Gianaris Compares Cuomo To Scott Walker

From the Morning Memo:

Queens Democratic Sen. Michael Gianaris in an interview on Monday compared Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform policies to anti-labor measures being enacted under Republican Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

“Resources are being diverted out of the public school system to private schools, an attack on the teachers who sacrifice so much to work in our schools,” Gianaris said on NY1’s Inside City Hall. “If I wanted Scott Walker to be the governor, I’d move to Wisconsin. But we’re here in New York. I think we should be a progressive champion that stands up for working people who stand up for public schools first and foremost and then we should help the entire school system.”

The comment underscores the deepening level of antipathy from Senate Democrats in the mainline conference toward Cuomo, who this year has pursued efforts to make it harder for teachers to obtain tenure and overall the teacher evaluation criteria, which is linked to tenure.

Senate Democrats have already this year taken a more assertive posture to Cuomo on several issues, including education.

The Gianaris comment is the start of a renewed focus on education in the post-budget session for the conference as Democrats there are expected to roll out a series of what one official called “legislative fixes” to the measures included in the budget.

Cuomo has been at odds with the New York State United Teachers union since even before taking office. But this year has brought a new level of debate over the direction of education in the state.

After achieving the passage of a new evaluation system that will rely on a mix on at least one standardized test and in-classroom observation, the governor is renewing his focus to areas NYSUT has opposed, including a lifting of the cap on charter schools and a $150 million education investment tax credit, which is strongly backed by private and parochial schools.

“The hostility to public schools is alarming,” Gianaris added in the interview.

NYSUT and their city partners at the United Federation of Teachers have supported Senate Democratic candidates politically and spent heavily last year on behalf of challengers and freshman candidates.

Senate Democrats aren’t the only ones seeking changes to what was approved in the budget: Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have introduced bills aimed at extending the deadline for developing regulations for the teacher evaluations as well unlinking the enactment of the standards on the local level to a boost in school aid.

Cuomo and the administration have argued the policies included in the budget do benefit public education and public school teachers, including bonuses for high-performing teachers and free tuition to state schools for people on track to become teachers.

New York Democrats Meet Amid Challenging Year For Cuomo

From the Morning Memo:

It was only a year ago that Gov. Andrew Cuomo triumphantly appeared at the state Democratic convention in Suffolk County, re-nominated for a second term by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, his political frienemy, who vouched for the governor’s liberal bona fides.

A year later, state Democrats convened in Albany for their spring meeting.

There was little talk about the long-term future: Will Cuomo head the party’s ticket for a third time in 2018, or will it be someone else, like Attorney General Eric Schneiderman or U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand? (both have denied interest in the job).

Instead, there was a lot of talk about what the governor has done in recent months and what he wants to do by the end of June.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in her remarks praised what she called Cuomo’s “courageous” ban on hydrofracking.

“That ought to get him a lot of support from people who understand he is putting our health and our safety and our welfare first,” Hochul said.

She also touted Cuomo’s creation of wage board for fast-food workers that is likely to recommend an increase in their wages, and in effort to combat poor conditions in nail salons.

“This is America and our governor calls them out on it every single time,” she said.

In the post-budget session, Cuomo is pushing an effort to raise the age of criminal responsibility for youthful offenders and combat sexual assault on college campuses through an affirmative consent bill.

Nevertheless, six months after his re-election victory is looking at the lowest approval ratings his tenure, according to a Marist College poll released this month.

Former Gov. David Paterson, the state Democratic Party chairman, says that’s normal.

“I think every governor hits a rough patch. I hit mine about 10 minutes after entering office,” Paterson cracked.

Nevertheless, Cuomo’s education policies this year has outraged a key Democratic Party constituency: the state teachers union.

“I understand that not everybody is going to agree with what the governor does,” Paterson said. “But you can’t fight the results he’s achieved and I hope that people who may have drawn conclusions will listen to all of what he’s saying.”

Cuomo’s truculent relationship with the teachers union is nothing new: The labor group NYSUT did not endorse him in 2010, nor did the union back his re-election in 2012.

Still, state lawmakers in both chambers are supporting changes to the education measures approved in the budget last month, including reforming the contentious teacher evaluation criteria and the regulation-making process.

Hochul insisted Cuomo remains committed to public education and public school teachers.

“He was a strong believer in giving parents choice (in education),” she said. “But that doesn’t not mean we aren’t fully behind the 85 percent of children in New York state who go to public schools.”

Cuomo is pushing forward on further changes: He wants to lift the cap on charter schools and create a $150 million education tax credit that is aimed at spurring donations to public schools and scholarships benefiting private education. The measures are opposed by the teachers unions.

“The political forces in Albany that are protecting the bureaucracy don’t want to see this happen,” Cuomo said.

The New York State United Teachers union on Monday launched a 10-day radio ad campaign opposing the education tax credit proposal.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. Voters across the state head to the polls today to cast their ballots on school budgets and in school board races. Poll opening times vary, check with your local Board of Elections for more information.

The Assembly is in session at 1:30 p.m., the Senate at 3 p.m.

The State Board of Regents continues to meet throughout the day, Education Department Building, 89 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9 a.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman will hold a forum on New York’s efforts to combat climate change, LOB, Hearing Room A, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 9 a.m., Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblymember Shelley Mayer hold a news conference pushing legislation to address obstacles in the recovery of missing children, room 130, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.

At 9:10 a.m., state Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky will deliver remarks on reforming New York’s foreclosure process at Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Secondary Market Conference & Expo, New York Marriot Marquis, 1535 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:15 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul meets with representatives from the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce Office, 5 Computer Dr. South, Albany.

At 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference to make an announcement, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Sen. Joe Griffo and Assembly members Phil Steck and Didi Barrett, along with local leaders, announce the Municipal Health Insurance Savings Act, room 130, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11 a.m., Hochul tours downtown Saratoga Springs with Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Pavilion Grand Hotel, 30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs.

Also at 11 a.m., Climate justice advocates will hold a news conference to announce the introduction of legislation to go to 100% clean energy in NYS by 2030, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman will make an announcement on a new affordable housing initiative, Two Bridges Tower, 82 Rutgers Slip, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., employer/business groups unveil an interactive property tax cap savings website, Legislative Office Building, 3rd floor terrace, agency side, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., Hurricane Sandy survivors, Environmental Advocates of New York, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Working Families Organization, Working Families Party, 32BJ SEIU and the TakeSides.org coalition deliver scientific studies on climate change to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office, Room 332, state Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., Sen. Adriano Espaillat and advocates for New York’s farmworkers will march to the Capitol from Westminster Presbyterian Church and call for the passage of the Farmworkers Bill of Rights during a press conference at the Million Dollar Staircase, 3rd Floor, Capitol, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Hochul speaks at the EMS Memorial Dedication Ceremony, EMS Memorial, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright, members of the Democratic conference and housing advocates hold a press conference on rent regulations, Speaker’s Conference Room, Room 342, state Capitol, Albany.

At 2 p.m., de Blasio and city officials hold another press conference to make another announcement – this one related to NYCHA, Gymnasium, James Weldon Johnson Community Center, 1833 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 2 p.m., Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Sen. Kemp Hannon, animal rights advocates, restaurateurs and dogs hold a news conference on her bill, A.5956-A, which would lift New York’s longstanding ban on dogs in outdoor food establishments and empower restaurant owners to permit animals in outdoor dining areas, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 4:45 p.m. the vice chairman of payment processing firm First Data Corp.’s board of directors, Joseph Plumeri, Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. deliver keynote speeches during New York Law School’s 123rd commencement ceremony; Carnegie Hall, 161 W. 56th St., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., the Dutchess County Democratic Committee introduces its 2015 candidate for county executive, College Hill Park, N Clinton Street, Poughkeepsie.

Headlines…

LG Kathy Hochul and former Gov. David Paterson, Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic party chairman, rallied around the governor’s agenda, saying a recent slump in his approval rating is nothing to worry about.

As they began discussing complex calculations for rating the performance of public school educators, some members of the State Board of Regents aired their broader concerns about the future of the teaching profession in New York.

The bruising battle between Cuomo and public education advocates is going another round as the end of the legislative session nears.

Cuomo is putting his political energy into a proposal to enact a $150 million education tax credit program to benefit mostly private and religious schools before the session ends – despite his veto lectures to lawmakers against such matters coming up after the budget.

The state Thruway Authority’s board of directors passed an amended budget that calls for no toll hikes in 2015 and allocates $750 million from a $1.3 billion bank settlement windfall to help pay for the Tappan Zee bridge replacement. Still unknown, though, is precisely how the state will pay all the costs for the approximately $3.9 billion bridge.

Cuomo announced that the group of banks, credit unions and mortgage companies will take action to maintain properties that have been foreclosed upon, but officials said legislation to hold banks accountable for property maintenance is still needed.

A Brooklyn man and New Jersey woman are among the first injured passengers from the May 12 Amtrak crash to file lawsuits over the deadly derailment outside Philadelphia. The series of suits filed yesterday mark the start of many expected lawsuits to arise from the crash that killed eight and injured more than 200.

Despite a recent poll showing his approval rating dropping among blacks, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s not worried about losing the African-American voters who helped sweep him to City Hall in 2013.

De Blasio is poised to lay out his 10-year plan on how to fix New York City’s public housing authority. He’ll call for significant new financial help from the city and for squeezing more revenue out of the housing projects and their residents.

The Assembly voted to extend mayoral control of NYC schools by three years, as Cuomo has suggested, but the issue remains unresolved in the GOP-controlled Senate.

A bill that would establish a state monitor for the East Ramapo School District, where a school board dominated by Orthodox Jews has drawn criticism for diverting money from public schools to children in local yeshivas, faces an uncertain future after running into resistance in the Legislature.

President Obama joined the Twitterverse, promising to engage personally — not through a staff member — with the American people in the often chaotic forum, which has become a kind of global town square for the Internet age.

More >

Extras

In an open letter to state lawmakers on the Huffington Post, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called again for passage of criminal justice reforms before the session ends next month.

The state Thruway Authority, flush with a $1.3 billion cash infusion from Cuomo’s budget, won’t issue debt this year for the first time since at least 2011, according to a mid-year modification its board approved today.

Several members of the state Board of Regents sharply criticized a new teacher evaluation system forced on them by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature a month ago. Much more here.

The NYT says the fast food wage board, which meets for the first time Wednesday, “may not be able to get to $15 in one step, but…should chart a path to that level.”

The state Education Department recommended a new matrix to evaluate teachers and principals based on student performance and in-class observations, and also proposed allowing schools to seek a two-month waiver to delay the implementation of the evaluations.

State economic development officials approved spending an additional $25 million on business and tourism commercials despite an independent audit that found they had achieved nothing.

Matthew Libous, son of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, has been sentenced to six months in prison, 100 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine in relation to his tax fraud conviction. He faced up to nine years behind bars.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. accused NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer of rescinding a job offer to the Bronx lawmaker’s wife because she appeared with him at an anti-gay marriage rally.

Citing a deadly increase in the use of heroin laced with a dangerous additive, US Sen. Chuck Schumer called on Congress to increase funding for a key anti-drug effort – rather than cutting it, as President Obama suggested in his budget.

Abtech Holdings, Inc., the company at the center of federal charges against State Senator Dean Skelos and his son, has suffered a “tremendous setback” due to the suspension of its work in Nassau County, a company executive said.

Hillary Clinton is making her second trip to Iowa as a 2016 presidential candidate today, headlining a small “house party” in Mason City.

AG Eric Schneiderman lauded Cuomo’s announcement today regarding a crackdown on so-called “zombie” properties, though the attorney general is still pushing for legal changes that would apply to all lenders.

Chris Quinn, former NYC Council speaker-turned-Cuomo aide, defends Clinton’s evolution on same-sex marriage in an Out magazine OpEd.

The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins will challenge Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole, a Democrat, in November.

Republican Assemblyman Joe Borelli has opened a campaign committee to run for the Staten Island seat of retiring NYC Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio.

GOP Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther were joined by families of victims of domestic violence to push for a bill that would create a statewide registry of anyone convicted of a violent felony.

New York’s IDAs provided $660 million in net tax exemptions in 2013, up $105 million from 2012 but estimated job gains were nearly 23,000 lower than the previous year, according to a report issued today by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Aaron Mair, a longtime environmental activist from Schenectady, will become the first African-American president of the Sierra Club.

John Flanagan’s ascent to Senate majority leader marks the first time in more than four decades a Suffolk official has held a leadership post in Albany. The last was Republican Assembly Speaker Perry Duryea, who led the lower house 1969 to 1974.

Syracuse University has gone to court to find out what happened to nearly $2 million that a late professor set aside to fund three professorships.

Bristol Palin and fiancé Dakota Meyer are calling off their wedding, which was poised to take place this weekend. (This might have been part of the problem).

Heastie: SAFE Act Changes Unlikely

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said it was unlikely Democratic lawmakers will take up changes to the SAFE Act, calling amendments to the gun control law in his chamber “challenging.”

Senate Republicans in recent days have called for amendments to the SAFE Act, a signature piece of legislation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first term and passed in 2013.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who faces skepticism from upstate Republicans and gun owners over his vote in favor of the SAFE Act, has said a repeal is highly unlikely. Instead, he’s called for amendments to the measure that are “common-sense reforms.”

“We haven’t even brought that up,” Heastie said. “I know that’s something Senator Flanagan has mentioned. Again, that will be very challenging. I don’t see too many changes coming from us with the SAFE Act.”

The Democratic-led Assembly today will vote on a measure to extend mayoral control of New York City schools for three years. Mayor Bill de Blasio had initially called for it to be made permanent, while Cuomo has backed a three-year sunset.

Heastie said the three-year expiration is now backed by de Blasio.

“It’s not necessarily a change. It was in the governor’s budget language,” de Blasio said. “We think three years is enough time to let the mayor implement his vision and we’ll come back and look at it three years little.”

Assembly Democrats, too, remain hopeful that changes to the state’s grand jury and criminal justice system can be approved before the legislative session concludes on June 17.

Heastie said Democratic lawmakers are interested in making instructions to grand juries known in cases involving police-related homicides.

Cuomo in a Huffington Post op/ed today reiterated his proposal to appoint a special monitor in police-related killings. Not doing so legislative could lead to Cuomo appointing a special prosecutor himself.

“Those things are still on the table. There are other things we feel need to be addressed,” Heastie said. “We want to make sure that instructions to the grand jury are known.”

Hochul: Cuomo Remains Committed To DREAM Act

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration remains committed to the passage of the DREAM Act, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Monday, even as the measure appears to have come decoupled from the education investment tax credit.

Hochul spoke at the spring meeting of the state Democratic Committee in Albany on Monday, listing off Cuomo’s legislative priorities as the session heads toward a conclusion on June 17.

Cuomo is pushing an affirmative consent bill in order to curtail sexual assault and rape on college campuses; a three-year extension of mayoral control for New York City schools; a raising of the age of criminal responsibility and an extension of rent control for New York City.

Not mention in her speech: the education investment tax credit, a measure generally opposed by Assembly Democrats and the state’s teachers unions. Cuomo has pushed in the last several days for the tax credit, which he has repackaged into a new bill.

The measure is aimed at providing up to $150 million in tax credits aimed at spurring donations to public schools and scholarships that benefit private and parochial schools.

Hochul said the omission of the DREAM Act and the EITC in her remarks wasn’t intentional.

“The governor remains very much committed to passing both,” she said. “The DREAM Act remains very much a priority.”

She added: “Those are very much priorities of the governor and now he’s talking about the ones he’s been working on personally as well.”

Both the EITC and the DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, were linked in the state budget proposal submitted by Cuomo in January. The package was dropped from the negotiations in March ahead of a broader agreement on the $142 billion spending plan.

Hochul said now it’s a matter of getting both done passed skeptical legislators in both majority conferences.

“It’s not up to us. We have to get the support of a Republican Senate and Democratic Assembly to come together I wish they would,” she said. “The governor wishes they would on these important priorities, but there are some areas that are out of control.”

Cuomo, on Sunday at a Brooklyn Yeshiva promoting the investment tax credit in education, said the DREAM Act remains a key issue for him.

“There about seven or eight bills that we’re pushing,” he said. “This is an event on this bill… DREAM Act is a priority. They’re all priorities.”

Still, Cuomo may find a way around the Legislature on the DREAM Act.

As NY1’s Zack Fink reported earlier, there is talk of having an existing scholarship program that benefits CUNY students to perform essentially the same task as the DREAM Act.

DiNapoli Report: Tax Exemptions Up, Job Gains Down At IDAs

Tax exemptions doled out by Industrial Development Agencies jumped $105 million in 2013, but estimated job increases were down by 23,000 from the previous year, a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Monday found.

“Although the amount of tax breaks IDAs provided to private companies noticeably increased, job gains did not keep pace,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “IDAs can be an important catalyst for economic development in our state, but I urge local officials to improve their scrutiny over projects so that taxpayers know if their community is receiving promised jobs and economic benefits.”

Overall, IDAs in New York provided $660 million in net tax exemptions and reported a total of 644,080 full-time jobs created through IDA projects — a median cost of about $2,095 per job gained, the report found.

And despite the weaker growth in jobs, the 109 active IDAs in the state gave away $1.38 billion in total total exemptions in 2013, which were partially offset by $723 million worht of payments-in-lieu-of-taxes.

Overall, there are 4,709 IDA-backed projects in 2013 that are valued at $76.8 billion, a 4.8 percent increase over the previous year.

The highest number of jobs created in 2013 was on Long Island: 851 total.

Ida Performance by Nick Reisman

Paterson Backs De Blasio On Permanent Mayoral Control

As the Democratic-led Assembly today prepares to vote for a three-year extension of mayoral control over city schools, former Gov. David Pateron is siding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on making the power a permanent one.

“I think it should be permanent, to be honest with you,” Paterson said.

The stance puts the state Democratic Committee chairman at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who backs a three-year extension of mayoral control.

Meanwhile, mayoral control faces an uncertain future in the Republican-led Senate, where GOP lawmakers have called for reforms. The Assembly bill being voted on today makes few alterations to how the mayor oversees public schools.

“I think that we cannot measure mayoral control by whoever is the current mayor,” Paterson said. “We decided some years ago that the mayor should take some measure control for the education of the city’s kids and I think it should stay that way.”

Once Again, Dems Decline To Pass IDC Reunion Resolution

The state Democratic Committee once again declined on Monday to vote on a resolution calling on the five-member Independent Democratic Conference to rejoin the mainline conference in the state Senate.

The Progressive Caucus at the state Democratic meeting in Albany this morning withdrew the resolution from consideration before it could be voted on.

The resolution set aside today would have knocked the conference for acting as “a deterrent rather than a catalyst for passing progressive legislation in the New York State Senate, and has in fact only further strengthened the power of Republicans within that body.”

Democrats nearly a year ago also set aside a similar resolution calling on the IDC to rejoin the fold at their state convention.

Former Gov. David Paterson, the state committee chairman, framed the decision to not have a vote on the resolution as a way to avoid embarrassing the IDC.

“You don’t want to embarrass people for decisions they’ve made,” Paterson said. “You just wan to advise them on what the best decision is. We didn’t see any reason to publicly flog the members of the IDC.”

Paterson, a former minority leader of the state Senate, added it was understandable that a frustrated Sen. Jeff Klein broke away from the conference in 2011, taking at the time three members with him.

“At the time they started the IDC, they had very good reasons to do so. But right now, we think all of those issues have been removed,” Paterson said.

The IDC in 2012 formed a majority coalition power sharing agreement with Senate Republicans, who were in a numerical minority, but the alliance allowed the GOP to retain the trappings of power in the chamber.

Once the Senate Republicans gained a full majority, Klein lost the title of co-president and the power to veto which bills come to the floor for a vote. Still, Klein remains close with the Republican conference and is expected to continue to play a key role for the Republicans in the Senate.

Resolution Progressive Caucus of the NYSD Oct 2013.Revised by Nick Reisman

Paterson: Corruption Scandals Hurt Cuomo’s Approval

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 37 percent approval rating in a poll earlier this month can in part be attributed to the spate of corruption scandals to plague the Capital, former Gov. David Paterson on Monday said.

Paterson, the state Democratic Committee chairman, told reporters after the spring meeting in Albany of the party that he does expect Cuomo’s poll numbers to rebound.

“Unfortunately when you’ve had a number of scandals, if you’re in the vicinity, there can be an effect,” Paterson said. “I think as time goes on, people will see the difference in Governor Cuomo’s service and they will rise again.”

The legislative session this year has been unprecedented in the high-profile corruption arrests. Both legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate were forced to step down from their leadership posts following corruption arrests.

Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, as well as the decision to shut down the commission last year, is part of an ongoing inquiry by the U.S. attorney’s office.

But Paterson said the public for the moment is lumping the legal troubles of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos in with Cuomo’s own handling of his job.

“In Albany, everybody gets lumped in together,” he said. “We’re talking about a small percentage and let’s just remember to keep those individuals who have been accused the right to defend themselves.”

Meanwhile, Paterson told reporters the Skelos arrest shouldn’t be a political issue as Senate Democrats look to run a competitive race against the Nassau County lawmaker, potentially with rising star Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky as a candidate.

“I don’t see it as an advantage,” he said. “I think the issues in an election should be the issues of wages, affordable housing, issues of economic development in the state. Those are the issues New Yorkers get up and care about everyday.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul had a different take on the low approval rating.

Hochul pointed to Cuomo instituting a hydrofracking ban as well as the SAFE Act as a sign that the governor isn’t afraid to take controversial stands on key issues.

“Those were tough, tough issues,” said Hochul after addressing the Democratic committee. “Those say to me he’s the type of leader that we’re fortunate to have. He does not go by sticking his finger up in the wind.”