Cuomo Calls Congestion Pricing The Most Difficult Issue

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday called the effort to overhaul mass transit systems in New York City the toughest issue he’s dealing with in the state budget this year.

Cuomo in a radio interview with The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC demurred when asked if the votes in the Legislature are available for the provision, part of the broader $175 billion budget proposal, are there for it to pass.

“It is a tough issue, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” Cuomo said. “It’s the single toughest issue we have on the agenda.”

The effort is meant to raise more funds for New York City’s trouble subway system through congestion pricing by tolling vehicles in Manhattan south of 61st Street, a property tax surcharge on high-end second homes and collecting sales tax on out-of-state Internet purchases.

But the issue of tolling, known as congestion pricing, has struggled to gain traction over the last decade in Albany and state lawmakers are once again hesitant to approve it.

“Congestion pricing is the greatest opportunity we have had, we’ve talked about it for 20 years,” Cuomo said. “It is the smartest idea I think for urban development.”

Advocates Phone Lawmakers For Public Campaign Financing

An advocacy group pushing for the creation of a public campaign financing program on Wednesday launched an effort to boost the issue with state lawmakers, having supporters make phone calls and text messages to members of the state Senate and Assembly.

The calls are being organized by Stand Up America, a member of the broader Fair Elections coalition that’s called for the passage of public financing this year.

“We have until April 1st to get campaign finance reform in the final NY budget,” the group wrote in an email to supporters. “Wealthy special interests will no doubt spend the next eleven days trying their hardest to convince our representatives they need big-money donors more than they need us, their constituents.”

The call campaign came as Democrats in the Senate held a public hearing on the issue.

But the Democratic-controlled Assembly is viewed as the main battleground for public financing. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday after a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said some lawmakers remained concerned about the effect independent expenditure committees could play in a public financing system.

Assembly Bill Creates A Maternal Mortality Review Board

The state Assembly has approved a bill on Wednesday that would create a Maternal Mortality Review Board meant to review the death rates of new mothers and develop a way to combat the issue.

“The Assembly Majority recognizes the seriousness of the disparities that exist in health outcomes for pregnant women in New York,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “By developing review boards and an advisory council, we can identify the root causes of this issue and develop meaningful strategies to achieve better and more equitable outcomes for all women.”

A similar proposal was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 women’s agenda.

The bill would create the panel that would assess causes of death, factors leading to death and how it could have been prevented for women giving birth or about to give birth.

The board would include health care professionals and experts who have studied the issue of maternal deaths, as well ass mothers in areas considered to be medically underserved that also havve high rates of maternal mortality.

At the same time, an advisory council would be created to make recommendations on policy changes and best practices.

New York’s maternal death rate is 30th out of 50 states, and experts say the issue is worsened by racial and ethnic disparities. Black women are four times more likely to die during a pregnancy and childbirth compared to white mothers.

“Every woman deserves the best possible care for themselves and their newborn, and it is time for New York to address the high maternal mortality rate that has existed in our state for far too long,” Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, the bill’s main sponsor, said. “This legislation is a critical step toward doing just that.”

In Search Of Found Money In The Budget For Education

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference on Tuesday floated the idea of cutting the state’s $420 million film tax credit program if it meant bolstering either education or health care spending in the budget.

But Sen. Robert Jackson, a Democrat from Manhattan who has sought to increase direct aid to schools by more than $1 billion in this year’s budget, did not embrace that idea during an interview Tuesday on Capital Tonight.

“I think they need to look at everything,” Jackson said. “But the bottom line is the film tax credit, when you talk about the industry in New York City and New York state, that’s working very well. All you have to do is ask all the people involved in that.”

At the same time, Jackson was hesitant to back an increase in taxes on the rich as called for in the Assembly’s one-house budget resolution approved earlier this month, but indicated a tax hike would be needed only if “absolutely necessary.”

“There is a millionaires tax already,” he said. “The Assembly said we have to raise more money. Here’s the bottom line: Let’s try to deal with what we have now and if absolutely necessary in order to give our children a sound basic education, then we need to consider that. In my opinion, nothing is off the table.”

Jackson said the money in the budget for more school aid can come from somewhere, but said it should be up to the governor’s budget director to figure that out.

“There’s always several billion dollars hidden away from the governor,” he said. “It’s already there. If I was the budget director, then I could tell you that.”

An On-Time Budget Is Agreed To, But Wait It Isn’t?

Ah, spring is in the air! Is a potential budget deal — or at least a plan to have it done on time?

It’s not clear.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins certainly thought there was at least an agreement to have a budget done by the end of the month.

Out came Gov. Andrew Cuomo a few hours later to contradict them, saying he would never agree to that.

“I would never commit to doing a budget on time,” he said at a news conference in the Red Room

This was the same governor, of course, who tied on-time budgets to the idea of government functionality. He even gave out photo-op door prizes when three budgets were done on time in a row (hockey pucks for a “hat trick”) and four budgets in a row (a baseball bat for a “grand slam”).

On Tuesday, Cuomo employed a different sports metaphor: Things are at the 5-yard line, but it’s not a touchdown just yet.

Cuomo’s suggestion that the budget could be late may be designed to nudge lawmakers toward is way of thinking ultimately, given the pay raises at stake for both the executive and Legislature if the spending plan is late.

Q-Poll: Cuomo’s Approval Rating Inches Back Up

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s job approval rating has improved to 50 percent, the first time he’s reached threshold in nearly a year, according to Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning.

The poll found 50 percent of voters approve of the job Cuomo is doing as governor, with 41 percent registering disapproval.

His approval rating in the poll last reached this level in May 2018, when he had a 54 percent to 39 percent spread.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who launched her presidential campaign this past weekend, has a 46 percent approval rating.

Most voters, 61 percent to 35 percent, believe they can afford to live in New York, including 67 percent of upstate voters and 55 percent of New York City residents.

Voters by a wide margin also back legalizing marijuana 65 percent to 32 percent.

Still, other major issues in the budget, such as ending cash bail for non-violent charges, receives mixed results. Voters support ending cash bail 45 percent to 42 percent. Democratic voters strongly support it, 57 percent to 30 percent.

Similar to a Siena College survey released Monday, Quinnipiac’s poll found support for bringing Amazon back to New York City after the company pulled the plug on planned expansion in Queens.

Voters by a 64 percent to 28 percent margin believe the governor should revive efforts to woo the company back. And voters by a 59 percent to 32 percent margin believe the promised 25,000 jobs are worth the $3 billion in tax incentives.

The poll of 1,216 registered voters was conduct from March 13 through March 18. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

MARCH 20 NY GOV+BP by Nick Reisman on Scribd

New York City Casino Push Intensifies

From the Morning Memo:

An effort to accelerate the licensing for a downstate casino is heating up, with MGM, Genting and Sands all seeking a piece of the action, even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to throw cold water on the idea.

On Tuesday, former Gov. David Paterson was at the Capitol to promote Sands’s effort, which would involve the construction of a new venue somewhere in the five boroughs.

Genting, meanwhile, has sought to make its case that as an existing racing operator in Queens, it would be able to quickly convert its venue at Aqueduct in Queens.

“Unlike other aspirants that will have to start from scratch and face massive regulatory and vetting hurdles, Resorts World is a proven operator ready to move immediately once given the authorization,” said Michael Levoff, a senior vice president with the company.

“Resorts World NYC has been operating in Queens for over seven years, generating over $2 billion in much needed revenue for the state’s public education programs and over a thousand family sustaining union jobs. Converting our facility into a full casino would generate instant value for New Yorkers in the form of not only thousands of more good-paying union jobs, but hundreds of millions of dollars each year in additional revenue for the state.”

The Business Council of Westchester, meanwhile, made its pitch for MGM to be able to convert its Empire City racino in Yonkers to a full casino as well.

Doing so “would dramatically transform the benefits our largest employer is able to offer in the local area — as well as significantly boost the benefits for the state’s education system.”

The effort by the Las Vegas-based Sands has also attracted the attention of New York Communities for Change, which in a statement highlighted the company’s ownership: Sheldon Adelson, the prominent Republican donor.

The group’s executive director in a statement pointed to Adelson’s support for President Donald Trump as well as efforts to block workers from unionizing in Las Vegas.

“His two-decade crusade to block union organizing and keep his Vegas property as one of the only non-union facilities in a sea of union hotels on the Vegas strip should immediately disqualify him from doing business in union-strong New York,” Westin said.

All of this may be moot, however, as Cuomo has been skeptical of the push to end the upstate casinos’ exclusivity before 2023.

“Long term, you’re still hurting the competitiveness of the upstate casinos because this was always the point: We wanted the person driving from Queens upstate if they wanted to go to a casino,” Cuomo said at a news conference.

Disability Rights Group Opposes Opioid Tax

From the Morning Memo:

The non-profit Center for Disability Rights this week became the latest group to oppose a planned tax on prescription opioids, writing in a letter to top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly that the proposal would pass further cost increases onto patients and physicians.

The tax, which is estimated to generate $100 million, is a revisal of a previous plan that had been struck down in court.

“Our organization is perhaps most concerned with the provision in Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal that would explicitly allow the healthcare industry to pass added costs onto patients and providers,” wrote the organization’s policy analyst, Kathryn Carroll in the letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“Disabled people already face much higher rates of poverty than the nondisabled population, and so we already struggle to pay for our prescriptions and other healthcare costs. The disabled community in New York does not deserve to see our healthcare costs rise any further than they already have in recent years. Sadly, this will be the reality if the Governor’s proposal is passed into law.”

The surcharge is meant to combat heroin and opioid addiction in the state.

In the letter, Carroll wrote the Center for Disability Rights backs efforts to combat addiction.

“However, to do so at the expense of affordable healthcare is unacceptable,” the letter states.

The letter comes with less than two weeks to go until the state’s $175 billion spending plan is due at the end of the month.

A variety of groups — both advocacy and health care-based — have opposed the tax increase, including the Home Care Association of New York State, Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, Community Pharmacy Association of New York State as well as the Business Council of New York State, Unshackle Upstate and NFIB. Albany.

Center for Disability Rights Opioid Tax Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Here And Now

Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and has nothing planned publicly.

At 9 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will rally for Gov. Cuomo’s tax plan fairness plan, SUNY Oswego Metro Center, 2 S Clinton Street, Syracuse.

At 9:30 a.m., County Comptrollers and Treasurers from across the state, members of the New York State Association of Counties, and numerous other officials from municipal governments will be holding a joint press conference to ask for the Reinstatement of Assistance and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding to the 2019-2020 Executive Budget. LOB Room 130 at the State Capitol.

At 10 a.m., Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and CSEA members will announce a Peer Trainer Program agreement, Albany City Hall, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks, Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard St., Room 103B. New York City.

At 11 a.m., Sen. Anna Kaplan will sponsor a resolution honoring Persian New Year and will host a reception immediately following session.

At 11:15 a.m., Hochul will hold another rally for Cuomo’s tax fairness plan, Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., Watertown.

At 11:30 a.m., The Alliance for Quality Education will join Senator Robert Jackson for a press conference Wednesday to present the findings of a statewide school Equity Tour. Over recent weeks, Senator Jackson and AQE toured schools across 10 schools districts statewide, including 15 schools in New York City, to document the impact of school funding inequities on students. 3rd floor of the State Capitol outside the Minority Senate Chambers & LCA hallway.

At 11:45 a.m., professional drivers will make their second caravan up to Albany to call on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to exempt yellow and green taxis from the devastating congestion surcharge and hold a press conference, Senate chambers, third floor, Capitol, Albany.

At noon, advocates from throughout New York State will converge on Albany to call on the Governor and Legislature to address the overwhelming need for additional resources to promote and support recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions in New York and hold a press conference at the Great Western Staircase. State Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., State lawmakers and advocacy groups will gather to demand publicly financed elections and discuss their plans to implement it in New York State. LOB LCA Press Room, Albany.

At 1 p.m., lawmakers will hold a public hearing on the implementation of publicly financed campaigns, Hearing Room A, LOB.

Also at 1 p.m., Councilman Francisco Moya, the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the NYPD’s 110 and 115 Precincts have partnered up to host a Graffiti Cleanup Day in Queens. 37-59 94th St. Jackson Heights, Queens.

At 2 p.m., Sen. George Amedore, local elected officials and business leaders from Montgomery County to call for a state investment to help CDTA expand public transit services into Montgomery County, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 2 p.m., Hochul will rally for Cuomo’s tax fairness plan, Oswego City Hall, 13 W. Oneida St., Oswego.

At 6:30 p.m., de Blasio will host a parent leader forum, PS 153, Adam Clayton Powell School, 1750 Amsterdam Ave., New York City.

Headlines:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has signaled to supporters he will soon launch his bid for the presidency and needs large donations in order to catch up with small contributions to rival campaigns.

The FAA’s approval of a Boeing jet involved in two separate crashes is now coming under worldwide scrutiny after the plans were grounded by regulators.

President Trump continued to criticize the late Sen. John McCain, saying he would “never be a fan” of the lawmaker who had been deeply critical of him.

The United States will soon halt detaining some migrant families at the border in order to stem some overcrowding at facilities.

Thousands of members of the health care union 1199 SEIU protested cuts at a rally in Albany to the Medicaid program that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration signaled it would reverse in the budget talks.

Former Gov. David Paterson was back in Albany on Tuesday to push for a New York City casino built by Sands in Las Vegas. Sands is one of several casino operators trying to speed up a timetable for casino gaming in the five boroughs, which is currently not set to begin until 2023.

A bill that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage is being pushed for in the final budget agreement by restaurant workers and state lawmakers who back the legislation.

It’s an internal struggle that was thrusted into a very public spotlight. Members of the Syracuse Police Department find themselves at odds with their chief. They put those odds in public view during Saturday’s Saint Patrick’s Parade when only a handful of officers marched while dozens of others boycotted.

The vigil was organized by the dean– chaplains and staff of Hendricks Chapel and the Muslim Student Association. It was held so that students could grieve together and in a place of peace following the attacks.

It’s called the European Travel Authorization System (E.T.I.A.S.), a new program the European Nation will be implementing in 2021. It will be screening for additional security measures on everyone entering and exiting the countries.

The Herkimer County Village of Poland is looking for a new mayor, and it’s anyone’s guess who will be the next leader — no one actually ran for the job.

More than 300 jobs in the Rochester City School District could be cut if the proposed 2019-2020 budget is passed.

The Rochester City Council held a discussion about a proposed police accountability board Tuesday evening, drawing a full house of both supporters and detractors.

A group of Xerox employees are “re-badging,” and being transferred to another company’s workforce after it signed into a $1.3 billion shared services agreement with HCL Technologies.

Next time you get takeout in Buffalo, it may not come in a plastic foam container. Buffalo Common Council members are considering a ban on the material.

The state Senate and Assembly passed a measure Tuesday expanding the use of speed cameras in New York City school zones. The legislation also creates a pilot program for cameras in up to 20 school zones across the city of Buffalo.

Lawmakers also expanded the program in New York City to include 750 speed camera zones.

A City Hall briefing on the troubled Thrive NYC plan raised more questions than it did answers on Tuesday.

Gov. Cuomo said at a news conference he would support a measure banning serial sexual assaulters from riding mass transit in New York City.

Cuomo said he would support scaling back a $420 million film tax credit program in order to shore up spending in the state budget.

State officials are urging Capital Region residents to report any seal sightings in the Hudson River after one was seen earlier this month.

Cuomo on Tuesday once again slammed President Trump for failing to provide funding for the Gateway Tunnel, blaming him if a disaster on Hudson rail tunnels occurs.

State lawmakers are pushing for campaign finance reform, but the spigot of fundraisers during budget season has not stopped at the capital, with one night playing host to nine fundraisers all within walking distance of each other.

From Mary Poppins to Home Alone 2, feeding pigeons in parks is an iconic activity. And now a group of demonstrators is urging New York City officials to let them keep doing it.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara rubbed shoulders with celebrities to celebrate the launch of his book.

Extras

Federal authorities investigating Russian interference in the presidential election obtained search warrants for emails of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, beginning in July 2017, according to documents released today that provide a glimpse into the earliest stages of the inquiry into the president.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a group of immigrants in a case about the government’s power to detain them after they’ve committed crimes but finished their sentences.

Trump called George Conway as a “total loser” one day after the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway won plenty of media attention by questioning the president’s mental fitness.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has brought an old ally back into the fold — one who has a long-running history of painting a number of Sanders’ top 2020 foes as being corporatist traitors: journalist David Sirota, who will serve as a senior communications adviser and speechwriter for the 2020 campaign.

Facebook has agreed to pay out about $5 million to settle five lawsuits and take aggressive steps to block discriminatory advertising on its platforms as part of a sweeping agreement with leading civil rights and labor organizations.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has adopted Trump’s combative persona in person and on Twitter, sat for chummy bilateral talks with president, followed by a joint news conference – all illustrating what White House officials hope is a budding partnership between the Western hemisphere’s two largest economies.

Florida prosecutors have offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a number of other men charged with soliciting prostitution, but there is a catch. The proposed agreement calls for the men to admit they would have been proven guilty at trial.

Bill O’Reilly’s next book will not be about JFK or Abraham Lincoln, but a president he knows well: Trump.

Outsider presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s latest idea is both literally and figuratively his most unorthodox yet: He’s taking a strong public stance against circumcision.

Actress Cynthia Nixon reflects back on her failed primary challenge to Cuomo one year after she formally announced her campaign, and says she’s not sorry she ran.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is planning to stay on at the Justice Department “a little longer” than originally anticipated, according to a Justice official familiar with his thinking. He was initially thinking of departing in mid-March.

James Corden will host this year’s Tony Awards on June 9 at Radio City Music Hall. It’s his second stint as a host for the awards show; he previously did so in 2016.

The Kushner family real estate company is operating eight East Village rental buildings illegally, Bronx Councilmember Ritchie Torres alleged at a press conference outside the company’s 666 Fifth Avenue headquarters.

Adult film star and stripper Stormy Daniels is scheduled to make an appearance at a Binghamton strip club on May 8.

Ariana Grande launched her much-anticipated Sweetener tour in Albany last night, and it includes a voter registration component.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos is one of many progressive Democrats who want to abolish ICE. But first, she’ll settle for reducing the maximum sentence for certain misdemeanors by one day — 364 instead of 365 — to prevent deportations of undocumented New Yorkers.

Patricia Okoumou, the demonstrator busted last year for scaling the base of the Statue of Liberty in a Fourth of July protest, was sentenced to five years of probation and 200 hours of community service in a bizarre Manhattan courtroom appearance

Albany ranked No. 29 on a list of top 100 best places to live.

Tesla’s solar panel factory stands on a site with historical significance to the United Steelworkers union, as the long-ago home of a Republic Steel complex. Now, they’re trying to organize in a new, more modern era.

Dennis Matthew Howe, 45, a state DOT worker, has died a week after his vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer on Route 17 West in Tioga County.

Traffic on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx ground nearly to a halt this afternoon because of a mysterious brunette running wild through the cars. It is unclear where she came from, or how she ended up on the expressway. Also, she is a cow.

Orchard Park Town Board members canceled a special meeting they were to hold today to “discuss disciplinary issues” in the Police Department, and it was revealed that Chief Mark Pacholec will be on paid administrative leave until he retires May 1.