Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo Calls Current School Funding ‘A Scam’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Wednesday called the current funding formula for education “a scam” as he pushes for targeted funding increases for poorer schools.

“It was in many ways a scam. You gave money to the poorer district, but they didn’t give it to the poorer schools,” Cuomo said on WAMC.

Cuomo on Tuesday proposed a $956 million education aid increase, including a $338 million foundation aid hike.

That’s far short of the billions of dollars in increased aid education advocates are pushing for in the budget. But Cuomo is seeking a different method altogether of individually poor schools.

“In this law you say you’re not just giving it to the school district, I want it to go to the poorer school,” he said.

Lawmakers have not dismissed the proposal out of hand, but are reviewing the specifics of how the funding formula would change.

“Let’s be clear we’re always going to fight for more funding for these schools,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told The Capitol Pressroom.

Democrats have a full majority in the state Senate for the first time in a decade, and several new members have pledged to boost education by at least $2 billion.

Nevertheless, the push and pull over education spending is a perennial part of the budget negotiations.

“Again, I said I think there’s a lot of things going on for the first time my conference will have for the first time to get this on track,” Stewart-Cousins said. “This is the beginning. Yesterday was the beginning where the governor believes we should go.”

Some Communities Could See AIM End

State funding to municipalities through the AIM program could end for local governments that receive a relatively small portion of the funding when compared to their overall budgets, according to a provision in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $178 billion spending proposal.

Cuomo in previous years has not proposed any increases to the AIM program, much to the chagrin of local government advocates in New York.

This is the first time he’s proposed scaling back the program for communities his budget contends do not overly rely on the program, namely local governments that receive 2 percent or less of their total fiscal expenditures in 2017.

The impacted communities have about $1.6 billion in reserves.

The remaining $655 million in AIM to other communities would continue.

Cuomo Proposes $178 Billion Spending Plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed a $178 billion spending plan that seeks legalize adult use marijuana, hikes education spending by $956 million and seeks to codify aspects of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law while adhering to a 2 percent cap on year-over-year state spending.

The budget also closes a $3.1 billion budget deficit.

Cuomo is also backing the legalization of adult-use marijuana officially, estimating $300 million in revenue. Adult-use marijuana would be limited to those over age 21 and local governments would be allowed to opt out.

Cuomo also pledged to aid communities that have been impacted by harsh drug laws with the legalized marijuana law.

The proposal has three-tax plan for adult-use marijuana.

The first tax includes $1 per dry weight gram of cannabis and 25 cents per dry weight of cannabis trim. Another tax would be imposed on the wholesaler to a retail dispensary of 20 percent of the invoice price. And a third tax is a 2 percent tax of the sale from wholesaler to retailer of the invoice price.

Revenues will be used for data tabulation, monitoring and reporting, the governor’s traffic safety committee, small business development, mental health treatment and research on cannabis uses as well public health education.

Cuomo’s education spending proposal also seeks to increase foundation aid by $338 million, far short of what education advocates are seeking to fund schools.

But Cuomo is also seeking to change how individual school districts fund poorer schools, pledging to push for equity on the local level.

This is Cuomo’s first budget of his third term with an all-Democratic state Legislature for the first time in his tenure. Lawmakers are already approving a flurry of top-line policy issues such as reforms to the state’s voting laws, protections for transgender New Yorkers, with more bills on gun control and abortion rights expected to come.

Still, Cuomo has signaled he wants to go further on election reform issues, including extending primary day voting hours for upstate counties. He also called for the passage of the DREAM Act, being named after the late state Sen. Jose Peralta.

Cuomo called for congestion pricing for the MTA

He wants a ban on campaign contributions from corporations and the creation of a public financing system.

On gun control, Cuomo wants an extended background check for firearm purchases.

Many of these measures, some of which have been long stalled in the Republican-led state Senate, are likely to be approved given Democratic control of the state Legislature.

Lawmakers are already signaling they will take up many of the proposals outside of the budget, an inverse of previous years in which major policy matters were included in the final budget deal.

“It’s a lot, no doubt about it,” Cuomo said. “But a lot has been bottled up for so long. In a way, I feel like the state has been liberated by the Senate Democratic caucus.”

But bigger fights are coming on education spending as newly elected Democratic lawmakers have called for a $4 billion increase in school aid in order to satisfy the terms of a funding lawsuit Cuomo insists is a settled matter.

Cuomo is calling for a new funding formula meant to benefit poorer schools, calling it “education equity” — the product of a review of school-by-school spending the governor said showed glaring disparities in how money is being spent.

The budget proposes to boost education aid overall to $27.7 million.

Lawmakers are almost certainly to push Cuomo to do more spending on schools as is usually the case each budget season. Sen. Robert Jackson, however, is one of the initial plaintiffs of the funding lawsuit from the previous decade and has pledge to boost education aid as advocates hav sought.

The budget is expected to pass by March 31, the final day of the state’s fiscal year.

Plastic Bag Ban ‘Nearly Perfect’

Catskill Mountainkeeper says Governor Cuomo’s plastic bag ban while “nearly perfect,” has potential to replace one problem with another.

The environmental nonprofit group is calling on the Governor to include language that would place a fee on other single-use bags.

In a statement Monday, Katherine Nadeau, Deputy Director at Catskill Mountainkeeper, said, “Plastic pollution poisons our environment. Governor Cuomo’s commitment to banning plastic bags and expanding the Bottle Bill puts our state on the path to protect wildlife and water quality while addressing an ongoing litter issue. But if New York bans single use plastic bags without putting a fee on other single use bags, we’d be bunting when we need a grand slam.”

The group notes the bulk of refuse collected in roadside cleanups is plastic.

On a similar note, they called the bottle bill expansion “spot-on.”

“While drink bottles without a five-cent deposit litter our roadways and hiking trails, we rarely find redeemable bottles. Applying the five-cent deposit to additional beverages will help prevent litter, and is exactly what the Catskills need. We applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to expanding our bottle redemption laws.”

The Governor will deliver his combined 2019 state of the state budget at 2p.m. later today.

4 Things To Watch For On Budget Day

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo his proposed 2019-20 state budget today at 2 p.m. in Albany. It’s the first spending proposal of his third term and his ninth overall during his tenure as governor. The day kicks off a two-and-half month ride of negotiations and haggling over how the state will spend roughly $170 billion. Here are four things to watch for:

1. What surprises will there be?

Cuomo has already begun rolling out a series of budget proposals for banning plastic bags, expanding the bottle deposit law, raising the age of buying tobacco products to 21 and dropped hints about his plans for adult-use marijuana legalization. Many of these proposals themselves are yet to be fleshed out. But Cuomo also likes to hold back one last major piece in his budget presentation to secure headline-capturing issue. This year is a bit different, however, given the Democratic-controlled Legislature march to passing a series of long-bottled up bills, including voting law changes on Monday. Coming up next, lawmakers will be tackling LGBTQ issues, gun control and abortion rights — all provisions that won’t have to be included in the budget. Perhaps this is music to the ears of state budget traditionalists, since this will leave remove a lot of policy from the budget talks.

2. What will Cuomo do for health care?

The governor has already indicated he wants to find a way to thread the needle on the call for single-payer health care by some Democrats in the Legislature. Cuomo has questioned the cost a single payer bill would have on the state. Instead, he’s called for the codification of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that would set in law the state’s health exchange and bolster the provisions of a law under constant challenge on the national level, but increasingly popular, especially with Democrats.

3. Will education be the marquee fight?

Aside from health care, spending for schools remains the next costliest item in the state budget. Cuomo is once again being prodded to boost education spending by $4 billion in direct aid to schools, as per advocates who say the state isn’t fulfilling the terms of a lawsuit from the previous decade. Cuomo contends the state has settled the matter, but what’s to turn the page from the decision, known as the Campaign For Fiscal Equity. Cuomo in recent weeks has pointed to what he calls an inequity in district-level school funding, which he wants to remedy. But will that be enough, especially for advocates and lawmakers like Sen. Robert Jackson, a plaintiff in the initial lawsuit?

4. An MTA plan?

Cuomo in a radio interview Monday once again insisted he doesn’t control the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, pointing to the veto power held by the members he doesn’t appoint to the 14-member board. He compared the push for more control over the MTA to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to consolidate power over New York City schools in the 2000s. The conversation indicates Cuomo will be seeking a firmer hand over the MTA, more than he has now, in order to tackle the transit crisis many advocates blame him for ignoring over the years.

Cuomo Twice Thanks Outgoing State Dem Chair

From the Morning Memo:

The New York State Democratic Committee sent out a statement from the governor last night, thanking the outgoing chairman and Buffalo mayor, Byron Brown, for his service.

Brown was handpicked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016 to lead the party, and performed in that position loyally ever since. However, in a bit of a surprise move, Cuomo has denied to have Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs return to head the state party that he originally chaired during former Gov. David Paterson’s tenure.

The governor briefly thanked Brown in an early press release, but then elaborated on it later in the day with a longer statement.

“Byron Brown is one of New York’s most accomplished and inspiring Democratic leaders, and we are so grateful to him for his service to our party as committee chair,” Cuomo said.

The statement appeared to be rather quickly put together, with the governor alternating between the first and third person point of view.

“During his tenure, Democrats gained new U.S. House seats and flipped the State Senate, and the Democratic governor won more votes than any governor in history,” it read.

“At the same time, Byron partnered with the governor to bring about Buffalo’s historic transformation and resurgence, and while we will miss him on the committee, we understand that he is bringing renewed focus to lift Buffalo to even greater heights. On behalf of all New York Democrats, I thank Byron Brown for his unparalleled record of accomplishments and historic victories.”

At least in Western New York, the leadership change did not seem to be perceived as a slight to Brown. The Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Jeremy Zellner issued a statement congratulating Jacobs, while also thanking Brown for his service.

The outgoing chair did not release his own statement, or explain why he was being abruptly replaced.

Cuomo Wants To Expand Primary Voting Hours Upstate

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget will include expanded voter hours on primary day in upstate counties.

Currently voting in most upstate counties on primary day is limited to between noon and 9 p.m., while the voting in the rest of the state begins at 6 a.m.

Cuomo’s inclusion of the provision comes as lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature are set to pass a package of voter reform measures including early voting, same-day voter registration, pre-registration for those under 18 and no-fault absentee balloting, a consolidation of the state and federal primary dates as well as an end to the LLC loophole in election law.

Cuomo in addition to the changes passing today wants to make Election Day a holiday, create a system of online voter registration and ban corporate contributions.

“At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process and crack down on corporate influences in our election,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“It is absurd that voters in much of upstate New York are not allowed to vote until noon, whereas polls open everywhere else in the state at 6am – that ends now. These proposals will not only modernize our voting laws, they will remove barriers that have prevented and discouraged voters from exercising their sacred right to vote. I thank the legislature for their quick action today in voting on many of the critical voting reforms that are part of our 100-day agenda and I look forward to working with them to finish the job and enact these additional measures into law in the budget. The time is now.”

Cuomo is set to unveil his 2019-20 budget proposal on Tuesday.

Cuomo Adding Speed Camera Program to Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he will reinstate and expand the New York City speed camera program in his 2019 executive budget, which will be unveiled tomorrow.

His plan includes increasing the amount of speed camera zones from 140 to 290 and placing “additional signage” in the designated areas.

The program lapsed last July following inaction in the state Senate – in part due to Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who was caucusing with the Republican majority at the time, and wouldn’t support the legislation without language that would add police officers in NYC schools.

Other past key players on this issue were now-former Brooklyn Republican Sen. Marty Golden, and former Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt, a Rochester Democrat.

Cuomo finally addressed the legislative inaction by declaring a state of emergency in August, temporarily re-authorizing the program.

In his statement today, Cuomo wasn’t shy about placing the blame for the program’s failure on Republican shoulders – a not terribly difficult thing to do, given the fact that the Republicans are no longer in charge of anything at the state Capitol.

“After Senate Republicans shamefully refused to extend this life-saving program, I declared a State of Emergency before the start of the school year to temporarily keep the cameras operating,” the governor said.

“With this new proposal we will not only reinstate the program the way it should have been done in the first place – we will also expand the number of cameras to protect more children and prevent needless tragedies and heartbreak.”

The program, designed to record and enforce speeding violations near school zones, is operated and controlled by New York City. It was first signed into law in 2013.

Cuomo: Marijuana Age Limit 21, Local Govs Can Opt Out

Local governments can opt out of adult use marijuana, while the minimum wage for purchasing cannabis would be set at 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in a radio interview.

As the Department of Health has in a report issued last year, Cuomo pegged the potential revenue for adult use marijuana at about $300 million.

“It’s not for the money,” Cuomo told WAMC’s Alan Chartock. “The benefits outweigh the risks. It has to be regulated.”

Cuomo is expected to include the adult use marijuana proposal in his budget, scheduled to be unveiled on Tuesday in Albany.

It’s not entirely clear what the opt out provision for local governments will mean, including whether county or city governments can deny permits for marijuana retailers.

But the governor also once again indicated the program would provide support for communities that have been impacted by strict drug laws.

Cuomo said he was reviewing how “poor communities that paid the price rather than having rich corporations and having another pay day” could benefit from the program.

Legislative Leaders: Cuomo Not Being Cut Out

Long-sought bills for election reform are being passed today and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign them.

But the process is something of a change from previous years in which big picture, headline-making measures were included in the budget, modified in negotiation and approved or taken out of the final day.

This time, lawmakers are approving longtime bills re-introduced each year. No leaders meetings with Cuomo appear to be being held. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie worked out many of the details for the votes themselves.

But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters at the Capitol Monday this wasn’t about cutting Cuomo out of the law-making picture.

“The governor has the right to put whatever he wants in the budget,” Heastie said. “I would say in previous times it was probably more of a necessity because of the Republican Senate because that was the best way to get things done. The Senate didn’t really agree with a Democratic governor and a Democratic Assembly.”

At the same time, the legislative process still was a process when Republicans controlled the Senate, like when the Legislature approved the creation of a prosecutorial conduct panel last year.

“Even when there was a Republican Senate, there were a lot of bills the Assembly passed,” Heastie said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to engage the governor. We’re passing bills we know that we people in the state have wanted for numerous years.”

Cuomo already has signaled an aggressive budget with policies like banning plastic bags, expanding the bottle deposits, increasing the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 and new regulations for e-cigarettes.

And the budget’s biggest items — health care and education spending — will still have the governor’s stamp on the final deal.

But at the same time, lawmakers are taking up a package of measures virtually every session day, including gun control, LGBTQ rights and more.

“Our objective is not to do things quickly,” Stewart-Cousins said, “but to do them right.”