Monday, January 09, 2012
Governor Andrew Cuomo says creating a health insurance exchange for New York is a priority for 2012.
State-run exchanges are mandated by President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul. Exchanges would effectively make states play the role of insurance broker to help people and small businesses buy coverage from private companies.
Last year, Albany almost passed a bill that would lay the groundwork for an exchange, before hitting an impasse in the Republican-controlled State Senate. Now, New York runs the risk of having the Federal government impose a system on them--something State Senate Republicans say could cost the state up to $3.75 billion.
Friday, January 06, 2012
Brooklyn State Senator Martin Dilan has a set of somewhat rhetorical questions for his Republican colleagues reported plans to try increasing the chamber's size from 62 to 63. In a statement released this afternoon, Dilan, who sits on the bicameral committee responsible for drawing new district lines, preempted a rumor that Republicans could be releasing draft maps today.
"Comments made earlier this week by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos indicated that a draft redistricting plan will include a 63rd Senate District and that it could be introduced as early as today. I hope that it is not the case, as such a determination at this time would be disconcerting to say the least, and an affront to our State Constitution and a deeply vested public," Dilan said.
Dilan pointed out that the recent agreement on prisoner reallocation has so far not been finalized, and wondered how the Senate Republicans could put together maps without knowing where to count the more than 46,000 prisoners.
“I hope for the sake of all New Yorkers that this act is not a sign of what’s to come as the redistricting process moves forward," the Senator said.
Friday, December 16, 2011
It is a matter of fact: next year, New Yorkers will be going to the primary voting booth earlier than the September date than they’ve become accustomed to.
It is a matter of not if, but, specifically, when.
The man in whose hands our state’s primary date rests is Federal Judge Gary Sharpe. And from reports of the hearing he held last week, it doesn’t sound like he’s too excited with the task. Had New York State complied with a federal law that was meant to ensure military service members overseas were given enough time to vote, we wouldn’t be in this situation.
But we are, and Judge Share is currently collecting the final argumentsbefore making a ruling by December 27. In a number of documents provided to Judge Sharpe, stakeholders made their cases for the two different dates being pushed by Republicans and Democrats—an August primary or a June primary, respectively.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Since its appointment announcement yesterday, the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics has been criticized for some of the people picked by elected officials to serve on the commission that oversees elected officials in Albany. Here are some of the appointments that are raising the biggest questions:
1. Ravi Batra – appointed by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson
The biggest red flag being waved about Batra was his connection to incarcerated former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman. Norman worked at Barta’s law firm, before being let go shortly after arrests were made that eventually led to Norman’s conviction on corruption charges. But it’s Batra’s position as a Democratic insider with connections to everyone, including as a fundraiser for the man that appointed him and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau praised Barta in a letter of recommendation for the position, saying, “His independent judgment, informed by real life, will serve the best interests of New Yorkers who deserve a government that above all serves the public good.”
But Chris Owens, a Brooklyn Democratic Party official, said the move raised serious questions about both the appointee and the elected official who appointed him: “Why would John Sampson, after all the questions about the Aqueduct scandal which everyone’s trying to put behind them, nominate somebody who has any kind of taint attached to his name?”
2. David Renzi – appointed by Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb
Back in 2008, as a candidate running for State Senate against then-Senator Darrel Aubertine, Renzi was accused of inappropriately accruing retirement credit with the State as an employee of Pamelia, New York, even though he wasn’t technically an employee. At the time of the report in the Watertown Daily Times, both of Renzi’s partners in his law firm were being investigated by the State Comptroller’s office for similar violations.
Renzi defended himself against the accusations, saying, "I have always held myself to highest ethical standards." The Pamelia town supervisor, Lawrence Longway, said Renzi is still employed by the town as an attorney and that the issue was overblown during an election year.
“It wasn’t like he was getting so much money from us and getting benefits on top,” Longway said. “Everyone in this area laughed, because if there’s anyone in this area that doesn’t give money away, it’s me.”
But that didn’t stop Aubertine from airing attack ads back in 2008 that accused Renzi of unethical behavior.
Additionally, Renzi’s wife is reported to be employed by State Senator Patty Ritchie, which the Watertown Daily Times has Dick Dadey of Citizens Union quoted raising concerns over:
For a JCOPE appointee to have his spouse employed by a state senator, while legal, crosses the line ethically…It doesn't look good to have such a tight association between an appointee and a state senator, over whom one has oversight.
3. Mary Lou Rath and Mitra Hormozi – appointed by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Governor Andrew Cuomo, respectively
While neither Rath nor Hormozi were specifically targeted in the past over ethics (in fact, Hormozi was lauded by some for her work in the AG’s office), both violate a rule that says elected officials and government employees need to be out of Government for at least three years to be allowed to serve on JCOPE.
Rath was a State Senator from Erie County until she retired in 2008. Technically, she was in office until January 2009, when the current Senator, Michael Ranzenhofer, succeeded her, meaning she has at the time of her appointment not been out of government the full three years.
Hormozi served as the Attorney General’s special deputy chief of staff under Andrew Cuomo, before heading up the now-defunct New York State Commission on Public Integrity. This would make her ineligible under the rules.
Now, it’s not that everyone on the panel is facing fierce scrutiny. In fact two people in particular were highlighted as perfect picks for such a commission:
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Elected officials, by and large, came out in support of the tax plan deal between Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb was not one of them. The upstate Republican blasted the measure as a tax hike, done behind closed doors and as a distraction from the issues New Yorkers needed real relief from:
From what has been reported in the media so far, the bottom line is that taxes are being raised in New York State and we are still not dealing with our state’s serious spending problem. There is still no significant unfunded mandate relief for local governments. We should be protecting taxpayers by capping local Medicaid costs, enacting a state spending cap and doing this through an open, public process where these issues are debated and discussed in the light of day, not through secret deals behind closed doors by three-men-in-a-room. Tax hikes have never been the answer for creating more private sector jobs and long-term prosperity for New Yorkers. That still holds true today.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has announced a deal has been reached with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to, among a series of proposals, reform New York State's tax code, resulting in nearly $2 billion in revenue for the state.
"Our state government has come together in a bipartisan manner to create jobs, grow our economy and, at the same time enact a fair tax plan that cuts taxes for the middle class," the Governor said in a three-way joint statement. "This would be lowest tax rate for middle class families in 58 years. This job-creating economic plan defies the political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington and shows that we can make government work for the people of this State once again."
The proposal would create new income brackets for people who earn $40,000 a year or more (those below $40,000 would pay no taxes):
"Assembly Democrats share the Governor's belief that we need to restore fairness and equity to our tax system - someone who makes $50,000 should not be paying the same tax rate as someone making $5 million," Silver said in the same statement.
As part of the deal, the MTA payroll tax would be decreased for small businesses, saving them an estimated $250 million. The shortfall in revenues would be picked up by the state.
An agreement was said to be reached on support for a state constitutional referendum on gambling.
The proposal would also create a new infrastructure fund to funnel billions into improving the state's bridges and roads, as well as water, parks and educational facilities.
Another proposal also includes a inner city youth program that would give tax breaks to employers who hired unemployed youth, as well as a $37 million training program.
Areas hit hard by storms earlier this year would be eligible for a new $50 million grant program. There would also be a job retention credit for businesses to stay in flood damaged areas. Manufacturers in the state are also being promised a lower tax rate.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is solidifying his base of support in a major way today. Dean Skelos, the Republican Majority Leader of the State Senate and the highest-ranking member of his party in the state, announced he's endorsed Romney's campaign today, citing the former Massachusetts Governor's 800-plus vetoes and the "conservative principles" Romney brought to state government.
“Of all of the candidates running for President, [Mitt Romney] is the one most uniquely qualified for this moment," the State Senator said in a statement. "Mitt Romney’s policies will translate into more private sector jobs and more opportunities in New York and across the country, and I am proud to endorse him for President."
Skelos is the latest New York Republican politician to throw his support behind the Romney campaign. Yesterday Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich was appointed to run Romney's campaignin New York City.
Friday, November 18, 2011
The State Senate, lead by Senator Dean Skelos, released their budget today. As Michael Johnson at YNN's State of Politics Blog points out, the Senate and Assembly are coming up with very different figures for the current year budget.
[T]hey are projecting that all funds revenue will be $286 million higher than Cuomo’s budget division projects. The Assembly has predicted that revenue will be $187 million worse than the Governor’s forecast – putting the two chambers more than $450 million apart heading into next year’s budget negotiations.
He goes on to point out that the big underlying assumption of these numbers are arguments for and against the millionaires' tax. For the Assembly, a shortfall makes the case that now is not the time to be giving tax breaks. For the Senate, a better-than-expected tax situation makes the exact opposite case--that targeting upper-income earners now is both unneeded and irresponsible.
What nobody is arguing, however, is that next year's budget gap is in the $3 billion range.
Friday, November 04, 2011
This week marked the end of the first round of meetings of LATFOR, the joint legislative committee responsible for drawing New York’s political lines. More than 400 people from across the state testified, providing hundreds of hours of comments for legislators to take into account.
So now what?
Monday, October 31, 2011
City Hall News had a note about this this morning, and it's something I had wanted to point out last week when it happened. Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island and the only Republican State Senator in Brooklyn, Marty Golden, did a photo-op at an Orthodox Jewish-backed soup kitchen in Brooklyn.
Skelos has been eyeing the communities of the 27th Senate District, currently held by indicted Democratic State Senator Carl Kruger, and more specifically the Orthodox community as a possible pickup to the Republicans' slim majority in the Senate. From City Hall:
The majority leader was there last week to help chop vegetables and serve food at the Jewish Met Council's Masbia soup kitchen in Midwood, but also took some time to consider the possibility of capturing Kruger's district in next year's election. Skelos said Rep. Bob Turner's win in the neighboring Ninth Congressional district bodes well for the Senate Republicans' chances of winning in the 27th district.
Watch for changes in the redistricting map produced by Senate Republicans, as they seek to strengthen their push for another seat in deeply Democratic Brooklyn.
Friday, September 16, 2011
By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief
Health advocacy groups say it’s likely that New York State will miss another deadline to implement the new Federal health care law. Republicans in the State Senate, who control the chamber, are expressing new reservations about the health care exchanges, based on policy differences, not political opposition.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, says Senators are taking a “cautious, wait-and-see approach”, and have concerns that the federal program could result in New Yorkers paying $3.75 billion dollars more in taxes, thanks to new higher Medicare taxes for upper-income earners.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
By Kathleen Horan : Reporter, WNYC News
Congressman-elect Bob Turner was feted at the annual state Republican Party dinner Wednesday night in Midtown Manhattan like a newly crowned prom king. His upset victory in the 9th Congressional District was referred to throughout the night as a wake up call to Democrats.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office delivered some good news this morning: taxes have come in almost $800 million above what was expected during the recently ended 2011-2012 fiscal year. But he warned in a press release not too be too optimistic.
“Revenue collections in the first quarter were strong, but our fiscal health is tenuous,” DiNapoli said. He continued:
We received the last of the significant federal stimulus funding in June, and the temporary PIT surcharge ends in the third quarter this year. The federal debt limit crisis, weakness in the housing market, and international financial and political instability continue to pose threats to the recovery. The Blue Chip consensus economic forecasts for growth continue to be revised downward. State leaders need to focus on diversifying our economic base, creating jobs, and rebuilding reserves to prepare the state for any fiscal difficulties ahead.
Both personal income and business taxes rose, with the later up 32 percent from last year. Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos chimed in with a press release echoing the comptroller's cautionary tone.
"Today’s report by Comptroller DiNapoli, showing that tax collections for the first quarter of the State’s Fiscal Year have far outpaced recent estimates, is encouraging, and we must continue to monitor this situation over the next six months," Skelos said in a release. If the savings continue, he said, state government should focus on cutting taxes to individuals and businesses.
Friday, June 24, 2011
On Friday evening New York became the sixth state to approve same-sex marriage — an historic victory for gay rights advocates and bitter defeat for the bill's opponents that came during an overtime legislative session in Albany.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
It's not over with yet, it's a very fluid situation. But clearly, to effectively implement a tax cap without destroying community college participation, or long term home health care programs, nursing homes, tourism, water, sewer, economic development projects, road patrol, infrastructure—they need to get this mandate relief.
— Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties, on The Brian Lehrer Show.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
With the Tuesday announcement of a bipartisan compromise on property tax cap legislation, Governor Andrew Cuomo looks to be on the way to securing two out of three of his big-ticket priorities for the legislative session.
Friday, June 17, 2011
By Karen DeWitt : NYS Public Radio/WXXI
Albany, NY —
A vote in the state Senate on gay marriage is not expected until next week, as Republicans, who hold the majority in that house, wrangle with concerns over greater protections for religious organizations.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
By Ailsa Chang
After four hours of standing without food and water in dress shoes, forgoing bathroom breaks, packing in tightly with other reporters— right under the armpits of the tall ones—a reporter does not want to hear there’s no news.
But that was the case in Albany today, as senate Republicans met privately for hours on the same-sex marriage bill, and emerged with no decision.
Monday, June 13, 2011
By Karen DeWitt : NYS Public Radio/WXXI
It's the final week of the New York State legislative session. With many major agreements still outstanding, including a property tax cap and gay marriage, the leader of the Senate says it will be an "exciting" one.
Monday, May 09, 2011
At this point, we just don't know what Skelos might gain or lose from allowing a vote. Does he want to clear it out this year because it's not an election year? Take LGBT money that's pouring into Democrats' coffers off the table? Maybe some protection for Republicans who vote 'yes' in a difficult election year in 2012? Maybe he trades with Governor Cuomo for backing off the redistricting reform issue? It's very unclear.