Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Calls Diaz Comments ‘Outrageous’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the comments made last week on a radio show by Democratic New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr. that the gay community controls the New York City Council “outrageous” and justifies a punishment from Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

Diaz, an outspoken social conservative, said in a Spanish-language radio show the Council is “controlled by the homosexual community.” The comments sparked an outcry and he’s refused to back down.

“What’s homophobic about saying that the gay community controls the NYC City Council? I’m giving them credit for the power and influence they have,” he wrote on Twitter.

Cuomo, speaking at a news conference at the Capitol, called on Diaz to apologize. He stopped start of backing Diaz’s resignation, but said any sanction meted out by Johnson would be appropriate.

“I think there’s no place for that kind of rhetoric, especially in this state, especially at this time, especially what we represent,” Cuomo said. “I think it’s disrespectful and in very poor taste.”

#VOTERPROCHOICE Endorses Mark-Viverito For Public Advocate

The abortion and reproductive rights group #VOTERPROCHOICE on Monday endorsed former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the crowded race for New York City public advocate.

The group pointed to the tilt in the balance of the Supreme Court last year following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the court.

“Melissa Mark-Viverito is the prochoice champion we need as Public Advocate and #VOTEPROCHOICE is thrilled to endorse her today. With Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, the repeal of Roe is closer than ever — and we need prochoice champions on the local level to protect our reproductive freedom. As Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito made reproductive freedom a top priority, from supporting legislation to protect New Yorkers from fraudulent anti-abortion pregnancy service centers to creating a new sexual education task force, to advocating for free birth control for New York City residents,” said #VOTEPROCHOICE co-founder Heidi Sieck.

“As Public Advocate, Melissa Mark-Viverito will hold all city services and policies accountable as related to sexuality, health and wellbeing through the office’s oversight responsibilities and through her ability to introduce legislation. Reproductive freedom is a part of nearly every service and impacts every single New Yorker. We must have a Public Advocate who understands that and Melissa Mark-Viverito truly does.”

Mark-Viverito is one of 17 candidates who will appear on the Feb. 20 for the office vacated by Attorney General Letitia James.

“I am proud to have the support of #VOTEPROCHOICE. I have always championed reproductive rights, from supporting legislation to protect women from fraudulent anti-abortion pregnancy service centers to advocating for free birth control for New Yorkers to creating a sexual education task force,” she said.

“Our reproductive freedom is under attack by Trump and his administration, and we need leaders with unwavering support for our rights in local office. As Public Advocate, I will continue to stand with women and fight for reproductive freedom for all.”

Flanagan: Don’t Cut AIM Funding

Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan in a statement Monday said he was oppposed to the proposed cut in direct funding to local governments as outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget plan.

The cuts affect local governments that do not overly rely on AIM funding as a significant source of revenue.

But mayors, in Albany today for the local government budget hearing, have watered the cuts could lead to increased taxes or cuts in services.

“Governor Cuomo likes to brag about controlling spending and bringing sanity to the state’s finances, but balancing the budget on the backs of hardworking local taxpayers isn’t really balancing the budget at all,” Flanagan said. “It’s a shell game played by politicians who would rather force others to make the difficult choices that they should be making.”

Adding to the anxiety for some local government officials has been the state’s cap on property tax increases. They want to see changes that would potentially make it easier to budget under; Cuomo has said he opposes any changes.

“This year’s state budget must restrain spending and protect taxpayers, enact the spending cap into law, and reverse the Governor’s harmful AIM cuts – allowing local governments to receive all of the aid they are entitled to and responsibly plan for the future,” Flanagan said.

Senate Democrats Stake Out ‘Responsible’ Economic Development

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats pushed back against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Friday assertion that they want to scuttle the deal to bring up to 40,000 Amazon jobs to Long Island City, insisting they want “responsible” economic development.

Cuomo on Friday said the state Senate, under the control of his own party for the first time in a decade, was trying to block the deal, a comment that came several days after a prominent critic of the deal, Sen. Mike Gianaris, was nominated to serve on a board that could have veto power over it.

The project includes up to $3 billion in tax incentives and other credits tied to the job creation that Cuomo says will generate $27 billion in returns for the state. Gianaris has said he’s not against the company, but wants to re-negotiate a better arrangement for taxpayers.

But Cuomo, who campaigned and donated to Senate Democrats in swing districts last year, said lawmakers run the risk of voters’ wrath if the deal were to fall through.

“Our state is facing a serious revenue shortfall that highlights the importance of a robust and diversified economy, which we need to support the many programs and services New Yorkers rely on,” said Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Long Island lawmaker who chairs the chamber’s Economic Development committee. “We can’t afford to say that New York is closed for business, or we risk a real erosion of our tax base, and an unacceptable burden being placed on local taxpayers.”

She added, “I approach every decision I make in my official capacity as Senator with the solemn understanding that I work for the people, and it is for that reason that I will continue to support responsible economic development efforts that support and enhance our communities across Long Island and New York State.”

In addition to the tax breaks, Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature have been uneasy with Amazon’s opposition to unionizing its workforce.

“I’m not against responsible development,” Sen. Jamaal Bailey wrote on Twitter. “I’m definitely not against jobs. Not even necessarily against @amazon. But New York is a union town- and we have to make sure we ensure good quality jobs come from any agreement that may happen.”

Cuomo Points To Rise In Marketplace Sign Ups Amid Single-Payer Push

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the weekend pointed to the rise in the number of people registering for health insurance through New York’s exchange marketplace as he seeks to bolster his case for codifying aspects of the federal Affordable Care Act into law.

In the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 31, 4.8 million people signed up for insurance through the exchange, a 10 percent increase from the previous year.

The higher number comes as the federal government has ended the mandate that Americans enroll in a health insurance plan or face a penalty.

“We have achieved unprecedented progress expanding access to care in spite of the Trump Administration’s attempts to sabotage health care and dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” Cuomo said.

“In the face of the continued threats from this federal government, we must enshrine the protections of the Affordable Care Act into State law to continue our historic progress whatever happens in Washington. That is why this year I advanced legislation to codify the health exchange into law, prohibit ‘junk’ limited policies, and ban insurers from imposing pre-existing condition limitations so that New Yorkers’ health care is protected.”

Cuomo’s cheering of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, comes as Democrats in the state Legislature have re-introduced legislation late last week that would create a single-payer health insurance program for New York.

Cuomo has said he’s supportive of a single payer plan on the federal level, virtually impossible with Republicans in power, but is skeptical of the cost on the state level.

The governor’s budget proposal does include the creation of a commission to review how to achieve universal health care in the state, which would include private insurers have a say in the process.

“Thanks in part to the success of our health exchange, 95 percent of New Yorkers now have health insurance, and we will continue to fight to expand access to quality care to more New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in the statement. “New York is the alternative to Trump’s America. We believe health care is a right, not a luxury, and while this federal government tries to take us backwards, New York is moving forward.”

Siena Poll: Approval Ratings Fall For Cuomo, Schumer And Legislature

The first month of the 2019 session has been an unusually productive one as the Democratic-led Legislature has approved measures strengthening legal protections for LGBT people, new gun control measures, laws that are meant to make it easier to vote and a bill strengthening abortion rights.

All have been cheered on by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But a Siena College poll released Monday morning found the governor’s favorability rating has dropped sharply to a negative 43 percent to 50 percent spread, a drop from 51 percent to 43 percent last month.

His job performance rating also fell, down to 35 percent to 64 percent, a decline from a 43 percent to 56 percent margin last month.

Taken together, the numbers are the lowest favorability rating and job performance for Cuomo since he’s been in office.

Cuomo is not alone: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s favorability rating also fell from 53 percent to 47 percent, the poll found.

And, even with the front-loaded successes for the new Democratic Legislature, the Senate and Assembly both have a 43 percent favorability rating as well.

The governor’s biggest drop was with New York City and suburban voters — two regions that make up a significant portion of his base.

Cuomo’s office disputed the accuracy of the poll.

“Siena doesn’t always get it right and, color us skeptical, but for the governor, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, the state Senate and the state Assembly to all have similar across the board slides leads us to believe this poll is an outlier and — much like the Siena poll three days before the November election — doesn’t reflect the sentiment of New Yorkers,” said Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi.

“We’ve had the most productive month in history that finally saw the passage of popular, long stalled legislation and we’re going to continue to move New York forward.”

Nevertheless, the poll found broad support for the measures lawmakers have approved in the last month. Sixty-nine percent believe the Child Victims Act, which makes it easer for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits, will be good for the state, while 61 percent back a measure adding new legal protections for transgender people.

Fifty-five percent believe new gun control laws approved will be good for New York.

Forty-seven percent said the Reproductive Health Act, a bill strengthening abortion rights in the state, is good for New York, with 32 percent disagreeing.

The RHA has drawn national attention, with President Donald Trump calling for a ban on third trimester abortions in his State of the Union address and those who oppose abortion hoping for a nationwide mobilizing on the issue in the 2020 election.

Trump’s favorability rating among New York voters is at 35 percent to 59 percent, up from a 32 percent to 64 percent margin in January.

New Yorkers are split on whether the state is on the right track, with 44 percent saying it is, 45 percent saying it is going in the wrong direction.

The poll of 778 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 4 through Feb. 7. It has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

More in the cross tabs here.

Gallivan Wants Amendment Ending Non-Fiscal Policy In The Budget

A constitutional amendment introduced Friday by Sen. Pat Gallivan would block a governor from introducing budgets that contain non-fiscal policy matters.

“For too many years, New York Governors have made a habit of inserting far-reaching policy initiatives into their budget proposals, bypassing the usual legislative process,” said Gallivan, a Republican from western New York.

“Such action prevents the Senate and Assembly from conducting a thorough review of these policies and limits the Legislature’s role of providing a system of ‘checks and balances’ on the Executive Branch. I do not believe this is what the framers of our Constitution had in mind.”

The use of inserting policy into the budget was a milestone achieve by the Silver v. Pataki lawsuit and ultimately giving the governor broad power and leverage over how the budget is shaped.

But unusually for this year, given the Democratic control of both the Senate and Assembly, the budget may wind up being a largely fiscal document as lawmakers have approved a range of bills in the early days of the new legislative session.

Republicans Push Back Against $3 Minimum Wage For Prison Inmates

Democratic state lawmakers earlier this week proposed lifting the minimum wage inmates in New York prisons earn from in some instances less than $1 to $3.

The move would put New York in line with several other states, but their Republican counterparts called the move “outrageous” and poorly timed, given the $2.3 billion shortfall due to flagging tax revenue.

“At a time when everyday New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet, when our direct care workers who provide care for the most vulnerable aren’t making a living wage, and towns and villages throughout the state are having critical funding stripped, to say this idea is misguided in an understatement,” said Sen. George Amedore, a Republican from the Capital Region.

“It’s time for the new Majority in the State Senate to get their priorities straight and address the real issues that are facing New Yorkers. I will continue to stand against these irresponsible policies and on the side of law-abiding, over-burdened taxpayers.”

Inmates in prison are required to work five days a week for six hours a day. In many instances, they perform janitorial work in the prison or manufacture goods.

But some Republicans likened the idea to previous proposals, such as providing inmates with college-level courses and computer tablets. Both ideas were meant to reduce recidivism among inmates once they are released.

“Individuals don’t end up in prison for first-time minor offenses. These are serious offenders and they should face harsh consequences for their transgressions,” Assemblyman Steve Hawley said. “The far left, realizing their message no longer appeals to middle-America, is now courting the votes of anyone who will listen, including criminals – this is the new New York.”

Cuomo Takes Gloves Off In Fight With Senate Democrats

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday blasted fellow Democrats who lead the state Senate, calling the opposition to Amazon’s project in Long Island City “absurd” and “political pandering” while also urging a collection of business leaders on Long Island to restore “sanity” to the chamber by opposing a tax increase on the rich.

At the same time, Cuomo suggested Democrats in the Senate writ large could face a political backlash from voters if the Amazon deal to bring up to 40,000 jobs tied to nearly $3 billion in tax incentives were to fall through.

The comments, taken together, amounted to declaration of open war between the governor and Democrats in the chamber who gained a working majority in a landslide election in November.

“For the state Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice,” Cuomo said. “If they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they’re going to have the people of New York to explain it to.”

The speech was the governor’s most forceful public response to date against the opposition to Amazon’s plan for converting office in Long Island City in Queens and the tax credit package that is being offered.

Senate Democrats earlier this week announced a prominent critic of the proposal, Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, would be nominated to the Public Authorities Control Board, which could have veto power over the deal. Gianaris has called for the proposal to be re-negotiated.

In addition to the tax incentives, lawmakers and elected officials in New York City have been discomfited by Amazon’s declaration it would oppose efforts to unionize its workforce.

The Washington Post reported just before Cuomo’s speech on Long Island that the online retail giant was reconsidering its New York plan, which is also being paired with a campus in Virginia.

In his remarks, Cuomo said blame for the deal falling through would be squarely on the shoulders on those who opposed the plan.

“If Amazon does not come to New York, it is because of the political opposition,” Cuomo said.

The labor groups that have opposed the deal, however, insisted it was the mishandling of the Amazon proposal in the first place.

“A major problem is the way the deal was put together shrouded in secrecy and ignoring what New Yorkers want and need,” said ,” Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “They arrogantly continue to refuse to meet with key stakeholders to address their concerns, despite requests from New York’s top elected officials to do so.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo also opened another line of attack against Democrats in the Senate: Taxing the rich.

Cuomo said Democrats there are backing an effort to increase tax rates on the rich as the current rates for the personal income tax expire at the end of the year. Cuomo has signaled he wants to keep the current rates as they stand.

The $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions has resulted in $2.3 billion less in tax revenue, Cuomo said, and higher taxes could lead to more wealthy people leaving the state. New York relies on a handful of very rich filers for 46 percent of its revenue.

“I think it is delusional to think you can just keep raising taxes on people,” Cuomo said, “and they’re going to stay there like a potted plant and not react.”

He added: “Today I’m telling you, bring sanity to the Senate.”

Democrats have not signaled they plan to raise taxes and last month approved a bill permanently extending the state’s cap on property taxes.

“Not sure where the Governor is getting his ‘fake news’ from but Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has made it clear we are not looking at raising taxes,” said Senate Democratic conference spokesman Mike Murphy.

“It is unfortunate that the Governor is trying to divide the Democratic Party at this crucial and historic time. The Senate Democratic Majority Conference and our partners in the Assembly finally returned New York as the progressive beacon to the rest of the country. In under a month, we have reformed our voting laws, protected our environment, passed common sense gun laws, ensured equal rights for women, and the LGTBQ community, gave justice to victims of sexual abuse, and stood up for our immigrants brothers and sisters.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi pointed to a bill introduced by Gianaris this week that would raise taxes on upper income earners in order to fund mass transit.

“The leader and the deputy leader should get on the same page. His tax was introduced three days ago.”

The Senate for the last decade has been a flash point for partisan warfare. For most of Cuomo’s tenure as governor, the Senate has been under the control of Republicans, who had joined into an alliance with a bloc of breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democrats Conference.

Liberals had long chaffed at the arrangement, charging the IDC-GOP alliance was tacitly endorsed by the governor and stalled long-sought progressive bills.

That changed last year when Democrats won a 16-seat majority in the 63-member conference. Cuomo himself campaigned for Democrats in key swing districts on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.

In the last month, Cuomo has cheered a flurry of bills to pass the Senate and Assembly that are meant to make it easier to vote, bolster abortion and LGBT rights as well as new gun control measures.

But the tension had remained between the governor and the Senate Democratic conference, which is led by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first black woman to lead a majority conference in Albany.

Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have been publicly aligned on key issues over the last month. Both have signaled their concerns with the Amazon plan.

James Backs Effort To Block Deportations

Attorney General Letitia James’s office on Friday joined in a friend-of-the-court brief opposing an effort that could lead to the deportation of hundreds of thousand of people who have temporary protected status.

The brief, filed as part of a coalition with 22 attorneys general, called on the Ninth Circuit Court to uphold an injunction that plaintiffs successfully received in the lower federal idstrict court that blocked the Department of Homeland Security from rescinding the designation for Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

“Immigrant New Yorkers are critical to the economic and cultural strength of our state,” James said. “The Trump Administration continues to take away the vital protections for these communities, and as a result, is putting their safety and wellbeing at risk. My office will continue to use every resource at our disposal to protect New York’s vast immigrant communities.”

Temporary protected status is a designation for refugees who have fled home countries engulfed in either armed conflict, a natural disaster or emergency crisis.