Flanagan Says He’s Focused On Budget, Not Potential Statewide Run

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan does not believe the talk of his potential run for governor in 2018 will undermine his efforts to negotiate the state budget.

“People are going to say whatever they want,” Flanagan told reporters staked outside of the executive mansion in Albany following a private briefing on the state budget. “Whatever the discussions are they will take place. All I care about right now is starting to work on the budget.”

Cuomo even jokingly referenced talk of Flanagan’s 2018 bid in the discussion, according to Sen. Jim Tedisco. Cuomo’s aides, too, have referenced Flanagan’s potential statewide campaign when sharply criticizing the Long Island Republican.

But Flanagan also noted he’s not the only one with aspirations.

“Look, (IDC Sen.) Tony Avella in there is running for mayor, the governor has talked about running for president — welcome to Albany,” Flanagan said.

Cuomo has called talking his running for president in 2020 “flattering” but said he’s focused on being governor. He has announced plans to run for a third term.

Cuomo Tells Senate GOP He Held His Fire For Democrats

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to smooth over his relationship with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, telling them in a closed-door budget briefing at the executive mansion that he could have done a lot more to help his own party gain control of the chamber, but didn’t.

The conversation was relayed to reporters by freshman Sen. Jim Tedisco, who said GOP lawmakers brought up Cuomo’s efforts in the campaign season in endorsing Democrats running in a handful of key races.

“He said you can’t call that campaigning,” Tedisco said. “He mentioned he had $19 million in the bank. He mentioned that he could have used that money very aggressively and that he didn’t. He mentioned that he could have done a lot more in campaigning and that he didn’t. But he also mentioned that there are realities and that he’s a Democrat and we’re Republicans.”

Liberals and some Democrats have been derisive of Cuomo’s efforts over the years to help the mainline Democratic conference gain control of the chamber.

The balance of power in the Senate is essentially unchanged this year with Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder remaining in the GOP fold. Cuomo bowed out of an effort to push the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference to align with mainline Democrats in the Senate. The IDC remains in a governing coalition with the Senate GOP.

Still, Republicans in the Senate who have worked well with Cuomo over the years have been increasingly aggressive when criticizing Cuomo’s policies.

“I think the candor that took place in there was a little bit surprising,” Tedisco said. “He said we’ve worked together, we’ve been very successful.”

Senators: Cuomo Wants To Extend Millionaires Tax

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal includes an extension of high tax rates on the wealthy, setting up conflict with Senate Republicans who control the chamber.

At the same time, Cuomo wants to cut rates for middle income earners, including those who earn between $40,000 and $150,000 as well as $150,000 and $300,000.

Keeping the tax in place for high income earners, due to expire at the end of the year, could generated $700 million for the state.

Spending for education aid will increase by $1 billion, which Cuomo described to lawmakers as an “historic” hike in school aid. Of that, $500 million would go toward an increase in foundation aid for education spending.

Cuomo privately briefed Senate lawmakers for more 90 minutes at the executive mansion in Albany, with Assembly Democrats due to receive the details later this evening.

It’s unclear based on conversations with Senate lawmakers whether policy issues such as expanding ride hailing outside of New York City or ethics legislation would be included by Cuomo in the budget.

Similarly unclear is the overall spending in the plan, though Cuomo did say it would be within a self-imposed 2 percent cap on the current fiscal year’s spending.

What’s Happening With The Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will formally unveil his budget proposal for the 2017-18 fiscal year at 7:30 p.m. to the general public.

This seemingh simple development comes after an extended back-and-forth with reporters who cover the state Capitol in Albany over access to the event.

As of Monday morning, it was unclear how Cuomo planned to communicate his spending priorities other than holding a handful of briefings for individual legislative conferences.

Reporters in the Legislative Correspondents Association had been invited to attend a 2:30 p.m. briefing on the budget, which would be embargoed until around 7:30. The LCA, after a meeting earlier in the morning, said they would not attend the event.

Cuomo’s office later revised their plans: Now the briefing for the press and general public will be held at 7:30 with an Internet simulcast on the governor’s website.

It’s an unusual way for the budget to be rolled out under any governor. Typically and dating back to the 1970s, the governor presents the spending plan in a public forum and briefing materials and bills are made available earlier in the day.

Conservative Party Wants To Name New TZB After Slain Officers

The Conservative Party is calling to have the new Tappan Zee Bridge replacement named after the slain police officers and Brinks security guard killed in a 1981 robbery.

The call comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has granted clemency to Judith Clark, the getaway driver in the Rockland County robbery.

“Brinks guard, Peter Paige, was shot and killed in cold blood, he never had a chance,” Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long said. “Sgt. Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown, armed with six-shooters, were doing their job trying to stop the getaway car when they were gunned down with automatic weapons.”

The party has launched an online petition to have the new bridge, currently under construction, to be renamed after the officers.

Cuomo has defended granting clemency for Clark, which makes her eligible for parole this year, pointing to her personal transformation in prison and charity work.

Uber Takes Up Cuomo’s ‘Upstate Matters’

Taking a cue from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for expanding ride-hailing services outside of New York City, Uber is calling on supporters to urge their lawmaker to back the measure through the “upstate matters” slogan the governor unveiled last week during the roll out of his 2017 agenda.

The company is releasing an email later today aimed at pushing the issue using the #upstatematters as a hashtag as the lobbying for the issue begins to heat up in the new legislative session.

“For years, New Yorkers like you have been calling for access to Uber in your communities, yet our state continues to be left behind New York City and the rest of the country,” the email states.

Cuomo in his regional State of the State addresses last week urged the passage of ride hailing legislation outside of New York City so that companies like Uber and Lyft can operate in upstate cities.

Cuomo framed it as an issue of fairness for upstate residents.

“Governor Cuomo has heard your demands and, last week, he introduced a proposal that would allow ridesharing services like Uber to operate across New York State,” Uber wrote in its email. “That would mean access to an easier commute, a safe ride home, and more freedom to get around Upstate cities, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley.”

The email adds: “Now it’s time for the Legislature to stop listening to special interests and realize that #UpstateMatters.”

Ride-hailing legislation has stalled over the last year in Albany as lawmakers seek to find ways of developing an insurance framework for the industry.

Cuomo’s Budget Due Today

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spending priorities are due to be released today, but for the moment he has nothing public planned on his schedule.

Cuomo is in Albany today and is set to brief individual conferences of lawmakers on the budget at the governor’s mansion, which will be privately held events.

The move likely means Cuomo could forgo what has become a traditional public presentation of a proposed budget by a governor.

Public budget presentations date back to at least the current governor’s father, Mario Cuomo, who one Albany hand on Monday noted would unveil the spending document in the ceremonial Red Room office on the second floor.

Under what had been current practice dating to at least George Pataki, budget day was a substantive event: A distillation of the state’s fiscal climate, the rate of Medicaid growth, the “school runs” for districts and a “budget school” delivered by the governor’s director of the Division of Budget.

In the last two years, Cuomo has combined both the State of the State and the budget presentation into one address.

Cuomo further eschewed tradition this year by not holding the State of the State at the Capitol (or, as has been his way since taking office in 2011, holding them in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center) but in a half dozen different events around the state geared around whichever region he was delivering the speech.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, seemed to be signaling today’s proceedings will be likely any other day in Albany, holding news conferences and passing legislation.

Paladino Protests Continue In Buffalo

From the Morning Memo:

After Artvoice published Carl Paladino’s disparaging and racially-charged remarks about the Obamas last month, opponents of the brash Buffalo businessman said they were fed up with his repeated controversies and vowed to continue to speaking out until he was removed from the Buffalo Board of Education.

So far, they’ve kept their promise.

Paladino’s critics have voiced their concerns at Common Council meetings and at school board meetings. They’ve filed appeals seeking his removal from elected office to the state education commissioner, and have protested often in front of City Hall and even in front of Paladino’s own home.

The trick is keeping those demonstrations in the news now that more than three weeks have passed without any significant developments since Paladino’s initial comments were published. Yesterday, the Dr. Martin Luther King Day holiday served as a handy news hook.

Democratic Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant said Paladino’s remarks served as a reminder there’s still work left to do on the civil rights front, adding: “It sends a message that we have a got long way to go, we’re not there yet.”

“For Mr. Paladino, I’m going to call his name, to use such hateful language against anyone is a detriment to our community and as an elected official he should know better,” Grant said.

Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and state Sen. Tim Kennedy, both Democrats, were also among the dozens who rallied in the city’s MLK Park.

Paladino has said he will not heed calls to step down from the school board, and while the state education commissioner does have the authority to remove him, to do so would be a precedent-setting move and she has not yet issued a decision.

Since he’s no stranger to making waves, it should come as no surprise that Paladino appears unbothered by the ongoing protests. Yesterday, he maintained his critics are entitled to their First Amendment right, but noted – as he has all along – that he is, too.

(He has apologized for his comments about the Obamas, but insisted that they have noting to do with race, and should not require his resignation or removal from a duly elected public post).

Meanwhile, Paladino said he is preparing for a trip to Washington, D.C. to see his candidate be sworn in as president.

The Trump Transition Team condemned the remarks of the president-elect’s New York campaign’s honorary co-chair, but Paladino has maintained he is still in Trump’s good graces and will attend Friday’s festivities, as planned.

Assembly To Take Up RHA

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic-led Assembly today is expected to take up the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure designed to bolster the state’s abortion laws that may take on new urgency given the coming Republican control of the federal government.

A news conference on the bill’s passage, which has stalled in the Republican-contorlled state Senate, will be held at 1:30.

Supporters of the bill contend it is aimed at codifying the Roe v. Wade decision in state, a necessary move should the Supreme Court ever reverse the decision.

Opponents have called the RHA an unnecessary expansion of existing abortion rights in the state.

A version of the bill was initially included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act, an omnibus package of measures that also included provisions aimed at pay equity and blocking gender discrimination in the workplace and housing.

Ultimately, only the RHA failed to be made law after Cuomo agreed to pass individual components of the legislative package.

The debate over the RHA has at times become an emotionally fraught one in Albany.

Last June, Republican Assemblyman Ron Castorina decided abortion as “African-American genocide” — a comment that led to a heated debate on the chamber floor.

Senate To Take Up Bag Tax Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The Republican-led Senate today plans to take up a measure that block New York City’s 5-cent surcharge on plastic bags from taking effect next month.

The bill is backed by Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP in the chamber, as well as Republican Sen. Martin Golden and Tony Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference and a declared candidate for mayor.

The bill to be taken up later today in the Senate would block any fees or taxes on carry-out merchandise shopping bags in New York City. Supporters of so-called bag taxes say the measures lessen the impact of plastic bags on the environment.

But opponents point to the burden the bag fees place on families.

“Many families have a hard time just getting by, paying for groceries, rent and heat, and now the Mayor wants to shake them down every time they shop just for the privilege of using a plastic bag,” Felder said in a statement.

“Mayor de Blasio, please do not nickel and dime New Yorkers with another tax. This will hurt lower- and middle-income families who already struggle. I’m asking New Yorkers to stand up and tell the Mayor that this bag tax has to go.”

The move is yet another effort by the Senate Republicans that appears squarely aimed at Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been at odds with the conference on issues the stem both from policy and politics.

But the potential repeal of the fee also has the support of more than two dozen members of the Democratic-led Assembly. The measure had been initially set to take effect in October, but was pushed back in an agreement reached with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.