Cuomo Says Some Amazon Criticism ‘Nonsensical’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview on WCNY Thursday called some of the criticism of the tax incentive package for Amazon “nonsensical” driven in part by “pandering politicians.”

The online retail giant will bring 25,000 jobs to Queens within the next decade, with the job creation linked to $1.5 billion in tax credits for the company.

Some lawmakers in New York City and on the state level have not embraced the project, decrying the lack of input and the potential disruption to the Long Island City community as a result.

But Cuomo has pointed to the economic activity generated as a result of the jobs coming to New York City, with the tax credits coming on the back end after the jobs are proven to be created. At the root of the argument from Cuomo is this: New York stands to gain from Amazon moving to Queens, not lose out on tax revenue.

“It was an ongoing, iterative process. By definition, you couldn’t involve a legislative process to come up with your proposal because this was an ongoing, rolling competition,” Cuomo said in the interview on The Capitol Pressroom. “The criticism really is – which I believe is nonsensical, just on a rational basis.”

Sen. Michael Gianaris, the likely deputy majority leader in the state Senate next year, has been sharply critical of the deal. Incoming Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has said questions and concerns with the project should be addressed, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have questioned the size and scope of the tax incentives.

At the same time, Cuomo has insisted the move is a net benefit to New York, given the average job created will pay $150,000. The tax package grows to $1.7 billion if 40,000 jobs are created within 15 years.

Cuomo said large-scale projects have criticism like “politicians who pander” against it. But he also acknowledged Amazon’s move to Queens would lead to changes in the community and that housing affordability is a concern.

“We’re talking to people in the community who have legitimate questions,” he said. “I understand the dynamic and the questions.”

Flanagan Calls The Roll

On Friday Republicans are expected to meet in Albany to determine their leadership going into 2019. It’s a significant transition since, for the first time in years, the Senate Republicans will find themselves in the minority. Current Majority Leader John Flanagan is facing the most significant challenge of his tenure from Senator Cathy Young of Olean.

Some believe Flanagan is pushing for an early vote in part because he wants to lock this up before opposition can build. For example, Senator Sue Serino is currently out of the country and will not be able to attend Friday’s leadership reorganization meeting. Sources say Serino did not receive the financial support she needed in her race against Democrat Karen Smythe. Critics say the Republican campaign committee instead dumped an inordinate amount of resources into Tom Basile’s losing race against Democrat Jim Skoufis. The truth is, that race was always a losing cause. Skoufis already represented much of the district in the Assembly, and polls showed him way ahead the whole time. Serino on the other hand, was an incumbent and a valued Republican member in a swing district who needed help. If she were to attend the meeting, some believe she could be a critical swing vote in support of Cathy Young, especially if she told that story.

Sources say Flanagan is also calling for secret ballot, for whatever that is worth.

The Flanagan camp has a very different take. They say he would not be calling for a vote, if he didn’t already have what he needed to win. This actually makes sense, because Flanagan was never in the habit of bringing bills to the floor without knowing they would pass. As for Serino, they say the bottom line is that she won her race. And it’s inaccurate to say they did not provide resources. In fact, they matched what she had as the race got tighter. Early polls showed her in the lead.

Finally, Republicans find themselves at a real crossroads. Especially with the prospect of becoming a “permanent minority” ( like the Assembly Republicans ) looming. Some say now is the time for a leadership change to set the course for the future. Especially if they can’t make a change with Republican State Chairman Ed Cox, who has made clear he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. On the other hand, Flanagan has always come through for his members. And some believe he will be rewarded for that dedication and loyalty.

Where Does Felder Go?

From the Morning Memo:

A minor drama erupted earlier this year when the Independent Democratic Conference decided to dissolve itself and rejoin the Democratic fold in the state Senate: What would freelancer Simcha Felder.

The Brooklyn lawmaker and registered Democrat ultimately stayed put in the Republican conference, where GOP lawmakers, terrified of losing majority control, virtually walked on egg shells around him, making sure to heap praise on him in public.

Felder could destroy their world, so best to keep him happy.

Felder’s decision to stay with the Republicans in the state Senate ultimately did little to shift the balance of power in the chamber. In the end, that was up to the voters.

And the verdict was a landslide for Democrats last Tuesday, with the party taking eight seats, including long-sought districts on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.

Now, Felder can either be number 24 in the Republican minority or number 40 in a large Democratic majority.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the incoming majority leader, in a WBAI radio interview on Thursday said she had spoken recently to Felder about potentially switching to the Democratic conference. She remained non-committal on if anything will come of the sit-down.

He is not likely to get the same kind of sweeteners Republicans were able to procure for him, like the creation of a specialized subcommittee for New York City education, which enabled him to expedite measures he wanted to see passed, like those meant to aid yeshivas.

And Democrats are likely wary of Felder’s stances on social issues, mindful of their experience with Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister who in the state Senate was opposed to bills strengthening LGBT rights and abortion laws. He is now on the New York City council.

But Felder has maintained his plan would be to go wherever is best for his constituents and there is little upside to being in the minority in Albany.

McMurray’s Orientation Comes On Several Fronts

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congressional candidate Nate McMurray has had a turbulent week so far.

McMurray decided to attend the congressional orientation down in D.C. after a late invite from friendly Democratic members. However, by late Tuesday, he said the Republican-led Committee on House Administration had essentially rescinded the invitation.

With the support of his own party, the NY-27 candidate sought to keep things quiet while the two sides battled it out internally. Yesterday afternoon, he confirmed he was being blocked from participating in any joint events.

McMurray blamed the decision on his Republican opponent, with whom he is still battling over the outcome of the general election.

“I am very disappointed by Congressional Republicans catering to Chris Collins’ demands, who is under indictment on 11 felony counts and spent his campaign lying and hiding from his constituents,” McMurray said. “I came to D.C. to equip myself to hit the ground running and better serve the people of Western New York once the results are official.”

“It is shameful that Collins is continuing his efforts to diminish the will of the voters and call this race before all votes have been counted. As usual, he is actively undermining the future of this district and our country.”

The public reaction to his claims appeared to have helped McMurray’s cause, as he tweeted last night that he was back at orientation.

“We shamed Mr. Collins’ buddies (who tried to kick us out) into letting us back into orientation,” McMurray claimed. “What can I say? Never quit. And…#FightLikeHell.”

A spokesperson for the House Administration Committee told the New York Post McMurray was not initially invited because he had conceded the NY-27 race on election night, and the invitation has since been extended.

McMurray, who has since insisted that his emotional speech last Tuesday was not a concession, remains down several thousand votes to Collins, but believes he has begun closing the gap as absentee ballots are counted.

Millionaires Tax Debate Returns In 2019

From the Morning Memo:

As he campaigned for Democratic state Senate candidates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused Republicans of fear mongering on issues like hiking taxes.

In doing so, Cuomo had his endorsed candidates back a pledge to “hold the line” on taxes he’s sought to restrain over the last eight years.

But now, Democrats in January will be taking over the state Senate with a comfortable majority.

In the meantime, activists on the left are pressing Democrats in the Legislature to raise taxes on the rich, as current rates on millionaires are due to expire at the end of 2019.

“It actually needs to be expanded,” said Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education. “We should add brackets for people making $2 million, $5 million, $10 million.”

The extra money from tax increases could be spent on schools or mass transit needs in New York City.

“This should be the moment New York is leading the country and showing what a progressive vision is,” Easton said.

Retaining the current rate will not impact the $3 billion budget deficit projected for the fiscal year beginning April 1.

The tax rate has been re-approved several times in the past, first as a way of overhauling tax rates as the governor and Legislature faced pressure in late 2011 to continue the millionaires tax from movements like Occupy Wall Street.

Lawmakers, as well as Cuomo, may be wary of raising taxes as upper income earners are already hurt by the federal government’s $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. The cap on SALT as it’s known especially hurt suburban property taxpayers who are likely to earn more and pay the highest levies in the country.

At the same time, Cuomo has maintained a limit on spending increases in the budget year over year at 2 percent.

“The question now is what’s he going to do? Because on the one hand, the new federal tax law has significantly increased the cost of New York income taxes almost entirely to high income people,” said EJ McMahon of the Empire Center For New York State Policy.

New York relies heavily on the personal income tax to fund its budget. Predominantly, that revenue comes from the richest households in New York, but if those highly mobile people move out of state, New York’s finances could be in trouble.

“Small behavorial changes and location changes and migration trends could make differences of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said McMahon.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has said her conference is not supportive of raising the existing tax rates.

“What I have unequivocally said we’re not coming in there to raise peoples’ taxes,” she said Thursday in an interview on WBAI. “We understand New York is a big state.”

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza will attend a dinner for Computer Science for All tonight, which is closed to members of the press.

At 9 a.m., the MTA board meets, MTA Board Room, 2 Broadway, 20th floor, Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., the Syracuse Joint Schools Construction Board along with the Syracuse Board of Education holds a joint special meeting, Common Council Chambers, City Hall, third floor, Syracuse.

At 9:45 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul will provide the opening keynote address at the New York offshore wind supplier forum sponsored by NYSERDA, The Roosevelt Hotel, 45 E. 45th St., Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Assemblyman Charles Lavine hosts a public hearing to discuss election reform, early voting and improving voting opportunities, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz holds a public hearing on land use, Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Queens.

Also at 10:30 a.m., the PSC holds its regularly scheduled meeting, 19th Floor Board Room, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany

At 11 a.m., Miss America Nia Franklin and a group of artists and their supporters from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Long Island announce the formation of a coalition to advocate for the local arts, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. board conducts its monthly meeting, The Brisbane Building, 403 Main St., Room 521, Buffalo.

At noon, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board meets, 4 World Trade Center, 150 Greenwich St., Manhattan.

Also at noon, a coalition of health care professionals, unions and activist groups pickets the annual conference of the New York Health Plan Association, which represents the state’s health insurance companies, Hilton Garden Inn, 235 Hoosick St., Troy.

At 4 p.m., the SUNY board of trustees holds a public hearing, State University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

At 4:30 p.m., affordable housing advocates, tenants, homeless New Yorkers, members and leaders of Housing Justice for All march against corrupt landlords, and call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to enact universal rent control, 1 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., state Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright provide the keynote addresses at the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute New York City Fall Reception, Penn Club of New York, 30 W. 44th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., former Vice President Joe Biden will be the featured speaker at the 15th annual Gala to End Hunger, InterContinental Barclay, 111 East 48th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosts his annual Puerto Rican Heritage Celebration, Bronx County Building, Veterans’ Memorial Hall, 851 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

Headlines…

President Donald Trump threw his support behind a substantial rewrite of the nation’s prison and sentencing laws, opening a potential but narrow path to enacting the most significant criminal justice overhaul in a generation.

A bipartisan effort to provide legal protections for special counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation failed on the U.S. Senate floor.

House Republicans elected Representative Kevin McCarthy of California to be their leader, embracing continuity of leadership despite steep losses in last week’s midterm elections that cost the party a majority for the first time in eight years.

The French president responded to Trump’s scathing personal attack on him, declining to lash out and instead taking the long view, saying: “I do not do policy or diplomacy by tweets.”

New York’s Chuck Schumer was named U.S. Senate Democratic leader as both parties met to decide their leadership teams for the next Congress.

A day after First Lady Melania Trump took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement condemning Mira Ricardel, the deputy national security adviser who had made enemies throughout her tenure, Ricardel was spotted in her office, packing her bags, though she is remaining with the administration.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, has been arrested for domestic violence.

Avenatti denied the allegations being levied against him after he was released on bail last night, stating that he would not be “intimidated” from advocating for women’s rights. His ex-wife, Lisa Storie-Aveantti, has denied via her lawyer that she was the victim of the alleged domestic violence.

As the conservative legal group the Federalist Society prepares to hold its annual convention, several lawyers – led by the husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway – have formed a new organization called Checks and Balances, to to speak up about what they say are the administration’s betrayals of bedrock legal norms.

The U.S. Army is one step closer to having its first female Green Beret since all combat jobs were opened to women.

Trump said he plans to nominate former Central New York Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei to a $155,000-a-year commissioner’s post on the Federal Maritime Commission – a decision that comes four months after he declined to reappoint Maffei to the commissioner’s job.

As wildfires ravage large swaths of California for a second year, one of the state’s biggest utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric, has declared that it faces billions of dollars in potential liability — far more than its insurance would cover, which could leave customers on the hook to pay the bill.

As the scope of a deadly Northern California wildfire set in, the sheriff said more than 450 people had now been assigned to comb through the charred remains in search for more bodies. The blaze has killed at least 56 people and authorities say 130 are unaccounted for.

Migrants in a caravan of Central Americans scrambled to reach the U.S. border, arriving by the hundreds in Tijuana, while U.S. authorities across the border were readying razor wire security barriers.

Trump’s campaign team is hard at work on a new crop of nicknames with which to torment his 2020 rivals.

A salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey has sickened 164 people, including 12 in New York, while authorities seek to contain the food poisonings looming over Thanksgiving’s big star.

Trump’s administration is trying to fend off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of journalist Jim Acosta’s White House “hard pass.”

Backed by members of labor unions and progressive grassroots organizations, a bevy of elected officials gathered at Gordon Triangle, a pocket park in the shadow of Long Island City’s tall towers, and blasted the $3 billion in subsidies handed to Amazon to put a corporate campus in the neighborhood.

The deal has outraged lawmakers who say they were left on the sidelines, unable to weigh in on perks that helped reel in the online giant.

In the eyes of the federal government, the census tract that will house Amazon’s new headquarters in New York is an “opportunity zone,” eligible for tax credits meant to spur investment in low-income communities.

The NYC Council is reviewing its legal options to challenge the epic deal to bring Amazon to Queens, as a growing number of Democrats voiced opposition.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says she’s “concerned” about how little input local community leaders and politicians were given into the Amazon deal, as well as the idea of giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is not happy the governor negotiated the massive Amazon deal without input from the state Legislature, and says this and other wealthy companies should come to the state because they want to – not due to big taxpayer funded handouts.

Some conservatives have grudgingly agreed with incoming socialist Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the $2.5 billion sweetheart tax break that New York gave to Amazon to locate in Long Island City was a lousy deal for taxpayers.

More >

Stewart-Cousins: Concerns Over Amazon Should Be Addressed

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a radio interview on Wednesday said there are “major questions and concerns” surrounding the billions of dollars in tax incentives for web retail giant Amazon’s move to Long Island City in Queens that should be addressed.

“It is really hard to ignore the concerns that are being raised regarding the use of taxpayer money and the lack of transparency and the impact it will have on the local community,” she said in an interview on WBAI’s Max & Murphy podcast. “It’s certainly raised to this level because it looks like on the one hand a huge opportunity, but there are also major questions and concerns that will have to be addressed.”

Politico reported earlier in the day that there is a mechanism that could hinder the approval of the some of the incentives and land use: The Public Authorities Control Board, a little-known entity that Democrats, once in the majority next year, could wield a veto over its approval.

Amazon’s move to Long Island City has been sharply opposed by Sen. Michael Gianaris, the likely deputy majority leader in the 2019 legislative session and a Stewart-Cousins lieutenant.

Amazon selected both Queens and northern Virginia for the site of its second headquarters. The company stands to receive at least $1.5 billion in incentives over 10 years for 25,000 jobs created. Within 15 years, the package grows to $1.7 billion tied to the creation of 40,000.

Extras

The White House has reportedly created a new strategy to get Trump to zero in on policy matters – a schedule block called “policy time,” reminiscent of his “executive time,” which seemed to consist of tweet storms and cable TV viewing.

After more than 10 hours of discussion and public input, the Texas State Board of Education tentatively agreed to keep Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller in the state’s social studies curriculum.

A federal judge rejected NYC’s agreement to bring in an independent monitor to oversee public housing, saying the deal doesn’t have enough teeth to trigger actual reform for NYCHA’s long-suffering tenants.

The White House went to federal court to defend its right to revoke the press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta, arguing that Trump’s authority to grant interviews and press access meant he did not violate the journalist’s First Amendment or due-process rights.

More than a dozen news outlets – from the AP to USA Today, The Washington Post and Politico – are filing friend-of-the-court briefs to support CNN and Acosta’s lawsuit against Trump and several top aides. The most notable name on the list: Fox News.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a potential 2020 White House contender, dodged a question about whether she could support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in another presidential run following statements that Gillibrand made last year about former President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

In “The Clinton Affair,” a docuseries that premieres this weekend in A&E, the 45-year-old Lewinsky provides an in-depth reflection about her affair with the former president and how the scandal forever changed her life.

The Justice Department previously advised the White House that Trump could appoint someone like Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — who has not been confirmed by the Senate — to the role, according to a new memorandum from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

The Queens Amazon development has to pass muster with the Public Authorities Control Board, which means it’s not yet a done deal.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office is reportedly exploring whether longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who is contradicting Mr. Stone’s version of events about his contacts with WikiLeaks.

Trump spoke today with Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown to offer support as the state deals with catastrophic wildfires, a shift in tone after the two men exchanged barbs over the fires a few days earlier.

Having spent a fortune to help elect Democrats this fall, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, 76, declared lifetime allegiance to the Democratic Party and outlined an aggressive timeline for deciding whether to run for president.

House Republicans have selected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve as minority leader in the next Congress, choosing the California Republican who was a key architect of the 2010 GOP wave.

In a case originating in Suffolk County, a court ruled that state and local law enforcement have no authority to arrest people on behalf of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for deportation purposes.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg posted on its website a list of 28 priests who it says have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with a minor or vulnerable adult.

The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board has a new head – Saranac town Councilman Jerry Delaney, replacing longtime head Fred Monroe, now semi-retired.

Bill Hammond takes a look at what the impact of a single payer health care system would be on New York’s hospitals.

The tedium of ballot counting fueled dueling political theater today as Democrat Nathan McMurray claimed that tallies of absentee ballots in NY-27 will produce a “dead heat” with Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Collins if the current trend continues.

McMurray, like other candidates from around the nation in similar situations, came to DC for freshman orientation in case he ends up being the winner, but was blocked by the GOP from participating in the class photo and other events.

A retired government employee from Harlem came forward to claim last month’s $343.8 million Powerball jackpot — the largest in New York state history.

In his new book, The Curse of Bigness (out this week from Columbia Global Reports), onetime LG candidate Tim Wu examines the history of monopolies in America and asks why we’ve stopped fighting them.

The state Health Department issued its second two-year report on New York’s medical marijuana program, recommending changes to improve patient access and overall performance.

Bitcoin tumbled below $6,000 for the first time since August and reached the lowest level in over a year, breaking the recent stretch of tranquility exhibited by the notoriously volatile digital alternative to cash.

The Capital, a Maryland community newspaper where five employees were killed in June in a mass shooting, is pushing to unionize under the auspices of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.

Senate Republicans To Meet Friday

Republicans in the state Senate on Friday will meet in Albany to discuss their re-organization and transition to the minority in 2019.

But the conference is also expected to consider whether it will change leaders as Sen. Cathy Young is running to replace Sen. John Flanagan for the conference’s top post in the minority.

Young has received backing from groups like the New York Rifle And Pistol Association as well as Sen. Rich Funke. Sen. Robert Ortt, another western New York lawmaker, has called for the next leader to be from an upstate district.

But Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who has led the conference since 2015, has said he can unite both upstate and downstate factions. He has the support of Sen. Fred Akshar.

Republicans this month lost eight seats on Election Day and are expected to enter the 2019 session with as few as 23 members in the 63-member chamber.

Flanagan Criticizes Amazon Deal

Sen. John Flanagan in a statement on Wednesday ripped the tax breaks and incentives that lured Amazon to Long Island City in Queens, calling past efforts to spur job creation through similar means “a colossal failure.”

Flanagan, a Long Island lawmaker fighting to keep his leadership post in the state Senate, said there is “no long-term strategy” for economic development in the state.

“Why isn’t the Governor talking about lowering taxes across the board so New York is more attractive to companies looking to relocate and existing businesses can grow and thrive here?” Flanagan said. “Why isn’t he talking about reducing energy costs to bring down the overall cost of doing business in our state? Why won’t he do anything to eliminate the endless regulations that are holding job creators back? If he really wants to create jobs and opportunity, and isn’t just chasing a headline, this is still the best path forward.”

Senate Republicans have in the past largely embraced the efforts tying tax credits and incentives to job creation, backing a variety of efforts like the START-UP NY program and other economic development projects.

Amazon’s promise to pledge up to 25,000 jobs within 10 years and 40,000 within 15 years could lead to $3 billion in tax incentives.

As the Republican conference’s relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo soured, Flanagan and lawmakers backed efforts to scrutinize economic development spending through mechanisms like a database of deals and restoring oversight of state contracting.

“Meanwhile, this deal was put together by the Governor with zero legislative input,” Flanagan said. “After the scandals and self-dealing we’ve witnessed from this administration, do we really want the Governor operating with no oversight? We need procurement reform and the so-called ‘database of deals’ so the public can have full faith and trust in the actions of its elected officials. Those bills should be passed by the Legislature immediately upon its return.”