Thursday, March 31, 2011

Assembly Passed Budget on Wednesday?

Even though the New York State Assembly finished passing its budget bills on Thursday morning, which means they passed an on-time budget, Speaker Sheldon Silver is acting like they passed an early budget on Wednesday.
In a press release he congratulated "Governor Cuomo on the completion of the Administration’s first budget, the result of which is the enactment of the first "early" state budget since 1983."
According to the state's public information website, Silver's version of events is actually correct. The site (incorrectly) declares that budget bills (SB 2801 and AB 4008) were passed and delivered to the governor on Wednesday.
Apparently the Assembly Majority isn't completely on the same page though, with spokesman Michael Whyland, contending that the change in date was simply a routine computer glitch. He added emphatically that it was not done so that the Assembly could claim they passed an on-time budget. He made this statement about 13 hours after he sent out the press release declaring an "early" budget.

Closed Legislature 2

On Wednesday we reported on the shenanigans of the state legislature, and we're sad to report that those transgressions continued late into the evening.
While the Assembly did eventually allow a limited number of public citizens into the upstairs chamber galley, it did not occur until late in the evening.
More egregious, though, were the continued actions of the Senate to clamp down its proceedings so that it could move the budget process along unabated. This included refusing to let people attend the Senate Finance meetings, which are supposedly open to the public.
I was stopped at one of the guarded glass doors when I tried to get to the meeting. When I suggested that it was an open meeting and I should be allowed to attend, a Senate Chamber official alerted me that, "We make the rules, not you." I would like to add that most other chamber officials are very courteous and helpful, but were placed in a tough position because of protesters last night, which was made worse by having to enforce unclear rules.
Additionally, in that Senate Finance meeting, the members of the committee were forced to vote on a "C" version of a bill, even though they would be taking up the "D" version on the floor. In response to concerns expressed by Democrats and Republicans in the committee about this issue, counsel for the committee and Chair John DeFrancisco urged members to just write the correct letter on their paperwork.
All of this did lead to an on-time budget.
(Editor's note: We are not alleging that the issue with the different versions of the budget bills is illegal, just stating what was done for the sake of expediency.)

Krueger to explain her vote

Democratic Senator Liz Krueger was one of 10 Democrats (I think that number is right) to vote against the budget bill that determined aid to local municipalities. Here she explains her vote.

(Editor's Note: Lombardo likes using free video he gets off the Senate's youtube feed. Kudos to you Senate for being so modern!)

Budget Good. What's Next?

Business groups are happy with the budget passed late last night in the Senate and very early this morning in the Assembly, but now they're calling for action on a property tax cap and mandate relief.
Speaking on behalf of the upstate business community, as it represents more than 70,000 employers, Unshackle Upstate touted the very recent achievement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature.
"Finally, we have a governor who is willing to lead by example and legislative leadership who share and support his vision for a stronger New York,” said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. “By capping education and Medicaid spending and establishing Regional Economic Development Councils, this budget sends a powerful message that New York is on the road to recovery.”
Sandy Parker, a co-founder of Unshackle Upstate and leader of the Rochester Business Alliance, characterized the budget as a solid first step toward getting the state's spending under control. She added, "Now with the budget behind us, we look forward to moving on to equally important issues, such as implementing a property tax cap.”
These sentiments were echoed by the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the North Country Chamber of Commerce and MACNY.
Sampson argued that it is important to build on the momentum of the budget's passage with a couple key proposals, mainly the passage in the Assembly of the property tax cap and serious mandate relief to accompany it. "It’s imperative that they take immediate action to enact a 2-percent property tax cap; provide real mandate relief for our local schools and governments; and reform the public-sector pension system," said Sampson.
The following are portions of the budget that Unshackle Upstate and its allies were particularly happy with:
No new taxes;
Reduction in overall state spending by 2 percent;
Education and Medicaid spending caps;
Creation of Regional Economic Development Councils;
Merger of state agencies;
Repeal of the industrial development authorities tax;
Two-year suspension of diesel retrofit requirement; and
Creation of the Recharge NY Power Program
Key business leaders from Rochester, Binghamton and Syracuse signaled their support the 2011-12 budget.

No Allies in Their Fight

Protesters at the capitol on Wednesday night had two specific enemies in their sights, the Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both of which they believed had teamed up to pass a budget that unfairly distributed pain throughout the state. Lost in this tidal wave of anger and emotion were the Democrats in the Legislature, who were essentially going along with the proposed cuts that were voted on last night.
Colin Donnaruma, a 30-year-old graduate student at UAlbany, acknowledged the failures of the Democrats, specifically the ones in the state senate. He said they viewed the governor “as unstoppable” and they were “prepared to roll over to his every whim.”
When it was all said and done late Wednesday, only 13 voices in the Senate rose up in opposition to the most controversial part of the budget, which laid out language for eduucation, labor and family assistance. Senate Democrats put up a stink on the floor, but their protests were more about procedural manners, with Minority Leader John Sampson lauding the on-time budget after it was passed.
For the most part, though, people didn't feel betrayed by the Senate Democrats (and maybe it was because Senators Kevin Parker and Bill Perkins helped them get pizza into the capitol). Instead, their ire turned to Cuomo, with a 51-year-old first time voter articulating his disappointment before a large crowd on the second floor of the capitol. He said that he had made a mistake with his vote.
Donnaruma argued that Cuomo had run as a progressive, but had adopted the budget of a fiscal conservative. “A lot of Democrats are wondering, ‘Why did we vote for him?’ ” he said. “We thought he was a progressive Democrat, but he is aligning himself with Republicans to pass tax cuts for millionaires.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Onion for State Vegetable

The onion is poised to become the official state vegetable if a proposal (SB 4295) from Independent Democratic Senator David Carlucci becomes law.
His bill argues that onions are "one of the most important vegetable crops in New York." It goes on to elaborate about the principle type of onion, notes the preferred soil and mentions the high costs of producing onions compared to other vegetables.
This bill currently doesn't have a companion in the Assembly, but if it does, hopefully its bill memo won't be littered with as many spelling mistakes (keeps spelling "aye" instead of "are" and writes "muck" instead of "much"). It is enough to make a person cry, or maybe that's the state's new vegetable...
(Editor's Note: All spelling mistakes were noticed on Monday and hopefully have been fixed)

Closed Legislature

There are currently firsthand accounts that the Assembly has locked its chamber doors because of protests in the Capitol. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banks held an unannounced meeting this morning.
Looking into the legality and reality of both accounts...

(UPDATE)Press person for Senator Joe Griffo, Chair of Banks, confirmed that the meeting was moved up to 9:30 a.m. to accommodate the 10 a.m. session. Said he would look into when it was announced.
On the Assembly side, they have locked the doors and said they're setting up television(s) on the third floor for people to watch the session on.

(UPDATE 2) Below is a screen shot that shows that the Senate Banking change was never announced. Additionally, the press person for Griffo said that staff was alerted about the change last night and did not make any mention of telling the public.

Recharge State Biz

The inclusion of a long-term power for jobs program, known as Recharge New York, has been included in the budget, and western Republican Senator George Maziarz believes it will be great for economic development.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Maziarz said the plan may not be the silver bullet to the state's economic woes, but it will help improve the business climate.
“After years of hard work, we have a plan to help save Upstate New York’s economy,” said Maziarz. "The current program supports several hundred businesses and a quarter million jobs—and we’re doubling its impact. This program will be demonstrate how effective a tool low-cost hydropower can be for economic development.”
The Recharge program will extend Power for Jobs until 2012, with the new plan following that. It will make 910 megawatts of cheap energy available to companies that will create and keep jobs in New York. The longer tenure of this program will allow companies to enter into seven year contracts with the state, which will provide security that has been missing in New York in the past.
Additionally, the program will reserve 100 MW for not-for-profits, such as hospitals.
“The Recharge New York program will give businesses in New York the certainty they need to make investments and create jobs," concluded Maziarz. “The year-to-year Power For Jobs extensions are over. This is a true reform, and it will also greatly augment our capability to help businesses grow.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Breathing Group in a Huff Over Tobacco Money

A proposed $17 million cut in the state's tobacco control program was decried on Tuesday by the American Lung Association in New York, which says the reduction will impair the program's ability to protect kids and help people quit smoking.
This cut represents reduced pain compared to the $52 million slashing proposed by the Assembly. This would have brought the total funding for tobacco control from $58 million to $6 million, which environmental and health advocates said wouldn't be enough to run any programs.
"This action is ultimately going to hurt people who want to quit smoking, the people who love them, and the state of New York," said Irwin Berlin, MD, board chair of the American Lung Association in New York. "More than 25,000 New Yorkers die from smoking each year and yet they are cutting a program that works to reduce that number while improving overall public health and reducing health care costs? This is penny-wise and pound-foolish. It's a destructive move that, in the long run, does nothing to improve the state's fiscal condition."
The Lung Association estimated that the economic costs of smoking is more than $14 billion a year, with the potential to increase in the future as 24,000 New York kids under age 18 become regular daily smokers.
Berlin added, "Just a few months ago, the Lung Association released its State of Tobacco Control Report which gave New York an "F" for the level of funding it commits to tobacco prevention and control."
The $17 million represents about a 29 percent reduction since last year, with the newest cut leading to an almost 50 percent reduction in funding since funding peaked at around $80 million in 2007.
(Editor's Note: There has not been a formal announcement about the tobacco control funding, as the subcommittee report on Health has not been announced and the budget bill dealing with health hasn't been printed.)
(Editor's Note Update: According to the American Lung Association of New York: Lung Association: NY FightForAirNY "FYI: Division of budget spokesman Morris Peters stated the $17m # on-the-record")

Learn from Smart Spending

The Joint Budget Conference Subcommittee on Higher Education closed on Monday after discussing the future of SUNY and CUNY and a sole no vote from Republican Assemblyman William Barclay.
One of the key issues avoided by the committee was the potential sweeping of SUNY tuition money, which Republican Chair Ken LaValle said would be addressed after the budget. This wait-and-see approach has also been seized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently refused to commit to a "lock box" for SUNY tuition.
Upon questioning from Democratic Sen. Toby Stavisky, Democratic Chair Deb Glick said that the governor could still sweep funds as part of a mid-year budget reduction effort, but argued that the budget was crafted to avoid this possibility.
Highlights from the final report:
- $100 million reduction to SUNY system
- Restores $13 million in community college base aid
- Accepted the governor's proposal for capital appropriations
- Accepted $70 million in reductions to CUNY senior college
- Elimintated TAP for grad students
- Cut $6 million from the NY Higher Education Loan Program
- Authorizes SUNY and CUNY to purchase goods and execute certain contracts without prior approval of the comptroller and attorney general

Link to the full report.

The next big fight for the SUNY will be the implementation of its five-year-tuition plan, which hasn't been crafted, but will presumably include increases and some sort of provision against sweeping away their funds.

(Reporting by the StateWatch up-and-comer Corina Simonelli)

Budget Protest Sleepover

Sure it's a school night, but that's not stopping plans by a variety of interest group to execute a sleep over at the Capitol on Wednesday in protest of the three-way budget agreement. The event promises hundreds of New Yorkers, signs. chanting. folk songs and marshmallows.
The groups include the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, VOCAL, PUSH-Buffalo, Right to the City New York, Real Rent Reform New York, Community Voices Heard, New Deal for New York, The Save Our SUNY Coalition, Strong Economy for All, Growing Together New York Coalition and VOICE Buffalo.
Their release says that they want to "bear witness to the votes on this painful budget." They allege it will deliver painful cuts to children, families, seniors and schools, while providing a $4.6 billion tax cut for three percent of New Yorkers ( by allowing the millionaire's tax to lapse). They add that, "The budget also fails to proactively renew and strengthen the rent laws, a sign that the State Legislature is more concerned with pandering to real estate interests than protecting the millions of New Yorkers who depend on these laws to stay in their homes."
The event is scheduled to culminate at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the "Million Dollar Staircase" on the third floor of the capitol.

New Yorkers on the Issues

The millionaire's tax might not have made it into the budget, but 71 percent of New Yorkers polled by the Siena Research Institute want it to be adopted in the future.
“Now that the proposal to continue the personal income tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers is a true millionaire’s tax, support has continued to grow, with 71 percent agreeing with Assembly Democrats that the surcharge on millionaires should be continued,” said Siena Pollster Steve Greenberg. “A majority of every demographic group – including Republicans,conservatives and those earning more than $100,000 a year – supports a higher tax for millionaires.”
This should create an interesting battle going forward, as the Senate may be forced to deal with this issue because it was introduced by Republican Maverick John Bonacic. It is not clear what sort of support he has from his own caucus, with Senators George Maziarz and Roy McDonald possibly on his side, but he would most likely have the 26 Democrats and maybe even the 4 Independent Senate Democrats on his side.
Going hand in hand with this proposal is a strong opposition to cuts in education that have been advanced by the governor, with only 21 percent endorsing his plan. These cuts have since been softened, with over $200 million restored in education aid and New Yorkers seem to like this.
Voters Want the Legislature to Restore Even More Money to Education than They Have Proposed "One-quarter of voters want to see the Legislature add back a few hundred million dollars, as each house did in its one-house budget resolutions," said Greenberg. "And 50 percent of voters want to see the Legislature restore even more money for education.”
If there are cuts, though, there are likely to be layoffs, and 78 percent of New Yorkers polled want them to be based on performance and not seniority.Greenberg said, “Voters are clear and strong in their belief that LIFO must go despite teachers’ union support and any concern over arbitrary firings.
The next big fight, having been left out of the budget, will be on the property tax cap and rent regulation, which have each passed one house. These two issues are both very important to very specific constituents, with upstate wanting a property tax cap and constituents in the city demanding rent regulation.
Support for the property tax cap is at 73 percent and rent regulation is supported by 63 percent of those polled.
Much less important is the call for ethics reform from New York voters, who believe their legislators are basically corrupt, but want them to work on passing a budget first and foremost.
“Only 34 percent of voters think that a new ethics reform law is such a priority that it needs to be enacted as quickly as possible. The majority, 61 percent, says that while it’s important it can wait until after the budget. At least 57 percent of voters from every region, party and ideology agree that it can wait,” Greenberg said.
“At the same time, only a small majority of voters, 55 percent, believe that ‘most state legislators are honest, working hard for their constituents.’ But more than two in five voters, 42 percent, believe that ‘most legislators are corrupt, it’s surprising more haven’t been caught.’"

Prison Closings a Concern for Aubry

During Monday's final meeting of the Conference Subcommittee on Public Protection, Democratic Assemblyman Jeff Aubry expressed concerns about plans for prison closings in the state.
Aubry, who voted in favor of their final report, voiced concerns about the the future plans for prison closings in the state. As originally proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, prison closings would be decided by his own task-force, but this suggestion was dropped as part of a three-way agreement announced on Sunday. Now the prisons will be closed at the whim of the administration with "consultation" from the legislature.
This change was better in the opinion of Aubry, yet he noted that it didn't guarantee participation from the legislature.
Additionally, he questioned the number of prison beds that would be eliminated, as the number had risen from 3,500 to 3,700. Aubry wondered out loud how that increase had happened and what savings would be realized.

Here are some of the highlights from the Committee's final report:

-Partial restorations of various General Fund aid to localities' criminal justice programs.
- Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence, Office of Victim Services and the State Commission of Correction 10% reduction restoration - Reject merger with Division of Criminal Justice Services.
- Technical changes and residency requirements for the District Attorney and the Indigent Legal Service Attoreny Loan Forgiveness.
- Deny transfer (for two years) of $1.5 million from Public Safety Communications Account to the Emergency Services Revolving Loan Fund.
- Modify money available for County Public Safety Answering Points from $9.3 million to $18 million - Additional $9 million to be used for operations and consolidations in fiscal year 2012-13.
- Reject $1.5 million increase in operating funds for the Office of Indigent Legal Defense Services.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Yorkers on an On-Time Budget and the Players

With the budget deadline looming two-thirds of voters polled by the Siena Research Institute say they would prefer an on-time budget or budget extenders than a budget shutdown.
“Voters think an on-time budget is important by a nine-to-one margin," added Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “If the budget deadline passes and the Governor sends the Legislature an emergency appropriation bill that not only keeps government running but also includes his entire proposed budget, voters strongly urge the Legislature to pass that budget and not let state government shut down."
This sign of strong support for the governor's agenda comes at a time while he is still extremely popular, even though his favorable ratings have dropped since the last Siena poll in February. Cuomo has a postive rating from 69 percent of voters polled and has negative rating of only 20 percent. These numbers represent a 8 percentage point drop in favortability and a three percentage point increase in his negative perception. At the same time his job performance review has dropped six points to 51 percent of New Yorkers feeling he is doing an excellent or good job.“While Cuomo has fallen below 70 percent, more than two-thirds of voters still view him favorably, including two-thirds of Republicans and more than half of conservatives,” said Greenberg.
The view of the governor is in sharp contrast to the Senate's negative rating, which is at 60 percent, and the Assembly's negative rating, which is at 56 percent. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, recently addressed the unfavorable perception of the legislature by nothing that each member is popular in their district. These ratings most likely have to do with the budget process, as a majority of voters view the legislature's performance as fair or poor.
“Who do voters most trust to do the right thing for New York in crafting a responsible state budget? It’s not even close, with 72 percent saying they trust Cuomo, and Skelos and Silver both getting single digits,” Greenberg said. “In fact both legislative leaders have less support than ‘none of the above.’
One possible explanation for Cuomo's popularity could be due to the fact that he is viewed as a moderate by 60 percent of voters. It's because of this perception that the governor is in the middle of the road New Yorkers are twice as likely to blame the Senate or the Assembly for a late budget compared to Cuomo.

Cuomo Questioned on Budget

After the great fanfare surrounding the unveiling of the budget on Sunday passed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took some questions about the budget and elaborated on its specifics, which are being announced on Monday.
The governor announced that the living wage for homecare workers is in the budget, and said that a medical malpractice cap had been left out because of a disagreement about its net effect.
Following an inquiry about the role of the Legislature in the governor's Regional Economic Development Councils, which had had been a major point of contention, Cuomo revealed that there will be no formal role for the Legislature. He did suggest that legislators will be used for their regional expertise on the implementation of certain projects. Of important note, though, Cuomo said the $130 million funding the councils would not be moved from Legislature, but would be found in other parts of the budget. At a previous press conference, the governor had said that taking the funding from the Legislature had been a major hold up.
On the related issue of money for areas impacted for prison closures, Cuomo said it was included in the budget.
In response to a question about timetable for his prison closing plan, Cuomo said it would take about 60 days, with the one-year notice requirement eliminated. He added the same schedule would be in place for the Juvenile Justice Facilities.
Cuomo noted that there will still be details for the Conference COmmittees to handle on Monday when they meet, which turned out to be true throughout Monday, as subcommittees left certain details for the larger body. He did contend that there are no areas of contention left to “blow up” the deal and argued that “this is an actual agreement”.
Cuomo said he expects bills to be sent up on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Tim Atkins of StateWatch)

Flavored Malt Beverages Under Attack

The attack on alcoholic drinks young people like continues in the New York Senate, as a proposal (SB 4221) from Sen. Jeff Klein to limit the sale of flavored malt beverages to liquor stores was introduced on Wednesday. This change in venue is allegedly predicated on the fact that flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are “marketed” to and primarily used by people between the ages of 14 to 25.
The bill’s memo suggests that shifting FMBs out of grocery and convenience stores will limit the underage people that purchase them, on the basis that you can only enter a liquor store if you’re 21.
Klein also argues that this proposal could be a revenue raiser for the state, as FMBs currently qualify as beer and thus have a lower excise tax rate than the higher rate for liquor.
The bill would apply to any beverages with a combination of 6 percent alcohol by volume and one percent sugar that also include fruit flavor additives. It would be implemented 180 days after it shall become law so that convenience and grocery stores can liquidate their supplies.

New Count for NYC Please

The release of last week's census data for New York City has some officials from the area calling foul about what they consider under reporting of growth from 2000 to 2010. State Senator Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, joined that chorus on Sunday with a statement in favor of a new count.
"I support Senator Schumer's request for an investigation into the U.S. Census count and I will support Mayor Bloomberg's lawsuit against the U.S. Census if he chooses to file one," said Smith.
"For the U.S. Census numbers to suggest that the Borough has only seen a .1 percent population increase over the last decade is nothing short of ridiculous, and an insult to the thousands of people who have relocated to Queens and made it their home."
He noted that Queens is the 10th most populated county in the entire nation and characterized it as an area of growth over the last ten years.
Below is a video of State Senator Mike Gianaris, D-Queens, calling for a recount with other legislative leaders from the city.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Skelos on the Budget

Senator Dean Skelos had this to statement about the state's three-way budget agreement:

"This budget agreement keeps our Senate Republican commitment to reduce spending, cut taxes and empower the private sector to create jobs, and will begin to put New York on the path to fiscal recovery. By working together to reach consensus on a responsible spending plan that eliminates a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes, we have tightened our belt and protected middle-class families in every region of this State. I am particularly pleased with Governor Cuomo's commitment to making UB2020 a reality, which will bring jobs and hope to Western New York, as well as improvements to the other university centers, which are important priorities of our Senate Republican conference. Today's developments ensure we are moving full speed ahead to an on-time budget."

Nothing in here about the governor's win on the regional economic development councils or the prison closures.

Reforms in NY Budget

The three-way budget agreement was announced on Sunday afternoon. Below are a series of policy reforms included in the proposal that were touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

Policy reforms in the 2011-2012 budget include:
• •Changing Permanent Law and Provides 2-Year Appropriations and Caps for Education and Medicaid: Education will be increased at a rate of personal income growth next year – roughly 4 percent. Medicaid will be increased at a rate tied to healthcare CPI which is roughly 4 percent. Together, these actions reduce next year's deficit from about $15 billion to about $2 billion and change decades-old practice of overspending.

• •Redesigning the Medicaid System: The budget includes a global cap on State Medicaid expenditures of approximately $15 billion and implementation of the majority of recommendations by the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to redesign and restructure the Medicaid program to be more efficient and get better results for patients. There are reallocations within the MRT cap that reduce some areas while targeting increases to others. Among the notable changes: the cap on medical malpractice is not included and EPIC is increased by $22 million. The MRT reduction of $2.8 billion and the overall spending cap to the state will be enforced by the Department of Health's "superpower" provision, whereby the commissioner has authority to make reductions during the year to enforce the cap.
• •Creating Regional Economic Development Councils: The budget establishes 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. These councils will create a region-based approach to allocate economic development funds to speed up the creation of jobs. They will act as one-stop shop for all State-supported economic development and business assistance programs in each region, and will be supported with $130 million in capital that is reprogrammed from existing resources.
• •Creating the Recharge NY Power Program: Recharge New York will enhance and make permanent the current Power for Jobs Program that will significantly boost the state's economy by creating and maintaining hundreds of thousands of jobs. Recharge New York will improve upon the existing program by opening it to new participants and allocating a blend of stable, low-cost hydropower and market power for use by businesses that seek to grow and create jobs in New York state.
• •Authorizing the SAGE Commission: The budget authorizes Governor Cuomo's Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission to reduce the number of agencies, authorities, and commissions by 20 percent. Currently, the consolidation of Parole and Corrections will save $16.8 million, the merging of NYSTAR into Department of Economic Development will save $1.9 million, and the merging of Consumer Protection into the Department of State will save $500,000.
• •Creating the Department of Financial Services: The budget merges the state's Banking and Insurance Departments into a new Department of Financial Services.
• •Authorizing Governor to Close Prisons: The state will eliminate 3,700 prison beds throughout New York at the sole discretion of the administration in consultation with the Legislature.
• •UB 2020: The Governor has also agreed to hold a summit with stakeholders to discuss how to make UB 2020 a reality.
• •Reforming the Juvenile Justice System: The budget includes significant reforms of the state's juvenile justice system by encouraging greater use of community-based alternatives, downsizing the state juvenile facilities system by more than 30 percent, and investing resources into enhanced services for juveniles that remain in OCFS custody.
• •Creating New Education Performance and Efficiency Grants: The budget enacts initiatives Governor Cuomo proposed to make districts more efficient and improve student performance. Funds totaling $500 million will be awarded competitively to districts that demonstrate significant improvements in student performance and to districts that undertake long term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The budget also restores $270 million in education related funding.
• •Improving the Excelsior Jobs Program: As proposed in the executive budget, the budget strengthens the Excelsior Jobs Program, which was created in 2010 to provide job creation and investment tax credit incentives to businesses in targeted industries.

Senate Finance to Consider Power Authority Nominee

The nomination of John S. Dyson, as the trustee of the Power Authority of the
State of New York will be considered by the Senate Finance Committee on Monday, after the committee previously put off addressing his nomination last week.
Currently, Dyson is Chairman of Millbrook Capital Management, Inc., which is an investment firm whose activities include managing private equity investments and a stock investment fund. Prior to that he was the chairman of New York City's Council of Economic Advisors. Dyson's experience with the power authority includes a 6 year stint as its Chairman from 1979 to 1985.
Upon announcing Dyson to the post, Cuomo contended that Dyson had deep knowledge of energy issues and understood economic development. He said, "New Yorkers can have confidence that with John on the team, energy delivery and allocation will be in good hands."
Below is a video of Dyson being questioned before the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday, which advanced the nomination to the Finance Committee.

Ball Blasts NY Dream Act

In response to a proposal in the state legislature that would resurrect most of the provisions of the failed federal Dream Act, Republican Senator Greg Ball has characterized it as a major victory for terrorists.
Ball, who is Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, issued a statement on Thursday where he laid out the alleged security risks of the bill (SB 4179), which he labled as “a national security nightmare that should formally be renamed the ‘Terrorist Empowerment Act’.”
He argues that some requirements placed on DMV employees as the result of this bill would make it necessary for them to become experts at verifying every national identity card or voter card in the world.
Seizing on the driver's license portion of the proposal, which was a major controversy for former Gov. Elliot Spitzer, Ball said it would provide illegal identity documents to potential terrorists. "This is not about immigration; this is about security," he said.
Ball explained how the 19 terrorists responsible for 9/11 used over 300 fake IDs that were made with driver’s licenses and other documents.
In his statement, Ball did not address issues of financial aid, employment opportunities and health insurance coverage that are offered as incentives in the bill. Additionally, on Capital Tonight, Democratic Senator Dan Squadron laughed off Ball's rhetoric about the bill. All of this is probably a moot point, though, because the Dream Act will go nowhere in the Republican controlled Senate.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pennies for Parks

The question of "paper or plastic" will be replaced by one penny or no penny if a proposal in the New York Legislature becomes law. A proposal in the senate (SB 4277) from Democrat Jose Serrano and from Democrat Steve Englebright in the Assembly (AB 6272), would impose a one penny tax on single use carryout plastic bags to help fund state parks and historic sites.
The idea behind these bills is that the under-funded state park systems would benefit from an additional source of revenue for capital expenditures, which could be realized by charging a one cent per bag tax. Their bill memo's argue that the state park system's are already in need of funds, which justifies this nominal fee.
This proposal has the strong support of the Open Space Institute, which is looking for any source of revenue in the wake of the $17 million in proposed cuts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget. Erik Kulleseid, the director of the Alliance for New York State Parks, projected that the tax could generate $60 million a year and deter people from using plastic bags that end up littering landfills.

Friday, March 25, 2011

LaValle Wants Nuclear Disaster Plan

In the wake of recent concerns about nuclear safety, both abroad and in New York, Republican Senator Ken LaValle has introduced a bill (SB 4258) that would authorize the state Emergency Management Office to undertake a review of existing disaster plans for nuclear power plants in New York and then develop site specific disaster preparedness plans.
LaValle's bill argues that the threat to the nuclear power plants is greater than ever before, with a clear probability that nuclear power plants could be subject to a terrorist attack or damage from natural disaster. His memo alleges that existing disaster plans are not adequate, as they fail to prepare for a terrorist attack.
Strangely enough, though, this bill doesn't seem to focus on seismic risk, which was the danger that Cuomo's stressed during a recent press conference.
This proposal has been floated by LaValle in the past, but with no progress. The same is true in the Assembly, where the bill has been carried by Assembly Member Fred Thiele.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Census Data Shows Taxes Are Too High?

The coalition of businesses represented by Unshackle Upstate are treating the state's census data as proof that the state needs a tax cap and mandate relief.
"Unfortunately, the 2010 Census data published today shows what Unshackle Upstate has been talking since our creation in 2006 – that Albany's policies have made Upstate New York a less hospitable place to live, work, raise a family and create jobs. And people are voting with their feet," said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate.
He suggested that the state needs to duplicate the effort in the mid-1970s that took place in New York City to save their future. Sampson said, "Now it's time for today's elected officials to do the same for Upstate New York. Our leaders in Albany must take swift action to enact a 2-percent property tax cap and provide our local governments and schools with real mandate relief."
The property tax cap has already passed the Senate at the 2 percent rate, but has not been addressed by the Assembly.
"By taking action on these critical measure, we can make Upstate New York a place where people want to raise their families and grow their businesses," concluded Sampson.

Krueger Offers Amendments to Senate's Budget Office Bill

Depending on the commotion of the budget process, the Senate is likely to address the creation of a Legislative Budget Office on Monday, which has Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger raising some serious concerns in a letter to Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
In a letter from Tuesday, Krueger expanded on some of the concerns she had espoused earlier that day during a Senate Finance Committee.
During the committee she highlighted the fact that the proposed LBO (SB 4006) was a variation of a proposal she had advanced for years. Additionally, she noted that there could be some constitutional concerns with the bill, because it provides 20 percent of its funding with money from the Division of the Budget.This constitutional concern was echoed by an internal memorandum from the governor's office and by Blair Horner of NYPIRG.
Krueger also stressed language in the bill that was missing, which would allow the Legislature to unilaterally "declare" the budget balanced, instead of relying on generally accepted accounting principles.
In her letter to Skelos, Krueger expanded on her concerns that the LBO wouldn't actually comply with GAAP at all, which is why she endorsed the idea of an independent review board model to ensure certain standards. This proposal (SB 414) was suggested earlier in the year by Krueger, in addition to a bill (SB 445) that would ensure the budget office protected the rights of the minority party.
Strangely enough, though, Krueger voted for the proposal in the Finance Committee, with only Democratic Sen. Bill Perkins not voting aye, as he chose to vote without recommendation.
(Additional reporting by StateWatch reporter Tim Atkins)

Millionaire's Tax a Possibility After the Budget

As Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver remained relatively mum on Thursday morning about the possibility of a millionaire's tax in the final budget, it appeared to be officially killed when Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, emphatically denied its future existence.
This "read my lips" approach from Skelos comes in the wake of a proposal (SB 4171) from Republican Sen. John Bonacic, which would institute a genuine millionaire's tax for the next two years and provide property tax relief, and remarks from two Republican Senators, including local Senator Roy McDonald, suggesting that they were open to the millionaire's tax.
By Thursday afternoon, Michael Veitch, McDonald's spokesman, had clarified the Senator's position. He said McDonald is not currently considering the millionaire's tax as part of the budget or considering the proposal from Sen. Bonacic. He added that this stance was not the product of any internal pressure from the conference that he was aware of and argued that McDonald's position has remained constant.
“He is an open-minded legislator, so it is something he would consider after the budget is done,” said Veitch.
This is a far cry from the rigid stance of Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who objected to the Bonacic plan in its theoretical stages.
The proposal from Bonacic and the possibility that it might have some Republican support, has drawn the attention of the Alliance for Quality Education, which is a loud supporter of the millionaire's tax.
"Senator Bonacic stepped to the plate and did the right thing by joining the State Assembly in support of millionaires and billionaires paying they fair share to help fund schools, I believe that privately many of his Republican colleagues agree with him," said Billy Easton, the executive director of AQE.
It remains unclear how the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget will rectify their stark disagreement about how to proceed on the millionaire's tax.

Fed Govt's Nightmare is New York's Dream

A version of the federal government's controversial Dream Act was introduced (SB 4179) on Tuesday into the New York Senate by Democrat Bill Perkins.
The bill provide illegal aliens who entered the country before the age of 16, and have demonstrated a commitment to education public service and strong morals, to have access to financial aid, employment opportunities and health insurance coverage.
There are currently no co-sponsors for this bill, which was very controversial in the federal government and is unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican controlled Senate. No previous version of this proposal exists in the state legislature during the last two year. This proposal is now in the Senate Finance Committee.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Empire State Tries to Go Hollywood

A tax credit from Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, has been proposed to help writers secure jobs on television shows and movies. On Wednesday he introduced a bill (SB 4199) that would amend the Empire State Film Production Credit to include writer salaries.
His bill's memo argues that productions are already drawn to the state, where they take advantage of a 30 percent tax credit on qualifying production costs. Unfortunately for New York writers, this credit hasn't generated many opportunities for them. This fact was demonstrated by the fact that in 2008 there were 15 major television productions in the state, which employed a total of 122 writers, but only 24 of them were from New York.
The inclusion of writers into the Empire State Film Credit would bring New York into competition with states like Connecticut and Michigan that allow writers to qualify.
The proposal from Hannon would either be capped at $50,000 per writer on the amount of the credit that may be claimed or lifted entirely by the hiring of a minority or woman writer when more than three writers are hired.

Low Probability of Low-Sulfur Delay

(The following is based on an internal memorandum secured by the New York Times)
Low sulfur-oil for heating appears likely to be implemented on time in July 2012, as the Senate may drop their support of a delay until 2014. A decision to end their opposition would most likely stem from the revelation that the switch has no fiscal impact.
Originally, the Senate’s position revolved around their argument that the transition would be costly, with Republicans opposing the initial bill when they were in the minority. Supposedly, the Republican Majority may drop their proposed delay as industry officials have indicated that they already have invested in distribution infrastructure to accommodate a smooth transition within the current deadline.
This logic seems questionable, as oil industry and environmental groups repeatedly highlighted the low costs in switching, but the argument appeared to fall on deaf ears during its inception.
The Assembly’s position has not been formally announced, but it is now clear that the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is opposed to the delay. The delayed implementation was originally proposed by the governor’s Mandate Relief Team, although it wasn’t included in the executive budget.

NY Feeling Better with Obamacare

With the one year anniversary of the Health Reform Law on Wednesday, the White House outlined the impact of the act on the state of New York.
The Obama administration stressed the reduction in costs for seniors as the result of a strengthening of Medicare. They noted that 252,288 New York residents who were impacted by Medicare's “donut hole” for prescription drugs received $250 in tax rebates, with an eventual 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole this year.
They also highlighted the fact that 74,600 young New Yorkers under the age of 26 are allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance as the result of changes from last year's law. Additionally, about 1.1 million kids in New York with pre-existing conditions will be able to get insurance, as most insurance companies are now banned from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition.
The issue of costs were also addressed, as the Obama administration touted the creation $340,358 in tax credits for small businesses in New York to help offset the costs of purchasing coverage for their employees.
Finally, they noted that New York has $156 million from the Affordable Care Act. Grants to New York include:

· $1.8 million to support a consumer assistance program
· $1 million to plan for a Health Insurance Exchange
· $27 million to develop an “Early Innovator” Exchange IT model
· $1 million to crack down on unreasonable insurance premium increases
· $30.1 million to support capital development in community health centers
· $34.6 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund
· $48 million in Therapeutic Discovery Project Program Tax Credits and Grants
· $1.7 million for Medicare improvements for patients and providers
· $6.1 million for demonstration projects to address health professions workforce needs
· $250,000 for Nursing and Home Health Aides Training Programs
· $4.1 million for Maternal, Infant and Childhood Home Visiting

Cuomo's Budget will be "Good"

Following a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo answered questions about the ongoing budget process, concluding that he will deliver a good budget for the people of New York.
He argued that in all his campaigning to become governor, his argument was that the state needs a good budget. On Tuesday, Cuomo said the state will get a good budget, whether on-time or through budget extenders that he introduces after the April 1 deadline.
According to Cuomo, the three areas holding up the budget are prison closures, education funding and health care plans. Prison closures have become a major stumbling block for Senate Republicans, who are the majority and seem hesitant to blindly accept his prison closure task force. The governor acknowledged that he is concerned about the issue of prison closures holding up the budget process.
Cuomo went on to say that he was optimistic about passing a budget on time. “I’m optimistic because I have to be,” he said. “We’re going to do what hasn’t been done in decades.” He argued that it was policy holding up the budget this year, as there weren’t a lot of money issues to debate, considering “we don’t have any money.”
The governor also reiterated previous statement about his support for including rent control legislation and a property tax cap in the budget, but acknowledged that he was doubtful about this possibility. “I don’t think it will happen,” he concluded.
One area of contention going forward could be the SUNY five-year tuition plan, which was voted on by the SUNY honchos on Tuesday. They were adamant about retaining SUNY money in the system and not using it for other state projects, which the governor coldly suggested had "merit" and was worth further discussion. Cuomo's reluctance to commit to this sort of "lock box" most likely stems from the popularity of sweeping SUNY funds into other areas.
Cuomo als addressed the push back he was getting on his proposed regional economic development councils from the legislature and revealed that the leaders have mentioned their concerns. “We took money that was theirs,” he said about the leaders’ rationale for opposing his plan. When a reporter suggested not spending the capital investment money at all, Cuomo got very protective of his pet project and said that he needs money for economic development projects.

Bullet Control from Sen. Smith

In the vein of a joke from Chris Rock, Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith has proposed (SB 4152) a form of bullet control, which would require customers to complete an application form.
His proposed law would require people buying bullets provide their names, date of birth and address. Additionally, they would be required to note the caliber, make, model and serial number on the gun that they are purchasing bullets for.
This bill, according to its memo, is a product of the gun violence in our society. Theoretically this bill would stop those who possess illegal, unlicensed and unregistered firearms from buying bullets.
This proposal has never been popular in the New York Legislature, having not received a vote in the last 4 years and Smith's version lacking an Assembly companion. Luckily, Chris Rock's jokes live on forever.

Mandate Relief for Libraries

With New York's public libraries facing a potential 10 percent budget cut, they're endanger of violating maintenance of effort (MOE) statutes, which could cost them federal and state aid. In response to this looming dilemma, Senator Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, has introduced a bill (SB 4102) on Friday that would allow waivers for some of these MOE statutes so libraries won't lose state aid.
He proposes letting the state Education Commissioner grant waivers so that local libraries don't jeopardize 25 percent of their state funding by failing to meet certain standards.
Farley's bill memorandum argues that this loss of funding would have a "crippling effect" and would impact persons who are disabled, speak English as a second language, are incarcerated, are institutionalized or unemployed. The memo suggests that the waiver process has a successful past.
It's not clear what standards libraries would be exempted from, but that they would be determined on a case by case basis.

Zeldin Wants the Real Deal

At 11:30 a.m. the Senate Consumer Protection Committee is set to consider a bill (SB 4074) from Republican Senator Lee Zeldin that would attempt to curtail the fake electrical products market.
His bill would ensure that merchants selling defective electrical products sold with fraudulent labeling will receive training to help them distinguish labeling, with the the treat of "stiff" fines if the mistake is repeated.
The new bill comes in the wake of fires have been attributed to extension cords that with fraudulent labels. This law would not only increase the penalties for selling those cords, and other fraudulent electronics, but it would also provide training to prevent further incidents.
This proposal has previously maneuvered through the Senate, but it has not been very popular in the Assembly, where it again exists (AB 672) and has sat for two months.

NRC Wagons Circle Indian Point

On Tuesday, the Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Indian Point nuclear power facility will be the top priority of the federal government's Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He emphasized this point by noting that it's not "a priority," but the "top priority," as promised to Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy during a phone call.
During his press conference, Cuomo reiterated his position on the nuclear facility, which is that Indian Point is risky and should not operated.
He articulated his contention with the NRC, arguing that he believes their authorization procedures are not stringent enough, as they haven't evolved over time and do not fully reexamine the whole facility each year.
Going forward, Cuomo revealed that the big concern for Indian Point is the seismic risk, which has become a major concern in the wake of the devastating impact a earthquake had on a Japanese nuclear facility. The governor highlighted the fact that he has been focused on this threat since 2007, as evident by a letter he shared that he had written to the NRC in 2007. "This is not a new situation. It is not a new issue," concluded Cuomo.
If the governor does get his way with the Indian Point facility, this will create a major power vacuum for New York city, which he said would be replaceable. When pressed on where that power would come from, though, Cuomo said it could be found, even if there aren't any plans to find replacement power in the works.

Golden Retirement Plan

On Wednesday, the Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee will consider a bill (SB 3402) from Sen. Marty Golden, R-NYC, increase the percentage of assets that may be invested by public employee retirement systems in real estate from five percent to ten percent.
The bill's memo argues that over the years that with aging baby boomers, the public employee retirement systems are experiencing an influx of retirees and a growth in the retirement payroll that must be funded. This need has created a demand for new investments in the types of capital assets that can provide steady income, which is where real estate investments come in.
Real estate is attractive in this area because a considerable portion of the investment return can be realized from rent.
Current law, though ,limits investments in real estate to 5 percent of a system's assets. At the behest of the Retirement Board, Golden's memo supports raising that cap to 10 percent.
This bill previously passed the Senate when it was introduced by Indy Dem Diane Savino, but has never gone anywhere in the Assembly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chance of Marriage? Martins Edition

In our ongoing series about the chance of same-sex marriage passing the Republican controlled Senate, we are now going to examine the potential vote of freshman Jack Martins.
Martins, a Long Island Republican, defeated Craig Johnson in the fall, which means he now occupies a seat formerly held by an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage. In fact, now, the seat is held by someone who is likely to vote no on same-sex marriage if it ever came up in the Senate.
In December edition of Capital Tonight, Martins espoused his objection to same-sex marriage and added that these types of issues should be put off until after the budget is dealt with.
He did say, though, that same-sex marriage does need to be addressed.
We have now covered all the seats in the State Senate that flipped on the issue of same-sex marriage, and the result is the status quo. There are three yes votes that were no votes and there are three no votes that were yes votes.
But fear not, because there is still more to this story. There is already some rumblings about Democrats, who had voted against same-sex marriage in 2009, possibly changing their positions. We'll be exploring this possibility and other relevant questions in the future about same-sex marriage in the Senate.

Millionaire's Tax in Senate. (Updated)

A bill (SB 4171) from Republican Senator John Bonacic has appeared that:
Relates to creating the middle class circuit breaker tax credit, and to the tax rate of certain taxpayers earning over one million dollars.

This sounds a lot like the true millionaire's tax that Bonacic had promised he would introduce. More to follow as bill language and bill memo are made public.

According to the bill's memo, the extension of the millionaire's tax will continue for actual millionaires until 2013. It says these funds will be used to serve as a "circuit breaker" for people making under $250,000 a year, who pay a disproportionate share of their income in property taxes.
The revenue would also be used to offset education cuts.

Fiscal Implications:
The fiscal implications of the circuit breaker legislation are estimated not to exceed $2.3 billion. The revenue derived by the State by maintaining the current income tax rate, on those earning more than $1million, would equal an estimated $3.362 billion.

Subcommittee's SUNY Hike

On Monday the issue of SUNY tuition increases were addressed by the budget subcommittee on higher education, which basically agreed to continue behind doors negotiations.
One positive sign for SUNY was the emergence of a consensus that the state should not continue the practice of sweeping money away from higher education into other areas, as the state has recently done to cover insufficient areas. There was a certain level of disagreement about the tuition increases, though, as Republican Chair Ken LaValle endorsed a rational progressive tuition hike, while Democratic Chair Deborah Glick was more hesitant about proceeding with increases. She said that it would be important to get an idea of what SUNY officials consider a "rational" increase.
SUNY Chair Nancy Zimpher previously addressed the need to reconsider tuition rates at a previous budget hearing, when she expressed the need for a five-year tuition plan.
Additionally, she noted that over the last 48 years SUNY has only raised its tuition 13 times, to the point where it is $4,970 now.
Zimpher has never really addressed what kind of plan she would want to see, but at Monday's meeting, Glick said she heard that SUNY officials want a 75% increase over the next five year. Glick supported increases to ensure a premier education system and though that a tuition plan needs to be addressed in the future.
(Editor's Note: Reporting by Sean Ewart of StateWatch)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lancman Tries to FOIL NY Secrecy

In the aftermath of the state Legislature applauding itself for strides in transparency during Sunshine Week, a meaningful change to the state's FOIL procedures from Democratic Assemblyman Rory Lancman languishes in the committee process.
Lancman's proposal (AB 5161) is aimed at rectifying the current appeals process for instances of denied access to public records. His bill argues that the current appeals method dissuades people from submitting legitimate claims, which is why he wants to allow the state's attorney general to review the appeals.
If enacted, citizens could appeal a denied request within 30 days to the AG's office, which would have 20 days to determine whether the appeal is worthwhile. If the appealed is deemed without merit, then the citizen can avail himself of his right to a day in court.
This proposal was previously introduced by Assemblyman Dick Brodsky, but it never advanced.

School Administrator Salary Cap Dies

A proposal to cap the pay of school administrators has officially died in the state Senate, as it was relegated last week to the back burner so that the legislature can focus on a salary cap on school superintendents.
Introduced by Republican Charles Fuschillo shortly before he introduced Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to limit pay for school superintendents, the cap (SB 3624) had its enacting clause stricken last week and is basically dead.
A spokesman for Fuschillo said the decision to kill the senator's bill was prompted by the Assembly's introduction of a salary cap for superintendents. With this cap now in both houses, he argued that it was more realistic, so they wanted to focus on the likely possibility. The spokesman added that superintendent cap is from Cuomo, while failing to point out that the cap on administrators had been talked about by the governor, but never formally introduced.
It will be interesting to see if this proposal is addressed after the budget process is completed or whether it will be included in the governor's final budget.

Farley Lends Support to Libraries

With New York's libraries facing a 10 percent reduction in funding based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal, Senator Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, has introduced a measure on Friday that would make them eligible for other streams of funding.
His proposed legislation (SB 4100) would allow libraries to compete for Employment preparation Education funds for their pre-GED and other adult literacy services. This would provide libraries access to a $96 million fund that is currently only available to schools and BOCES, even though the state's public libraries provide many of the same educational services like computer and internet skills, job readiness workshops and financial literacy classes.
This bill is likely welcomed by the New York Library Association, as executive director Michael J. Borges implored the legislature to include this measure when he testified before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on February 15. He characterized this change in law as one of fairness and equity, especially why the state's libraries see their funding drop below 1994 levels.
Initially, the governor proposed a budget of $76 million for the state's public libraries, which would be a reduction of about $8 million. Of that cut, $4.2 million was added back as additional aid by the Senate, but not the Assembly. The proposed budgets do include $14 million for public library capital projects.
New York has 23 public library systems, which support over 1000 public libraries, and there are also nine Reference and Research Library Resources Systems, which support 41 school library systems. are state-funded regional systems that provide support to not only the 23 public library systems. Additionally, there are over 900 academic, hospital, law, business, large public, and special libraries.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Senate's Plate

The state Senate is scheduled to address three health issues during its session this afternoon. Their active list includes bills to ban the sale of salvia divinorum, make it a misdemeanor to sell or own embalming fluid for personal use and give permission to health care professionals licensed in other jurisdictions to work at the at the Ironman triathlon to be held this July in Lake Placid.
According to the memo (AB 1635) on the health care exception bill, the need for this legislation stems from the competitions inability to adequately staff its massage tents.
This bill has (obviously) already passed the Assembly, and will definitely get approved by the Senate, as it represents a proposal that is basically allowed every year.
The back story on the embalming fluid bill (SB 657) is equally strange, but also very sad, as its memo tells the story of a tragic accident that was caused by a driver smoking a cigarette dipped in embalming fluid laced with PCP.
The bill's memo notes how health care officials have seen an increase of drugs being mixed with embalming fluid, as Syracuse area hospitals are now prepared to handle twice as many incidents as they were last year.
This proposal has been around in the past, having passed the Senate last year, and while it is also in the Assembly, the proposal has never moved at all there.
The big attraction, though, is what really should be described as the Anti-Miley Cyrus bill (SB 1833), as the young singer has a notorious video of her taking a bong hit of salvia divinorum.
This bill raised one serious question in a Senate Consumer Protection committee meeting from Sen. Eric Adams, who asked what Salvia is. Counsel for the committee enlightened him (and basically everyone else) by saying, "It is an herb similar to LSD."
To be more specific, though, we can turn to the bill's memo, which notes that Salvia is part of the mint family from Mexico and can be smoked to produce a state of intoxication. Supposedly the high is more powerful than LSD.
Currently, salvia is legally sold in stores, as very few regulations exist of the product.
Going forward it will likely pass the Senate, which has approved this measure in the past. The stumbling block is likely to be the Assembly, where this proposal has never gotten any traction.
There will also be a Senate Insurance Committee meeting on Monday, but for the most part it looks like a light day.
We'll leave you with a brief youtube clip of Miley Cyrus smoking salvia. Enjoy

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cuomo to the People on the Budget

This is the contents of a message that Gov. Andrew Cuomo submitted to people who subscribe to his news updates:
On February 1, Governor Cuomo submitted a budget proposal that will reform state government, reduce burdens on taxpayers, and reinvigorate our economy. This week, the Senate and the Assembly each put forward their own modifications to the budget, in accordance with state statute. Now, the process of reconciling the plans from the Governor and the two houses of the Legislature begins.

To facilitate that process, on Thursday the Governor held his first leaders meeting with the two Democratic and two Republican leaders of the Senate and the Assembly. Click here to see a video of the Governor speaking about their collaboration.

Over the next two weeks leading up to the budget deadline, Governor Cuomo will work diligently to negotiate a final budget proposal that delivers a more effective and efficient government for the people of New York State.

Remember to visit Governor Cuomo on Facebook, where you can post your thoughts and ideas about the budget and receive regular updates on the actions of the Governor.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

See March Madness? Say Something

New York City's, “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING" campaign is going national, as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano joined NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday to announce a new partnership. They will be teaming up to advocate the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign to ensure safety and security during the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament.
“Every citizen plays a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and threats,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Bringing the ‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ campaign to the NCAA’s championship games and tournaments will play a critical role in ensuring the safety of players, employees, students and fans.”
The partnership will include the men's and women's tournaments, with print and video materials that will be widely dispersed.
In the coming months, DHS will continue to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign nationally to help America’s business, communities and citizens remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the country safe.
No word yet on how you can actually identify the symptoms of March Madness, but they most likely involve beer guts and or face paint.

Prison Closing Debate Breaks Out in Budget Committee

On Wednesday the Conference Subcommittee on Public Protection met to hash out two major issues under their purview, which included the Prison Closure Task Force. The result was in sharp contrast to most of the meetings on Wednesday, which could be characterized as boring and zzzzz....
Debate over the issue volleyed back and forth between Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio stressing the need to focus on the economic needs of areas losing prisons and Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry expressing concerns about the functioning of the prison system.
"The system's ability to do services should be first priority," argued Aubry, who acknowledged the need to consider the economic impact of closing a prison. This was in sharp contrast to Nozzolio's focus, which was on the need for a direct assessment of unemployment for impacted areas.
Aubry went on to say acknowledge the savings in closing prisons, while Nozzolio, who as an upstater and a Republican relies on prisons, argued that savings could be found by eliminating duplicity of administration. He contended that prisons with nearby properties could share administrative staff and seemed to hope that these types of cuts could "forestall" actual prison closings.
Seizing upon the idea of transforming closed prisons, Aubry noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed $100 million in capital grants to impacted areas could be useful in this area. He added his own misgivings about this funding, which he had previously voiced concerns about to outgoing SEDC leader Dennis Mullen at a budget hearing.
This meeting ultimately has an air of uselessness to it, as the Prison Closure Task Force hasn't even been named and really won't begin doing their work until after the budget is due. It's all part of budgetary maneuvering that is either admirable or despicable, depending on your point of view.
(Editor's Note: Reporting by the tireless workers of StateWatch)

Coalition Supports Delay in Regional Councils

On Wednesday afternoon, members of the Getting Our Money's Worth Coalition voiced mild support for the Senate's decision to withhold funding for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Regional Councils.
Their support for the lack of funding in the Senate budget proposal stems from the hesitance to embrace the allocation of any economic development money without accountability and transparency, which they allege has been lacking in most state investments over recent decades.
This position was voiced by Matt Ryan, the executive director of NY Jobs with Justice, when he spoke at the public hearing on economic development and he reiterated that position on Wednesday.
"New York needs a coordinated, long-term strategy to create good jobs throughout the state," he said. "However, without more details on Governor Cuomo's proposed Regional Economic Development Councils, it's unclear whether Regional Councils would fulfill this vision, or become yet another economic development initiative that's riddled with abuse, waste, and fails to create the good jobs New Yorkers need."
Ryan went on to say that the legislature should try to expose and curb subsidy abuse by implementing the kinds of strict standards and accountability that should be applied to Cuomo's regional councils.
In terms of their shared vision with the Senate Republicans, coalition member and Coalition for Economic Justice Executive Director Allison Duwe acknowledged that they probably have different ideas on how the Regional Councils should be set up.
"We believe there is strong logic to support a hold on funding the [Regional Councils] until more details can be worked out with a broad range of community and labor stakeholders, not just business executives," she argued.
"Funding Regional Councils without doing the detail work to make sure they don't fail our communities the way the state's major economic development programs like IDAs and Empire Zones have for decades would be putting the cart before the horse."
You can find out more about the Getting Our Money's Worth Coalition here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chance of Marriage? Carlucci Edition

The passing of Republican Senator Tom Morahan made his district at play for a Democrat, which made it possible that a yes vote for same-sex marriage could emerge. With the win by Democrat (excuse me, Independent Democrat) David Carlucci in Novemeber, Morahan's no vote switched to the affirmative, as his seat is now being filled by a social progressive.
Carlucci, who was endorsed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, is the third new yes vote for same-sex marriage, joining Avella and Kennedy. If the rest of the Senate remained static, this means same-sex marriage would now have 27 votes in its favor and be only 5 away from becoming law.
Unfortunately for proponents of this future, we've already covered two yes votes that have become no votes with the victories of Zeldin and Grisanti, with one more new no vote to cover.
But there remains a handful of no votes that have since announced that they're influx, so definitely stay tuned, as we wait for a same-sex marriage to be introduced in either chamber.

Fake and Stolen Items for the Needy

On Tuesday the Senate advanced a proposal that would allow seized counterfeit goods to be distributed to the needy. The proposal (SB 3660), from Republican Sen. Joe Griffo, moved through Senate Codes and has been referred to the floor.
Griffo's bill would make sure confiscated items were safe and marked as imitations before being handed out to people living in poverty. Under current law, the items need to be destroyed.
During its committee meeting today, Codes Committee Chairman Saland said that it will be up to Police Departments to decide what items can be distributed. He added, when questioned by Sen. Perkins, that these items wouldn't be worth reselling and announced that the Retail Council supported the proposal's language.

Nanny State to ban Salt?

In an attempt to give New Yorkers more control of their sodium intake, state Senator Eric Adams has proposed (SB 3597) a ban on restaurants using salt in their cooking.
The bill argues that it is giving people a chance for a healthier lifestyle. Luckily, consumers would still have the option of adding salt at their table.
Citing a report from the World Health Organization, the bill notes that at least 75 percent of the sodium intake in the U.S. comes at restaurants. The bill also cites vague "studies" that have proven lowering the salt people eat could reduce cases of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks as much as reductions in smoking, obesity, and cholesterol levels.
Predictably, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has been the sponsor of this bill in the Assembly in the past, but this session he hasn't introduced it yet. Maybe because he is crafting a bill to ban pepper in cooking?
Once again, though, this proposal reads like another waste of the paper it was printed on, as it will never even come up for a committee vote.

Regional Councils Weakened by Legislature

As originally proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his Regional Economic Development Councils would be directly distributing $130 million and be overseen by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, but that vision is not shared in the budget introduced in the Senate and appears to be tweaked in the Assembly.
In the initial plan by the governor, the councils would have "$130 million for competitively determined economic development projects" and would be involved in the dispersement of over $340 million overall, including helping areas impacted by prison closings.
In the Senate, which has been welcoming of the governor's ideas, but has shown a reluctance to empower Duffy, there are no mentions of "regional economic development councils" in the latest version of their capital projects budget bill. Their first amended copy of the proposal echoed the governor's wishes, but their most recent version has no role for the councils.
The $340 million does appear to be included in their proposal, though, but it looks like it will be distributed through more traditional means. Whereas the governor's budget seemed to take money from existing economic development projects, which the Senate seems to love.
In the Assembly, which has been the most resistant to embrace the governor's budget, the Regional Economic Development Councils are granted the $130 million for regional projects and $100 million for regional revitalization in areas that lose a prison.
But, the Assembly does strip away a handful of references to the Regional Economic Development Councils, which seems to imply that they would have a reduced role compared to the one envisioned by Cuomo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paladino Denies Existence of Campaign Debt

"My companies and I pay all our legitimate bills," proclaimed former GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino via facebook on Tuesday, in response to an article in the Buffalo News. The Buffalo News story laid out a series of debts leftover from the campaign, which Paladino flatly denies.
Characterizing their intentions as "malicious and hostile," Paladino accused the Buffalo News of spreading "unsubstantiated, libelous and defamatory lies" with their front page story on March 12.
In response to direct allegations in the story, regarding money owed to campaign staffers Michael Caputo and Michael Johns, Paladino has this to say:
My campaign owes nothing to Michael Caputo or his band of parasitic malcontents against whom we have defenses, offsets or counterclaims. None were employees. All were independent contractors on nebulous oral agreements made without authority by Caputo. Their plan was to see what they could rip off before they get caught.
Michael Johns was retained to study and produce a get-out-the vote plan utilizing Tea Party volunteers. He conspired to change the terms of his oral contract and got caught. He was paid in advance over $18,000 for two months of services and expenses. His bill for $8,000 is more than offset by our claim for services and work product never rendered.

Paladino went on to reject the idea that the Buffalo News could judge his campaign and suggested that the paper was being used.
"It's the same basic story for the rest. People with legitimate campaign obligations were paid in full. The scam artists can sue us," concluded Paladino.

Chance of Marriage? Kennedy Edition

Proponents of same-sex marriage almost certainly gained an ally for their cause when Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, was elected to succeed former state senator Bill Stachowski.
During the summer of 2010, as Kennedy was in the midst of knocking off Stachowski in the Democratic Primary, he staked out a position on same-sex marriage that was starkly contrasted with his opponent. Stachowski had voted against the measure in December of 2009 and Kennedy was able to rally support from the gay rights community by forcefully advocating the other way.
“I have always been, I am, and I will continue to be a supporter of marriage equality,” Kennedy said last summer when his gay rights credentials were in question.
That steadfast support earned him the endorsement of the powerful Empire State Pride Agenda. Interestingly, though, in announcing their support, the ESPA noted that Kennedy promised he would sponsor same-sex marriage legislation, but he hasn't done that yet.
Even with this unfulfilled promise, it seems like Kennedy is a new yes vote for same-sex marriage. With this inclusion we're about even from the last time the vote was taken, with Avella and Kennedy representing new yes votes, while Zeldin and Grisanti represent new no votes, and Kruger's vote is in limbo.

No Four Loko in Nanny State

Last week Sen. Jeff Klein, of the IDC, introduced a bill (SB 3889) that would ban the sale of caffeinated or stimulant-enhanced alcoholic beverages. This anti-fun legislation is a companion to Assemblyman Felix Ortiz's bill (AB 5171).
Essentially, the proposal would ban any drink with at least 5% alcohol by volume and 6 mg per ounce of caffeine or any other stimulant. This type of drink is currently sold as "beer," which allows it to be sold in convenience stores and supermarkets.
Interestingly, and probably hypocritically, the bill doesn't limit these caffeinated drinks if they have more than 15% alcohol by volume. It's possible that this exception is so that bars can continue to sell vodka and red bull, an extremely popular drink.
Luckily for proponents of having a good time, Klein introduced this bill in the past and it never went anywhere. Additionally, Ortiz's bill has been languishing in the Assembly for a month, so that seems to say that the furor over these delightful drinks has died down and a ban won't be passed. Unfortunately, Four Loko removed itself from New York shelves, except in a new form without caffeine. Enterprising youngsters, though, can still find the classic formula at shady establishments.

Mandate Relief Hurts Environment

Three proposals from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Mandate Relief Team could end up hurting the environment and cost more money down the road, according to an environmental advocate.
Ross Gould, the Air & Energy program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said the suggestions on environmental issues are short sighted and misguided.
The three main proposals from the Mandate Relief Team on the environment include an end to various air permit fees, allowing limited burning of collected brush and delaying a requirement for low-sulfur oil for space heating.
"The state won't save any money from this," said Gould. He argued that the long-term health costs will vastly dwarf any minimal savings the state could see in the near future.
Gould noted that 55 percent of the state is already below federal levels of air quality, and he thought that messing with these environmental mandates would only make things worse. He said, "There's no need at this time to roll back any regulations."
Interestingly, on the low-sulfur oil issue, Gould pointed out that even the oil industry supported this measure. This is surprising considering that environmental groups and oil groups are rarely on the same side of an issue. He added that the legislation mandating low-sulfur oil by July of 2012 already included a circuit breaker option in case oil prices got too high.
"Hopefully during this ongoing process they'll see there aren't any savings to the state," concluded Gould.
(Editor's Note: A More expansive version of this article will appear in the Daily Gazette)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Political Hypocrisy

As the Senate Democrats are constantly (and rightly) pointing out the failure of the Senate Republicans to pass the redistricting reform they pledged to accomplish during the last election cycle, lets take a look back at redistricting reform in the Senate when Democrats controlled the chamber.
Specifically, let's look at the version of the pledge that failed two years in a row to even achieve a chamber vote in the Senate when Democrats were the majority.
Sponsored by Sen. David Valesky, the legislation (SB 1614) never even received a committee meeting in 2009.
Then in 2010, after some amendments, which included removing the Court of Appeals from the process if the Legislature kept refusing the commissions proposal, the bill finally got a committee vote. (Important to note that the Gianaris proposal in the Senate now, does include the modified language that ensures the Legislature gets the last say on the redistricting process)
In a Senate Investigations & Government Operations meeting in 2010, the bill was not well received by Republicans and was opposed by Ruben Diaz.
The proposal was then amended again, by which time it now had the support of Republicans John Bonacic and Cathryn Young, who had already supported the measure. Changes included tweaks to the nominating commission.
The bill then had its day in the Senate Elections Committee, where it was reported to Senate Finance and never heard from again.
The Senate Democrats has continuously chosen to not explain these failed opportunities, as was captured in a sad press conference when Minority Leader John Sampson refused to address the past. But now it appears they remember a different version of the past, with the self-righteous way they're sticking it to the Republicans.
But yeah, their allegations about broken promises are completely correct.

Chance of Marriage? Grisanti not Gaga Edition

Freshman state Senator Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, may have once been a Democrat, but he is unlikely to vote on same-sex marriage the same way his Democratic predecessor, Antoine Thompson, did.
Grisanti's position on the issue was pushed into the limelight recently when pop sensation Lady Gaga used an appearance in Buffalo to urge fans to contact the senator about this issue.
In the wake of that advocacy, Grisanti reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage, which he said stems from his Catholic beliefs. (His position had been previously espoused in 2008 when Grisanti was primarying Thompson.) "To me, 'marriage' is between a man and a woman," he said. "It’s a term that’s been around for thousands of years and [applying it to same-sex unions] is like calling a cat a dog. I don’t think that needs to be changed."
The line about cats and dogs drew the ire of his Democratic colleague Tom Duane, who is the only openly gay senator, who characterized Grisanti's comments as "sad and unfortunate."
This would all seem to definitively indicate that Grisanti is another no vote on same-sex marriage. This in addition to the other new senators we've covered, Zeldin, Avella, Kruger's eventual absence and Ball shows that same-sex marriage still has a long way to go.
Stay tuned for more profiles on new senators and some that may be waffling on the issue...

(REAL) Millionaire's Tax Alive in Assembly

The reformed Millionaire's Tax is alive and well in the Assembly, as the latest version of their budget bill (AB 4011) on the state's fiscal plan includes an 8.97% tax on income over $1 million.
This rate applies to taxable years after 2011 and before 2013, which really feels like 2012...
The current (Pseudo) millionaire's tax applies a 7.85 percent rate to people earning over $200,000 and an 8.97 percent rate to people making more than $500,000 a year. Both rates were set to expire on Dec. 31, under the assumption that the state would have resolved its fiscal woes.
Doubtful that the Senate includes a similar proposal, as their companion fiscal budget bill contains no references to $1 million.

Stock Rebate at 80%

The Stock Transfer Tax Rebate, which was a popular enemy for liberals during the past election cycle, has been targeted for a reduction in the New York State Senate by a bill (SB 3892) from Democrat Tony Avella that was introduced this past week.
The Stock Transfer Tax is essentially a sales tax on the transfer of shares of stock, but since 1981 it has been possible for brokers to receive a full refund of the tax. The 100 percent rebate currently employed is worth about $16 billion to the state, with Avella's proposal generating $3.2 billion in revenue by only returning 80 percent of the collected tax.
In Avella's justification, he argues that this proposal could help prevent draconian cuts that have been proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget. He describes the mild rollback as reasonable and a way to ensure shared sacrifice.
This proposal was endorsed by A Better Choice for NY and was essentially a foul tip to the Green Party, which wanted to completely end the rebate. Proponents of the rebate argue that ending the rebate system would limit investments in the stock exchange.
There is no Assembly version of this bill and the rebate has not been of much notice since shortly after the governor's inauguration.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Independent Budget Office Proposed

The creation of an independent budget office was proposed on Sunday by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre. This measure was part of a larger package (SB 4006) on the budget process, which includes a balanced budget requirement.
The creation of an independent budget office is something good government groups support, as Blair Horner, the legislative director of NYPIRG, recently voiced in his column.
Horner wrote:
[Independent Budget Offices] offer unbiased, comprehensive analyses of budget plans. Since New York has no such entity — although it should — the governor should fill that information gap by issuing an executive order to require that the state's Division of the Budget offer unbiased analyses of the state's fiscal situation as well as plans to deal with the states' budget deficit.

The IBO proposal from Skelos would provide legislators with a report on the proposed budget by March 1. The language of the bill also puts a strong emphasis on gauging the costs of any legislation with the IBO, to the point where it feels like a primary job, especially considering the order of the language.
The IBO is also tasked with judging the direct costs of state mandates, projecting state revenues and assessing the state's fiscal condition.
The proposal also includes some language about public disclosure, but it is very vague, as it requires published reports "from time to time" and requires information be made accessible online "to the extent practicable." This seems a far cry from Horner's position that an independent body should "Make publicly available on the Internet line-by-line accounting of state agencies' spending and with specificity that affords the public detailed access to underlying budgetary information."
Especially worrisome in this vein is language in the bill that basically says there is no guarantee for disclosure of information if it is deemed secret by state or federal law.
Also straining the "Independent" theme of this budget office is the fact that it will be composed of people chosen by legislative leaders.
Now I'm not an expert on the budget or budget language, in fact I'm more of a semi-literate clown, but I can't tell how serious this proposal is about removing all accounting gimmicks from the budget process. At first glance it seems like this proposal supports accountability, but the roundabout language (which to be fair is in all bills) has me a little concerned. Now if Dick Ravitch was to come out and say this bill addressed the budget tricks he tried to tackle last year, then I would be satisfied.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chance of Marriage 4? Ball Edition

The fighting 40th senate district has new representation this year with Republican Senator Greg Ball in the seat vacated by Republican Vince Leibell, but it seems like same-sex marriage still has the same chances. Leibell stood in opposition with his fellow Republicans in 2009 when same-sex marriage came up for a vote and Ball opposed the measure in the Assembly.
While this would seem to make Ball's vote in the Senate seem pretty cut and dry, the senator has a mixed record of support for gay rights issues. He has constantly received support form the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay arm of the GOP, in 2009 he opposed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and in the fall of 2010 condemned the comments of GOP candidate Carl Paladino for comments he made about gay couples.
Unfortunately for proponents of gay marriage, though, these positive positions are unlikely to equal a vote in favor of their proposal in the senate if and when it comes up for a vote.
With Ball's likely no vote, the canceled out flips of Zeldin and Avella, and the uncertainty now in Carl Kruger's soon-to-be former seat, gay marriage seems to have gained no ground.
Stay tuned for more editions of Chance of Marriage...

Unshackle Says Fees ≠ Relief

A $50 fee for property tax appeals was proposed by the Mandate Relief Team and Unshackle Upstate is not pleased with this proposal.
Brian Sampson, the executive director of Unshackle, contended that New Yorkers are already taxed enough. "Rather than scheming up ways to nickel and dime us to death, our elected leaders should focus their energies on how to reduce taxes," he said.
"Charging a fee for people to contest their property tax assessment when the state, at this point, is not advancing real property tax reform makes no sense at all."
This fee also seems to contradict Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pledge for no new taxes or fees, which could explain why the report was released without any fanfare. In fact, the mandate team's report included a handful of new fees. While Cuomo "accepted" the preliminary report, he didn't say whether he endorsed all of its proposals.
Cuomo's description of the report was this: "This is a good first step in helping cities, towns and villages across New York rein in costs and help taxpayers, and I look forward to additional findings throughout the year."
This proposed fee would raise between $12.5 million and $15 million annually, but it's not clear whether they anticipate assessments would remain the same or decrease with the imposition of a fee.

Chance of Marriage? Post-Kruger Edition

As we continue our look at the prospects of same-sex marriage, which is in the news again after Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with proponents of the measure, its time to turn our attention toward the vote that would have been cast by Democratic Senator and part-time troll Carl Kruger.
Kruger, one of the four amigos, was also one of the no votes on same-sex marriage when it came up in December of 2009. Now, with his apparent ouster seeming imminent as he turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office on Thursday, his vote could be in flux.
This represents a major coup for same-sex advocates, as Kruger's district is heavily democratic. Unfortunately for them, though, the district has a lot of immigrants and is socially conservative, which doesn't bode extremely well for the proposal.
So what does this mean? I would say too soon to tell. As we've covered so far, though, the new votes we have are Zeldin's no and Avella's yes vote.

(Real) Millionaire's Tax Opposed by Farley

Local state Senator Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said on Thursday that he would oppose the proposed restructured millionaire's surcharge tax if Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposed the measure. He added that a millionaire's tax would be unlikely to pass the Senate.
This announcement form Farley comes as a response to the revelation that Republican Sen. John Bonacic would support a millionaire's surcharge if it applied only to millionaires and not people making as little as $200,000 a year, as the surcharge currently exists.
"I'm trying to back the governor on this," said Farley, in regards to Cuomo's pledge not to raise taxes or fees. Farley added that he shared the governor's interpretation of extending the surcharge in either form, which is that it would be a new tax. He went on to say that Democrats and Republicans alike in his district support the governor's cuts and oppose new taxes.
When pressed on how his constituents would feel about extending the surcharge on millionaires to prevent proposed cuts in education, Farley acknowledged that he had "no idea" what they might think. He noted that people in his district are concerned about jobs and taxes.
Farley said he understood what motivated Bonacic, such as a desire to fund needy schools in his district, but didn't seem to think his own district deserved the same considerations, even though he acknowledged that upstate school districts got "zonked" by the governor's budget.
"We have a $10 billion hole," said Farley, who noted that Bonacic's proposal would only cover about 10 percent of that shortfall.