Senate GOP: Use Marijuana Money For Tax Relief

If the state legalizes adult use marijuana, Senate Republicans want the revenue to go toward some form of tax relief.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo later today is expected to propose a marijuana legalization plan that is projected to bring the state an estimated $300 million in tax revenue.

It’s not yer clear where Cuomo will propose using the money, but he has indicated that he wants any program to in large part benefit low-income communities that have been impacted by harsh drug laws.

“We don’t know the specifics,” said Sen. Joe Griffo, the deputy minority leader. “We await to see what the proposal will look like.”

Senate Republicans on Monday released a pre-buttal of sorts to Cuomo’s budget and State of the State presentation. They called for a permanent tax cap and other forms of tax relief.

Republicans at a Capitol news conference were also seemingly resigned to a marijuana provision passing, given the Democratic control of both chambers of the Legislature and an end to mandated state spending through a constitutional amendment.

But the marijuana tax revenue could be a highlight of the budget negotiations.

“If you really want to change the profile of New York let’s do something that is dramatic and substantive lets have a significant reduction in taxes we could look at both the property and income tax right now,” Griffo said.

Still, he cautioned that the revenue may not be as initially advertised and some projections may be a bit rosy.

“When they told us that legalizing gaming would be an economic cure for upstate New York, we now know these casinos are looking for bailouts and help,” Griffo said.

Langworthy Intensifying Push For GOP Chairmanship

From the Morning Memo:

This week 11 Republican county chairmen from the North Country region of New York State delivered a letter to GOP State Chairman Ed Cox, asking for his resignation.

In the letter, they called the 2018 election cycle disastrous for NYGOP on nearly all levels. Specifically, they pointed to losses by large margins, ceding control of the state Senate, and squandering “a credible opportunity against a flawed governor.”

The county leaders said the gubernatorial candidate, Marc Molinaro, was not to blame as he was left to run with no time to raise money, no clear endorsement and no solidarity from the party. Molinaro reentered the race last year at the urging of county chairs after the party couldn’t rally behind other interested candidates.

The chairmen blamed Cox and party leadership for the perceived disorder.

“Mr. Chairman, the North Country Republicans request that you graciously resign from your position and allow a new leader to take the reins,” they wrote. “Waiting for the undeniable outcome of an election for State Chairman would only delay the needed restructuring and revitalization our party sorely needs and would send a message to the citizens of our state that we aren’t serious about becoming a viable party again.”

Despite the letter Cox told Daily News reporter Ken Lovett, who broke the story, that he did not have plans to leave. That could set up for a contested state chairmanship race this fall.

Erie County GOP boss Nick Langworthy was not among those who called for Cox’s resignation. However, a chairman told Lovett he was “likely the favorite” to replace him.

Langworthy had no comment on the letter and has not publicly lobbied for the job, but a senior GOP source said he has been quietly working to build support for several years now as the heir apparent. That effort has intensified in the aftermath of the 2018 election and he has recently been traveling the state to speak with colleagues the source said.

It is not clear yet when the state party’s reorganization meeting will be. They are required to hold it within the first 21 days following New York’s primary, but some expect the Legislature to move the primary from September to June to coincide with federal elections this year.

Felder Shut Out Of Committee Assignments, Leadership

Senate Democrats said no thanks to Sen. Simcha Felder and now Senate Republicans are shutting him out of committee and leadership posts.

Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan on Thursday announced the Republican conference’s leadership and ranking committee roster with Felder absent from the list.

The Brooklyn Democrat, who kept the Senate Republicans in power by sitting on their side of the aisle, even lost his post on the Senate’s subcommittee on New York City education issues. The panel was created by the Senate Republicans for Felder to chair, but Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza will serve as its ranking member.

Senate Democrats earlier this week rejected Felder’s bid to join their conference after the party. Democrats hold 39 seats in the 63-member chamber.

Felder last year rejected calls for him to join the Democratic fold after the Independent Democratic Conference disbanded and rejoined the mainline conference.

Griffo To Become Deputy Minority Leader, Akshar To Lead SRCC

Republican Sen. Joe Griffo of Rome will become the deputy minority leader, leading the conference’s floor operations in the state Senate, incoming Minority Leader John Flanagan announced Friday.

At the same time, Binghamton-area Sen. Fred Akshar will replace Sen. Cathy Young as the chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Akshar, a prominent upstate Flanagan ally, replaces Sen. Cathy Young, who had challenged Flanagan for the leadership post in November after Republicans lost of the majority.

Young is also losing her post as the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The job ranking member will go to Sen. Jim Seward.

“Jim Seward is a consummate professional who will make an outstanding ranker of the Senate Finance Committee. Our budget priorities will be widely known and well articulated, and we will stand up for taxpayers at every turn,” Flanagan said.

Griffo replaces Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, who is retiring this year.

“No one knows more than Joe Griffo about the ins-and-outs of what happens on the floor of the State Senate. I am confident he will pursue every avenue and work every angle to allow us to be a vocal Minority and an aggressive voice for taxpayers and their families,” Flanagan said.

GOP Senators Discuss Return To Reject Pay Raise Plan

From the Morning Memo:

Members of the state Senate could potentially return to Albany for one more vote before the end of the calendar year.

Two sources said there were discussions Thursday with members of the Republican conference, gauging whether there would be enough interest to vote Dec. 27 to reject the recent recommendations of the pay raise commission.

Earlier this month, the commission voted to give state legislators a $50,000 raise over the next several years while limiting outside income to 15 percent of the salary and eliminating committee stipends known as lulus.

Many legislators have complained that the commission members’ proposal was outside the panel’s legal purview, and a lawsuit has already commenced to challenge it. However, it is expected to become law unless legislators pass and the governor signs a bill nullifying the decision before Jan. 1.

So far, there’s been a lot of unhappy talk by lawmakers, but no real action. As a result, some GOP sources are questioning the point of returning on the “leader’s prerogative.”

One source said a “vocal minority” of senators are pushing to get their stance against the commission report on the record. Others, the source said, told current Majority Leader John Flanagan, they would return to the Capitol if asked.

Because Republican state Sen. Tom Croci, of Long Island, remains on active duty with the Navy Reserve, the conferences are essentially equally split with 31 votes apiece. Several other GOP legislators are lame ducks whose terms will be over at the end of the year. Democrats take control of the Senate next session.

The source said in order to even get a quorum, at least some Democrats would have to agree to return – something unlikely to happen unless the Assembly decides to come back as well. Flanagan told members of his conference talks between him and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about the pay raises are ongoing.

As for why they are looking at next Thursday, it appears to be the most reasonable day between holidays for legislators to return if needed – provided they’re not celebrating outside the state.

Flanagan Sides With Heastie In Pay Reform Dispute

Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan backed up the account of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie when it came to his understanding of the purview of the compensation commission: It will be considering salaries, nothing else.

The pay panel this month released a report that backed pay raises for lawmakers, department heads and statewide elected officials, but also capped outside income for members of the Legislature and ended stipends for most leadership posts.

The decision has angered some lawmakers who have balked at the reforms linked to the pay hike, pointing to similar stipulations not being in place for the governor.

“The committee was never charged with weighing in on issues such as outside income, the elimination of stipends, or changing the Legislature from part-time to full-time – and they were never even expected to discuss them,” Flanagan said. “Matters essential to how the Legislature operates should be debated in public and out in the open, and any proposed reforms must be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment.”

Cuomo has insisted the pay commission’s decision, which will take effect in the new year, had a broader mandate to consider areas like “performance” — such as budgets being approved on time. Subsequent increase phase-ins will be tied to budgets being passed by April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

“I am disappointed that the Governor is attempting to rewrite history,” Flanagan said. “He knows that he gave the Speaker and I his word. With at least one lawsuit already filed to challenge this panel’s recommendations, it’s time for the Governor to be honest about his intent and his motives.”

Pay Raises: ‘Let New Yorkers Have A Say’

Dissatisfaction with legislative pay raises is trending among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Hudson Valley state Sen. Sue Serino introduced a bill that would require voters to have a say in approving the pay commission’s recommendations.

“With New York politicians poised to become the highest paid in the nation, New Yorkers themselves deserve a say in the process, it’s that simple,” Serino said.

She voted against the pay commission’s creation in the 2018 state budget.

“Many public servants work tirelessly on behalf of their constituents, and their salaries should reflect that commitment and dedication, however, lawmakers’ salaries are paid for by the hardworking taxpayers of this state, and they are the ones who should decide whether a raise is warranted,” Serino said. “This bill would ensure that their voices are heard loud and clear.”

Should the commission’s recommendations be solidified into law come January 1st, Sen. Serino would have to decide whether she wants to retain her post, or give up involvement in her Dutchess County based real estate company.

The commission’s recommendations included boosting salaries for members of the state legislature, executive chamber and commissioners, also, capping outside income to 15 percent of salaries and a severely denuded stipend system.

The bill was introduced on December 14th, and is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.

Flanagan: Pay Commission Has Overstepped

The commission on compensation of state elected officials “significantly overstepped” when it approved pay raises for state lawmakers and a cap on their outside income, Republican Senate leader John Flanagan said in a statement.

“The committee was never tasked with making any determination on that matter, and should not have made one. By doing so, they alone are deciding who is eligible to run for public office in New York and who is not,” Flanagan said in a statement on Tuesday. “Additionally, previous efforts to cap outside income were advanced via a constitutional amendment, and therefore, if challenged, this effort would likely be ruled unconstitutional.”

The commission’s report would raise the pay of state lawmakers to $130,000 in the coming years contingent on the passage of state budgets by April 1, which Flanagan also criticized.

“On top of that, I have concerns over tying future adjustments in pay to passage of on-time budgets,” he said. “Timely and responsive budgets are always the goal, but this so-called “reform” is an inherent conflict of interest that runs contrary to the separation of powers that should exist between the Executive and Legislature.”

The commission also backed an outside pay cap for lawmakers of 15 percent of their legislative salary as well as end to the stipend system.

Flanagan will remain majority leader until the end of the month after which Democrats will hold a majority in the chamber. Lawmakers can let stand the report or convene to overturn in it a special session before Jan. 1.

For now, several legislative sources have said it’s unlikely that lawmakers would overturn the recommendations of the commission, which would scuttle their first pay raise in 20 years.

NYGOP Names New NYC Finance Co-Chair

From the Morning Memo:

The New York Republican Committee named Anthony Kammas their New York City Finance Co-Chair.

“It’s my honor to serve the New York Republican Party in this capacity,” Kammas said.

“I have been incredibly impressed with the quality of the Party’s candidates and important issues they are advancing to make New York State a better place to live, work and raise a family. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I’m optimistic and excited for the challenge. Whether it’s in Albany or New York City, the far-left Democratic policing are failing, and we need to ensure we have the resources to get our message out.”

An insurance executive, Kammas is a founding partner of Skyline Risk Management Inc., an insurance company.

“We’re thrilled that Anthony has stepped forward to take on this important role,” said Chairman Ed Cox. “Throughout his distinguished career, Anthony has built a reputation and network that will be a tremendous asset to our operations. The New York Republican Party is working hard to expand our outreach, and creating a strong fundraising operation in New York City is essential to our success.”

The current New York City Finance Chair is John Meserve.

Faso: No Plans For Post-Office Life Yet

Rep. John Faso in a phone conference call with reporters on Thursday morning said he has no plans for life after he leaves elected office next month.

“I literally have no idea what I’ll be doing in January, so I certainly can’t tell you what I’ll be doing two years from now,” he said.

He also batted down a report this week that he is being considered for the chairmanship of the state Republican Committee.

“I have not expressed any interest in it and no one has expressed any interest to me,” said Faso, who was defeated for a second term last month by Democrat Antonio Delgado.

But Faso acknowledged there are problems Republicans in New York they should be addressed, pointing to the growing enrollment advantage Democrats hold in the state.

“It’s a significant deficit the Republicans have,” he said. “I think we need to do some self-analysis on this question.”

Faso’s race in the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley was one of the more closely watched campaigns around the country. He said in the call this morning he was surprised by the result.

“I felt I was going to win right up until about 10 on election night,” Faso said.

He added that if Republicans lost up to 40 seats in the House of Representatives, he would be among the incumbents to be defeated.

“I think that these are factors largely beyond your control,” Faso said. “In that context, I guess I wasn’t surprised, because we wound up losing 40 seats.”

Faso was critical of President Donald Trump’s trade policies, calling the president’s tweet that expressing confidence a trade is easy to win as “patently absurd.”

“Trade wars are not easy to win,” he said. “They’re not easy to win and the have unforeseen consequences that are negative for businesses in our district.”