DiNapoli: Tax Revenue Declined In April

New York’s tax revenue in April declined during the first month of the new fiscal year compared to the same time last year, according to a cash report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

The state collected $8.2 billion in taxes last month, a reduction of $420.4 million, or 4.9 percent, to April 2015.

It’s a potential red flag for the state’s economy and the revenue picture for the state. Nevertheless, the revenue was more or less what conservative estimates given the expected slackening of the economy.

“April tax receipts were in line with more conservative projections compared to just a few months ago as the economy has shown signs of slowing in the first quarter of the year,” DiNapoli said. “New developments in the coming months and their impact on revenues must be monitored closely as the new fiscal year progresses.”

The decline year over year is due to lower estimated personal income tax payments that resulted from a weakened financial market.

New York meanwhile spent $10.5 billion last month, $2.8 billion more than last year during the same period.

NY-19: D-Trip Gloats Over Contentious Primary

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is enjoying the heated primary for the Republican nomination in the 19th congressional district, sending out a sampling of the coverage of the race between John Faso and Andrew Heaney that describes the contest as nasty and a “war of words.”

“As the two Republican congressional candidates in New York’s 19th district, Albany conservative politician John Faso and Trump-Fanboy Andrew Heaney, continue to launch debilitating personal attacks and drag each other further to the right, they won’t be able to undo the damage in the eyes of Hudson Valley general election voters who voted for President Obama twice,” said Bryan Lesswing at the DCCC.

The race for the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Chris Gibson in the Hudson Valley House district is indeed a contentious one. Heaney, a businessman who hasn’t held elected office before, has criticized Faso’s record as a lobbyist. Faso, in turn, has knocked Heaney for his campaign contribution to President Obama in 2007.

Democrats have a primary of their own in the district between Livingston Deputy Supervisor Will Yandik and Zephyr Teachout, though that race has been no near as a heated.

The 19th congressional district has been a battleground for the last several cycles and an open seat means both parties will be pushing hard to either keep or flip it.

Still, a heated primary doesn’t necessarily spell doom for a party. Rep. Elise Stefanik two years ago faced off against Matt Doheny in a pitched battle for the Republican nomination in the 21st, and ultimately won the seat.

In the NY-1 on Long Island, Rep. Lee Zeldin fended off a personally financed challenge from George Demos and eventually unseated Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.

DiNapoli Nudges ExxonMobil On Climate Change

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office is teaming up with the Church of England to pressure the company on the issue of climate change.

DiNapoli in a statement on Monday signaled he would use the state pension fund’s investment in the company to leverage a response out of its board of directors on how ExxonMobil will adjust to internationally driven policy of limiting the effects of climate change through a reduction of carbon output.

“Combating climate change presents risks and opportunities that ExxonMobil needs to address,” said DiNapoli, who is trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

“We need to know if ExxonMobil is taking into account the growth of lower carbon economies and taking steps to protect the long-term value of our investments. Earlier this year, the company tried unsuccessfully to get the Securities and Exchange Commission to keep investors from voting on these important questions at the annual meeting. ExxonMobil’s peers are stepping up to address climate risk, it’s time they did so as well.”

The effort is being joined by the Church of England, which has also invested in the company and has taken on a similar activist shareholder role.

“I am delighted investors will have the chance to vote on this motion at this week’s annual meeting, in spite of ExxonMobil’s best efforts to deny them that opportunity,” Edward Mason, the Head of Responsible Investment for the Church of England’s investment fund said. “With peers such as BP and Shell agreeing to report on climate risk, the company is in danger of being increasingly out-of-step with the mainstream on this issue.”

The announcement comes as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office is reviewing Exxon’s impact on the environment and climate change. The AG’s office last week blasted a letter sent by House Republicans seeking more information from Schneiderman’s office as well as 16 additional attorneys general who are gathering information in the case.

Moody’s: With Low Levy Cap, School Districts Rely More On State Aid

The flat growth in this year’s cap on school property taxes is driving districts to rely on overrides and on increasing state aid, an analysis released by Moody’s on Monday found.

Nearly all school districts saw their proposed budgets approved by voters.

But eight school districts requesting overrides of the state’s cap on property taxes failed to pass their spending plans. Meanwhile, the number of school districts seeking to override the cap has doubled this year to 36 from last year’s vote.

This has coincided with ever-increasing school aid from Albany.

“If allowable levy growth remains restricted, school districts will have to increasingly depend on overrides, state aid growth, and expenditure cuts to balance their budgets, a credit negative,” Moody’s found.

The tax cap, in place since 2012, is set at limiting levy increases to either 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. With inflation virtually flat, the cap for school districts was on average 0.12 percent.

It requires 60 percent of voters to support a budget that overrides the cap in order for it to effect.

There have been efforts to make the cap easier to override or end the linkage to inflation, but those have largely failed.

With the cap levy progressively lower each year since it’s been in effect, state aid has grown, making districts more reliant on funding from Albany.

“Growth in state aid revenue has outpaced levy growth, which generally benefits districts that are more reliant on state revenues and challenges districts more dependent on property taxes,” Moody’s found.

“Although school districts more reliant on state aid derive a greater benefit from the current environment of low levy growth and increased state revenues, property taxes have traditionally been a more stable source of revenue than state aid. Continued dependence on state aid growth to enhance revenues and balance budgets exposes districts to state-level budget strain.”

NY-19: Faso Releases New TV Ad, Heaney Slams Lack Of Debates

The heated race for the Republican nomination in 19th congressional district grew more pitched on Monday with John Faso releasing a TV ad knocking his GOP opponent, Andrew Heaney.

Heaney’s campaign, meanwhile, released an attack on Faso for not agreeing to a series of debates ahead of next month’s primary.

In the Faso campaign ad, Heaney is criticized as a “New York City millionaire” who has launched false attacks on Faso’s record as a lobbyist working with the firm Manatt Phelps.

And, as his campaign has done repeatedly, the ad knocks Heaney for donating to President Obama’s campaign in 2007.

New York Post columnist Fred Dicker is also featured in the spot, saying “there is no indication that Faso is guilty of the things Heaney is accusing him of.”

The Heaney campaign, however, is knocking Faso for his “reluctance” to agree to a series of three debates (including Time Warner Cable News among others) and pointed to Faso’s firm donating money to Democratic candidates through a political action committee.

The Heaney campaign, too, insists Faso should be tied more closely to the firm that employed him after he left elected office.

From the Heaney campaign:

But in fact John Faso was not just another employee at Manatt, he was a partner. According to a December 1, 2006 press release: “Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, the national law and consulting firm, announced today that John J. Faso rejoined the firm as a government and regulatory partner in New York following a leave of absence to undertake his New York gubernatorial campaign.”

John Faso was not just another employee he was the “Albany based partner lobbyist” upon which Manatt’s fine and ban were based. According to reports, even Faso’s lawyer, Steptoe & Johnson’s Evan Barr, identified him as the unamed Albany based partner “at the center of the investigation.”

Moreover there are multiple reports that indicate Faso unsuccessfully represented clients before the Comptrollers office. Most importantly, if Faso was just another employee, as he claims, the firm would have not been liable for his actions.

Cuomo Urges NY Dems To Spread ‘Gospel’ At DNC

From the Morning Memo:

As Hillary Clinton’s slog to the Democratic presidential nomination continues in a protracted primary battle with Bernie Sanders, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told New York Democrats on Sunday night to spread the “gospel” of New York’s liberal policy victories at this summer’s party convention in Philadelphia.

Cuomo, who was introduced by his sometimes-rival Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, stressed the need for party unity. And, without explicitly saying so, provided a blueprint for Clinton supporters who are trying to convince Sanders backers to support her nomination this fall.

“We’re not just giving speeches in New York,” Cuomo said. “We’re making government work. That’s what it’s all about and that’s the Democratic Party at its best. You preach that gospel at the convention and we’re going to bring this Democratic Party together. We’re going to win in November, Hillary’s going to be the next president.”

Cuomo, who has been a Clinton surrogate and endorsed her bid when she announced a second White House run last year, listed a series of his own accomplishments as governor, ranging from the passage of the SAFE Act, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and most recently the passage of a $15 minimum wage as well as a paid family leave program.

“Look at what we’ve done here in New York,” Cuomo said. “We’ve done more to advance justice in the last six years than has been done in the preceding 60.”

(And, as his administration is facing an investigation for the signature economic development program the Buffalo Billion, Cuomo touted his efforts to revive the regional economy, to loud applause. “We have invested more in the upstate economy than any administration of the history of this state,” he said.)

Cuomo derided presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and, as he has before, mocked the proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“They say they can do one thing, which is build a wall,” Cuomo said. “Who knew Trump was really a carpenter after all of this? That’s the only thing government can do. No immigration, no rights, no women’s equality, but we’re going to build a wall.”

But in many respects, Cuomo’s remarks were aimed at unifying his own party after a bruising Democratic nominating season.

In New York’s April contest, Clinton defeated Sanders. But the primary showed a split among Democratic voters: Sanders won most upstate counties, while Clinton was victorious in cities and downs tae.

Cuomo acknowledged in his remarks, too, how both major political parties are split. For the Democrats, Sanders has threatened to take his primary fight to the convention itself in order to gain concessions from the leadership such as reforms to the primary nominating system as well as to shift the platform to the left.

Mathematically Clinton is expected to clinch the needed delegates in order to win the nomination.

But there has been some concern from Democrats nationally the effort to unify and stop Trump is being hindered by the ongoing primary and Sanders’s attacks.

“It’s not just rhetoric,” Cuomo said. “We can actually help you in your life. We can get things done.”

Cuomo Doubles Down On Buffalo

From the Morning Memo:

The governor’s decision to tap the mayor of Buffalo to serve as head of the state Democratic Party comes at a crucial time for both the Queen City and the Cuomo administration.

Cuomo’s signature upstate economic development project – the vaunted Buffalo Billion – is at the center of what is now a far-reaching investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into the administration’s process of awarding lucrative development projects.

Local officials in communities where projects are scheduled to begin or already well underway – including Buffalo – are worried that Bharara’s probe will result in a slowdown or, worse yet, complete cancellations.

The concern is particularly acute in the case of the Buffalo Billion if legislative leaders don’t green light a $485 million vote by the PACB, which has already been rescheduled once, and is reportedly – if you believe the Cuomo administration’s claims – going to take place sometime this week.

Turning to Brown for such a high profile political post at this time signals Cuomo’s desire to demonstrate that Buffalo still matters in a big way to him, and he’s not quite willing to throw in the towel yet.

Brown, as longtime Cuomo watchers know, is a veteran ally of the governor.

He has twice been mentioned as a potential lieutenant governor pick, and twice passed over – once in favor of former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, and then again (and closer to home) in favor of Cuomo’s current No. 2, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, who once served as Erie County clerk.

Brown’s selection also comes in a crucial election year, and, according to local party leaders the mayor was instrumental in helping deliver Erie County for Hillary Clinton in the recent Democratic presidential primary.

Clinton’s victory was slim – she defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Erie County by just 705 votes, even though she lavished time (with a personal visit plus visits by multiple surrogates) and money (with multiple TV ads) on the area.

Buffalo is also expected to be a battleground in the rematch for control of the state Senate, thanks to the abrupt (and rather embarrassing) announcement by freshman Sen. Marc Panepinto that he won’t be seeking re-election this fall.

The Republicans have a lot of hope for their candidate, Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, while the Democrats saw the man widely considered their best hope in the 60th SD – Assemblyman Sean Ryan – take a pass on running.

Of course, it remains unclear just how involved Cuomo plans to be in the fight for control of the Senate this year – particularly since fundraising for the 2014 fight, particularly by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, is currently the focus of one of several investigations into City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

That might give the governor, who has been notoriously reluctant to help his fellow Democrats in the state Senate, an excuse to sit on his hands in the fall elections.

Another WNY Change on Tap for NYS Dems

From the Morning Memo:

As Buffalo Mayor Brown is preparing to take the helm of the state Democratic Party, another Western New Yorker is set to leave his party post.

James J. Eagan, executive vice president of Midwood Financial Services, is announcing today his resignation as state party secretary.

In a statement provided to SofP, Eagan cited Brown’s selection as party chairman as the motivation behind his decision, saying it provided an “excellent opportunity” for him to step back and refocus his efforts on local elections.

Brown will be the first WNY chair of the state party since the 1970s, and Eagan said he feels like he’s leaving the operation in good hands, with the interests of his region well represented.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo’s decision to support Mayor Byron Brown as party chair, as it provides the state party with strong leadership that capably represents the Western New York interests that I have been representing in my role as secretary,” Eagan said.

“With Western New York sufficiently represented in the state party, the timing is right for me to shift my focus back home to Erie County,” he continued.

“It is imperative that Erie County Democratic Party leaders support candidates with core values that do not contradict those of the Democratic Party, along with having the capability of taking on the challenges of good governance, including restoring public faith in the ethical integrity of elected officials.”

State Democratic Party leaders are gathering today in Saratoga Springs to elect their new leaders.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. Both houses of the Legislature are in session in Albany.

The state Democratic Party is meeting in Saratoga Springs, where Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is expected to be elected as the new party chair and former NYC Council President Christine Quinn as vice chair.

The LCA Show dress rehearsal is tonight. Buy your tickets to the big show tomorrow, if you haven’t already!

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public events scheduled.

A full calendar of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

Some NYC and suburban Democrats aren’t thrilled with the selection by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to run the state Democratic Party.

Brown, who was officially nominated for the party post by the governor yesterday, would be the first Western New Yorker to serve as chair since former Erie County Democratic Chairman Joseph F. Crangle held the post from 1971 to 1974.

East Syracuse-based Pyramid Network Services, the general contractor for the Mesonet Initiative, a $23.6 million UAlbany project supported by Cuomo to enable better planning for extreme weather events, is one of the nearly two-dozen companies mentioned in the federal subpoena issued to the Cuomo administration in late April.

As part of a probe into former top Cuomo aide and friend Joseph Percoco and others close to the governor, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a subpoena to the administration for records and communications pertaining to various economic development and nano-tech projects. But in some cases, material being sought might have already been deleted — or never been retained in the first place.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reached deals with three major real estate firms to stop what he claimed was the illegal denial of apartments to people on public housing assistance. The settlements will be announced today.

State Senate Democrats are prepared today to try to force a vote on the floor of the chamber on a bill to help child abuse victims seek justice. “Whose interests are we serving here in the Senate: Perpetrators or survivors of child sexual abuse?” said Senate bill sponsor Brad Hoylman.

A coalition of groups is launching a campaign this week to push Cuomo to follow through on a promise to fund thousands of new supportive housing units before the legislative session ends next month.

The $52 million deal to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights library into a luxury condo tower, which City Hall awarded to a friend of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio who offered less money for the city-owned land than two other bidders, has attracted the attention of federal and city prosecutors.

In 2009, then-rank-and-file Assemblyman Carl Heastie was the lead sponsor of a bill designed to weaken then-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s control of the public school system. Seven years later, Assembly Speaker Heastie is thought to be de Blasio’s greatest ally in the fight to renew the mayoral control system as it currently stands.

Clergy across New York City were talking to their flocks over the weekend about mental health as part of an ambitious education push by Chirlane McCray, de Blasio’s wife. The three-day campaign was one of McCray’s largest engagement efforts to promote ThriveNYC.

The group behind the push to ban horse carriages on Big Apple streets now wants a stop to all horse racing in New York following the deaths of two horses before Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

Federal authorities have interviewed several individuals involved in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s 2007 wiretap investigation of politically connected defense attorney Robert Macedonio and are examining whether an alleged bribe to prosecutor John Scott Prudenti went uninvestigated.

A pair of new polls out this past weekend show the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and his likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton are both viewed unfavorably by more than half of U.S. voters.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Continuing to treat a victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders as a fait accompli, Hillary Clinton today questioned Donald Trump’s business record and assailed his ideas, warning that the coming weeks represented a critical period in which, if left unchallenged, Trump could “normalize himself” as he seeks to broaden his support.

Clinton says she’s looking beyond the world of politics as she continues her search for a running mate. “It’s not just people in elective office,” she said on “Meet the Press” today. “It’s successful businesspeople. I am very interested in that.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he doesn’t have the time to run for President, but he is willing to join Clinton as her vice-presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket.

NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, shrugging off any role of his own in gun violence, instead attacked a familiar list of critics Saturday in his state-of-the-weapon address, including “Hollywood media elites” and ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Clinton took aim at Trump for accepting the NRA’s endorsement. “We know the gun lobby is powerful. We know that some candidates will say or do anything to keep them happy,” she said at a Florida gala sponsored by the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

Clinton also invoked her roles as a mother and grandmother while responding to Trump’s contention that her push for stricter gun control would make families less safe, saying the presumptive Republican nominee would put more children “at risk of violence and bigotry.”

At the outset of the general election, Clinton’s campaign looks like a well-oiled juggernaut next to Trump’s vastly smaller, self-funded operation, a POLITICO analysis of FEC reports found.

Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts who now seeks the Libertarian Party’s nomination for vice president, has already received the sort of attention third-party candidates dream of.

A complex web of personal interests and private developers around the state – all with former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and ex-lobbyist Todd Howe at the center – has drawn the interest of the U.S. attorney’s office.

Cuomo pitched a new big-projects agency as a way to help smooth the way for massive state construction like the planned $29 billion mass transit overhaul in New York City, but critics worry about a power grab by the famously hands-on leader.

The offices of US Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance sent subpoenas to several of the 14 developers that bid on the City Hall-backed project to redevelop the Brooklyn Heights library into a luxury condo tower.

Assemblyman David McDonough says it’s time to close a loophole that contributed to sex abuse scandals at Horace Mann, Poly Prep and Yeshiva University High School by mandating that private school officers report incidents to law enforcement.

The state Inspector General’s office has launched a probe into who leaked the bombshell Board of Elections criminal referral involving NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fund-raising operation.

More than half the money given to candidates in last month’s special election to replace former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was transferred by political party committees, a long-standing practice that is under new scrutiny.

Lobbyists who support de Blasio have taken ample advantage of loopholes in the campaign finance law, allowing them to skirt conflict of interest rules and contribution limits to give big donations to his campaign committees.

De Blasio just can’t get enough of nonprofits: He’s setting up a new one, the NYC School Support Services Corp., in what looks like another union payoff in the name of ending the long-running scandal of profiteering custodians.

The case for running against de Blasio is not about crime, which is at historic lows, or the economy, which is at an impressive high, but rather, in the gut-feeling that there is a “crisis of confidence,” according to one potential challenger, Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said Buffalo should consider resurrecting at least a portion of the grand, tree-lined boulevard that once stretched 3 miles from Delaware Park to Martin Luther King Jr. Park – before it was replaced by an expressway that split the neighborhood.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown could be headed toward nomination as chairman of the state Democratic Committee when it meets tomorrow in Saratoga Springs, with former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn serving as head of the executive committee.

Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand want the federal government to halt the expansion of the Algonquin pipeline, which runs past Indian Point nuclear power plant, until independent health and safety reviews are completed. The FERC has already rejected a similar request from the governor.

The NYT: “New York lawmakers are balking at a bill submitted by (Cuomo) to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18…But legislators in Louisiana, which imprisons the most citizens per capita and has the worst record in the country for meting out life sentences to adolescents, are giving a similar bill a warm, bipartisan reception.”

Newsday is distressed by how little it appears will get done in Albany before the session ends – especially when it comes to ethics reform.

Explosive Sundance doc, “Weiner” — about former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s failed mayoral campaign and sex scandal — premiered in New York on Wednesday. But the disgraced pol and his Hillary Clinton adviser wife, Huma Abedin, still haven’t seen it.

Investigators have found several fire-code violations at the garden supply store in Manhattan where a fuel spill ignited a fire underneath the Metro-North Railroad last Tuesday, causing thousands of commuters to be stranded and lingering disruptions, city officials said.

New York City’s zoning code turns 100 this year. Some 40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan would not have been legal if constructed today.

Amid calls from local governments and schools for relief from unfunded state mandates, Cuomo offered them an alternative: Spend less money.

The Center for Disability Services responded to a state Comptroller’s Office audit that found $81,581 in bonuses, executive compensation, gifts and food were ineligible for reimbursement, saying it hasn’t given out raises for several years.

Some of New York City’s top cultural organizations are cutting staff, facing budget shortfalls and soaking up taxpayer money — yet their top officials rake in millions of dollars in compensation.

A 25-year-old Syracuse man serving time in a maximum-security prison in northern New York died earlier this week at the prison.The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear, and will by determined by the Clinton County Coroner’s Office.

Rensselaer County DA Joel Abelove declined to obtain a waiver of immunity from a Troy police sergeant when the officer testified before a grand jury that cleared him of wrongdoing in the shooting death of a Watervliet man. The unusual decision means the officer, Sgt. Randall French, cannot face criminal consequences for his conduct during the April 17 incident.

A majority of the New York Republican congressional delegation supported a controversial amendment in the House to protect LGBT rights last week. Only two – Long Island Rep. Pete King and Buffalo Rep. Chris Collins – voted “no.”

The Long Island town of Oyster Bay has indefinitely postponed a $30 million cash flow borrowing that had been scheduled for this month.