Local Groups Make Last-Ditch Push To Save SALT

From the Morning Memo:

Local-level groups in New York with disparate interest ranging from real estate to law enforcement on Wednesday sent a letter to members of Congress in a last-ditch effort to save state and local tax deductions.

Ending the deductions, known as SALT, remain a key sticking point for New York elected officials and other high-tax states that stand to be negatively impacted if the provision is included in the final bill.

“The full or partial repeal of SALT would upset the carefully balanced fiscal federalism that has existed since the creation of the tax code, and it will result in unprecedented double taxation on taxpayers, forcing them to pay a federal tax on monies already paid in state and local taxes,” the letter states.

“Taxpayers throughout New York are depending on you to ensure they don’t see a tax hike. With that goal in mind, we urge you to preserve the full deductibility of state and local taxes and oppose any legislation going forward which does not fully restore SALT.”

The groups include local government and school groups like the New York State Association of Counties and Council of School of Superintendents as well as the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police and The New York State Professional Firefighters Association.

The state’s influential real estate interests also signed onto the letter, including the Association for a Better New York and the Real Estate Board of New York.

For now, it’s not clear how many minds can be changed among the Republican members of the state’s House delegation. Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed have been steadfast supporters of the legislation. Other Republicans have been supportive of the broad tax overhaul push, but have sought changes that would ease the impact of ending deductions.

Gipson, In Video, Pledges To Return State ‘Back To The People’

From the Morning Memo:

Former state Sen. Terry Gipson unveiled a video on social media Wednesday evening as part of his next step in running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

The video appears to be part of the ongoing soft launch of his statewide campaign in what would likely be a long-shot primary battle against incumbent Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

The video shows various people looking into the camera calling for “fair and open elections” and “outstanding public schools” and a state government that helps mass transit.

And one calls for a “real Democrat” to be governor.

“I’m Terry Gipson,” he says in the video. “It’s time we turned our state government back to the people.”

Gipson is a former one-term state lawmaker representing a Hudson Valley district. He lost re-election in 2014 to Republican Sue Serino and failed last year in a bid to win the seat back.

20,000 Niagara County Pistol Permit Holders Yet To Recertify

From the Morning Memo:

According to the Niagara County Clerk’s office, there are 28,000 pistol permit holders in the county whose firearms were registered more than five years ago. Those people are required to get recertified under the SAFE Act by Jan. 31, 2018 or they will lose their permits.

Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski, a Republican, said he received updated figures from the State Police this week, showing just a little more than 8,000 of his constituents have gone through the recertification process so far.

“Our law-abiding gun owners that followed the rules and got their permits more than five years ago never expected to have to do anything else, except continue to be law-abiding citizens, to exercise their Second Amendment right to defend themselves and their families,” Jastrzemski said.

“When Gov. Cuomo imposed these new rules on gun owners, what he ended up doing was causing a lot of confusion among people who just try to follow the law.”

The clerk said he recognizes the law is unpopular among gun owners, but he believes compliance is their best option. He has met with various community groups and held a number of public forums across the county, and will host another one Saturday in Niagara Falls to answer any questions people might have.

“Everyone from firearms enthusiasts that normally hang out at the LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club to firefighters to professionals to just everyday moms and dads came out in the Town of Niagara to get answers,” Democratic Niagara County Legislator Jason Zona said.

“We understand that a lot of people have questions, and we’re just trying to provide them with the best answers to keep them legal.”

Jastrzemski noted there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the law and how it will be enforced, and he has heard new questions at each meeting. He said it’s also causing confusion at his office, where employees have noticed longer lines and frustrated constituents.

Education Groups Raise Alarm Over SALT

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of education groups on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointing to the impact ending state and local tax deductions would have on school spending.

The groups, including High Achievement New York, point to a report that found up to $5 billion education funding would be in peril annually — about $2,000 per student.

“The tax legislation, in its current form most recently passed by the US senate, would be a disaster for New York State’s public education system and the 2.6 million children it serves,” the groups wrote in the letter. “Moreover, it would disproportionally impact children of color in low Income communities, who already face achievement and funding gaps.”

Having the deductions in place is a “critical mechanism for funding public education in New York State” the groups wrote and the hit could be especially hard for low-income school districts.

“Even before this wrong-headed tax proposal, New York and local communities across the state have long faced constrained budgets and growing cost obligations that have equaled reductions in education spending,” the groups wrote.

“Without the SALT deduction, New York and local communities would face even greater pressure as residents’ demand reductions in budgets that impact their tax rate.”

The letter comes as Republicans in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have agreed to the broad outline of a tax overhaul package to be voted on in the coming days.

The measure is expected to cap property tax deductions at $10,000 and end the state and local tax deductions, commonly known as SALT.

Cuomo on Wednesday speaking the annual Regional Economic Development Awards once again railed against the tax plan, calling it akin to an “economic civil war.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will have lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Later in the day, Pence and Trump participate in an event regarding deregulation, after which, the president will meet with the RNC chairwoman.

At 8:30 a.m., Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Regent Judith Chin will participate in a panel discussion on a new study by the Learning Policy Institute and the National Education Policy Center showing that well-implemented community schools can lift achievement in high-poverty communities, Teachers College, Columbia University, Joyce Berger Cowin Auditorium, Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:30 p.m., the board of trustees of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System meets, New York City Employees’ Retirement System, 335 Adams St., 22nd floor boardroom, Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul joins AARP for an announcement, Senior Planet Exploration Center, 127 West 25th St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Campaign Finance Board meets, Joseph A. O’Hare S.J. Board Room, 12th floor, 100 Church St., Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the state Division of the Budget holds formal public hearings on the fiscal year 2019 executive budget, state Capitol, Room 124, Albany.

Also at 10:30 a.m., the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development joins Asian Americans for Equality and Enterprise Community Partners to preserve historic affordable building in Chinatown, 81 Madison St., Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., the PSC will hold its next regular session, 19th Floor Board Room, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 11 a.m., the Assembly holds a public hearing on supports for foster parents and relative and nonrelative caretakers, Legislative Office Building, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., the Assembly holds a public hearing on oversight of the state fiscal year 2017-2018 state budget for New York State Homes and Community Renewal, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, Manhattan.

At 11:45 a.m., Assemblywoman Monica Wallace and Sen. Tim Kennedy will be joined by Cheektowaga officials to announce millions in state funding for aging sewer infrastructure that contributes to Scajaquada Creek pollution, intersection of Alpine Place and Herbert Avenue, Cheektowaga.

At noon, Hochul delivers remarks at the NY Women in Film & TV Muse Awards, Hilton Midtown, 1335 6th Ave., Manhattan.

Ate 1:15 p.m., Hochul highlights the state’s efforts to combat opioid and heroin abuse, Bronx Odyssey House Recovery Center ribbon cutting ceremony, 2038 Davidson Ave., the Bronx.

At 2:30 p.m., Assemblyman Dan Quart, joined by anti-online harassment advocate Meaghan Barakett and exoneree advocate Jeffrey Deskovic, unveil a package of legislation to address cash bail reform, online harassment and re-entry services to those who were wrongfully convicted, 250 Broadway, 22nd floor, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., Hochul announces the winner of the Green Cities Commuter Competition, City Hall, 515 North Ave., New Rochelle.

At 5:30 p.m., progressive activist groups target Cuomo’s birthday fundraiser over failed policies benefiting his donors over New Yorkers, Cipriani Wall Street, 55 Wall St., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., the Bronx Democrats host their annual holiday party, 1125 Grand Concourse, the Bronx. (NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend).

ALSO AT 6 p.m., Cuomo’s 60th birthday party/fundraiser features Jon Bon Jovi and former President Bill Clinton, Cipriani Wall Street, 55 Wall St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., de Blasio hosts a town hall meeting with NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca for residents of the 38th Council District, 544 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn.

Also at 7 p.m., a vigil marking the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre and advocating for an end to gun violence nationwide with NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams, the New York Coalition to End Gun Violence and a coalition of dozens of other groups, Rutgers Presbyterian Church, 236 W. 73rd St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo privately apologized to a veteran female state Capitol reporter, Karen DeWitt, after he said she was doing a “disservice to women” by focusing on state government’s response to sexual harassment and assault, rather than posing a question about society as a whole.

“We will have policies in state government, obviously, that affect state government, but I think you miss the point,” Cuomo told DeWitt during a gaggle with reporters. “When you say it’s state government, you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you’re a woman. It’s not government. It’s society.”

The governor later said he intended his comments to be about the need for comprehensive, societal approach to the problem, and he will put forward proposals to combat sexual harassment in his State of the State speech.

A spokesman for Cuomo said he called DeWitt and told her his tone was not spurred by her question, but rather by news that a deal was near on tax-reform legislation in Washington that would strip back the state and local tax deduction – an issue the governor has railed against for weeks.

The state GOP issued a statement calling Cuomo’s remarks to DeWitt sexist, to which a state Democratic Party spokesman responded that the Republicans, after supporting Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and electing the “Grabber-in-Chief” to the White House, are in no position to criticize on this topic.

Melissa DeRosa, who was appointed by Cuomo in April as the first woman to serve as secretary, the top unelected position in the state, tweeted: “Limiting the problem to one man, political party or profession misses the whole point of the #MeToo moment.”

The governor floated the idea of limiting the ability of publicly traded companies and government entities to secretly settle sexual harassment allegations – a proposal that appears to be similar to a bill introduced by two Democratic lawmakers in late October.

Cuomo says he wants to take away all firearms from New Yorkers who are convicted of domestic violence crimes – a proposal he will formally unveil in his State of the State address next month.

During his first in-person appearance before the Capitol press corps in several weeks, Cuomo got defensive when asked about the ongoing FBI probe of his administration and the state’s handling of sexual harassment cases.

The governor declined to join U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s call that President Trump, facing ongoing allegations of sexual harassment, resign from office, commenting: “I understand what she’s trying to say.”

Trump may have thought he was giving Gillibrand a lump of coal for Christmas when he took to Twitter to say she would “do anything” for campaign contributions. But in reality, he gave the New York Democrat and possible future presidential candidate a boost in public exposure that’s likely to elevate her status among voters nationwide.

The highest-earning Americans will get a lower tax rate and corporations will pay slightly more than in previous plans under a deal House and Senate Republicans reached on the party’s competing tax-overhaul bills. Full details of what is likely to be a $1.4 trillion tax cut over a decade will be released this week.

Hillary Clinton told an audience of more than 5,000 people at the Vancouver Convention Centre that she was feeling more optimistic about her country’s future after the victory of Democrat Doug Jones in solidly-Republican Alabama the night before. “As an American I’m concerned, but after last night, maybe a tiny bit less,” she said.

Moore refused to concede for a second straight night, calling Alabama’s secretary of state to the certify the election results even after the president congratulated Democrat Doug Jones on the surprising victory.

Knocked to the mat in Alabama with the stunning loss of a Senate seat, Trump got right back up and defiantly claimed that he had known his candidate would lose all along.

Minnesota’s Democratic governor said he plans to appoint LG Tina Smith to succeed Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who is resigning over allegations of sexual misconduct, and endorsed her for next year’s special election for the seat.

PBS has suspended distribution of “Tavis Smiley” amid “troubling allegations” against the news show’s namesake host, and hired an outside law firm to handle an investigation into the matter.

Variety, which first reported PBS’ suspension of Smiley’s show, cited anonymous sources as saying that the investigation “found credible allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates.”

Smiley excoriated PBS, saying in a Facebook post that the network’s “so-called investigation” into his alleged misconduct had been “biased and sloppy.” He flatly denied the allegations against him.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he is “pursuing every legal path” in regards to the phony sexual harassment allegations made against him.

More >

Cuomo Clarifies Sexual Harassment Comments

Several hours after lecturing a woman reporter that her question about steps being taken in state government to combat sexual harassment was too narrowly focused and a “disservice to women” Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call suggested a “comprehensive” program will be proposed to combat the issue.

“My point was we are going to have a comprehensive package addressing sexual harassment,” Cuomo said. “Obviously part of it will be addressing sexual harassment with government officials. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Cuomo later raised the question of whether publicly traded companies should be required to disclose sexual harassment settlements to their shareholders.

Cuomo’s office in the afternoon on Wednesday scheduled a conference call with reporters, ostensibly to discuss the Republican tax proposal in Congress and a gun control measure designed to strip those convicted of domestic violence of their firearms.

The conference call came, however, after Cuomo’s comments to New York Public Radio reporter Karen DeWitt created a firestorm on social media.

“We have policies in state government, obviously, that effect state government, but I think you miss the point,” Cuomo told her in a gaggle with Capitol reporters. “When you say it’s state government, you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you’re a woman. It’s not government, it’s society.”

The comments came the same day the Cuomo administration was trying to push out some good news: Hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled for economic development efforts, largely benefiting upstate and a push on the gun control measure.

Instead, state Republicans pounced on Cuomo’s off-the-cuff comments with reporters.

“The Governor finally took some questions from the press today that reminded us all why he hides out in the first place,” the state GOP Committee said in a statement.

A Cuomo spokesman later said the governor called DeWitt and clarified remarks, saying that his tone was due to the news about the federal tax plan.

Extras

House and Senate Republicans have reached an agreement, in principle, on a consensus tax bill, keeping the party on track for final votes next week with the aim of delivering a bill to President Trump’s desk by Christmas.

President Trump’s reaction to Democrat Dough Jones’ upset victory in the Alabama U.S. Senate race: “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”

USA Today’s editorial board regarding Trump’s smear of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes.”

Cuomo told a veteran female state Capitol reporter, public radio’s Karen DeWitt, that she did “a disservice to women” for asking what his administration was doing to confront sexual harassment in state government.

In a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, three in four of those surveyed – including overwhelming majorities of men and women, Republicans and Democrats, said the issue of sexual harassment on the job was a major one that needed real solutions.

The White House said Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former “The Apprentice” contestant turned political aide, is resigning, effective Jan. 20.

There were reports Manigault Newman was actually fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly and had to be escorted from the building after a foul-mouthed tantrum.

CNN host Anderson Cooper is claiming he was hacked after his Twitter account responded to a tweet from Trump by calling the president a “pathetic loser.”

Ivanka Trump’s brand is about to open a store in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, marking her second foray into brick-and-mortar commerce in the U.S.

Cuomo said he does not believe he will have to testify in the upcoming public corruption case of his longtime friend and adviser Joseph Percoco.

It turns out Cuomo went to Buffalo in late November not for one, but two hushed-hushed campaign fundraisers, one of which was a private gathering of deep-pocketed executives from affordable housing development companies, most of them from out-of-state.

Two Buffalo police officers who were arresting Wardel Davis, a 20-year-old unarmed African-American man, when he died will not be charged in connection with his death, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced.

The New York Independent System Operator released a report analyzing the retirement of the Indian Point nuclear plant, concluding that system reliability criteria can be met with one or more types of solutions including generation, transmission, energy efficiency, and demand response measures.

A Liverpool diner known as one of the most politically incorrect establishments of its kind in the nation is under new, a-political ownership.

As Congress considers waiting until January to fund expired Medicare programs, the continued uncertainty already roils rural hospitals.

RIP former Assemblyman John Brian Murtaugh, who was described by Rep. Adriano Espaillat as “a legend of Inwood and a long-time fixture of New York politics.”

David Sweat, the convicted cop killer and prison escapee, isn’t happy at his new prison cell in the notorious Attica Correctional Facility, and he’s started a hunger strike to try to get transferred. Prison officials seeking a judicial order to feed him through a tube.

New York state has added 340 new craft alcoholic beverage producers since 2014. That’s a 50 percent increase in three years for a state that now ranks among the Top 5 in the country in all categories of alcohol beverage production.

New York City may be the state’s economic engine, but it’s not a “top performer” in Cuomo’s book.

The Bangladeshi immigrant accused of setting off a pipe bomb in the New York subway system had his first court appearance today via video from the hospital room where he is recovering from burns sustained in the blast.

The Human Services Council today launched the nation’s first crowd-sourced scorecard to help nonprofit organizations hold government agencies accountable for their business practices. Overall, the state received a C+, and NYC a B-.

JCOPE released the latest version of its newsletter – yes, it has one – called “The Ethics Review.”

Asked About Hoyt, Cuomo Urges Broader View Of Sexual Harassment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday got into an at-times testy exchange with a woman reporter when asked about sexual harassment in state government, tell her a question was too narrowly focused and did a “disservice to women.”

Cuomo, speaking with reporters earlier in the day, defended the 2011 hiring by his administration of former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, now the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Hoyt had previously been admonished while in the Legislature for having a sexual relationship with a 19-year-old intern.

Cuomo insisted Hoyt’s hiring to work for the Empire State Development Corp. in western New York was not a mistake.

“No, I don’t think so,” Cuomo said. “I think what he did was wrong, but I don’t think it was a mistake to hire him.”

Later on in the gaggle, the exchange began with New York Public Radio reporter Karen DeWitt asked Cuomo about the sexual harassment charges and whether his administration will review reporting policies.

Cuomo pointed out a range of powerful men in the media, political life and in entertainment have been accused of harassment in recent weeks.

“We have policies in state government, obviously, that effect state government, but I think you miss the point,” Cuomo said. “When you say it’s state government, you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you’re a woman. It’s not government, it’s society.”

Cuomo continued, “It’s Harvey Weinstein in the arts, it’s comedians, it’s politicians, it’s societal, it’s systemic. It’s not one person in one area. It’s not just Charlie Rose, right? It’s not just Matt Lauer. It’s not just journalists. Understand the breath of the problem — ”

DeWitt then asked if Cuomo would propose any changes to existing harassment policies.

Cuomo responded, “No, it’s called the State of the State. Come and cover it.”

It was the first gaggle Cuomo had held with reporters who cover the Capitol in several months, coming after he announced the annual economic development awards for regional job creation in the state.

Cuomo has during his administration sought to make women’s issues a key concern for him, backing a 10-point package of measures designed to reduce discrimination in the workplace and housing. He formed the Women’s Equality Party in 2014 to emphasize the issue while also nominating a woman, Kathy Hochul, to the lieutenant governor post.

He’s also appointed women to powerful positions in state government, including his top aide, Melissa DeRosa and chief of staff, Linda Lacewell. His nominee to the top post on the state Court of Appeals is Janet DiFiore, the second woman to hold the job.

Before his exchange with DeWitt, Cuomo praised the voters of Alabama, a deep Republican state, for rejecting Republican Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate special election. Moore has been accused by multiple women of groping them or pursuing romantic relationships with them while in their teens and he was in his 30s.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe there is culturalized and institutionalized discrimination against women in this society is in a state of denial,” Cuomo said. “They are not in the state of New York.”

Asked if he backed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s call for President Donald Trump to resign given the allegations he faces for sexually abusing women, Cuomo said: “I agree with the thrust of the senator’s comments because it is bigger frankly than just the president. Women have been victims of discrimination and abuse. This administration has been insensitive of women.”

Cuomo: ‘You Know As Much As I Know’ On FBI Probe

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday defended the hiring practices of his administration, now the subject of an FBI investigation.

The FBI is probing the hiring of staff by the administration, who are ticketed to work for state agencies and departments, but work for the executive chamber. The practice is a long-standing one in state government and elsewhere dating back decades in order to make room on payrolls for new hires.

“You know as much as I know,” Cuomo told reporters of the investigation. “Every administration on the state level has hired people and detailed them. The federal government does it, the White House does it, the Department of Justice does it. So, that’s all I know.”

Cuomo added, “I don’t want to speculate on motivation.”

Cuomo appeared to bristle when asked about a reporter why his administration had hired veterans of the Obama and Clinton campaigns — a wave of new hires first seen last year.

“Have you been in Albany?” Cuomo said. “Have you covered government? Do people have political experience get hired by government? Or is this a new fact?”

Cuomo’s office confirmed last week it had received a document subpoena in the investigation.

The investigation comes as the governor’s former close aide, Joe Percoco, is set to go on trial next month, facing bribery and fraud charges. The corruption trials for prominent upstate developers and the former SUNY Polytechnic president related to major economic development efforts will also begin next year.

Cuomo answered “no” when asked whether the trials will be a distraction and whether he’s been asked to testify.

Cuomo Signs Bill Strengthening FOIL

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed a bill that would make it easier for plaintiffs in records access lawsuits recoup attorneys fees.

The bill, a previous version of which Cuomo had vetoed, had been heavily supported by good-government organizations and media companies in the state.

“Thank you Governor Cuomo, Assemblymember Paulin and Senator Gallivan, this new law is a real advance for state and local government transparency in New York. This shows us that Albany can move forward and can make government more accountable to the public,” said John Kaehny, the executive director of watchdog group Reinvent Albany.

The bill expands the ability of successful plaintiffs in cases challenging records denials to have their attorneys’ fees repaid by a government agency.

“Information is power and this bill is a critical step towards more transparency,” Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for signing this common sense law that should make it easier for people to get access to public records. All too often, government agencies delay, redact and out-right deny basic requests for information about how our government works. Through FOIL requests, the NYCLU has made public important information about our state government; everything from data on racial profiling by police, to school discipline policies that disproportionately impact students of color. FOIL is an important tool for significant policy campaigns to protect the rights of New Yorkers. We simply can’t fix what we don’t know is broken.