Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Launches Nationwide Push Against SALT Cap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced he would launch a national campaign to repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

The announcement follows a meeting Cuomo had on Tuesday with President Donald Trump about the issue.

“The disgraceful federal tax assault stole from 12 Democratic states to give to Republican states, and it was a gross injustice,” Cuomo said. “This is about money, plain and simple. As Governor of New York, I’m going to rally the other Governors and the other states to say it was a theft and to restore economic equity and fairness.”

Cuomo has blamed the cap on a $2.3 billion shortfall in tax revenue at the end of last year and start of the new year.

New York isn’t the only state that is impacted by the cap. Other high tax states, including Connecticut, California and New Jersey have been affected.

David Touts ‘Integrated’ Approach To Cannabis Management

The top counsel in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday pointed to the proposal that would combine the regulation of medical and commercial cannabis, as well as industrialized hemp.

The proposal is part of Cuomo’s plan for the creation of the State Office of Cannabis Management, which plans to regulate the retail aspect of the plan much in the same way alcohol is in New York.

“With this legislation, we have the opportunity to establish a strong framework that addresses the significant social justice, economic justice, public safety, and public health concerns that confront us today – concerns that will only increase in scope and complexity with the expansion of the illicit in-state market and legal markets in neighboring jurisdictions,” David told lawmakers at a hearing on the issue on Wednesday. “Taking no action and maintaining the status quo is simply no longer sustainable.”

At the same time, the law is meant to spur economic opportunities for communities impacted by prior drug laws, David said.

“The Office will accomplish these goals within a robust social justice and economic justice framework, ensuring the broadest possible inclusion in all aspects of this new industry,” he said. “In fact, the proposal requires that the Office administer a comprehensive social equity program to guarantee that disadvantaged communities have opportunities to participate.”

The effort to legalize cannabis for retail and commercial sale is also likely to be one of the more complicated criminal justice law reforms as well. Lawmakers are likely to call for the expunging of records for low-level drug offenses as paired with any plan for legalization.

David, questioned by lawmakers, said the legislation could also lead to the sealing of criminal records and allow some low-level cases to be re-heard.

State Senate Plans Transit Hearings

The Democratic-led state Senate on Wednesday announced plans to hold five public hearings on mass transit issues facing New York statewide.

The first hearing will take place next Tuesday in Manhattan, presumably focusing on the troubles facing the New York City subway system.

The rest will be held in the Hudson Valley, Buffalo, Syracuse and on Long Island. No dates have been given for those just yet.

The hearings will focus on the management of the MTA, issues facing ridership and upstate funding.

“Improving New York’s outdated and crumbling transit systems is a crucial challenge that we must meet,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “These hearings will ensure that New Yorkers throughout the state will be able to share their priorities and discuss these important issues directly with their elected leaders. I commend Senators Kennedy and Comrie for organizing these hearings and working with their Senate Majority colleagues to improve our state’s infrastructure, MTA, LIRR, Metro-North, Bee-Line Bus, Metro Rail, NFTA, CDTA, RTS, Centro, CEATS, C Tran, and other mass transit systems.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year is pushing a plan for congestion pricing in order to bolster the MTA’s funding as well as an overall of the authority’s structure.

Economic Development Reform In The Age Of Amazon

From the Morning Memo:

The plan to bring up to 40,000 Amazon jobs to Queens, tied to $3 billion in tax incentives, remains one of the largest potential economic development deals in the state’s history.

And while voters in a Siena College poll broadly support the proposal for Long Island City, the plan has stoked controversy for organized labor unions, local elected officials and others who are concerned with the size of the incentive package, the power of large corporations and the economic development race fueled between states.

The project also comes after economic development spending has been in the spotlight in state government due to bid rigging scandals in the Buffalo Billion, a signature economic development program for western New York.

Good-government groups once again on Tuesday called for a series of reforms, including a database of contracting deals for state programs and make permanent the comptroller’s authority to review and pre-audit state contracts. Both are provisions Gov. Andrew Cuomo has backed.

“Before the legislature appropriates a dollar for economic development, it needs to answer three questions: First, does the legislature and public know how economic development funds are being spent?” Alex Camarda of the group Reinvent Albany told lawmakers in testimony on Tuesday. “Second, do we know whether they are being awarded fairly and cleanly? Third, is the public getting a good return on their economic development investments? Unfortunately, at the moment, the answers to these questions is ‘no, no and no.'”

The group is also calling for public hearings on development efforts as well as clarifications for the state’s Freedom of Information Law so that it covers all economic development agencies. That provision was included in the budget resolutions of both the state Senate and Assembly.

Trump Brings Up Fracking, Abortion In Cuomo Meeting (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday traveled to the White House to call for a repeal of the cap on the state and local tax deductions.

What he got back from President Donald Trump was a conversation veering into issues like abortion and the state’s administrative ban on hydrofracking, according to a White House readout of the meeting.

Cuomo and Trump discussed the 2017 tax law that led to the cap provision, which the governor has blamed on a $2.3 billion tax revenue shortfall.

They also discussed infrastructure issues — a concern both men have expressed an interest in.

“The President discussed economic growth opportunities for the State of New York, including helping lower energy prices throughout the entire Northeast by allowing low-cost, American energy to thrive with fracking and pipeline systems,” the White House said. “The two also discussed the need to update America’s outdated infrastructure system. And, the President raised his concerns to Governor Cuomo about Democrats’ support of late term abortions.”

Trump in his State of the Union criticized New York lawmakers over the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure that was meant to strengthen the state’s abortion law, leading to a rebuke by Cuomo in a New York Times op/ed.

Trump had previously ridiculed Cuomo over the fracking issue when he appeared at a fundraiser for Rep. Claudia Tenney last year in Utica.

Updated: Cuomo in an interview on WCBS 880 later in the evening said the president, along with economic advisor Larry Kudlow, indicated some reforms would be necessary to the tax law that could be up for further discussion. But he did not extract any promises on repealing the SALT cap.

“The president understands you hurt New York, you hurt California, you hurt the economic engine of the nation,” Cuomo said.

He added that Trump doesn’t want to pay for the Gateway Tunnel, an infrastructure project that’s been a top priority for the governor.

“There are some things that are just — I know we live in political times — but this is a train tunnel and it’s 100 years old and its collapsing,” Cuomo said. “Can’t we get past the politics?”

Biaggi: Sexual Harassment Hearing Just The Beginning

Lawmakers on Wednesday in Albany will hold the first-of-its-kind hearing on sexual harassment in state government, featuring testimony from former workers who have been harassed, assaulted and abused.

The hearing is likely just step one, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi said on Tuesday, saying there’s a possibility for more hearings as lawmakers craft new policies and bills to respond.

“It’s going to take more than one hearing or more than one day and that’s OK,” she said. “I think we have to ready for that. I think we also have to be OK with being uncomfortable because this an uncomfortable topic to talk about and it’s going to make a lot of people feel uncomfortable and that’s OK.”

So far, about 30 witnesses are expected to testify at the hearing, though the weather could prevent some people from attending. Witnesses will have 10 minutes to testify, not including follow-ups from lawmakers.

In addition to survivors and victims, expert testimony will be given from attorneys and others.

Among the changes Biaggi wants to explore is unifying sexual harassment reporting in the Legislature.

“There’s overlap and we’re just one body,” she said. “Right now, it’s very unclear.”

The hearing is being held in large part due to efforts by the Sexual Harassment Working Group, a panel of former aides who had worked for the Legislature and are victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

“The goal of the hearing tomorrow, which is incredibly important to highlight, is not have a trial, but to hold a hearing and to make sure we are informed as a Legislature how we can update our policies as well as our statutes,” Biaggi said.

Delgado Signs Onto Bill Repealing SALT Cap

Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado on Tuesday announced he is signing onto a bill that would repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes.

The announcement came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to the New York House delegation on the issue last month and traveled today to meet with President Donald Trump about it at the White House.

“The 2017 tax law irresponsibly added more than a trillion dollars to the deficit while creating double taxation for middle- and working-class families in Upstate New York,” Delgado said. “Repealing the SALT cap is the right thing to do, and I’m glad to add my name to this bipartisan bill.”

Cuomo has blamed the cap for a $2.3 billion shortfall in tax revenue. He’s urged a repeal of the provision, which was part of the 2017 tax law.

Delgado last year defeated Rep. John Faso last year.

Cuomo Says His Rent Control Plan Is ‘Very Aggressive’

As lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the coming weeks will negotiate in earnest the extension of rent control regulations for New York City, the governor in a radio interview on Tuesday insisted his platform is aggressively pro-tenant.

“I am very aggressive on rent reform, ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, building and apartment improvement charges,” he said in an interview with WNYC, adding the benefit for improvements should be in the form an annuity.

He also insisted the process on his part would not be influenced by the real estate donors who have contributed to his campaign.

“People have character and you either have character or not. Newspaper reporters have advertisers in the newspaper. Well, maybe those reporters are influenced by their advertisers or maybe they have character. If you can be influenced by donations, and when you’re in my situation, you have donations from almost every industry,” Cuomo said.

Rent control regulations are due to expire at the end of June. The industry may be bracing for major changes given the Democratic-control of the state Senate and Assembly this year.

“Real estate is concerned about the state because it’s the one industry that can’t move,” Cuomo said.

“They tend to be concerned about the trajectory of the state. If you have the integrity where you can be bought off, then you can be bought off. The only question is you shouldn’t be in politics. If you take it to an extreme, then you should be behind bars.”

Amazon Supporters Cheer Siena Poll

Supporters of Amazon’s plan to bring up to 40,000 jobs to Queens tied to $3 billion in tax credits cheered a poll released Tuesday by Siena College finding statewide support for the plan.

“Queens and Amazon are a perfect match,” said Thomas Grech, the president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Our diverse talent pool, entrepreneurial spirit, thriving arts scene and boundless energy will help Amazon continue to grow and thrive, and Amazon’s presence in our borough will create jobs for local residents, catalyze economic activity, support small businesses in our community, as well as generate tax revenue.”

The poll found a broad cross-section of voters back the deal, 56 percent to 32 percent. Among New York City voters, support for the plan stood at 58 percent to 35 percent. In suburban communities, voters there backed the deal 66 percent to 25 percent.

Opponents, meanwhile, questioned the survey’s accuracy.

In a joint statement, Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York; Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, and Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, said the poll failed to capture discontent with the proposal.

“Sienna (sic) spent zero time on the ground in communities where we regularly hear New Yorkers express concerns about Amazon’s anti-worker record, close ties to ICE, and negative impact on Seattle,” they said. “The sample set for their latest poll was heavily skewed toward wealthier and whiter New Yorkers earning $100,000 a year or more. It completely overlooks the intense opposition to Amazon among immigrant New Yorkers who are nonvoters and non-registered voters, and live in places like Queens.”

Cuomo Says He’ll Support Any New Anti-Sexual Harassment Measures

Any bill meant to strengthen the state’s anti-sexual harassment will be backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he said in a radio interview on WNYC Tuesday morning.

“I think we should lead on all of these issues and set the bar and set the standard,” Cuomo said on The Brian Lehrer Show. “So, whatever they come up with as rigorous as it can be, I support it 100 percent.”

Lawmakers on Wednesday in Albany will hold a public hearing on the issue, featuring testimony from former legislative staffers who have accused powerful aides and lawmakers of harassment, abuse and assault while working in state government.

The hearing is coming about largely due to the efforts of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, a panel of former aides who have led the push over the last several months.

The group on Tuesday in New York City held a news conference with Cynthia Nixon, the actress and advocate who challenged Cuomo in a Democratic primary last year, as well as former attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout.

“Of course I’m going to pay close attention,” Cuomo said of the hearing. “I’m going to sign any bill they can pass.”

Cuomo less sure if the state could do anything to prevent those who have faced accusations from lobbying or influencing policy once out of office. Former Sen. Jeff Klein, now working for Mercury Public Affairs, was accused last year of forcibly kissing a then-aide, Erica Vladimer.

Klein lost his Democratic primary last year to Alessandra Biaggi.

“Can you say because a person was convicted of sexual harassment they cannot be a registered lobbyist? I don’t know that that is constitutional,” Cuomo said.