Heastie: Members ‘Concerned’ Over Nuke Subsidy

A subsidy that would keep upstate nuclear plants from closing remains a source of concern for Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday said.

Opposition over the last several weeks to the subsidy, contained a broader plan meant to transition the state from fossil fuels, has grown over the last several weeks through a coalition of organizations that have highlighted the impact on utility ratepayers.

“I’d say the members are concerned,” Heastie said. “We want to make sure the state has enough power, but we also have a lot of unanswered questions about how the fee is derived, is the fee collected in a progressive way so there’s fairness to taxpayers. There’s just a lot of questions that haven’t been answered and we’d like to have those questions answered.”

The Assembly’s one-house budget resolution includes a proposal that would delay the implementation of the subsidy until a joint legislative hearing is held on the issue.

Wealthy New Yorkers Urge Millionaires Tax Expansion

Wealthy New Yorkers, including George Soros, Steven Rockefeller and the Responsible Wealth organization on Tuesday in a letter to state leaders urged for increasing taxes on the rich in the budget.

The proposal comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging lawmakers — mainly the Republican-led Senate — back an extension of expiring tax rates on those who earn more than $1 million.

Assembly Democrats want to have taxes increase on people who make more than $5 million in addition to re-authorizing the extesnion.

“As New Yorkers who have contributed to and benefited from the economic vibrancy of our state, we have both the ability and the responsibility to pay our fair share. We can well afford to pay our current taxes, and we can afford to pay even more,” the letter states. “Our state’s long‐term economic prosperity depends on strong investments in our people and our communities.”

Supporters of the tax hike say it would generate $6 billion in additional revenue if approved.

Heastie: Medicaid Plan A ‘Kick In The Stomach’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called the proposal to have the state assume the full cost of Medicaid is a “kick in the stomach” to both New York’s finances and recipients who depend on the program.

“This would be a couple billion dollars on top of what we can already have,” Heastie said on Tuesday following the Legislature’s vote on the Board of Regents nominees. “If the federal government is going to give us a block grant, then it’s like a second kick in the stomach that we may get from the federal government.”

State lawmakers — including Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan — questioned the proposal on Tuesday as Reps. Chris Collins and John Faso in Washington seek to add the amendment to the overall American Health Care Act, a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act.

The measure would enact the most sweeping form of mandate relief for New York state’s local governments, but Heastie insisted the proposal is more complicated.

“There’s a lot of things connected to the counties paying their share of Medicaid,” Heastie said. “Just to shift it to the state is not as simple as Congressman Collins would like to believe.”

NRCC Knocks Cuomo

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes back against a House Republican-backed proposal to have New York assume the full cost of Medicaid spending in the state, the National Republican Congressional Committee is coming to the defense of Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins.

“Andrew Cuomo is in full meltdown realizing his rabid zealotry in imposing unfunded mandates on cash-strapped county governments may soon come to an end giving local property tax payers desperately needed relief,” said spokesman Chris Pack “Once again, Cuomo’s proving what a hypocrite he is.”

Cuomo on Tuesday railed against the amendment backed by Collins and Faso, which is seen as potentially key to the passage this week of the American Health Care Act, the GOP-supported replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Direct Care Advocates Have Times Square Billboard


As state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo mull funding for a wage increase for direct care workers, a coalition of groups that has pushed for the funding have space on a Times Square billboard pushing the issue.

The 5,000-square-foot advertisement is a digital billboard that will be seen two minutes per hour and was donated by a person active in the push for supporting people with developmental disabilities. It began running Sunday.

The billboard comes as advocates are seeking $45 million a year over six years to pay for a living wage for direct care workers who provide services and support for people with developmental disabilities.

State lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly have included the funding in their budget resolutions.

Slaughter Joins Collins Bashing Brigade

Rep. Louise Slaughter is the latest high-profile New York Democrat to criticize Western New York Republican Chris Collins for his role in the crafting of the American Health Care Act. The congresswoman called an amendment Collins made to the proposed legislation, which would effectively force the state to take on the counties’ shares of Medicaid, costs a gimmick.

Slaughter said the House plan would result in New York losing billions of dollars in federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability.

“Shifting the local cost share to the state is a political sleight of hand – if Republicans steal billions from New York to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy it doesn’t matter if taxpayers have to cover the cost at the county or the state level. Either way, Congressional Republicans are proposing New Yorkers pay for their terrible plan, and with this amendment, they would be sending our state a $4.7 billion bill,” she said. “If Rep. Collins thinks that’s a good deal, he’s not a very good businessman or representative for our state.”

Earlier this month, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul ripped into the Collins amendment for it’s potential cost to the state and Governor Cuomo echoed many of those same sentiments yesterday.

Collins, meanwhile, has the support of the New York State Association of Counties and this past weekend touted the plan in a press conference with Erie and Niagara County leaders.

Flanagan Says He Has ‘Skepticism’ Of Medicaid Takeover

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday said he is skeptical of the proposal on the federal level to have the state assume Medicaid costs currently carried by county governments.

The measure is backed by Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins and is potentially key to gaining enough votes for the passage of the House GOP’s bill replacing the Affordable Care Act this week.

But Flanagan, speaking with reporters this morning, said he would speak with Faso about the issue as the state prepares a budget plan due to pass at the end of next week.

“I have a certain amount of skepticism. I don’t want to see New York adversely affected and I would go back to some basic questions,” Flanagan said. “Does that mean counties have to go back and reduce their sales tax, reduce their property tax or will they go back and continue to spend. I’m not trying to malign anyone or any shape or form, but this is going to be a focal point of all of our discussions.”

Having the state assume the cost of the Medicaid program in New York is a major touchstone issue for county governments who have often complained about the cost of mandates placed on them by Albany.

The move would have wide-ranging effects on the state’s budget and finances. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has railed against the proposal, saying it would simply shift costs and devastate taxpayers.

Flanagan joined Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in suggesting the Legislature would return to Albany after the regular session is concluded to handle potential changes to health care policy on the federal level.

“It’s the same taxpayer at the end of the day,” Flanagan said. “We’ve done a lot of things on the state of new York to alleviate the burden on county property taxpayers in significantly shifting costs to the state of New York.”

Cuomo Admin Hires, Shuffles Staff

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced a series of hires and staff moves on Tuesday, including a former state assemblyman.

Cuomo announce former Assemblyman John Ceretto, a Republican-turned-Democrat, has joined his administration as a project coordinator for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Ceretto served in the Assembly since 2011, until he was defeated for re-election.

Meanwhile, longtime Cuomo hand Joe Rabito will become the deputy secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, having previously served as deputy director of state operations for programs.

Jon Weinstein, a former vice president at Mercury Public Affairs, will become the deputy communications director for transportation.

Jeffrey Pearlman, a former chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and before that a top aide to the Senate Democrats, will become the acting director of the Authorities Budget Office.

Cuomo also hired Carolyn Pokorny, formerly of the U.S. attorney general’s office, to be chief special counsel for ethics.

“From fighting to achieve social and economic justice, to creating stronger communities in every corner of this state, our administration has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“By bringing in new ideas and new talent, these additions will build on the extraordinary success we have made over the past six years. These men and women are highly respected in their fields and embody the values of public service necessary to continue moving this state forward. I look forward to working with them to create a stronger, fairer and more prosperous New York for all.”

Bharara Joining NYU Law

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will join New York University Law School as a scholar in residence, the school announced on Tuesday morning.

Bharara had been believed to be in line for a range of jobs, including opportunities on television and other prominent law school posts.

He had also been speculated as a possible candidate for elected office.

“I am honored to join the NYU School of Law, one of the great educational institutions in America, and I welcome the chance to contribute in such a thoughtful setting,” Bharara said in a statement. “I am thrilled for this opportunity to continue addressing the issues I so deeply care about—criminal and social justice, honest government, national security, civil rights, and corporate accountability, to name a few.”

Bharara earlier this month announced he had been fired from his post as the top prosecutor in the Southern District of New York after refusing to heed the call of the Department of Justice to step down.

Bharara gained notoriety for his prosecutions of public corruption, including high-profile cases involving state lawmakers as well as white collar crime on Wall Street.

Insurance Firm Once Again At Odds With Assembly Ride Share Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The American Transit Insurance Company in a letter sent Monday to top lawmakers in the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the Assembly’s version of a bill expanding ride hailing in upstate New York, saying the proposal’s coverage requirements are far too expensive.

“The bill imposes insurance coverage requirements of $1.5 million when a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or there is a passenger in the car,” wrote the company’s general counsel, John Poklemba, in the letter. “That is 20 times higher than current upstate for-hire limits during trips.”

The letter urged lawmakers and Cuomo to also “re-examine” liability minimums and their impact on the industry.

“To make clear the abitrary and excessive coverage being proposed, it is important to note that the requirements that the Assembly is proposing here are substantially higher than is required to transport oil in a tanker,” the letter states. “We wonder how the state could possible assume that more risk is involved in the former to justify requiring $500,000 more coverage.”

The company had previously raised issues last June with ride sharing proposals it said had far too much coverag

The letter comes as lawmakers and Cuomo are sorting out differences in their ride-hailing proposals as the budget talks begin in earnest this week in Albany. The Assembly bill, introduced earlier this month, is yet to be taken up for a vote in the chamber, while the Senate passed its own version last month.

The Assembly’s ride-hail measure was not included in the one-house budget resolution.

“I’d say there’s been positive discourse,” Speaker Carl Heastie said, “but there’s no final decision on where to go in terms of the Uber or ride sharing issues.”

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