Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Talks Of ‘Progress’ On Public Campaign Financing

Creating a system of publicly financed campaigns in New York remains up in the air in the budget talks as Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday spoke of potential “progress” on the provision in a final deal.

“The devil is in the details,” Cuomo said, who included a version of in his $175 billion budget plan. “I understand that. We have a few days, but that is something we’ve all said we support and it’s something that we should have in this budget progress on that front.”

Some in Albany have discussed a potential compromise that would state support for creating public campaign financing in a final budget deal, but without the funding or framework to create such a system.

The Democratic-led Senate included a public financing provision in its one-house budget resolution. But Assembly Democrats have been skittish on the measure, reflecting the concerns some lawmakers have with the effect super PACs have on political campaigns.

Supporters of changing the state’s campaign finance laws were buoyed by the Democratic takeover of the Senate this year. Republicans had opposed a statewide public financing program for campaigns, though the conference did approve a pilot program that failed to gain any traction in the comptroller’s race in 2014.

Cuomo acknowledged the Republican-controlled Senate led him to strike deals where he couldn’t get everything.

“We reached a compromise which is less than I wanted to,” he said. “But now we have a Democratic Senate, which is the moment of liberation, right?”

Cuomo Accuses, And Walks Back, Senate Dems Of ‘Government Corruption’ In Amazon Saga

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again on Friday ripped into Senate Democrats over the failed deal to bring 25,000 Amazon jobs to Long Island City in Queens, accusing the conference of “government corruption” in nominating a critic of the project to a board with veto authority.

“I believe that tactic on Amazon violated the law and I believe it was a form of government corruption and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Cuomo said at a Capitol press conference Friday afternoon.

An advisor later walked the comment back.

But the Amazon saga remains a sore point for Cuomo and Senate Democrats and is resurfacing more than a month after the company pulled plug on the plan as the state budget is due to be approved about a week.

Senate Democrats nominated Sen. Mike Gianaris to a seat on the Public Authorities Control Board, which approval over incentives and benefits to companies bringing jobs into the state.

Cuomo, asked by reporters if he wanted an investigation, later dialed back the language, noting Gianaris was never actually approved to the board.

“If he was appointed to the board and actually took an action, then I believe he would have violated or exceeded the definition of the law,” he said.

Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David at the press conference read a portion of the law creating the Public Authorities Control Board as part of a broader point Cuomo wanted to make: The entity is meant to consider whether financing is available for specific projects.

“The position is not ‘I don’t like it, my sister lives too close to the project, it’s politically not helpful.’ The PACB is the only financial sufficiency,” Cuomo said.

A full walk back of the comment came from senior Cuomo advisor Rich Azzopardi.

“To be clear, the Governor wasn’t accusing the Senate Democrats of corruption,” he said in an email statement. “He was making a point about how the process works and the statutory role of the PACB. We are working with the Senate Democratic Conference toward an on-time budget that works for all New Yorkers.”

Cuomo earlier this month signaled he was mounting an effort to woo Amazon back to New York, an effort that appears to have stalled.

“Forget Amazon,” Cuomo said. “Yesterday was but a memory.”

The comments came, however, at the height of the state budget talks with the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Cuomo in public settings over the last several weeks has tweaked Democratic lawmakers as the closed-door talks continued.

State lawmakers and Cuomo are negotiating a $175 billion spending proposal with major items left undone, including a permanent cap on property tax increases, a plan to shore up capital funding for mass transit in New York City, the legalization of marijuana and changes to the state’s criminal justice laws.

Cuomo insisted Amazon’s only effect in the budget negotiations is to recover from the state’s reputation as a good place to do business.

“It’s been an ongoing issue, right? Because, look, Amazon was the greatest economic loss to this state since I have been in this job. I don’t think we will ever see an economic potential like that again. I just want to make sure that we recognize the error and we correct it. If anything it makes it more urgent to get a good budget done because we just did a negative and we need a positive to correct it.”

Good-Government Group Cheers LDC Transparency Decision

The good-government Reinvent Albany on Friday called a Court of Appeals decision this week requiring local development corporations to file disclosure requirements a step toward improving transparency of the entities.

The state’s highest court ruled Thursday that local development corporations should have to file the same reports that industrial development agencies file when it comes to budgeting, contracting and audits.

The reports were part of the 14-year-old Public Authorities Reform Act, which sought to drag the semi-public entities used to fund and finance local-level projects into the sunlight.

But the group said more work needs to be done to oversee public authorities, such as boosting the $1.9 million budget of the independent Authorities Budget Office by 50 percent as well as enhancing its powers by empowering it remove board members of authorities not complying with reporting laws.

All told, there are 578 state and local public authorities that spend $51 billion annually and have $270 billion in public debt.

Cuomo Condemns Latest Hate Crime In Kingston

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Kingston on Friday condemned an anti-Semitic hate crime in Ulster last week, drawing a broader lesson about what he said was an uptick in crimes against vulnerable communities.

“We see a virus of hate that is spreading across this country, that is spreading across this globe,” he said.

State Police officials said a woman in the town of Ulster at a store was confronted by a man who swore at her and made a reference to the Holocaust.

The man, 21-year-old William Sullivan, was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment.

But the governor saw a larger concern with the incident, noting the mass shooting in New Zealand that killed 49 people at a mosque.

Cuomo pointed on Friday to what he said has been an increase in the number of hate crimes aimed at Jews and Muslims, as well as drawing a line to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico and the federal response.

“I believe there is no external threat that can defeat this nation, but the enemy within can defeat this nation,” Cuomo said. “And the enemy within is prejudice.”

Cuomo, who has Jewish brothers-in-law, said he takes anti-Semitic incidents personally.

And, echoing a refrain he made last year, said, “If you attack a Jewish person, you attack me. If you attack a Muslim person, you attack me. If you attack an LGBT person, you attack me.”

National Advocacy Groups Push For Public Campaign Financing In NY

From the Morning Memo:

A letter co-signed by a range of national advocacy organizations nudging state lawmakers in New York to pass a public campaign financing measure in the state budget due by the end of the month.

The letter was backed by groups including the NAACP, End Citizens United and MoveOn.

The Democratic-led Senate included the provision in its one-house budget resolution earlier this month. But in the Assembly, lawmakers have raised concerns about the effect a public financing system for campaigns would have on races in which super PACs or independent expenditure committees become involved.

Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week that lawmakers in his conference continue to have concerns with the legislation.

“Fair Elections for New York — with small-donor matching funds as the centerpiece — is a clear solution to the oversized influence that a small group of wealthy donors has over New York’s government,” the letter states.

“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo included Fair Elections in his proposed budget, as did the Assembly and the Senate. Majorities in each house are on the record in support. With the power to now make it law, New York’s leaders must walk the walk. It’s time for you to pass Fair Elections in this year’s budget. We no longer can accept a nation or a state governed increasingly by a small group of the wealthy elite.”

Senate Democrats earlier this week held a public hearing on the issue in order to boost the provision in the budget talks.

Letter From National Organizations to NY Leadership in Support of Fair Elections for New York (2) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo: Agreement In Place Preserves 450 Jobs At Alcoa Plant

New York officials on Thursday announced an agreement between Alcoa and the New York Power Authority that would preserve 450 jobs at the Alcoa’s smelting plant in Massena.

The seven-year pact, which still must be approved by the authority’s board of trustees, extends a previous contract through 2026.

“The ball is keeping the economy in this state running,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “If we are producing jobs, if you’re working, if we’re providing good jobs with opportunity, with mobility, that allow you to do for yourself and your family, that is the single best thing the state government can do.”

The agreement stipulates that a workforce of 145 jobs is also protected. Those jobs are now supported by Arconic, which separated from Alcoa in 2016 and maintains operations at the site.

“The Alcoa aluminum smelting facility in Massena provides hundreds of good-paying jobs to workers in the North Country, and eliminating their partnership with the New York Power Authority would have been disastrous for both our region’s energy industry and hardworking families,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik.

“I applaud Alcoa and NYPA for their commitment to North Country workers and am thrilled that they have reached an agreement to continue their productive partnership. I will continue to work with Alcoa to ensure they remain a strong economic driver in my district.”

Republican Bill Would End Film Tax Credits

A bill introduced this week by Republican Sen. Bob Antonacci would phase out the state’s $420 million film tax credit program.

The measure comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday suggested he would be open to rolling back the tax credits in exchange for boosting education or health care spending in the budget.

Antonacci, a freshman Republican from the Syracuse area, wants the program eliminated entirely.

“The overwhelming majority of project recipients would have filmed in New York without this credit,” the bill’s memo states. “In addition, it disproportionately favors New York City. This legislation offers the alternative of a phase out of this tax credit.”

The tax credits have gone toward a number of prominent New York-based productions and post-production projects.

But tax credits for businesses themselves have come under renewed focus after the failed deal to bring 25,000 jobs from Amazon to Queens which were tied to $3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives.

Cuomo’s floating of the tax credit rollback for the film industry may be a way of goading Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Democrat who prominently opposed the Amazon deal and whose district includes Silvercup Studios.

Sports, Politics And Power

“The governor is the Tom Brady of New York politics,” Cuomo’s chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, insists. “People will complain, people will privately backbite, but at the end of the day, they know that he’s able to put the ball in the end zone. That’s the disconnect.”

The Atlantic, March 3.

If the state budget were a football game, the ball is in the red zone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Tuesday. Not quite a touchdown, but at the 5-yard line. Almost there.

(It does beg the question: If the budget is on the 5-yard line, who is blocking the ball, or the budget in this case, from getting into the end zone? Sports metaphors can only take you so far).

Cuomo has deployed sports metaphors before to describe success in getting budgets done by the end of the fiscal year. Three on-time budgets? A hat trick! Four on-time budgets? A grand slam!

Rob Astorino, Cuomo’s 2014 Republican opponent, had a campaign slogan that asked, “winning or losing?” Astorino, razed by Democrats for being a Miami Dolphins fan on the eve of a game with the Buffalo Bills, lost.

Cuomo is not like Rudy Giuliani, prominently showing up to baseball games. He is a stated New York Mets fan, and talked with the team before they began their first game of their last World Series against the Kansas City Royals. They lost.

As Melissa DeRosa suggests, the point of comparing Cuomo to Tom Brady — a quarterback who defies aging, is largely despised outside of the Dunkin’ Donuts regional exclusivity zone that is New England and is impossibly wealthy — is really about associating with him with a winner, a guy who gets the job done despite the noise. No one wants to be the Washington Generals.

Of course, Cuomo gets to be Tom Brady, but why not Serena Williams? Brady has six Super Bowl rings, a paltry sum compared to Williams’s 23 grand slam titles in tennis. But I digress.

The language of sports over the years has crept into political journalism, a natural outgrowth of readers and viewers wanting to know, well, who is going to win. Columns and stories and blog posts about “winners” and “losers” are written, with Election Day being the final arbiter of who the real winner is.

Twitter on election night after polls close has turned into a variable score-keeping website, as if the votes cast hours ago, the tallies slowly being uploaded to local boards of election websites are a collection of foul shots, layups and three-pointers adding up to a win.

That is perhaps why politicians, board room members and really anyone in high-power, high-stress jobs so frequently invoke or want to be associated with athletes and athletic accomplishment.

Athletes can of course be just like politicians: They can give cautious, non-answers, be corrupt or doing venal things like using steroids or playing with slightly deflated balls.

Both can also stage late-career comebacks. Last year, a company went as far as to print a series of trading cards with the 2016 presidential candidates and prominent politicians. Sadly, no stats like, say, “longest speech” or “biggest campaign donor” were given.

Winning, in many ways, is the rawest form of power. You’ve beaten your enemies; therefore you are measurably better than they are and can claim as such. Cuomo certainly has since last year as he and his aides point to the vote totals he received — the largest number for any governor in state history. There’s no gong rule in politics when there’s a blow out.

The feminist historian Mary Beard in essay published last year suggested there should be a reframing of how we think about power, writing in the context of the power imbalance between men and women. Regardless, that reframing of political power — treating like a verb instead of a noun — would make all those sports metaphors fall apart.

New York Unemployment Stays Flat

The unemployment rate in New York remained the same last month, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

New York’s unemployment stands at 3.9 percent after private-sector job growth increased by 7,900 jobs, or 0.1 percent. The nation’s unemployment rate is slightly lower, 3.8 percent.

In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the overall employment picture in the state, which stands at more than 8.2 million jobs.

“New Department of Labor data shows that New York has more private sector jobs than at any time in our history,” Cuomo said. “These record high job numbers are a clear sign that the New York economy is continuing its upward trajectory, and are proof positive of the success of our bottom-up, regionally focused economic development strategy. Since the beginning of this administration, we have added nearly 1.2 million private sector jobs and have lowered the unemployment rate to a record low 3.9 percent.”

Cuomo added, “While we have made great progress, there is still more work to do. We remain laser focused on driving economic growth across this great state and continuing to create good-paying jobs for New Yorkers.”

After Amazon, Cuomo Says He Isn’t Mad (Just Disappointed)

The scuttled deal to bring up to 25,000 Amazon jobs to Queens and the resulting acrimony is not having an effect on the broader budget talks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday in a radio interview.

“It was yesterday and life is about tomorrow,” Cuomo said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “We have damage to repair and frankly we’ve hurt the state, so it’s even more important to get good things going.”

Amazon pulled out of the project that would have linked the jobs to $3 billion in tax credits and other incentives amid protests from liberal advocacy groups and labor unions as well as elected officials like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and state Sen. Mike Gianaris.

Cuomo has blamed the sustained opposition as well as the Democratic-controlled state Senate, which nominated Gianaris to a board with veto authority over the tax incentives, for the deal falling apart.

But the governor on Thursday morning also cast blame on a general “not in my backyard” sentiment.

“There’s nothing I could have done differently,” he said. “There is always NIMBY. All I do is get opposition from the local community.”

In the aftermath of Amazon pulling out, Cuomo sought to lure the company back to New York. And he’s re-iterated his pledge for a permanent cap on property tax increases, arguing the provision is needed to show the state is not hostile toward businesses.

He also denied he was angered by the saga.

“Frustrated, disappointed, but also as the governor to call it what it is so you don’t do it again because this was a totally self-destructive process,” Cuomo said.

The governor this week floated the idea of scaling back the $420 million film tax credit program. Silvercup Studios, which is in Gianaris’s Senate district, has benefited from the tax credits.