Direct Care Workers Get A Boost From Cuomo In Budget Talks

A budget deal won’t be signed off on by Gov. Andrew Cuomo without a raise for the direct care workers who work with people who have developmental disabilities, his top legal advisor told a rally of advocates on Monday at the Capitol.

“We will not pass a budget without increasing wages for direct care workers,” said Cuomo administration counsel Alphonso David.

David called the workers “unsung” heroes who are in need of a pay boost as a result of the phased-in minimum wage hikes.

The statement is a boost for the direct care workers and their advocacy day, which brought more than 1,000 people to the Capitol as part of a push for the living wage funding included in the final budget.

The rally also included both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers.

No details were given on what the living wage agreement might look like in the budget. But the direct care workers have sought a raise as non-profits have struggled to retain workers in a difficult field when other jobs in retail and restaurants can offer higher pay.

The vast majority of funding for non-profit organizations that work with those who have developmental disabilities comes from government sources. Many of the workers in the direct care field are women and Latino.


Federal prosecutors are charging Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels, with bank and wire fraud relating to an alleged $20 million scheme to extort Nike.

Avenatti also is charged in a separate federal case out of Los Angeles, where he is accused of embezzling a client’s money “in order to pay his own expense and debts,” and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi,” prosecutors said.

In his first remarks on special counsel Robert Mueller since his report was turned in Friday, President Donald Trump offered an opinion in sharp contrast to the past two years of insults he’s hurled at both the special counsel and his investigation.

Grim faced and simmering with anger, Trump repeated his assertion that a collection of partisan foes had effectively conspired to try to disrupt or even end his presidency with false allegations about his campaign’s ties with Moscow in 2016.

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said in media appearances that Mueller’s sweeping probe was “bad” for the country, and cryptically warned that whoever persuaded the feds to pursue it will soon be revealed.

Apple announced a new paid tier of the Apple News app called Apple News+ that includes magazine content for $9.99 per month. Apple is offering a month-long free trial to the service.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter said Democrats should point out that Trump “hasn’t kept any of his promises” in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was a “mistake” for the Democratic presidential contenders to skip the annual meeting of AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobbying group in the US, and argued that Trump would try to use their absences to splinter the party.

Leaders of the New Jersey state Legislature cancelled a planned vote today on a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in the Garden State, because there weren’t sufficient votes to pass it.

New Jersey is poised to become the eighth state to allow doctors to write a lethal prescription for terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.

Democrats cannot rely on investigations and impeachment to topple Trump in 2020 and must instead beat the Republican president “on the merits,” Cuomo said.

A century after the first two women arrived in Albany, New Yorkers elected a record number of women to state government. Here are the stories about how they made their mark.

Just as local supporters were ready to drop invitations in the mail, an April 11 fund raiser in Buffalo featuring Vice President Pence has been postponed. But the event is expected to still take place on a yet to be determined date, according to one of its organizers, Anthony H. Gioia, a retired businessman and former ambassador to Malta.

At a time when the New York Republican Party may have hit rock bottom, Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy wants to be its chairman. He has issued no formal declaration of candidacy and keeps his efforts low-key, but is nevertheless mounting an all-out effort to replace veteran Ed Cox as state party leader.

Assembly Democrats say they’re ready to move forward on congestion pricing, moving a toll on vehicles in parts of Manhattan to help fund New York City transit repairs closer to reality.

As he faces sentencing on various corruption charges, disgraced lobbyist Todd Howe says he’s a changed man now that he has swapped what his lawyers refer to as “the snaking vines of the lobbying network” for the “salt-of-the earth goodness” of Idaho.

More than one in five New York City bus riders skipped paying in the last three months of 2018, according to new figures that show the Metropolitan Transportation Authority lost about $225 million to fare evasion last year on its buses and subways.

A county grand jury in Schoharie appears to have finally been presented with evidence in the criminal case against Nauman Hussain, the operator of the limousine company involved in the tragic Oct. 6 limo crash that killed 20 people.

Quentin D. Wheeler, the former controversial president of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, stayed on the state payroll for eight months after resigning from his post last summer.

New York City’s plan to close Rikers Island and move those incarcerated there into four borough-based jails is gearing up to move into its next phase, the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

The Internal Revenue Service is lowering its threshold for penalty waivers — a decision that could help many taxpayers who didn’t have enough federal income taxes withheld in 2018.

Poor Syracuse, it can’t get no respect. …though, here’s some good news: Cardi B is coming to town.

AFL-CIO: Budget ‘Is Not The Time’ For Publicly Financed Campaigns

The state AFL-CIO in a statement on Monday said it is opposed to creating a system of publicly financed campaigns at this time in the state budget, pointing to the state’s finances and the questions raised by the cost of the program.

Cilento in his statement said the issue “should continue after the budget is passed.”

“That said, fair elections and improving ballot access has been, and remains a priority for the NYS AFL-CIO,” he said.

“Earlier this year an entire package of reforms the NYS AFL-CIO supported was passed including; closing the LLC loophole, early voting, removal of barriers for voter registration and alignment of primary election days and times. A constitutional amendment to enact vote-by-mail remains in the works, as well as other measures. These unfinished election reforms should be reviewed post budget and in the context of longer- term planning. In the meantime, we should focus on the priorities noted above.”

The statement from President Mario Cilento amounts to a body blow for the provision to be included in the budget, due on Sunday.

“Our elected officials are currently struggling with the dire budget needs for public education, higher education and restoration of health care cuts,” Cilento said. “The state, New York City and our local governments have massive transportation, housing and infrastructure needs. We are fighting to restore cuts to municipalities, child care and many other programs that working families rely on. On top of that, federal funding for all of this is less certain than ever and given that the budget deadline is upon us, we believe that pubic financing needs to be postponed.”

The statement is also helpful for the state Assembly’s Democratic conference, which has raised concerns over the last several weeks surrounding the effect of super PACs and penalties under a public financing system for campaigns.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had included a public financing provision in his 2019 agenda, and the Democratic-led Senate included it in its one-house budget resolution.

Supporters of public financing for elections had hoped a Democratic-controlled Legislature would be willing to take up the bill given the previous Republican opposition to the measure.

Lawmakers and Cuomo in 2014 agreed to a pilot program for the state comptroller’s race. Republican Bob Antonacci failed to qualify for matching funds; Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli did not participate.

One possibility was a memorandum of understanding to be included in the budget this year to agree on a framework for public financing without funding the program.

Heastie Says Assembly On Board With Congestion Pricing

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emerged from a lengthy closed-door meeting with his Democratic conference on Monday to announce his chamber would be able to back a congestion pricing plan in the state budget.

Details for the plan, such as tolling below 61st Street in Manhattan as well as potential carve outs for low-income people and some Manhattan residents, must still be worked out.

“We’re at the point where the Assembly members understand the need to fund the MTA,” Heastie said. “We still have some details to work out but I would say the Assembly is ready to go forward on congestion pricing. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think I had the votes.”

The proposal is part of a broader overhaul plan backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his $175 billion spending plan. Cuomo wants to raise capital to fund mass transit improvements, with tolling in Manhattan a piece of a larger funding stream that also could include a property tax surcharge on second homes worth more than $5 million.

Historically the Assembly had been skeptical of a congestion pricing plan, which has stalled for more than a decade in Albany.

But the MTA and especially the New York City subway system has hit what many believe to be a crisis point for updating and improving existing rail lines.

The budget is due to pass by Sunday.

Marijuana Stalls For New Jersey, Is New York Next?

A bill that would have legalized marijuana in New Jersey did not advance on Monday, the same week as state lawmakers in New York are considering whether a similar provision would be included in the state budget.

The developments in New Jersey buoyed opponents of commercialized marijuana legalization.

“The pot industry told everyone legalization was inevitable in deep-blue New Jersey and today’s rejection proves them wrong again,” said Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s Kevin Sabet. “Lawmakers in New Jersey heard the pleas of parents, health professionals, law enforcement and others and blocked this bill.”

At the moment, it appears unlikely a marijuana legalization framework will be in a finalized budget deal due on Sunday.

Cuomo in an interview on WAMC on Monday morning suggested he was still trying to make a final deal work by the end of the week.

“We are working to try to get marijuana done,” he said. “It is complex and it’s, the devil is in the details. And I don’t know that it is done for the budget, but if it’s not done after the budget, I believe we get it done after the budget. But if we can get it done in the budget and use the budget as an accelerant for compromise and decision making, even better.”

Lawmakers Push Back Against Opioid Tax

State lawmakers and industry trade groups on Monday pushed back against a proposed tax on prescription opioids, a provision they called “inhumane” and “bad public policy.”

The tax, which is estimated to generate $100 million, is a revival of a previous plan that had been struck down in court.

The proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion spending plan is opposed by both the Assembly Health Committee chairman, Richard Gottfried, as well as Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the top lawmaker on the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse panel.

“Opioid manufacturers helped create the overdose crisis, yet a plan to tax patients in pain and people who got hooked on opioids because of reckless marketing practices of opioid manufacturers is in the offing in the State budget,” Rosenthal said. “This is not smart budgeting, it’s not smart policy, and it must be roundly rejected.”

The tax has also reaised the concerns of pharmacy trade association groups, who argue the cost would be passed on to patients.

“New York should not be balancing its budget by inventing a tax that endangers New Yorkers in need of medically necessary prescription medications,” said Mike Duteau, the president of the Community Pharmacy Association of New York. “If this tax is enacted, it will absolutely be passed down to pharmacies and patients, essentially guaranteeing that patient access to life saving medications will be jeopardized. Patients will be unable to purchase their prescriptions or pharmacies will be unable to stock them since neither can afford to absorb this tax.”

Serrano To Retire After Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano announced Monday he would not seek another two-year term in the House of Representatives following a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

Serrano, a Bronx Democrat, has served in the House since 1990.

“Although this disease has not affected my work in Congress, over the last few months I’ve come to the realization that Parkinson’s will eventually take a toll, and that I cannot predict its rate of advancement,” Serrano said in a statement.

He plans to serve out the remainder of his term.

The Bronx district is a heavily Democratic one. Serrano was facing a primary challenge from Councilman Ritchie Torres. With the retirement, the district will likely become an even more competitive primary this election cycle.

Cuomo: Not Enough To Be Anti-Trump

Democrats need to offer more than anti-Donald Trump rhetoric, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in a radio interview.

“We win when we offer the alternative vision,” Cuomo said in an interview on WAMC, adding, “No one is as good as making the case against Trump as Trump. Just let him talk.”

The governor won a third term last year as well as a Democratic primary hammering the president and continues to do so on issues like the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

But the 2020 presidential campaign is a different animal entirely, with more than a dozen Democrats vying for the nomination. And the political landscape is shifting after the release of the top line informaiton in Robert Mueller’s report finding the president’s campaign did not collude with Russia in the 2016 election.

“The fervor for impeachment among Democrats has actually dropped,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo added the president is “not out of the woods” given the swirling investigations reportedly being conducted by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

At the same time, the full Mueller report is yet to be released to Congress and the general public.

“I believe it’s very important they release as much of the report as legally permissible with an aggressive look at what is legally permissible,” he said.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting A State Budget

The state budget is due to be approved by next Sunday, giving state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo less than week to come to an agreement before the start of the new fiscal year.

Here are five things to watch for in a final deal:

Mass transit funding

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried various iterations for bolstering the crumbling New York City subway system in order to raise capital and boost improvements. He initially wanted a three-part plan that would lead to tolls south of 61st Street in Manhattan, capturing sales tax revenue from out-of-state online purchases and the sales tax revenue gained from legalizing marijuana.

The marijuana legislation appears to be off the table for the budget, caught up in complications over how to expunge records of low-level offenses and how to regulate. Since then, Cuomo has added a property tax surcharge on non-primary residences worth more than $5 million. The so-called piede-a-terre tax has been kicking around Albany for years, stymied by the real estate industry.

Still, congestion pricing — aka tolling in Manhattan for vehicle traffic — has its own pitfalls, especially among suburban lawmakers. State lawmakers outside of New York City want something for themselves as well, such as equity in bolstering roads and bridges.

Property tax relief

Cuomo on Sunday stood with the Long Island Six — the half dozen Democrats who represent Long Island — to declare they would not back a budget deal without an agreement for a permanent cap on property tax increases. Cuomo doesn’t get to actually sign the budget, but the Long Island Six are vital to both a deal and the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate are trying to engineer their own property tax relief for Nassau County amid a tax re-assessment designed to soften the blow of any tax hike resulting from the move. Cuomo has been critical of the plan in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution for failing to fully fund it.

Criminal justice law changes

The debate over cash bail is boiling down to “dangerousness” of a charged individual. The phrasing could help Democratic lawmakers in swing districts claim some cover, creating a broad enough term that gives judges the discretion in whether a person can be released. Democrats in the Assembly who have worked on the issue see the term as inherently racist, drawing on criteria such as employment that could be biased against people of color.

Lawmakers had hoped for a deal outside of the budget on the criminal justice law changes as far back as a month ago. The clock is ticking, however, and it appears much of it is getting swept into the budget.

Education spending

Cuomo has long resisted calls for boosting education spending by more $1 billion in direct aid to schools in New York. But now a cadre of new lawmakers who ran on the issue are in office. How far will they go in pushing the issue in the state budget? For now, lawmakers like Sen. Robert Jackson are not tipping their hands, only to say they’ll do “whatever it takes” to get the money in the spending plan. Sen. Jessica Ramos last week tweeted a video selfie with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to promote the issue as well.

The governor countered this year with a proposal to overhaul how the state directs money to schools on the district level, arguing poorer schools are getting the shaft at the expense of richer schools. How much will this formula change in the budget?

Guarding against recession

With Republicans out of power in the state Senate, Cuomo has re-asserted his role in the budget talks as being tighter with the purse strings. But those warnings of faltering tax revenue may not just be talk. The markets are showing signs of a potential recessionary phase for the economy as early as next year. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli urged lawmakers and Cuomo to add more money to a rainy day fund in the budget, a provision the governor quickly backed.

The last recession a decade ago was a searing experience for Albany: ballooning budget gaps, cuts in health care and education funding and the loss of the troubled Democratic majority in the state Senate.

Budgets are relatively easy when there’s a lot of money to throw around. They are less so when the pie is a lot smaller.

Advocates Want ‘Binding’ Language On Public Campaign Financing

From the Morning Memo:

Supporters of creating a system of publicly financed campaigns aren’t interested in a final deal that does not include “binding” language in the final budget agreement for the program.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo alluded last week to the potential for “progress” on the issue, which would create a public donor matching system.

But there has also been speculation a final agreement would include what amounts to a memorandum of understanding for creating a public campaign financing system in the future amid concerns that have been raised by Democrats in the state Assembly.

“We are excited that public financing of elections is squarely on the negotiating table in the budget talks and is seen as a ‘must-do.’ Binding language in the final budget that locks in the key elements of an effective a 6-to-1 small donor matching system for all statewide and legislative races and funding to start implementation and build the fund are necessary,” said the group Fair Elections New York.

“Anything less would not be ‘progress.’ New Yorkers have spoken loud and clear and everyone at the negotiating table has supported this proposal for many years.”

Advocates for the public financing of campaigns were buoyed by the full Democratic takeover of the state Legislature last year, hopeful that the measure would come to a vote after Republican opposition. But Democrats in the Assembly have pointed to the influence of independent expenditure committees and the potential for fines doled out for violating campaign finance regulations under a public financing system.