Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo Pushes For ERA On International Women’s Day

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again called for the full passage of the Equal Rights Amendment as part of a recognition of International Women’s Day.

The amendment gained first passage in the state Assembly last month.

The ERA is meant to guarantee equal rights in the state constitution on the basis of sex.

The state version is modeled after the federal Equal Rights Amendment which is yet to be ratified after it was first passed by Congress in 1972.

“As the Trump Administration wages a war on women, it is more important than ever before that New York fight back to protect our progress and enshrine gender equality in our state constitution,” Cuomo said.

“It is unacceptable that more than 100 years after women won the right to vote in New York State, our Constitution still does not ban discrimination based on sex or afford women equal protections under the law. That needs to end this year. We must pass the ERA this legislative session to ensure New York continues to serve as the beacon of progress for the nation.”

Cuomo Issues Budget Stipulations

The state budget must include agreements on ending cash bail, a permanent cap on property tax increases and a boost in funding for New York City mass transit, the top budget advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday in a statement.

“The Governor has been crystal clear that he will not agree to a budget that is not fiscally responsible, or without MTA financing – using either congestion pricing or fare increases,” said Division of Budget Director Robert Mujica. “Further the budget must include a permanent tax cap, and bail reform — which is currently stalled in the legislature but has been the Governor’s priority for years and promised by both houses.”

And Mujica warned in the statement that the budget doesn’t necessarily have to be on time — a move that would threaten the next phased-in pay hike for state lawmakers. The budget is due to pass by March 31, the end of the state’s fiscal calendar.

“The budget must be complete, if they are not in a rush, neither are we,” Mujica said. “The Governor agrees getting it right is more important than any deadline.”

The statement in large part amounts to Cuomo’s budget stipulations: What has to be in there and, unlike in prior years, he has no qualms with going late.

The Democratic-led state Senate has approved a property tax cap as a standalone bill, but the Democratic-controlled Assembly is yet to follow suit.

At the same time, Cuomo wants to take an additional $190 million in revenue forecasted by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and put it toward a reserve fund; Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the use of that money was up for debate in the negotiations.

Lawmakers are confident they can come to an agreement on ending cash bail in many circumstances, but the details are yet to be agreed upon by the state Senate and Assembly.

Gallivan, GOP Lawmakers Call For Cuomo To Lift North Carolina Travel Ban

State Senator Pat Gallivan, R-Elma, is asking the governor to rescind a 2016 executive order which banned non-essential state travel to North Carolina.

He said 13 student athletes from SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Brockport and SUNY Cortland are participating in the NCAA Division III Swimming Championships in Greensboro in two weeks. However, due to the executive order, they would not be able to stay in the Tar Heel State while they compete and would have to make accommodations and commute daily from a neighboring state.

“This is not only a distraction for the athletes and their coaches; it puts them at a competitive disadvantage and could have a negative impact on their performance,” Gallivan wrote in a letter to the governor. “The additional travel required will also add to the overall cost for attending the tournament.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, signed the executive order in response to North Carolina’s so-called Bathroom Bill or H.B. 2 which, in part, forced transgender individuals to use restrooms that corresponded to the sex identified on their birth certificates. The legislation also banned local governments from instituting and enforcing their own non-discrimination ordinances.

In March 2017, North Carolina lawmakers, facing pressure from the NCAA, repealed the transgender bathroom portion of the law. It was enough for the college sports governing body which lifted its own boycott of events in the state, however many gay rights activists called the compromise a “fake repeal.”

“In New York, we do not support blatant discrimination, bigotry and bias.” Cuomo Senior Advisor Rich Azzopardi said. “Standing up for equality is not a fad and as long as this anti-LGBTQ law remains in effect, New York tax dollars are not going to be spent there.”

Gallivan pointed out the governor said in reference to New York State’s deal with Amazon, that putting political interests first was innapropriate. He said it is also true in this case.

“It is unfair to make a political statement on the backs and lives of these student athletes who have worked so hard to reach this level of competition,” Gallivan said. “We should be celebrating their achievements, not punishing them for something they have no control over.”

Azzopardi pointed out the executive order does not ban competition in the state – just the use of taxpayer money. Three other GOP lawmakers, state Senators Rob Ortt and Daphne Jordan and Assembly Member Marjorie Burns, joined Gallivan at a press conference at the Capitol today.

Gallivan Letter by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

A Fight Over Revenues

The budget negotiations are turning increasingly into a fight over revenues and how to spend them — or save for a potential economic downturn.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to put away the $190 million in additional revenue Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is projecting for a rainy day.

But state lawmakers aren’t necessarily willing to sock the money away just yet, even as Cuomo and independent economists warn of a softening economy by as early as next year.

“I think that’s going to be part of our general negotiations surrounding the budget,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said when asked about Cuomo’s support for putting the money into reserves.

DiNapoli’s revenue estimate came higher than what Cuomo had initially proposed, though lower than the numbers state lawmakers had projected in negotiations.

Still, he also recommended adding more money to the state’s reserves, a move the governor signaled he would support.

The Cuomo administration’s top budget official, meanwhile, laid out a series of revenue projections for bolstering mass transit in New York City — either through tolls, sales tax collected from marijuana legalization, taxing second homes worth more than $5 million as well as cash.

“Congestion pricing is projected to yield $15 billion, the internet sales tax would yield roughly $5 billion, and the tax on cannabis could generate an additional $2 billion for a total of $22 billion for the next MTA capital plan,” Budget Director Robert Mujica said.

“But even that leaves a shortfall to get to the low end of MTA’s capital budget, which is projected at $40 billion. If we lose tax revenue generated by cannabis – then we will either need a 50/50 cash split between the City and State, or the pied-a-terre tax, which could raise as much as $9 billion, and we would still have a shortfall.”

Cuomo Says Tax On Wealthy’s Second Homes ‘Least Objectionable’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not want to raise taxes in the budget this year.

But taxing second homes, known as pied-à-terres, of wealthy people worth more than $5 million would be “the least objectionable” way to do so if revenue from marijuana legalization is not available, he said in an interview with WAMC on Wednesday.

“In a perfect world, given the environment we’re in, we wouldn’t raise taxes,” Cuomo said.

The tax is supported by Democrats in the state Legislature who now control majorities in both the state Senate and the Assembly.

Cuomo does not support increasing taxes, including for upper income earners. New York already has the second highest personal income tax on the rich in the country and Cuomo worries that increasing rates could further drive the wealthy elsewhere.

He has also railed against the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, pushing for its repeal.

“That I think is the least objectionable tax,” Cuomo said of the pied-à-terre tax proposal. “If you don’t have marijuana, I don’t know if you’re going to have much of a choice.”

Updated: Cuomo called on Wednesday afternoon to clarify his comments on the pied-à-terre tax were in the context of congestion pricing for New York City if the legalization of marijuana is not approved. Cuomo’s congestion pricing proposal is composed of tolls south of 61st Street in Manhattan, collecting sales tax on out-of-state internet purchases and revenue from marijuana sales in New York City.

DiNapoli Projects Revenue $190M Higher Than Cuomo’s Forecast (Updated)

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Tuesday submitted a revenue forecast for the next two years that is $190 million higher than estimated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial budget projection, but below the number lawmakers had sought.

The revenue forecast decision was thrown to DiNapoli’s office after lawmakers and Cuomo’s budget advisors could not reach an agreement on the number for the first time in years.

Cuomo had all but expected DiNapoli’s estimate to be lower than both what lawmakers had projected as well as his own budget after independent economists had raised concerns of a potential recession as early as next year.

Lawmakers have signaled, as is a virtually annual tradition in Albany, to seek more money in health care and education in a final budget agreement. Still, DiNapoli’s revenue forecast is less than what lawmakers had also anticipated.

In a letter to legislative budget officials as well as Cuomo’s budget director Robert Mujica, DiNapoli writes that forecasting revenue is more challenging this year, given federal tax law changes.

DiNapoli wrote that Cuomo’s proposal to include $488 million in the state’s rainy day fund is a “a good step” toward guarding against fiscal uncertainty, he wrote more should be done in a final budget agreement to guard against a softening of the economy.

Updated: In a statement, Cuomo’s office said the $190 million would be earmarked for reserves. In other words, Cuomo doesn’t want to use the money as part of the budget pie.

Cuomo Hedges On 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview with WAMC on Monday morning hedged further on whether he would run for president, suggesting his decision was based on the likelihood former Vice President Joe Biden runs.

“We live our lives on a set of assumptions and a set of assumptions,” Cuomo said. “I have a set of assumptions as to who is going to run and what that means for this country. I’ve had conversations with people, obviously, and I think certain people are getting into the race and I’m making my assumptions on that.”

Cuomo has previously praised Biden, who is yet to declare his intention to run, saying he would make “the best case” as the party’s nominee. Cuomo later dialed that back, also heaping praise on New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

But Cuomo, who is the midst of a strife-riven budget season with state lawmakers, sees a niche for someone who is a lot like he views himself.

“I’m the uber progressive,” Cuomo said. “Name the person who has gotten more things done than I have. Name a governor, name a senator, who has done more things than the state of New York.”

He insisted this wasn’t a swipe at anyone currently in the race.

Cuomo added, “We need a progressive, reality-based party. We need someone who can actually get something done.”

Cuomo Hints At Late Budget Amid Discord With Legislature

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has prided himself on presiding over state budgets approved before the start of the state’s fiscal year.

But Cuomo in a series of interviews in recent days has suggested he would be willing to have the spending plan blow past April 1 if it means achieving a balanced budget without mid-year course corrections.

“People forget that you can do a budget that gets passed, but turns out to be inaccurate and then you come back and readjust because the revenues and expenses didn’t work,” Cuomo said in an interview Monday morning with WAMC. “Being on time is important, being right is more important.”

Having a budget approved past the April 1 due date would put at risk phased-in pay raises for the governor, his cabinet and state lawmakers.

But the issue is far more pertinent for the 213 state lawmakers in Albany who had gone without a pay hike since 1999 and are now in the first phase of an increase set by a pay commission.

Cuomo’s relationship with lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate has frayed over the last several weeks amid a scuttled project to bring Amazon to Queens and, beginning last year, the recommendations of a pay commission that capped outside pay and end most legislative stipends.

Lawmakers and the governor could not come to an agreement over a revenue forecast for the state — the first sign that the budget negotiations were getting off track.

Cuomo has warned that the economy could soften, pointing to the independent assessments of economists made last week as a reason for caution.

“This is a different environment, politically, and it’s a different Legislature,” Cuomo said in the interview.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a separate interview with WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom charged that Cuomo “walked away” from the revenue negotiations.

“I don’t see any reason to have a late budget,” she said.

Updated: Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi said the claim that the governor walked away from the revenue talks is not true.

“The budget process is in law and it sets a deadline for a consensus forecast to be set or it goes to the comptroller,” he said. “That legal deadline lapsed. Period. Also, Leader Stewart-Cousins said she ‘scratched her head’ on why the Governor thinks timing is an issue. We are realistically two weeks away from needing a budget deal to get bills done on time and we have made no meaningful progress on any substantive matter.”

WFP’s 11th Hour Push for Fusion Voting

From the Morning Memo:

As state Democratic Party leaders make their way to Westchester this morning – weather permitting, as the Hudson Valley bore the brunt of the latest winter storm – the Working Families Party is making a last-ditch attempt to head off at the pass a resolution that would support the ban of fusion voting in New York.

The WFP is highlighting the fact that it received support over the weekend for its crusade to keep fusion voting from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently announced his second White House bid.

Sanders, who was backed by the New York WFP in his 2016 presidential bid, tweeted yesterday morning:

“We must preserve New York’s fusion voting system because it gives more voice to voters. I support the @WorkingFamilies Party’s efforts to protect this system, which gives voters a stronger voice in elections and in government.”

Another sign of support came from the state’s current progressive darling, Queens/Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who retweeted a tweet initially posted by Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who said a “fusion ban would only divide and weaken our movement.”

In addition, the WFP is circulating a letter signed by 340 elected officials from around the state, appealing to the governor and legislative leaders not to kill fusion voting.

“As Democrats, we especially note the role that the Working Families Party has played over the last two decades,” the letter reads. “Many of us have run and won our seats with their support. Moreover, WFP played an essential role in helping to end Republican-IDC control of the New York Senate in the 2018 election.”

As we reported last week, incoming (or rather, returning) state Party Chairman Jay Jacobs confirmed the party’s progressive caucus is pushing for a vote today on a resolution in favor of doing away with the practice of allowing minor parties to cross-endorse candidates, which are then able to tally all the votes they receive on any ballot line to count in the final results.

Frequently, minor party lines can mean the difference between winning and losing for candidates running in close elections.

New York is one of just a handful of states in the nation that allow fusion voting, and the practice has been challenged at one time or another by a variety of people for years – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The WFP has made no secret of the fact that it believes Cuomo is behind this latest push to end fusion voting, and is doing so in retaliation for the fact that the party backed a failed primary challenger – actress/activist Cynthia Nixon – against him last September.

But Cuomo administration – and, FWIW, Jacobs himself – insist the governor has nothing to do with this effort.

Ultimately, it is the Legislature and the governor, not the party, that will decide whether fusion voting stays or goes by taking up a bill to address the matter. So far, noting has been formally put on the table at the state Capitol.

But the budget talks are just getting underway, and the WFP is worried something will be quietly slipped into the final deal at the last minute. Hence, this full court press effort.

Will Lawmakers Gang Up On Cuomo?

From the Morning Memo:

This month is shaping up to be one of the most consequential in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s three terms as governor as Democrats in the state Legislature, emboldened by their majorities in the Senate and Assembly, hint at the possibility of the first legislative budget in nearly a generation.

A budget crafted largely by lawmakers — in which the Legislature would add new spending not included in the governor’s $175 billion spending plan — would require a level of coordination between the two chambers not seen under Cuomo’s eight-year tenure.

At the same time, Democrats would have to rely on Republican votes to override Cuomo’s likely vetoes, should it reach that far.

And if it does, it remains to be seen if Republican lawmakers would be willing to provide the same kind of support they gave Gov. George Pataki when Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver teamed up on him.

The stakes for Cuomo isn’t just adding new spending for education and health care and tax increases on richer New Yorkers, which the governor has resisted, but also a protracted fight over budgetary power with members of his own party.

Lawmakers and Cuomo over the weekend could not come to an agreement on projected revenue. On Saturday, the governor’s budget director in a statement pointed to independent economists’ projections that the economy could slide into a recession as early as next year, a signal likely to more moderate members of the Legislature that now is not the time to spend more.

Cuomo is now turning to a former antagonist, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, to develop a revenue projection that is expected to be even lower than what the governor and the Legislature estimated.

Legislative Democrats already had an increasingly hostile relationship that began brewing last year over caps on outside income, an end to most legislative stipends and the blame game played out over the failed Amazon project.

They also blame Cuomo for walking away from the table as the deadline approach for the revenue projections. Now they see Cuomo working for a late budget in order to draw out negotiations and, as a result, scuttle the next phase in of the legislative pay hike.

Cuomo retains broad power over the budget process itself, and hasn’t hesitated in deploying that leverage in the past.