Brian Kolb

Assembly GOP Proposes Medicaid Reform

Assembly Republicans unveiled legislation Monday to restructure New York’s Medicaid program. The bill would require the state assume the full local share of Medicaid, everywhere but New York City.

The change would be phased in over a decade to “allow the state time to make structural changes that do not reduce services to the overall cost of the program.” Over a 20 year period, the state would take on half of New York City’s costs as well.

“Simply put, we can no longer sit idly by and watch New York take ownership of another ‘Worst Of’ label,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said. “Continuing to force localities to pay massive Medicaid costs leads to higher property taxes and punishes taxpayers, homeowners and businesses alike. We must change how New York does business when it comes to managing sky-high Medicaid enrollee costs.”

The New York State Association of Counties has long prioritized Medicaid mandate relief. It said the 57 counties and New York City pay $7.5 billion annually and it accounts for the vast majority of county tax levies.

The Minority proposal would mandate the savings be passed on directly to the taxpayer.

“In Monroe County, our 2018 Medicaid payment to Albany will total $175 million. If we were empowered to pass those savings on to taxpayers, we would be able to cut our property tax rate nearly in half,” Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said.

GOP Gubernatorial front-runner Marc Molinaro, who Kolb endorsed Monday, also expressed his support for the plan. He said in Dutchess County, where he currently serves as county executive, the mandate accounts for 70 percent of the tax levy.

“Minority Leader Kolb’s proposal will lift a major burden off the backs of state property taxpayers, providing much-needed tax relief that will benefit New Yorkers and boost our state economy,” he said.

Last year, congressmen Chris Collins and John Faso proposed an amendment to the Republican healthcare legislation which would have required New York to take on the local Medicaid burden. The legislation, which ultimately failed, did spur criticism from the governor’s office.

LG Slams Trump For ‘Upper New York’ Comment

From the Morning Memo:

LG Kathy Hochul joined the chorus upstate New York leaders criticizing the president for his comments in the Wall Street Journal this week about “upper New York state,” in which he suggested workers looking for better jobs pull up stakes – mortgages be damned – and relocate elsewhere.

“It’s frankly appalling to hear that from the leader of our country, undermining all the work that Governor (Andrew) Cuomo has done since her took office in 2011 and that I have been working on as lieutenant governor as an Upstater myself,” Hochul said.

“It’s unbelievable to think that someone doesn’t recognize the progress we have made, and indeed tells people to abandon the state we all love to leave it and leave your homes.”

Hochul came close here to breaking with the governor’s long-standing tradition of avoiding criticizing the president himself, instead railing against “ultra-consevative” Washington or the Trump “administration.” She still didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, though, preferring the more general “leader of our country.”

The backlash to the comment was swift and bipartisan. Republican House members like John Katko and Claudia Tenney also said the president was wrong, though Tenney, a longtime Trump supporter, did say she hoped the president’s remarks were taken out of context.

But state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb bucked the trend during an interview on Capital Tonight last evening, saying he doesn’t believe Trump really wants upstaters to move outside New York.

“He just wants them to have good-paying jobs, and I think that’s what happens in discourse sometimes is, what’s the real point here about public policy, and I think that’s really what needs to be talked about,” Kolb said.

“I don’t worry about what President Trump is saying. I worry more about what were doing in New York state to really create an economic future for my kids, grandchildren and all the other families throughout this state and I think that’s really an important dialogue to have.”

Kolb was pressed about whether the president should be doing more to bring manufacturing jobs to NY, rather than criticizing a broad swath of his home state, (and not for the first time). Trump’s comments previewed an announcement that Foxconn would build a new $10 billion plant in Wisconsin – a project for which the Mohawk Valley was also reportedly in the running.

“I think that we should control our own destiny and not look for Washington to do bailouts or leading New York state out of the abyss that it’s in in the Upstate economy,” Kolb replied.

The minority leader said Trump was not incorrect in insinuating upstate continues to struggle, and he sought to shift the focus – not to mention the blame – on the Democratic governor, whom Republicans say isn’t doing enough to stem the outflow of jobs and people from the region.

Kolb: What About Paying For The Bridge?

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb on Friday in an email assessing the conclusion of the regular and extraordinary session of the Legislature criticized the successful push to re-name the Tappan Zee Bridge after Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Kolb in particular is taking issue the push for a bridge naming when a fully formed plan for paying for the bridge’s replacement is yet to be spelled out.

“There is something inherently wrong when the governor has yet to provide a spending plan for the $4 billion construction of the new bridge, but he is allowed to advance emergency legislation to rename it after his father,” Kolb said. “It is the most glaring example of Albany’s personal politics being placed far ahead of the people’s priorities.”

The provision was tucked into a broad bill that, among other things, extend mayoral control of New York City schools for two years and re-authorized sales tax measures for county governments.

The bill also re-named a park in honor of Assemblyman Denny Farrell and a stretch of highway after Sen. Bill Larkin.

Kolb Re-Elected Assembly Republican Leader

Republican Brian Kolb on Tuesday was unanimously re-elected the GOP conference leader in the state Assembly.

Kolb, a lawmaker from Canandaigua, was first elected to the chamber in 2000 and has held the minority leader post in 2009.

He’ll be formally elected minority leader in the chamber when the Legislature returns to Albany for the 2017 legislative session. Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, is expected to retain his post.

“It is an honor to be re-elected by my colleagues as Leader of the Assembly Minority Conference. I am proud to have the support and confidence of my colleagues. Their faith and confidence in me is truly humbling,” Kolb said in a statement.

“In only a few weeks, we will be back in Albany to carry out the people’s work. I am thrilled to report that once again all of our incumbents are returning, and we will welcome seven new members to our Conference. I look forward to working alongside these dedicated men and women throughout this legislative session and for years to come.”

Kolb: Say No To The $15 Minimum Wage Increase

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb called for alternatives to an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15, saying such a hike would have a detrimental impact on jobs and the economy.

“If we really want to help low-income New Yorkers, we need alternatives that do not decimate job creators and send businesses to other states,” Leader Kolb said. “It defies logic to impose another crushing mandate on small businesses, non-profits, school districts and health care providers already struggling to stay afloat in an abysmal tax and economic climate. A drastic and unwarranted minimum wage hike will do more harm than good to low-income earners, who may find themselves out of a job.”

Kolb’s push back to the minimum wage increase comes a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo rallied with labor union leaders in Albany outside of the Capitol for the wage boost.

Assembly Democrats included the wage increase in their one-house budget measure. Senate Republicans have not ruled out a wage increase at some point this session, but are calling for a broad-based study on the impact of a hike to $15.

The current minimum wage is $9, having increased on Jan. 1 based on a 2013 agreement.

Kolb’s opposition to the wage increase includes support for alternatives, such a increasing access to training and education for low-wage workers — a move business groups that oppose the increase applauded.

“We are proud to stand here today with the Assembly Minority and our colleagues in the business and employer community to once again reiterate our objections to the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage,” said Kenneth J. Pokalsky, Vice President of The Business Council of New York State.

“As the analysis referenced here today states, the proposed increase would most negatively impact the very people advocates claim to be trying to help. The Assembly Minority and Leader Kolb are right to be supporting an expansion of the EITC, which is widely seen as an effective and efficient policy for supporting low-income working families.”

Kolb: Progress, Not Change In Silver-to-Heastie Switch

The change in leadership in the Assembly following Sheldon Silver’s ouster due to a federal corruption scandal hasn’t resulted in significant change, according to the chamber’s leading Republican.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said during an interview on AM970’s “Effective Radio with Bill Samuels” this weekend that the “only difference” between Silver and his successor, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, is that Heastie “is paying more attention to his rank-and-file membership.”

Kolb noted that it was unrest among the rank-and-file that led to a failed coup attempt on Silver by former Syracuse-area Assemblyman Michael Bragman in 2000 – the same year Heastie was elected to represent his Bronx district in Albany.

“I think what Carl is saying (is), ‘I’m going to be more attentive to my members so they’ll be happier so I won’t have any insurrections internally,” Kolb told Samuels. “And that’s what he’s doing differently than Shelly.”

During this past session, Heastie, who took over for Silver in early February, made a big effort to listen to and empower his Democratic conference members – even when that meant drawing out negotiations with the governor and the Senate.

The new speaker pledged to change the way the chamber does business to give more clout to rank-and-file members, and he appointed a 12-member working group in April to address the issue.

But Kolb and his fellow Republicans have been largely disappointed by the ongoing lack of parity they have experienced in the chamber under Heastie, though the minority leader did admit the speaker this year allocated capital infrastructure cash to his GOP conference – something Silver “never did.”

The Republicans got $4.4 million to split, Kolb said, while some members – including Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, a Rochester Democrat who battled Heastie for the speakership – received many times more than that for just a single project.

“That’s not change, that’s progress,” Kolb said. “That’s not even fair, and that happens with both majorities in both houses.”

“And that’s sort of where the financial abuse is – not that we shouldn’t have discretionary money to help our districts – but it should be out in the open,” the minority leader continued. “There should be parity, so that no one is getting a political advantage – Republican or Democrat.”

Kolb: ‘Malarkey’ Cuomo Doesn’t Invite Leaders

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb isn’t buying claims that Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t control who attends legislative budget meetings in his office.

“I think that’s a lot of malarkey,” Kolb said on Thursday.

Cuomo’s first closed-door budget meeting of the season included Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who is no longer the co-president of the chamber after Republicans gained a full majority in the Senate last year.

“It’s up to the Legislature who they want to invite, how they want to conduct the process,” Cuomo said.

Klein’s inclusion in yesterday’s leaders’ meeting was the product of a conversation with Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Cuomo said.

But having Klein in the room is an opening for both minority leaders in the Assembly and Senate, they say, to have them included as well.

“Andrea Stewart-Cousins and myself should absolutely be in the room,” Kolb said.

He noted that the mainline Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans have more votes — and actual constituents — than the IDC.

“All due respect to Jeff Klein, he’s got five members,” Kolb said. “I think we all have information to share, we have great ideas. Our conference is known for great ideas and solutions.”

The Moreland Connection

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb today questioned whether there was “some connection” between the governor’s decision to shutter his corruption-busting Moreland Commission and the fact that the body might have uncovered wrongdoing by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was indicted earlier today on corruption charges.

Kolb said Gov. Andrew Cuomo “should make a statment” about the Silver mess and whether the Manhattan Democrat should continue on as speaker. Kolb and a number of his fellow Republicans are calling for Silver to relinquish his leadership post, arguing that it would be too much of a distraction from important legislative business for someone so damaged to continue to lead the chamber.

“He has said in the past it’s up to the members, the Assembly Democrats, the internal process, but Governor Cuomo is the leader of the party,” Kolb said. “And it goes back to why was the Moreland Commission cancelled? Is there some connection? Was this percolating back then? Those are a lot of questions I think the governor has to answer.”

According to the criminal complaint against Silver, a grand jury started probing his outside business interests in June 2013. Cuomo convened the Moreland Commission in July 2013, and it released its preliminary report in December of that year. Cuomo disbanded the commission in March after striking an ethics reform deal with legislative leaders.

Us Attorney Preet Bharara’s office picked up where the Moreland Commission left off, and Bharara was quite critical of the governor for shutting the panel down before its work was complete. He also reportedly has been looking into whether Cuomo meddled with the commission, as was widely reported, and tried to micromanage it and steer its attention toward the Legislature and away from anything to do with his own fundraising or influence.

Cuomo, meanwhile, argued he couldn’t possibly have broken any rules by interfering with the commission because he created it in the first place.

Kolb isn’t the only one to be invoking Moreland following this morning’s bombshell about Silver’s arrest. Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner, issued the following statement:

“The arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver by federal authorities for undisclosed income further reveals the crucial role the Moreland Commission played in bringing corruption in New York State government to light. This sad development underscores, yet again, the sorry state of ethics enforcement in New York.”

“These circumstances make it particularly egregious that the statutorily mandated Review Commission which was supposed to have been appointed by the Governor and legislative leaders to review and evaluate the performance of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Legislative Ethics Commission was never named”

“Common Cause/NY supports requiring New York’s Legislature to work full-time for New Yorkers along with strict limits on outside income. In the meantime, New York State needs stricter disclosure laws requiring elected officials to fully open their books to public scrutiny and a wholesale overhaul of ethics laws and enforcement. New Yorkers deserve a Legislature that does not function under a persistent and permanent ethical cloud. Common Cause/New York urges the U.S. Attorney and Speaker Silver to do everything possible to facilitate an early trial to resolve these troubling charges.

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Republicans Pile On Silver (Updated)

As expected, Republicans are – rather gleefully, it must be said – piling on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the wake of his arrest on corruption charges this morning, saying he must relinquish his leadership post for the good of the chamber, his constituents and the entire state of New York.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who remained fairly quiet when other Republicans were calling for Silver’s head during the sexual harassment scandal involving former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, now says it’s “imperative” that the speaker step down “immediately,” adding:

“His resignation as Speaker is in the best interest of the Assembly, of the State, and the best way for us to conduct the business that we are elected to do. We cannot afford this distraction with the important business before the Assembly and the people of New York State.”

It’s not clear to me why Kolb has experienced this change of heart. His previous position was that it wasn’t his place to meddle in the business of the Democratic conference, since Silver didn’t tell him how to run his conference (and he has had his share of detractors).

“The ultimate goal is saying ‘whose scandal is this?’ it’s not ours,” Kolb said back in 2013. “So let’s look and hold the people accountable for whose scandal it is.

Than again, the sexual harassment mess – and secret payouts to keep Lopez’s accusers and former aides quiet – was an internal problem with the Democratic conference, where this is a much bigger issue – corruption, which has claimed victims on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of the Legislature.

And, of course, Silver has been arrested and formally charged by the feds, which elevates this situation to a whole new level.

UPDATE: Speaking to reporters earlier today, Kolb said he is “not a person in this business that does personal attacks – never have, never will.”

“Having said that, when it comes to public policy, I think at this point in time when there’s actually an arrest, there’s a clear serious matter to take up,” the assemblyman continued. “And, you know, also the justice system is working on the other things the speaker was dealing with the Vito Lopez case. But I think this certainly raised to the level that he would be servely harmed, I think, by continuing on. I think he should resign as speaker. He does not have to resign as a member unless he’s convicted of a felony.”

One of Kolb’s critics, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, also called for Silver to resign (not the first time she has done so). She called the speaker “a disgrace to the people of New York and a blemish on all those who serve the public in this state. It is time to put the Silver era behind us once and for all.” Tenney also said the governor should get involved here and pressure Silver, a fellow Democrat, to depart.

“The politics of New York have for too long been three men in a room. The culture of corruption is pervasive as pay-offs, backroom deals, and cronyism are business as usual in Albany. This is unacceptable. Silver’s arrest is simply the latest indicator we need substantial reform in Albany,” the assemblywoman said.

“We should immediately move to clean up Albany. Career politician syndrome enabled this ignominious day in the history of New York. We need to institute real term limits, cut legislative pay and benefits, slash the length of the session, and restore the faith of the people in their public officials.”

Another female member of the Assembly GOP conference, Staten Island’s Nicole Malliotakis, who briefly eyed a potential run for the seat of disgraced former Rep. Michael Grimm, but stepped aside for the party favorite, DA Dan Donovan, also is calling for Silver to resign – and it’s not the first time for her, either.

“It is beyond time for Sheldon Silver to step down as Speaker of the Assembly,” the assemblywoman said. “The demands of running the chamber and serving the taxpayers cannot be compromised by charges of corruption and a judicial proceeding of this magnitude. There is no doubt that New Yorkers desperately need and deserve new leadership of ‘the People’s House’.”

State GOP spokesman David Laska issued a statement calling for Silver’s immediate resignation, calling this another “sad day for New York,” and insisting that it should not serve as a distraction from “the important business of growing our economy and creating jobs.”

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey also got in on the fun, calling the situation with Silver “deeply troubling” and saying the Democratic Assembly members from Central New York should join him in demanding that the speaker step down.

“On their own, these allegations will only grow the distrust New Yorkers now feel towards Albany,” Dadey said. “We need more transparency and disclosure, stronger ethics laws, term limits and we need to eliminate the bad apples. I am hopeful that our local Assembly delegation, including Assembly members (Bill) Magnarelli, (Sam) Roberts and (Al) Stirpe will show true leadership and call for the Speaker’s ouster.”

So far, the Democrats haven’t said very much. Still no statement from the governor, for example. Members of Silver’s conference are discussing this matter behind closed doors and will be issuing a joint statement soon, I’m told.

A source who has spoken to some of the members mentioned as potential Silver successors, should it come to that, said everyone is keeping their powder dry for now. Timing is everything here. A wannabe speaker who pulls the trigger on his or her effort to oust the wounded leader too soon, only to see him survive this scandal as he has survived other (albeit smaller) scandals before, would no doubt be wandering the wilderness for many years.

That said, a wannabe Silver successor who doesn’t start lining up his or her supporters and make a move in a timely fashion could risk missing the opportunity to become one of the most powerful people in the state.

Assembly Republicans Swear In Four New Members

The Assembly Republican conference on Tuesday formally inducted four new members into their fold, bringing their total number up to 44.

Adding to the GOP ranks in the chamber, long dominated by Democrats for more than a generation since the Watergate scandal, Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, Assemblyman Peter Lawrence, Assemblyman Dean Murray (rejoining the conference after losing his seat in 2012) and Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak.

The conference remains vastly outnumbered by the Democratic majority in the state Assembly, which boasts 106 members.

The Republican conference of late has also faced some internal squabbles over its tone and direction under Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

At least three members voted against Kolb’s re-election as leader, a post he has held since 2010, succeeding Jim Tedisco, who left the leadership as he was running for Congress.

Lawmakers like Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, Claudia Tenney and Kieran Lalor fault Kolb for not taking a more forceful stance against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as well as contentious policy issues such as the abortion provision contained in the Women’s Equality Act.

Kolb, in turn, has said the lawmakers upset with his direction are essentially malcontents who do not have the best interests of the conference in mind.

Kolb was handily re-elected leader late last year.

But Kolb today pointed to the history of the GOP conference in the Assembly having an impact on public policy, ranging from its early support for a cap on local property tax increases as well as aiding the developmentally disabled.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. I think that epitomizes our conference,” Kolb said. “We do not have the most resources, we don’t have the financial wherewithall of other conferences in the state. But we put in what we do best, and that’s coming up with new ideas.”

The riches of state government are often enjoyed by majorities in the state Senate and Assembly. Beyond have the power over committee chairmanships and leadership stipends, they access to better office space as well as more attention from the press and campaign donors.

Kolb, a Canandaigua Republican, said it was to Albany’s detriment that the Assembly GOP is ignored.

“People tend to focus on the majority conferences, the governor. I think that’s a huge disservice,” Kolb said.

Republicans in the Assembly will likely push hard this legislative session for scaling back or wholesale exiting the state from the controversial Common Core education standards, an issue many of them ran on (or, in this case, against.).

“It’s a tough job that we have,” Kolb said “But it’s a job that we love.”