Streams

 

Albany

The Empire

First Review: One Catholic Praises Cuomo Meeting

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Members of New York State's Catholic Conference, including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, met with Governor Cuomo in Albany today. Whether the meeting would happen at all was a question (H/T Celeste Katz).  But after confirming he did have room in his schedule, Cuomo is getting positive reviews from at least one of the pontiffs.

Here's a recent tweet from the Diocese of Buffalo (note: @BuffaloDiocese's profile: 690,000 Catholics in the eight counties of Western New York.)

The meeting comes in the wake of some controversy over the comments from a Vatican adviser over Cuomo's live-in girlfriend, Sandra Lee of the Food Network.

Here's a snapshot of the agenda for today's "Catholics on the Capitol" lobby day and their full list of legislative priorities:

Participants will gather for 10 a.m. Mass at the newly renovated Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception near the Capitol, then meet with their legislators and attend workshops, including one on continuing advocacy at the diocesan and parish levels. This full list of issues for the day is as follows:

  • Oppose the radical “Reproductive Health Act” abortion bill and support for alternatives to abortion
  • Support comprehensive conscience protection for individuals and institutions
  • Preserve Catholic schools
  • Protect the poor and those severely impacted by the economic downturn
  • Maintain the health care infrastructure and health care coverage for low- and moderate-income individuals
  • Support juvenile justice reform that results in a system that better serves youth and community
  • Oppose the redefinition of marriage
Read More

Comment

The Empire

Cuomo Names New ESDC Chair

Monday, March 07, 2011

Governor Cuomo has named Julie Shimer Chair the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Shimer lives in Skaneateles, NY, bringing her upstate perspective to the state agency.

A little background on Dr. Shimer from the Governor's statement:

CEO and President of Welch Allyn, in Skaneateles Falls, New York, is a nationally recognized leader in the computer networking and wireless communications industries. Dr. Shimer was named CEO in 2007 - becoming the first woman to hold this post in the 95-year history of the company. Prior to joining Welch Allyn, Dr. Shimer served as President and CEO of Vocera Communications, a leading wireless communications company based in Cupertino, California. Dr. Shimer also held executive positions at 3Com Corporation, Motorola, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and Bethlehem Steel Company. Dr. Shimer currently holds board positions with Welch Allyn, Netgear, the Engineering Information Foundation and Centerstate Corporation for Economic Opportunity. In addition, she is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Society for Women Engineers. Dr. Shimer holds masters and doctoral degrees in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University and a bachelor's degree in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Read More

Comment

The Empire

Slow Down, Big Spender...NYS Refunds Take...Time

Friday, March 04, 2011

Spring is just around the corner.  That means warmer weather, looser clothes, and taxes!  Signs and mascots have already been spotted around the city.

Liberty Tax Service

Liberty Tax Service (Photo: Bowery Boogie)

For the DIY-ers, the IRS announced Friday that 19 million tax returns have been filed from home computers so far this year, an increase of almost 6 percent compared to the number of returns from the same time last year. In New York, 3.3 million returns (in total) have been filed, with more than a $1B in refunds paid out so far. But word to wise, don't rack up big bills counting on your refund check to cover it, at least not right away.

The IRS has a website called, "Where's My Refund?" that filers can use to check on their refund information 72 hours after you've been notified that your return has been received if you file electronically, or or three to four weeks after you mail your paper return.

Here in the Empire State, the Department of Taxation and Finance also gives a nod to e-filing, but it's tougher to tell exactly how long the refund process will take. From their site:

Generally, you'll get your refund in six to eight weeks from the date we receive your income tax return. You'll get it faster if you use e-file and have your refund deposited directly into your bank account. If we identify an issue with a tax return, our review may take longer than six to eight weeks.

To check the status of your refund, see Income Tax Refund Status.

Now, there are some Type-A people who like to get things done as soon as possible. Say they filed their taxes the first week of February. Their federal return came back without a problem. But say, for example, their New York State return seemed to be taking longer. Perhaps they went back to a certain online tax site and found that several users were commenting about that very same issue. Then maybe said person went to New York State's website to check on the status of their refund. This is message that comes up:

Status
We received your return and it's in the final stage of processing. While most returns are completed within 2 weeks, it may take up to 4 weeks.

So how long does it take -- two  to four weeks or six to eight? Are those two conflicting messages confusing? Absolutely not, according to Brad Maione, the Department of Taxation's Public Information Officer. "The key word there is 'processing'," said Maione.

Maione said New York State has already processed $1B in refunds so far this year, and he said there are no processing delays expected this year, like there were last year.

But not everyone agrees things have been moving along so swimmingly, and there's plenty of fault to spread around. "So far things are petering very slowly," said Barry Horowitz, a Certified Public Accountant and partner at the firm EisnerLubin LLP.  "That's because the brokerage houses haven't released their 1099's or have just released them, so tax information is coming in very slow. Tax season is getting really compressed into a five or six week period."

Horowitz also said that he thinks that there's a refund threshold that automatically triggers an audit for some state filers.  For example, he said he had a client last year who had large medical deductions and real estate taxes. "They held up the return until we proved that they paid them which is unheard of, that a return is being audited as it's being filed."  Horowitz said his client ultimately verified all the filing information, and received the return.  But he said similar things are happening this year, too.

There are several factors that may cause the NYS Tax Department to "stop and review" an individual return, according to Maione, like the validation of withholding information.  But he said that's not the same thing as an "audit."

When asked if the state had a certain threshold that triggered a "stop and review" or "audit," of an individual return, like say the amount of the refund, Maione said, "No comment."

Filed your taxes?  Tell us how it went.

Read More

Comments [5]

WNYC News

Albany Budget Cuts Threaten City Seniors' Lifelines, Say Advocates

Thursday, March 03, 2011

WNYC

If Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget cuts are approved by the state legislature, about 40 percent of the city's 256 senior centers would close at the end of the fiscal year in June.

Comment

The Empire

Special Election Law Change; 26th CD Same

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Good news for overseas military personnel is bad news for the residents of the 26th Congressional District near Buffalo.

Lawmakers in both chambers unanimously approved a bill that would change the law that governs New York's special elections.  The legislation, sponsored by Senator Thomas O'Mara, (R-C, Big Flats) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D, Brooklyn), doubles the amount of time between the governor’s proclamation of a special election and the date of that election -- from thirty to forty days, to between seventy and eighty days.

The lawmakers said the change was necessary to make sure that there is enough time to get ballots to those serving in the military.

“This legislation will help ensure that every ballot is counted in special elections," said Millman in a statement, "most notably the ones cast by the brave New Yorkers serving in the military services who sacrifice so much to protect our loved ones, our nation and our democracy.”

Check out O’Mara touting his first legislative victory.

Governor Cuomo also released a statement saying he plans to sign the bill into law.

Now what this means for Buffalo? The fine people of former Rep. Christopher Lee's district will have to continue to leave their representation in the hands of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Lee resigned from Congress on February 9, 2011 after a certain Craigslist photo scandal.

Candidates, take your mark.

Read More

Comment

The Empire

Christie Folds 'Em: Online Gaming Vetoed in NJ

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Garden State residents won't be trading Atlantic City's green felt tables for their laptops anytime soon.  Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have made online gambling legal in New Jersey.

First reported in the WSJ, Christie's veto is seen as a blow to the gaming industry, which was looking to expand from brick-and-mortar casinos in Atlantic City to click-and-play sites online.

In a press conference before the veto was made public, Christie said he would veto the bill if he had legal or constitutional questions. “I’ve got to make sure that if I were to sign something like that that it would both be legal and constitutional,” he said.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester), the prime sponsor of the bill, issued a statement saying he would review Gov. Christie's veto, adding, "Still, the reality is that Internet gaming is coming and we need to figure out a way to make it work to benefit Atlantic City casinos. I hope to work cooperatively on new legislation that ensures New Jersey remains competitive for years to come in all aspects of modern gaming.”

The bill (A-2570) would have allowed all games, including poker, that are played at a casino to be offered through Internet wagering.

Any bets on a revised bill?

-Brigid Bergin

Read More

Comment

The Empire

Cuomo: Cut State Contracts

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Governor Cuomo issued his tenth Executive Order on Wednesday which would reduce the costs of personal services contracts used by state agencies by 10 percent.

From the announcement:

Under the order, agencies will be permitted to renew certain PSCs only if the contractor agrees to the reduction or with the approval of the Director of State Operations.

"My proposed budget calls for significant savings from State agencies and reducing the cost of contracts those agencies enter into will help achieve our goal," Governor Cuomo said. "My administration will continue looking for ways to save taxpayers' money across all sectors of our government, and asking companies that do business with the State to find new efficiencies and lower their costs is a critical part of the process."

The state uses PSCs in areas including research and analysis, data processing, computer programming, engineering, environmental assessment, health and mental health services, and accounting.

State agencies will also be required to examine the roles currently assigned to PSCs and take all reasonable measures to ensure that the same services could not be acquired at a lower price.

These measures include discussing lower price options with current contractors, deciding whether re-bidding contract would achieve cost savings and working with the Director of State Agency Redesign and Efficiency to determine if savings could be achieved through bundling with other state agencies currently utilizing the same contractor.

The Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, created by Executive Order No. 4, will continue to review the state's practices regarding contracts for personal services to identify additional ways to reduce their number and cost.

Citizen's Budget Commission President Carol Kellerman, after thanking me for pointing this out to her, called this move "a positive statement."

"It's like [Cuomo's] saying, 'I'm cutting the salary of managers. I'm capping the salary of superintendents. I'm showing I'm cognizant of the fact that there are also consultants," explained Kellerman. "It's about putting agencies through hurdles."

-Brigid Bergin

Read More

Comment

The Empire

State Official Warns of Impending Layoffs

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Supporters of the so-called "Millionaires' Tax" (a higher tax rate for those earning over $200,000) held rallies at City Hall and in Albany today, at the same time the Cuomo administration's director of operations testified at a hearing on workforce issues about the potential for close to 10,000 layoffs of state workers if union contracts aren't sufficiently renegotiated.

“Our drop dead date before we must begin planning for layoffs is April first,” said Howard Glaser, director of state operations. “If we don’t have an agreement in place on April 1st, we must begin planning for workforce reductions at that point. When those reductions might take place is a consequence of many factors.”

The president of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) also testified at the hearing. PEF President Kenneth Brynien told legislators that for the sake of fairness, the Executive Budget should not require New York public employees to pay the entire price for the state’s deficit.

From Brynien's testimony:

“Public servants didn’t cause this deficit, and it begs the question why state workers, school employees, and health care workers should be asked to bear the brunt of the sacrifice to address this fiscal crisis,” he said.

[H/T Jimmy Vielkind]

-Brigid Bergin

Read More

Comment

The Empire

Cuomo Names Labor Negotiating Team

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this morning that Joseph M. Bress and Todd R. Snyder will serve as his Labor Negotiating Team.

From the announcement:

Mr. Bress was the Vice President of Labor Relations at the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) from 1997-2010. Prior to working at Amtrak, he was appointed head of the Governor's Office of Employee Relations, under Governor Mario M. Cuomo. The office was responsible for labor relations and human resources policies for over 200,000 New York State employees. He also served as Chair and Executive Director of the New York State Ethics Commission. Mr. Bress holds a B.A. from Harpur College, Binghamton University and a J.D. from Buffalo Law School, SUNY Buffalo.

Mr. Snyder is a Senior Managing Director of Rothschild Inc. and Co-Head of Rothschild's Restructuring and Reorganization group, a leading international investment banking and financial advisory firm. He has been an advisor to Rothschild Inc.'s companies in restructurings and reorganizations for twenty-three years. He has been instrumental in a diverse selection of complex transactions including reorganizations, restructurings, financings, workouts, exchange offers, mergers, divestitures and management led buyouts. He advised the Bush and Obama administrations on the restructuring of the auto industry. Prior to joining Rothschild Inc., Mr. Snyder held a series of positions in restructuring and reorganization. Prior to his move to investment banking, Mr. Snyder practiced law in the Business Reorganization department of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Mr. Snyder graduated with honors from Wesleyan University and received a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In addition, Mr. Snyder is an adjunct professor at New York University Law School and New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Our friends at Capitol Confidential note that Bress is an alumni of Gov. Mario Cuomo's administration.

-Brigid Bergin

Read More

Comment

The Empire

Senate Passes LIFO Reform Bill

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In a win for Mayor Bloomberg, the state senate narrowly approved a bill that would end seniority protections for teachers in New York City. But its fate in the state Assembly is less certain.

The bill would do away with the so-called "last in, first out" rule requiring school districts to lay off new teachers first when cutting back staff, regardless of how good they are.

Mayor Bloomberg in a statement says the bill "puts the needs of our children first."

Earlier today, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said he thinks the bill isn't necessary. He says the state is coming up with a new teacher evaluation system that will make it easier for districts to keep good teachers and get rid of bad ones.

-Beth Fertig

Read More

Comments [1]

WNYC News

Silver: Chances of Keeping Millionaires Tax Are 'Poor'

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, speaking a month before the state budget is due, said the likelihood of retaining the so-called millionaires tax in New York was "poor" as support  for the temporary income surcharge appeared to wane.

Comments [7]

It's A Free Blog

New York City's Wishful Declaration of Independence

Friday, February 11, 2011

If Michael Bloomberg wasn’t such a practical man, he could be forgiven for preaching secession by now. Yes, independence for New York City — the centerpiece of Norman Mailer’s quirky platform in 1969 when, with Jimmy Breslin as his running mate, he campaigned for mayor. They did not, you may recall, win.

Read More

Comment

WNYC News

In Albany, Finger Pointing Over Ethics Reform

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tensions over an ethics reform bill that’s being negotiated in private between Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders spilled into the open this week, as finger pointing began over which side was holding up the legislation.

Comment

It's A Free Country ®

Albany's Double-Dip?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Albany. It’s the capital of New York. It’s where Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature will battle over cuts to state services, public benefits and even state payrolls. 

And according to Moody’s Analytics, it’s at risk of falling back into recession even as the state overall is on the path to recovery

Albany is not alone.

Comments [2]

WNYC News

Cuomo Proposes Across-the-Board Cuts in First Budget

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo's first budget presentation to state lawmakers includes across-the-board cuts, a consolidation of 11 state agencies, a warning of 9,800 layoffs and "one new fee" on horse racing. 

Comments [1]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Previewing Andrew Cuomo's Budget Address

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Assemblyman (D-57) representing central Brooklyn, and Senator John J. Flanagan, New York State (R) 2nd Senate District, preview the New York State budget announcement later today.

Note: Today at 1pm watch the budget address live online at the It's A Free Country homepage.

Comments [5]

WNYC News

Medicaid Reform Is a Tough Pill to Swallow

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Governor Cuomo’s panel to revamp the state’s health care system held it’s first meeting Thursday, and it featured some stern talk from the panel’s co-chair.

Comments [2]

The Brian Lehrer Show

State of New York State

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ken Lovett, Daily News Albany bureau chief, and Azi Paybarah, WNYC reporter and blogger, review Governor Cuomo's first State of the State address.

Read More And Join The Conversation at It's A Free Country

The Takeaway

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo Heads to Albany

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo heads to Albany, he'll be entering a context created by his own family (father Mario Cuomo held the position for over a decade), as well as what people on both sides of the aisle acknowledge is a legislative mess. The public perception of the New York governor's office has been in flux ever since Eliot Spitzer resigned, after his prostitution scandal. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general, ran on a reform ticket, pledging that he’d get notoriously-gridlocked Albany back in working order. Can he do it? 

Comments [1]

It's A Free Blog

Stucknation: Albany In Between

Monday, December 20, 2010

It is the between-time. The old regime has just days left. Control in the Senate is expected to shift to the Republicans and a Democratic governor is coming in promising to  cut government. There are cardboard boxes and blank nameplates.

Ironically, as the new incoming Governor and legislative leaders try and marshall the political courage to restore the state, they will do so in a building that itself continues to be under going a major makeover to repair decades of neglect and deferred maintenance.  

Read More

Comment