Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Says He Won’t Back A Budget Deal Without Ethics

A budget without ethics reform is a no-go, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in a conference call on Friday.

Cuomo in the call, held to discuss state preparations for the coming snowstorm this weekend, called reform measures such as efforts to crack down on independent expenditure committees, public financing and new regulations for lobbying the most difficult items in the negotiations.

“I’m not going to pass a budget without ethics reform and I’m not going to allow cherry picking of the budget where we pass just the easy bills and not the hard bills,” Cuomo said.

The Democratic-controlled state Legislature in recent weeks has approved a flurry of bills that had stalled under Republican control in the state Senate, including provisions meant to make it easier to vote and protections for transgender New Yorkers. They plan next week to pass legislation aimed at strengthening abortion rights and access to contraception.

Cuomo has included this measures in his $175 billion budget proposal as well.

In addition to the ethics legislation, Cuomo pointed to his proposal for a congestion pricing toll plan in Manhattan as well as a push to gain more control over the leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as additional heavy lifts.

The process this year — the Legislature acting virtually on its own — has been an inverse of previous years in which the budget proposal was a clearinghouse for headline-inducing policy measures.

“You can’t pass a budget piecemeal,” he said. “This is a different dynamic than past years. We’ve made that point numerous times.”

But the reform measures, he says, will be the bigger sticking point.

“It’s also difficult practically. I put forth lobbying reform. That is very close to home,” Cuomo said. “I put forth a Freedom of Information Law for the Legislature which progressive legislators have proposed in the past. Why? Because they don’t want the Freedom of Information Law.”

The budget is scheduled to pass by the end of March.

Senate Dems To Back Permanent Property Tax Cap

The Democratic-led state Senate next week is set to vote on a bill that would make the state’s cap on property tax increases permanent.

The measure, first approved in 2011, is set to expire this year.

The cap limits local and school property taxes to year-over-year increases of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

The Senate’s version of the tax cap legislation is backed Sen. Jim Gaughran, a freshman from Long Island elected to a Republican-held district in November.

“I ran for State Senate on the promise that I would fight tirelessly for overburdened and overtaxed Long Islanders,” Gaughran said in a statement. “Today I took the first step and introduced vital legislation to make the property tax cap permanent. No more temporary extensions. A permanent tax cap for permanent relief.”

The tax cap remains a signature economic measure for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who included a provision for a permanent tax cap in his 2019-20 budget proposal that is due at the end of March.

Cuomo and state lawmakers alike have pointed to the $10,000 federal cap on state and local tax deductions that makes the state’s tax cap all the more key for those who pay among the highest levies in the country.

Cuomo Proposes Reorganization Of Marijuana Bureaucracy

From the Morning Memo:

The proposed $175 billion state spending plan includes a sweeping re-organization of the state’s marijuana bureaucracy, consolidating regulation and oversight of the marijuana growing and retail industry under a new state offfice.

The budget would create an Office of Cannabis Management, overseeing commercial adult-use marijuana as well as medical marijuana and hemp.

Medical marijuana is currently overseen by the state Department of Health; Agriculture and Markets regulates hemp production in New York.

The new office would be under the umbrella of the State Liquor Authority and overseen by an executive director.

The office would be led by an executive director with wide authority over new regulations for the potential commercial retail industry for marijuana, including the number of licenses issued and oversight of pricing, including ceilings on retail markup.

At the same time, the budget includes provisions meant to spur minority, women-owned businesses and those in community impacted by drug laws in order to promote diversity in licensing.

That includes those from a “community group that has been disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition” as well as someone who was convicted of a marijuana-related offense in the past.

In his budget address on Tuesday, Cuomo said the program would “create an industry that empowers the poor communities that pay the price and not the rich corporations who come in to make a profit.”

And the new agency would be tasked with how marijuana at the retail level is marketed, including restrictions on advertisements similar to alcohol sales. Marijuana ads would not be allowed on TV, radio or digital programming that has an audience predominantly under the wage of 21.

The state projects the retail marijuana industry will result in $300 million in revenue from a three-tiered tax structure.

Siena Poll: Trump Numbers Sink, Most Voters See Negative Race Relations In NY

From the Morning Memo:

Nearly half of voters in New York have a favorable view of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Siena College poll released Friday morning found.

Gillibrand launched her presidential bid this week, is viewed less favorably among fellow Democrats than two other prominent statewide elected officials, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen Chuck Schumer.

Sixty-one percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Gillibrand, with 68 percent having a favorable view of the governor. Seventy-four percent see Schumer favorably.

Overall, Gillibrand has a 48 percent to 31 percent favorable rating, the poll found. She was handily re-elected in November, her third victory statewide.

President Donald Trump remains deeply unpopular in New York, with 64 percent viewing him unfavorably, his worst showing since April.

Most New Yorkers believe race relations are either fair or poor as Martin Luther King Day approaches.

The poll found five percent view race relations in New York as excellent, 30 percent view them as good. But 43 percent view them as fair, while 19 percent see race relations as poor.

It’s a decline from the previous year’s survey from Siena’s polling institute, when 39 percent viewed race relations positively and 58 percent negatively.

Seventy percent of New Yorkers say sexual harassment is a significant or very significant problem in the workplace, down slightly from the previous year. Forty-five percent of women surveyed say they have been sexually harassed in the workplace.

“More than two-thirds of New Yorkers continue to believe that racial and ethnic minorities in the state experience discrimination because of their race or ethnicity,” said Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said.

“Eighty-three percent of blacks, 65 percent of Latinos and 64 percent of whites say that minorities face discrimination. The only demographic group that disagrees and thinks minorities do not experience discrimination is conservatives by a 49-43 percent margin.”

The poll of 805 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

Crosstabs can be found here.

Cuomo Admin Says Early Voting Will Be Paid For

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in a statement Thursday sought to allay concerns local governments would not have the funding to pay for the cost of early voting, pointing to a provision that would collect sales taxes on internet purchases from out-of-state retailers and the plan to consolidate the state and federal primaries into one day.

The primary consolidation is expected to save $25 million, while the sales tax enforcement would take in an additional $390 million.

County governments are charged with running elections through local boards of election. Local government advocates have raised concerns with the early voting bill not being coupled with a funding in the governor’s budget proposal for the measure.

“While the federal government works to disenfranchise voters, in New York we are committed to making voting easier and ensuring every New Yorker has an opportunity to exercise this sacred democratic right to make their voices heard,” said Dani Lever, the governor’s communications director. “”This year, Governor Cuomo proposed a comprehensive set of reforms to improve our democracy, including making Election Day a State holiday, synchronizing federal and state elections, and enacting voting by mail, same day and auto registration, and early voting.

“The Budget more than covers the cost of early voting by merging state and federal primaries to save counties $25 million and eliminating the internet tax advantage to ensure collection of sales taxes, delivering $390 million to local governments.”

State lawmakers last week approved the early voting legislation, which has been sent to Cuomo’s desk for his signature.

State To Assist Furloughed Federal Workers

New York officials are moving to provide support for the federal government workers who have been furloughed or have missed paychecks due to the ongoing and record-long shutdown in Washington.

“It is unconscionable that the President is holding hostage the wages and livelihoods of hard-working Americans in an attempt to advance his hateful and regressive political agenda,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

“While the federal administration steps on the backs of workers, New York State is stepping up to help in any way we can. These measures will ensure furloughed federal workers in New York receive prompt and special one-on-one services so they can obtain the vital safety-net benefits they need during this hard time.”

Federal workers will receive back pay once the government re-opens. But until then, workers have missed at least one paycheck due to the shutdown. Some workers, like airport security workers, are at work without pay.

The Department of Labor has been called on to speed up the application process for unemployment insurance and extend the hours of its call center. At the same time, Cuomo called on the department to coordinate with federal public workers unions to make members aware of the benefits that are available.

Some workers on furlough or working without pay may be eligible for emergency assistance in order to meet basic needs through the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Cuomo Wants A Tax Return Disclosure Law For Candidates

Candidates for statewide office and the Legislature should disclose up to a decade’s worth of tax returns in order to qualify for the ballot, according to a provision in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Candidates for statewide offices — governor, attorney general and comptroller among them — would have to disclose 10 years of state and federal tax returns.

Those running for state Senate or Assembly would have to disclose 5 years of returns.

The provision cannot apply to candidates for federal office, such as president, Senate or the House of Representatives.

“While this federal administration seems intent on operating in secrecy and darkness, New York State is working to provide the public with more information to better inform their choice at the ballot box,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Mandating that this critical information be made public will shed sunlight and sunshine on potential conflicts of interest and increase the ethical standards of public officials serving New Yorkers.”

Typically statewide officials, including Cuomo, disclose their tax returns every April by making copies of them available to the press, as part of a long-standing custom dating back to the post-Watergate era.

During the 2018 re-election campaign, Cuomo pushed his Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon and later his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro to release 10 years’ worth of tax returns.

Ultimately, Nixon released one year five years of tax returns; Molinaro released one year.

Child Victims Act Supporters Step Up Efforts

Supporters of bill that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits are ramping up their push in the new legislative session to see the measure approved in the coming weeks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week released a budget proposal that included the provision, including a one-year look back provision advocates have sought.

“The Child Victims Act is a no brainer,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “This legislation will not only give survivors an opportunity to seek justice, but it will also protect our communities. 2019 is the year we stop valuing money over of survivors of child sexual abuse.”

Apple, along with survivors and victims of abuse, held a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday morning to back the measure.

“#KidsToo – every 8 minutes a child is sexually abused. Our current NY legislators and Governor are the allies our children need. I look forward to extending the restrictive statute of limitations and allowing all NY survivors an opportunity to hold abusers and any aiding institutions accountable. Now is the time to address #KidsToo,” said Bridie Farrell, CEO of NY Loves Kids and survivor of child sexual abuse.”

Meanwhile, another advocate for the bill, Greene County businessman Gary Greenberg called for the measure’s passage within the next 30 days — leaving the measure outside of the budget.

“Survivors around the state have spoken clearly: We must pass the Child Victims Act in the first 30 days of the legislative session,” he said. “Over a thousand kids are abused in this state every week, that has gone on long enough.”

Greenberg released a Facebook ad calling for the bill’s passage.

Cuomo Says He’s A ‘Fan’ Of Gillibrand

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview Thursday said he is a “fan” of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, insisting he was not endorsing any of the Democrats running or potentially running for the presidential nomination.

Cuomo had previously called former Vice President Joe Biden the Democrat with the most “credibility” and presents the “best case” among the field of potential candidates to run against President Donald Trump.

“My two cents, I think of all the names that are out there, I think Joe Biden has the best base,” Cuomo said in an interview on WAMC radio in Albany earlier this month. “I think Joe Biden brings most of the secret ingredient you need for a Democrat to win, which is credibility.”

Gillibrand, who worked for Cuomo as a top attorney at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, filed an exploratory committee this week.

“We’re personal friends for more years than I care to remember. I also know Joe Biden and what I said about him I believe,” Cuomo said in an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer this morning. “There will be more people getting in the race, so it’s way to early to talk about who’s in, who’s out and preferences.”

Cuomo said his comments about Biden, whom he has had a long-standing relationship with, are “not mutually inconsistent” with Gillibrand’s candidacy.

“I haven’t endorsed anyone. What I said about Joe Biden was not an endorsement,” Cuomo said. “It was a statement of fact. Let’s see who gets into the race.”

Cuomo Explains Opt-Out Clause For Marijuana Sales

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday defended the proposal that would allow local governments to opt out of the law allowing for adult-use marijuana sales in New York, calling the issue a still-controversial matter in some parts of New York.

“This is a controversial area,” Cuomo told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer this morning. “Some people think it’s a no-brainer, so to speak. Some communities have real concerns and my opinion is democracy still exists, especially on an issue like this where people still have differences of opinion.”

The opt out clause would allow both large cities and counties to vote on whether to allow the program.

“They would affirmatively have to vote to opt out,” Cuomo said. “The main question is whether they would have to opt in or opt out.”

He predicted that “New York City is going to opt in.”

Not everyone is pleased with the opt-out clause. Sen. Julia Salazar called the provision “unacceptable.”

“New Yorkers have been enormously harmed by criminalization,” she wrote on Twitter. “Alleviating that harm must be our top priority.”

Cuomo’s proposal would decriminalize marijuana everywhere, but the opt out would prevent retail sales in the areas that choose to do so.

Marijuana purchases would be limited to those age 21 and older. Lawmakers and Cuomo are also likely to move toward some form of criminal justice law changes related marijuana convictions.