency to control how that money is administered. The mayor believes the funds should go directly to the housing authority.
With legislators holding closed-door meetings on the new state budget, teachers rallied against Cuomo at the state Capitol yesterday, stopping short of declaring victory in the fight with him over tenure and union rights.
A plan to task the Board of Regents with developing a new teacher-evaluation system was a step in the right direction as Cuomo and lawmakers negotiate a series of education reforms, NYSUT President Karen Magee said.
Negotiations over the Brownfields tax credit program have stalled because of a disagreement over a proposed affordable housing requirement.
Thoroughbred racing in New York could remain under Cuomo’s control for another year, as the state’s April 1 budget deadline approaches without discussion of the New York Racing Association.
Mar 26th - 5:02 pm
Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he’s looking to the Assembly for “leadership” on the Education Investment Tax Credit, though: “if this doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of blame to go around.”
US Sen. Chuck Schumer is leading a group of Democratic senators from states that have heavy oil train traffic to push for the immediate strengthening of federal regulations on oil tanker cars.
US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says taxes on soda and other “junk” foods are regressive, and while she will push policies aimed at lowering the obesity rate, taxes are not the way to change behavior.
Two bills recently introduced in the Assembly would restrict what the living could do with the previously living.
Due to the governor’s refusal to release school aid runs, the Watertown School District has proposed cutting about 15 instructional and maintenance staff postitions.
Sen. Martin Dilan: “If DREAM comes out it should all come out. The budget is where we have leverage. Outside of the budget (the DREAM Act) is dead.”
Cuomo’s raise-the-age-proposal has a variety of provisions that actually create stricter sentencing schemes, particularly for kids charged with violent crimes.
The NYT hosted an online debate over whether spending more on education is the best way to improve schools.
A new AQE video targets the Senate Republicans for failing to “walk the walk” when it comes to increasing education aid.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will embark next week on his first domestic trip since taking office, and Fort Drum is on his itinerary.
Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. wants Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz to visit the South Bronx.
A majority of the Chautauqua County Legislature approved a sales tax hike that will bring the combined local and state tax to 8 percent. The state Legislature must sign off on this.
Cuomo announced that David Rockefeller has donated $4 million to establish an operating endowment supporting the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County.
DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky, “no cape, but lots of crusades.”
Who were NYC’s top 10 lobbyists in 2014? Find out here.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct found Mansfield Town Judge Randy Alexander “acted realistically” by resigning his position and agreeing never to run for or accept an appointment to a judgeship again.
The Albany metro area added 5,300 private-sector jobs from February 2014 to February 2015. It was second most jobs of any city in upstate New York following Buffalo, which added 9,100 private sector jobs from year to year.
Troy gets some love from the New York Times Travel section.
The chairman of the Fulton City Republican Committee is withdrawing his support for Rep. John Katko, saying the congressman has abandoned his conservative and Tea Party supporters.
Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently fighting for his political life in a heated run-off campaign, floated the idea of naming an airport after the Windy City’s favorite son: President Barack Obama.
The Skidmore student accused of sexually assaulting another student back in April of 2014 will not be allowed to return to the college for several years.
Mar 26th - 5:00 pm
While Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos earlier on Thursday said a minimum wage increase isn’t in the cards for the state budget, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters it remains on the table in the negotiations.
“That’s not my understanding,” Heastie said after emerging from a closed-door conference with Democratic members. “We continue to press people in this state need the minimum wage. We continue that debate.”
Assembly Democrats this afternoon huddled to discuss Cuomo’s education reform proposals, which he is linking to approving a boost of education aid in the state.
Lawmakers on Thursday confirmed the education commission initially floated that would develop criteria has been abandoned, and lawmakers are now discussing having the Board of Regents be charged with developing evaluation criteria.
“We are still discussing education, all the different ways to go,” Heastie said. “At this point, there’s no agreement in anything.”
Likewise, Cuomo is yet to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans on disclosure of legal clients in the state budget, which is due Tuesday.
Heastie said the ethics debate remains “an open subject.”
“I had a conversation about it today with the governor and he’s trying to talk to the Senate,” Heastie said.
Cuomo himself released a lengthy statement reiterating that he won’t back a budget deal without ethics or approve a significant increase in education aid without reform measures for schools included.
The governor also defended his decision to tie so much policy to spending in the budget as well.
“As much as the governor are working toward an agreement, that’s a place where we disagree,” Heastie said. “We don’t believe a lot of policy should be tied up in appropriations.
Despite the posturing, all sides appeared close to reaching an agreement within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly are due to return Friday to have more conversations on the budget. The Assembly is also due to be in Albany for a rare Saturday meeting on the spending plan as well.
An agreement could come as late as Saturday night in order to have measures age without a message of necessity from Cuomo and be voted on Monday and Tuesday.
Mar 26th - 3:28 pm
The debate over policy being included in the state budget is a “red herring,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a lengthy statement on the budget talks released Thursday afternoon.
“The truth is that every budget boils down to two essential issues: How much money are we spending and how are we spending it?” Cuomo said. “There is no financial judgment that can be made without a corresponding policy judgment. Indeed many of the Legislature’s proposals in their one house budgets have related policy proposals.”
Cuomo has linked policy to spending in previous budget proposals.
But his $142 billion spending plan was seen as an even greater amount of policy linkage to appropriations this year, especially on education issues, where a $1.1 billion increase in aid is tied to reform proposals.
Meanwhile, Cuomo sought to yoke ethics measures dealing disclosure and campaign finance laws to appropriations in his 30-day budget amendments, that lawmakers declined to introduce.
Governors have broader powers over the budget process in Albany and Cuomo sought to use that leverage to achieve some policy victories.
In the statement, Cuomo reiterated his top priorities in the budget remain education and ethics reform.
Cuomo continues to insist that he won’t agree to a budget that does not include “real ethics reform” or allow a “dramatic increase in education aid” without reform measures.
Cuomo lays out those reform measures in education as being ones that deal with “accountability, performance and standards.”
On ethics, Cuomo says ethics must be considered in the budget, adding that client disclosure issues have plagued Albany for more than a generation.
“These two issues remain my highest priorities in this budget,” Cuomo says of ethics and education. “They are transformative changes.”
Currently, Assembly Democrats are meeting behind closed doors discussing education measures in the budget.
A previously proposed education commission is no longer part of the budget talks, lawmakers confirmed. Now, lawmakers are discussing having the Board of Regents potentially consider reform recommendations later this year.
Here is Cuomo’s full statement:
Mar 26th - 2:27 pm
In yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of OneUpsManship between Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, funding for the New York City Housing Authority is now the source of an intense behind the scenes fight. Sources say the figure that has been agreed upon is $100 million in the state budget for NYCHA. But it is how that money is administered which is the source of the dispute.
NYCHA hasn’t received state money in years, and serious repairs and capital investments are needed to improve the aging housing stock, some of which was built for veterans returning from the second world war. According to the state’s appropriation currently being hashed out in the budget, the state would control the money through the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. DHCR would then approve projects and allow the state to take an active role in determining how finite resources are spent.
Mayor de Blasio is livid over this, I am told. He believes NYCHA knows it’s own housing stock best, and NYCHA should administer its own money to determine how and where to spend it based on greatest need. Governor Cuomo isn’t having it. People familiar with the discussion taking place among staff between Albany and the City say NYCHA has had a serious accountability problem. That includes money it was given to install security cameras in the mid-2000s, that it is just getting around to spending now. A person with direct knowledge of the less-than-cordial conversation taking place says,
“NYCHA has not been a good steward of the public’s money in the past. There’s no question that the state wants to invest in NYCHA, but we want to do it in a fiscally responsible way.”
***UPDATE*** In response, NYCHA Spox Jean Weinberg says,
“It’s vital that Albany bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way of critical funding for NYCHA residents. There has been a major erosion of support for public housing from the State over the last few decades. That’s why we’ve asked the State to commit $300 million — that the City will match — to ensure NYCHA can make the necessary repairs to its aging housing stock and provide residents with the housing they deserve.”
Mar 26th - 12:45 pm
There’s been “tremendous progress” on reaching an ethics agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republicans in the Senate, Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Thursday said.
“I think we’re making tremendous progress with the ethics legislation, cooperating with the governor, working with him,” Skelos said.
Cuomo has already come to an agreement with Assembly Democrats on an ethics package, which includes new disclosure requirements of legal clients, per diem reform and campaign finance measures.
Senate Republicans, however, have raised concerns with Cuomo over the disclosure piece and have been negotiating the finer points of Cuomo’s proposal for the last several days.
The budget is due to be passed by Tuesday, the last day of the state’s fiscal year.
“I believe we’re going to have an ethics deal by March 31,” Skelos said.
Cuomo has said he won’t sign off on a budget without ethics legislation included in the final agreement.
Still, major aspects of the $142 billion budget appeared to be closing down on Thursday as lawmakers reach key agreements or abandon more contentious policy matters to later in the session.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emerged from a closed-door meeting with Cuomo to lawmakers were “still negotiating” before then ducking into a conference with majority Democrats.
Democrats are yet to come to an agreement with Cuomo on education reform measures he is seeking and the governor continues to link a funding increase to his policy proposals.
Meanwhile, Skelos gave mixed signals on whether an education commission, which would be charged with developing criteria for teacher evaluations and potentially other reforms, will still be included in the final deal.
“There’s some sort of a thing like that,” Skelos said. “I don’t know if the commission is still there.”
Skelos said Republicans are “in sync” with the governor on education issues, but no three-way agreement has been reached.
Senate Republicans, however, have raised concerns with how more than $5 billion of a windfall surplus should be spent.
Cuomo has proposed a variety of avenues to spend the money, including directing money to the Thruway Authority, expanding access to broadband Internet service and an economic development competition for upstate regions.
“This should be linked to economic development and job creation,” Skelos said. “That’s my concern. This is not CHIPS funding that goes to the local communities to help the superintendents of highways to repair roads. This has to go to create jobs.”
As for the upstate competition — a $1.5 billion program — Skelos raised concerns with the winners and losers aspect.
“We’re not opposed to that investment upstate. What we don’t think is there should be three winners and four losers,” he said, adding, “It shouldn’t be region against region. it should be project against project.”
The lowest award possible in the program would be higher than what winners received in the economic development council awards.