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IOGA Demands Yet Another Fracking Study
December 21st, 2011

The Independent Oil and Gas Association is none to happy that the Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is hiring an outside firm to study the financial burden of natural gas exploration on communities across the state. Its solution is to have the state hire a consultant to hire an outside firm to study the cost to the state of the state putting a moratorium on fracking in 2008.

“IOGA of NY calls on the agency to also determine the full negative impact this delay has had on the state, especially the Southern Tier by examining lost sales, income and property tax revenue; outward job migration and jobs lost to other states; how the higher cost of fuel has impacted business growth in the state; and how many foreclosures could have been avoided.”

It just so happens the DEC was criticized for an earlier report by the same consultant because the report focused on the financial benefits of fracking without analyzing possible costs to communities, such as impacts on infrastructure.

Here is IOGA’s statement:

The DECs expanded study of community impacts resulting from advanced natural gas exploration announced yesterday should also analyze the lost opportunities and unrealized positive impacts since the states moratorium went into effect in 2008.

IOGA of NY calls on the agency to also determine the full negative impact this delay has had on the state, especially the Southern Tier by examining lost sales, income and property tax revenue; outward job migration and jobs lost to other states; how the higher cost of fuel has impacted business growth in the state; and how many foreclosures could have been avoided.

Earlier this month a report by IHS Global Insight showed that natural gas production in the United States will support 870,000 jobs and result in an additional $118 billion in economic impact over the next four years. New York must be part of this growth.

By on December 21, 2011, 5:10 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Common Cause Praises LATFOR Co-Chair
December 21st, 2011

Assemblyman Jack McEneny told me yesterday that he and his colleagues at LATFOR have been anticipating the release of Common Cause’s redistricting lines. “We have been anticipating them for some time. We will take a look at them and see what good parts we can incorporate into our plan. Then I would expect we will begin to have public hearings in January,” he was quoted in this article.

McEneny’s comments made Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, very happy and she released this statement:

“I want to commend Assemblyman McEneny for opening up the typically secretive process of redistricting to include our fair, non-partisan, incumbent blind maps. Our maps provide an alternative vision of what non-gerrymandered lines might look like, and we are happy to provide LATFOR with further input.”

Here is the full release from Common Cause: Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 21, 2011, 12:24 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo and Bloomberg Make a Taxi Deal
December 20th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have reached a deal to provide taxi service to the outer boroughs. Cuomo will sign the bill that is sitting at his desk and the legislature has agreed to introduce a chapter amendment next year. The sticking point according to Cuomo’s office, “failed to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and did not provide any incentive for the livery industry to ensure disabled New Yorkers had full access to the taxicab system.”

Here is the full statement from Cuomo’s office:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 20, 2011, 9:36 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 4 Comments »

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Common Cause Breaks Out the Maps
December 19th, 2011

Common Cause NY released its own district lines today, beating the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment to the punch. And just in case it wasn’t enough that they showed the legislature that a good government group without the the resources of the state behind it could draw up a set of decent maps, they also released a site where anyone can draw up fair district lines.

Sen. Liz Krueger has said many times that LATFOR has lost its “mystique” thanks to the internet. “Now anyone with a decent computer and mapping software can sit down and draw fair lines,” Krueger told me during special session.

By on December 19, 2011, 2:31 pm
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Lifton's Remarks on Local Fracking Bans
December 19th, 2011

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton was quoted in Sarah Crean’s article on the efforts of communities around the state to ban hydraulic fracturing. She was quoted saying: We have a very strong tradition of home rule in New York State. Its in our state constitution that locals have the power to regulate. If it (home rule) applies to gravel mining, it also applies to gas.

Lifton however says that she was misquoted and what she really said was:

We have a very strong tradition of home rule in New York State. Its in our state constitution that locals have the power to restrict and ban outright. If it (home rule) applies to gravel mining, it also applies to gas.

By on December 19, 2011, 2:05 pm
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Cuomo and Dicker Define Special Interests
December 15th, 2011

On the day that a New York Public Interest Research report showed that the lobbying group Committee to Save New York spent just under $10 million on their efforts this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the NY Post’s Fred Dicker devoted a good deal of Dicker’s radio show to attacking special interests.

Cuomo told Dicker that lobbying has become, “much more sophisticated than I remember.”

Ironically the Committee to Save New York is a lobbying group that was created to lobby for Cuomo’s financial policy. In fact, the Committee is funded by large real estate and business interests that could be considered “special interests.”

But Dicker and Cuomo made sure to clarify that the Committee to Save New York is a good sort of “special interest,” or, uh, something like that.

Cuomo then took to defending the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. He said criticism of the agency and the picks to serve on it are “nonsensical.”

One of the criticism’s is that Cuomo named sitting Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore to chair JCOPE. I’ll let the Times Union’s Capitol Confidential Twitter feed response to Cuomo’s comments take it from here:

TUCapCon: “DiFiore will raise money from lobbyists as a candidate. (This, we must suppose, is the less harmful kind of lobbying.)” 4 hours ago reply retweet favorite

By on December 15, 2011, 3:07 pm
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Does Batra Read Grandeau's Blog? Grandeau Hopes so.
December 14th, 2011

Ravi Batra, the Senate Minority’s pick to serve on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, has raised a lot of eyebrows. And now it seems he is doing his best to show critics that he is involved and interested in ethics…so much so that in his latest statement he gives form David Grandeau, the former head of the now defunct New York State Lobby Commission and attack dog blogger, a big sloppy wet kiss of an endorsement to head the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Liz Benjamin over at State of Politics has the details. Batra writes, “I propose as the first order of business of JCOPE is the formation of a search committee so JCOPE can have the best executive director possible. Some one like a David Grandeau.” Wowzers!

Batra also hits on something Grandeau and a number of journalists have pointed out–that JCOPE has a staff that no one actually had the authority to give it because the commission has not yet selected an executive director.

“I am troubled that Barry Ginsberg, PICs executive director has on his own taken over as JCOPEs acting executive director in violation of law and rules,” wrote Batra in a statement. “Only a majority of the JCOPE commissioners can hire him. I am informed by the IGs report, particularly, pages 152-154. I am also informed by the Findings by the same IGs Report. I for one do not accept any action taken by an executive director JCOPE didnt hire. I wish Mr. Ginsberg well, and Godspeed.”

Ginsberg has been a constant target of criticism on Grandeau’s blog.

“I hope he reads my blog,” Grandeau told me after I asked him what he thought of Batra’s statements. “Give Ravi credit,” said Grandeau. “He is the fist commissioner to publicly say, ‘let’s do the right thing.” By the right thing Grandeau means Batra’s focus on why Ginsberg is still at JCOPE, seemingly acting as the executive director and under whose authority.

Grandeau said he thinks Ginsberg is actually violating a state statute, “impersonation of a public official.”

“Barry Ginsberg has done us all a favor,” said Grandeau, “now we can see where each commissioner stands on right and wrong.”

By on December 14, 2011, 1:35 pm
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JCOPE Off to Slow, Rocky, Start
December 14th, 2011

Who knew so many ethical questions would be raised by the appointment of an ethics board? Let’s review.

On Friday, the remaining employees at the hobbled Commission on Public Integrity were finally told that they should come to work on Monday. Before that they had no idea whether they would be employed past that date. It isn’t clear who had the authority to keep the employees on as part of the new ethics agency because the new ethics agency didn’t exist and had not yet picked a chair. Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto simply told the Times Union, “JCOPE starts immediately and existing staff is under the boards direction until the chair makes further notice.” Neither Vlasto or his boss technically had the authority to keep the employees on.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced their picks to serve on the the Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Monday evening via press release–just squeaking in under the deadline. Cuomo has since refused to answer questions about JCOPE members.

Serious ethical questions have been raised about the appointments of the Senate Minority and Assembly Minority. The Senate Democrat’s choice, Ravi Batra, has a colorful history and is connected to a jailed former Assemblyman. The Assembly Republican’s pick, David Renzi, is the husband of a sitting Senator.

Gov. Cuomo’s choice to head the organization, Janet DiFiore is going to be pulling double duty–holding down her day job was Westchester District Attorney while chairing JCOPE–a proposition that could be extremely ethically dicey. Another of Cuomo’s appointees Mitra Hormozi won’t start until early January in order to get around the pesky clause that says you can’t serve on JCOPE if you have worked for the state or legislature in the past year. Hormozi worked in the Attorney General’s Office under Cuomo and she has been serving as Cuomo’s choice to chair the now defunct CPI.

In fact the Daily News thinks Albany might just be playing “Cronyville” with JCOPE.

And then as the Times Union’s Jimmy Vielkind points out–none of those employees that were kept on from CPI are actually investigators. It is unclear when JCOPE might actually meet to, you know, hire some investigators and start doing its job.

By on December 14, 2011, 9:15 am
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Frack Calculator
December 13th, 2011

The Independent Oil and Gas Association is eager to get started with this whole hydraulic fracturing thing and they want New York residents to see how much tax revenue their counties could pull in if and when it becomes sanctioned by the Department of Environmental Conservation. To that end they have created a calculator tool on their website. You can find it here. All you do is choose your county and click a button. Fortunately/unfortunately for me the calculator told me that my county (Albany, AKA The 518) is, “an unlikely candidate for Marcellus development.”

This simple calculator on the IOGA of NY websites homepage tells a dramatic story in just a few words, said John Holko, president of Lenape Resources in Alexander and an IOGA of NY director, in a statement. The calculator shows the amount of ad valorem tax the operator pays to a county in one year if only one Marcellus Shale well would be drilled in that county. This tax revenue stays in the county and supports essential services to county residents.

Fracking opponents say fracking could cost counties and the state a great deal of money if the waste water from the process contaminates local water sources. They also say that those who lease their land to oil and gas companies may not come out as well as they might hope because of the cost of possible water contamination.

By on December 13, 2011, 4:48 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 21 Comments »

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The Controversy Over Ravi Batra
December 12th, 2011

Ravi Batra is the Senate Democrats’ choice to serve on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics–that isn’t to say they all approved. While Sen. John Sampson denied to me last Wednesday that their was any friction over his choice, a number of Democratic Senators were very concerned by his selection. Why?

Batra has ties to Clarence Norman a former Brooklyn Assemblyman/political boss who worked at Batra’s law firm. Norman was jailed for taking campaign contributions from judges in exchange for their support.

Batra’s selection is seen by many politicos–especially Brooklyn politicos–as a big Christmas present from Sen. John Sampson to the Brooklyn political machine–starting with its boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who has faced a number of ethical questions.

By on December 12, 2011, 6:38 pm
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JCOPE Commissioners Announced
December 12th, 2011

The Cuomo administration unveiled the names of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics appointees just a bit after 5 p.m by press release. There was no press conference. Note that some of these folks barely meet, or don’t quite meet the criteria to serve on JCOPE. Former State Senator Mary Lou Rath left the Senate in 2009–putting her in just under the requirement that she not have been in the legislature for three years. Meanwhile, Mitra Hormozi, who worked for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Attorney General’s office and served on the Commission on Public Integrity up until today, will join JCOPE on January 5, 2012–one year after she left Cuomo’s employ. It doesn’t look like this list will make New York Public Interest Research Group’s Russ Haven very happy. Haven said many times these picks should come from outside legal and political circles and perhaps even be “everyday people, like your neighbor.”

The selection of Ravi Batra was the source of major tension between Senate Democrats. Batra has close ties to some Democrats and has actually come under investigation for ethical conflicts.

Here is the rundown from the press release:

Governor Cuomos appointments:

Janet DiFiore, Chair. Elected in 2005 and reelected in 2009, District Attorney DiFiore is the chief law enforcement officer of Westchester County. She also serves as the president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. Prior to her current position, she served as a Judge of the Westchester County Court and as a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. District Attorney DiFiore was also appointed by former-Chief Judge Judith Kaye to serve as the Supervising Judge for the Criminal Courts in the 9th Judicial District and was appointed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to serve as Co-Chair of the New York State Justice Task Force. District Attorney DiFiore received her J.D. from St. Johns University School of Law and her B.A. from C.W. Post College, Long Island University.
Vincent A. DeIorio. Mr. DeIorio is the Chair of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Board of Directors. He is an attorney with private practices in Purchase and New York City. Mr. DeIorio has previously served on the New York State Court of Claims. Mr. DeIorio is a graduate of the Utica College of Syracuse University and the University at Buffalo Law School. Mr. DeIorio will resign from NYSERDA in order to serve on JCOPE.
Mitra Hormozi. Ms. Hormozi has served as the Chairperson of the New York State Commission on Public Integrity since her appointment earlier this year. Ms. Hormozi is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. She previously served as the Special Deputy Chief of Staff in the New York Attorney Generals Office, where she supervised high-profile initiatives involving public integrity. Prior to that, she spent more than six years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where she was the Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section and received numerous top law enforcement awards. Ms. Hormozi is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the New York University School of Law. Ms. Hormozi will join JCOPE on January 5, 2012, one year after she left the Attorney Generals Office.
Daniel J. Horwitz. Mr. Horwitz is currently a partner at Lanker & Carragher, LLP. He previously served as a New York County Assistant District Attorney in the Frauds Bureau. Prior to his legal career, Mr. Horwitz served as Legislative Director to Congressman Thomas J. Downey. Mr. Horwitz received his J.D. cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law and his B.A. from Columbia University.
Gary J. Lavine. Mr. Lavine is associated as counsel with Green & Seifter, Attorneys, PLLC. Mr. Lavine served in the U.S. Department of Energy as Deputy General Counsel for Environment & Nuclear Programs during the administration of President George W. Bush. He also served as senior vice president and chief legal officer of Niagara Mohawk Holding Inc. Mr. Lavine has served in a number of staff positions with the New York State Legislature, including legislative counsel to the Minority Leader of the Assembly. He received degrees in both business administration and law from Syracuse University.
Seymour Knox IV. Mr. Knox is the CEO of Knox International, LLC, a New York based private equity firm. For twenty years, Mr. Knox served as Vice President of Corporate Relations for the Buffalo Sabres. Mr. Knox is a graduate of Lake Forest College.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 12, 2011, 5:27 pm
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By Whose Authority?
December 12th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson Josh Vlasto told the Wall Street Journal that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, “starts immediately and existing staff is under the board’s direction until the chair makes further notice.”

But who has the authority to decide that? According to the rules governing JCOPE the commission members have to pick an executive director. As far as anyone knows the commission members haven’t met yet, so how would there be an executive director to decide that the current staff will serve? Here is the law:

“The commission shall: (a) Appoint an executive director who shall act in accordance with the policies of the commission. The appointment and removal of the executive director shall be made solely by a vote of a majority of the commission, which majority shall include at least one member appointed by the governor from each of the two major political parties, and one member appointed by a legislative leader from each of the two major political parties.”

Vlasto told the TImes Union that members of JCOPE will be announced today.

By on December 12, 2011, 10:19 am
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CPI Staffers Told to Report on Monday. Where/When is JCOPE?
December 9th, 2011

Sources tell me that the remaining staffers at the Commission on Public Integrity are no longer unsure about whether they should report to work on Monday. Their supervisors have told them to show up on Monday. Yes, up until today staffers were not sure whether they would be employed come Monday.

Perhaps the staffers will help start the new ethics watchdog–the Joint Commission on Public Ethics but I am told the more likely reason the CPI will exist on Monday is because JCOPE won’t

If CPI still exists on Monday where is the Joint Commisison on Public Ethics and when will it be revealed?

The bill says that JCOPE will come into existence 120 days after the bill was signed. The bill was signed on August 15 so JCOPE should technically start early next week.

However, I have been told that the Cuomo administration believes that legally CPI will continue to exist until until JCOPE is officially functional. Here is the relevant part of the law: The JCOPE shall be fully operational on or before the 120th day after this act shall have become a law and until such time as it becomes operational (a) the state CPI shall deposit all records in its possession with the inspector general and (b) the LEC shall continue to exercise such functions, powers, obligations and duties to be transferred to the JCOPE;

I suppose it can be read that CPI exists until JCOPE does. I have been trying to ask the Cuomo administration about when JCOPE will be unveiled and whether it is in fact their position that the CPI will continue to exist until they get JCOPE together but my many calls and emails have been ignored. Good government groups say they aren’t worried if JCOPE isn’t ready exactly on Monday or Tuesday.

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union (Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation the sister organization to the Citizens Union) Said that he is not concerned if there is a small gap between the 120 day deadline and the start of JCOPE. I expect the governor will apply the law and meet the required deadline, said Dadey adding. A couple days wont hurt.

What could the hold up be? Legislative sources tell me that all conferences have made their picks. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb told me he had made his pick a month or so ago. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told me on Wednesday,”We have our people and I think we will announce it in a timely fashion when governors office is ready.” Other sources have confirmed that the Senate Minority and Assembly Majority have also made their picks to serve on the commission so that leaves the governor’s office.

What is holding them up? Russ Haven of the New York Public Interest Group says that he has been told it has been a struggle to find people who want to serve on JCOPE.

It seems they (the Cuomo administration) are scrambling to lock people in,” said Haven. “With the spotlight that has been on the CPI for the last 4 years it might be less attractive to some folks. But we really hope they look outside of the usual suspectsconnected lawyers and the like.

*Update* Numerous sources tell me they have been tentatively told to expect an unveiling of JCOPE on Thursday of next week.

By on December 9, 2011, 11:13 am
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Assembly Sending Livery Bill to Cuomo, Lasher Weighs in
December 7th, 2011

Last session the Senate and Assembly passed a bill that would allow livery drivers to pick up fares in the outer boroughs. Gov. Cuomo said the bill needed changes and would not sign it. An amendment was apparently in the works today but it was not sent to the legislature and now the Assembly plans to send the bill to Cuomo as is–forcing him to sign it, or veto it. You can find more detail on the story here.

Micah Lasher, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s director of legislative affairs issued this statement on the matter:

In June, the State Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill to provide safe and legal taxi service to residents of all five boroughs and generate $1 billion in badly needed revenue for New York City. We understand that bill, which stands on its own, is being sent to Governor Cuomo on Friday.

Over the last six months, the Governor has repeatedly expressed support for the goals of the legislation and also said he wanted to make certain changes in the form of a chapter amendment. He and his staff were finalizing an amendment this morning, but it was never sent to the Legislature. While the Mayor, along with legislative leaders, was prepared to support that amendment, it is not necessary to achieve the goals of the legislation.

Over the next ten days, we are available to discuss any questions or concerns the Governor has, and strongly urge him to sign this historic legislation.

By on December 7, 2011, 7:09 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Transportation Alternatives Slams Changes to Payroll Tax
December 7th, 2011

Transportation Alternatives is not happy with the plan to exempt businesses from the MTA payroll tax that is part of the mega tax code deal legislators are going to consider tonight. They say the move will harm the MTA and riders who will end up paying more. Sen. Kevin Parker told me today that he thinks the move will, “put us right back where we were before,” in terms of funding for the MTA. Concern over the payroll tax and MTA funding is not at all likely to be even a minor speed bump in the passage of the bill as Democratic legislators want to tout their vote for a tax cut and a “fairer tax code” but a number of them told me today they expect to be dealing with, “How to save the MTA,” again next session.

Here is Transportation Alterntative’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 7, 2011, 6:47 pm
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Alliance for Quality Education Reacts
December 6th, 2011

Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education said that the deal reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders today is a step in the right direction. He does not blast the deal but seems to reserve judgement.

AQE applauds the Assembly Majority and Senate Minority for consistently advocating tax fairness and adequate revenues. We appreciate the fact that the Governor and the Senate Majority are responding to the demands of the 99% of New Yorkers for tax fairness. However, we are concerned that $2 billion in revenues does not fully address the $5 billion hole created by the elimination of the existing millionaires tax,” said Easton in a statement.

Easton goes on to say that the plan will be judged on whether it allows the state to restore cuts made to schools.

By on December 6, 2011, 3:59 pm
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Deal Raises Concerns About Transparency
December 6th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders reached a deal to reform the tax code, create a jobs program for inner-city youth, cut the MTA payroll tax, and invest in infrastructure. All of it seemingly took place in a matter of weeks and certainly behind closed doors. Cuomo’s office built up to the deal with “op-eds” instead of interviews, press avails, or even just well press releases–not that their was a major difference between the op-eds and press releases. Finally the deal was announced today by a press release, even though Cuomo and the leaders seem like they could be available for a press conference. And now Cuomo has promised to release a video message about the deal rather than having a presser today.

That has raised some major concerns for some legislators–especially Senate Democrats who are especially sensitive to Cuomo’s relationship with the Republican Majority–that sensitivity has been exacerbated because the issue of redistricting remains unresolved.

One Democratic legislators told me–“It makes me wonder what else the Republicans got out of the deal because whatever it is, it is bad for me.” Certainly the cut to the MTA payroll tax is a huge victory for Republicans but Senate Democrats worry that somehow Cuomo has given Republicans an easy way out on redistricting that he will present in the stead of his long-promised veto. Independent redistricting is a life or death issue for Senate Republicans and as one Democratic Senator told me, “the dead aren’t affable people.”

Not only is the future of redistricting still up in the air but so is the fate of the newly-created ethics watchdog the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. JCOPE is supposed to be up and running by next week but a number of sources are telling me that that is unlikely because legislators have had trouble finding people willing to serve on the commission–despite the fact that the legislation to create the agency was signed in August.

So what happens if next week comes and there is no commission? And why on earth has the process of creating an ethics watchdog been cloaked in secrecy? Cuomo’s office has not returned multiple calls regarding JCOPE. The old agency–the Commission on Public Integrity is simply supposed to cease to exist next week. Will those workers just stop coming to the office? Will higher-ups like Barry Ginsburg silently find their way into JCOPE? Will JCOPE be any different than the agency it replaced.

Will Albany still be in a tizzy over the tax deal and the special session to notice whether JCOPE comes into being? Or will it all happily fall into place? Man, that is a lot of questions.

*Update

Assembly members have received copies of the press release handed out to journalists and are now expected to vote on the measure tomorrow. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters that there has already been enough debate about the tax code this year. Cuomo will apparently issue a message of necessity and the Assembly will likely be out of town again before the end of the week if not by the end of tomorrow. Not sure how much any of the rank-and-file legislators really know about what they are voting on.

By on December 6, 2011, 3:18 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Deal Raises Concerns About Transparency

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Three-Way Deal on Taxes, Jobs, Infrastructure
December 6th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office just announced that he has reached a deal with the legislature to implement tax code changes, create a new jobs program, fund infrastructure investments and interestingly enough–lower the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax. Here is the release:

GOVERNOR CUOMO, MAJORITY LEADER SKELOS & SPEAKER SILVER ANNOUNCE COMPREHENSIVE PLANS TO CREATE JOBS AND GROW THE ECONOMY

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced that they have reached a proposed three-way agreement on legislative and executive proposals to create jobs and cut taxes for middle class New Yorkers. The agreement includes support for a comprehensive New York Works Agenda that will create thousands of jobs with new investments in New York’s infrastructure, passing a fair tax reform plan that achieves the first major restructuring of the tax code in decades resulting in a tax cut for 4.4 million middle class New Yorkers taxpayers, approving $50 million in additional relief for areas devastated by recent floods, and reducing the MTA payroll tax to provide relief for small businesses. The leaders will now present the agreement to their members for approval.

“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,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are investing in projects that will restore our state’s infrastructure and put thousands of people to work. We are cutting taxes on middle class New Yorkers and small businesses, which will inject nearly $1 billion into our economy. We are targeting new tax credits to hire inner city youth and reduce unemployment in some of the poorest areas of our state, as well as providing direct aid to communities struggling to recover in the wake of this year’s severe storms. 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. I commend Majority Leader Skelos and Assembly Speaker Silver for their partnership in our effort together to create jobs for New Yorkers and put our state’s economy on a path for growth.”

“This year, working in a bipartisan manner, we’ve accomplished some very important things for the people of this State – – including eliminating a $10 billion deficit, bringing spending under control and capping property taxes,” Majority Leader Skelos said. “This comprehensive plan will reduce the tax rate for middle class families to their lowest levels in more than fifty years, create thousands of new private sector jobs, and begin to turn our economy around. I am pleased that this proposed agreement realizes long-held Senate Republican priorities like cutting the corporate franchise tax for manufacturers, reducing the job-killing MTA payroll tax for small businesses, eliminating New York’s stealth tax by indexing tax brackets and deductions, and building our reserves, along with providing additional flood relief to support job growth in devastated communities. I am looking forward to presenting this framework agreement to the members of our conference tomorrow and hearing their feedback.”

“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,” Speaker Sheldon Silver said. “With Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we have forged a bipartisan plan that is fair to all New Yorkers and will help build a brighter economic future for this State. I am submitting to my conference a proposal that will provide $2 billion in revenue for the people of New York in each of the next three years by creating a more progressive tax structure, coupled with a significant middle class tax cut. I will recommend that they give it favorable consideration. I congratulate the Governor for helping to forge this comprehensive plan to revitalize New York State’s economy.”

The Governor’s New York Works Agenda will create tens of thousands of jobs through a $1 billion targeted and accelerated investment in key infrastructure projects around the state including roads, bridges, parks, energy and water projects. The NY Works Agenda also includes pursuing a comprehensive gaming plan and enacting a new tax credit to incentive the hiring of inner city youth.

The Governor and the legislative leaders have agreed to tax code reforms including a temporary restructuring of current tax brackets to reduce taxes for 4.4 million middle-class New Yorkers. The Governor is also establishing a commission to examine a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s entire tax code that will make it simpler and fairer for all taxpayers and to create economic growth in the state.

In addition to these agreements, the Governor and legislative leaders announced a new round of flood relief, including a $50 million grant program for at businesses and counties impacted by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The plan also includes a job retention tax credit for businesses impacted by a natural disaster during the last year. Finally, the Governor and legislative leaders announced that the MTA payroll tax will be reduced for small businesses.

The details of the proposed agreement are as follows:

The New York Works Agenda

New York Works Infrastructure Fund: Creating Jobs by Rebuilding New York

The Governor and the legislative leaders have agreed to a plan creating New York’s first infrastructure fund to inject over $1 billion in job creating investment. The accelerated state funding will leverage $10 billion in direct capital investment to create thousands of direct jobs by rebuilding roads and bridges; parks, dams and flood control projects; upgrading water systems and educational facilities; and investing in energy efficient improvements to commercial and residential buildings. The plan will focus on projects that support regional Economic Development Plans in the transportation, energy, environment and public facilities sectors. The accelerated infrastructure fund investment is within the state’s debt ceiling.

Specific investments undertaken by the New York Works Infrastructure Fund include replacing deficient state and local bridges in every region of the state, rehabilitating dams and flood control infrastructure, renovating parks, rebuilding water systems, conducting energy retrofits on homes, farms, businesses, and schools, as well as accelerating major SUNY and CUNY projects.

The Governor and the legislative leaders agreed on proposing legislation that will permit the New York Works Infrastructure Fund to bid the design and construction of infrastructure projects as a single contract, reducing costs and improving construction time. Passage of “Design-Build” legislation would shave 9 – 12 months from the construction time of major infrastructure projects. The Fund would also streamline permitting and regulatory approvals for infrastructure projects and procurements and consolidate activities across agencies and authorities.

Financing for the infrastructure fund would be provided through advancing capital investment and the creation of a public/private infrastructure fund. $700 million in state capital investments would be front loaded to increase job and economic impact by moving up capital projects planned for 2013 to 2012 wherever possible. An additional $300 million from the Port Authority would be directed towards funding for infrastructure projects in New York City. A new public/private infrastructure fund would raise up to $1 billion from pension funds and private investment.

Gaming Agreement

The Leaders expressed support to work with the Governor and request support from their respective majorities to put a constitutional amendment up for a vote.

Inner City Youth Employment Program and Tax Credit

The Governor and the legislative leaders agreed to create an inner-city youth employment program and a $25 million tax credit for employers who hire unemployed youth between 16 and 24 years of age over the first six months of 2012. The program and credit would be available to employers in businesses such as clean energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and conservation. Eligible employers would receive up to $3,000 for a six month training period and an additional $1,000 if they retained their workers for an additional six months.

Nearly $37 million in funding will be provided to critical jobs programs for inner city youth. This includes $12 million in support grants to youth providers for work readiness training, occupational training, placement or job matching, workplace mentoring and follow up services to increase retention. Participating youths will be provided with up to three monthly stipends of $300 each to cover costs associated with transitioning into the workplace. An additional $25 million will be appropriated for workforce skills training and support programs including digital literacy, basic education and occupational training, summer youth employment, job search and placement, and facilitated child care enrollment.

Fair Tax Code Reform

The Governor and the legislative leaders announced tax code reforms to create jobs and restore fairness to the tax system. Under the new rate structure, a total of 4.4 million New Yorkers would receive a tax cut, including a $690 million reduction for middle class taxpayers, and all taxpayers would see a tax reduction or no change compared to their previous tax bill. Brackets would increase with the rate of inflation. The newly implemented top bracket expires in December 31, 2014.

The new tax structure would generate $1.9 billion in additional revenue for the State. Any additional unspent funds from this revenue would be held in a new priority reserve fund to be dedicated towards future needs regarding job creation, local mandate relief, education, health care and mortgage foreclosure protection.

The new tax bracket structure would be reorganized as follows:

Income Level

Previous Tax Rate

New Tax Rate

$40,000 to $150,000

6.85%

6.45%

$150,000 to $300,000

6.85%

6.65%

$300,000 to $2 million

7.85% – 8.97%

6.85%

Over $2 million

8.97%

8.82%

Through an executive order, the Governor has created the New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission to address long term changes to the tax system and create economic growth. The commission will have thirteen members, including four recommended by the Senate and Assembly majority leaders and two recommended by the Senate and Assembly minority leaders. The chair of the Commission will be appointed by the Governor. All members are required to have expertise in the tax field and will receive no compensation.

The Commission will conduct a comprehensive and objective review of the State’s taxation policy, including corporate, sales and personal income taxation and make revenue-neutral policy recommendations to improve the current tax system. In its review, the Commission will consider ways to eliminate tax loopholes, promote administration efficiency and enhance tax collection and enforcement.

Flood Recovery Grant Program

The Governor and the legislative leaders have agreed to establish a $50 million grant program to continue recovery efforts in regions of the State impacted by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The program includes the following support for communities recovering from the storms:

$21 million for small businesses, farms, multiple-dwellings and non-profit organizations that sustained direct physical flood-related damage costs not covered by other federal, State or local recovery programs. Grants would be limited to $20,000 and eligible only to companies that are on the Small Business Administration’s list of companies that have sustained damage.
$9 million for county flood mitigation or flood control projects. The grants for each county would range from $300,000 to $500,000; however, counties could jointly apply. Eligible counties must be included in Federal disaster declarations
An additional $20 million included in federal disaster declarations distributed on an as needed basis
Permitting local government to let taxpayers impacted by the storms to pay their property taxes in installments

Jobs Retention Credit for Businesses Impacted by a Natural Disaster

The Governor and the legislative leaders have agreed to the enactment of a job retention credit for businesses harmed by a natural disaster. The credit would be available to firms with at least 100 employees that have retained or expanded their workers’ roles during this time. The credit would equal 6.85 percent of the wages of retained jobs and is targeted towards employers in financial services, manufacturing, software development, new media, scientific development, agriculture and other sectors.

Reduced Manufacturing Tax Rate

The Governor and the leaders agreed to provide a new reduction in the tax provided to corporate manufacturers by lowering their tax rate that would save them $25 million.

Reducing the MTA Payroll Tax

The Governor and the legislative leaders have agreed to reduce the MTA payroll tax on small businesses while maintaining the necessary funding for the MTA from other sources. The payroll tax would be eliminated or reduced for 294,900 taxpayers overall. The tax would also be eliminated from an additional 415,000 taxpayers by raising the self-employment income exemption. In addition, private elementary and secondary schools, as well as parochial schools, would be exempt from the tax. The State would compensate the MTA for the $250 million in lost revenue.

By on December 6, 2011, 2:00 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Groups Put Pressure on Cuomo's Tax Plan
December 5th, 2011

Progressive groups are trying to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators into negotiating a tax code change that would make the wealthy pay much more than they do now and patch budget cuts. They say “revenue neutrality” for tax code reform is the wrong way to go. Cuomo’s recent op-ed on tax code changes does not mention raising revenue–as the Daily News’ Bill Hammond pointed out and Liz Benjamin points out here.

“If Cuomo wants to stop being labeled Governor 1%, he needs to address the fact that the richest 1% are getting 34% of the state’s income. So far his tax proposals are all about political spin, not real reform for the 99%. Yes, tax reform must correct the fact that the janitor at Trump Tower is paying a higher percentage of state and low-income taxes than Donald Trump is. Our state tax system is one way we have shifted wealth to the rich. But it also must correct the budgetary shortfalls that undercuts investment in our infrastructure, kills jobs and undermines the safety net,” said Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network.

Karen Scharff of Citizen Action sent out an appeal to supporters to encourage them to keep calling legislators to push for a plan that would generate enough revenue to patch budget cuts. “With signals coming from the Capitol that there is movement on a large-scale change to New York States tax code, we need to make sure that its the right tax reform. Any tax code plan must include raising revenue to restore the worst budget cuts, and directly creating jobs. And we shouldnt, especially with a budget deficit as big as it is, be giving even more tax breaks to corporations and the 1%.”

Some business groups and conservatives are pushing hard for Senate Republicans to stand against any tax increase.

With signals coming from the Capitol that there is movement on a large-scale change to New York States tax code, we need to make sure that its the right tax reform.
Any tax code plan must include raising revenue to restore the worst budget cuts, and directly creating jobs. And we shouldnt, especially with a budget deficit as big as it is, be giving even more tax breaks to corporations and the 1%.
By on December 5, 2011, 4:58 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Groups Put Pressure on Cuomo's Tax Plan

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Who is JCOPE? Where is JCOPE?
December 5th, 2011

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics seems to have been lost in the hubbub of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax code proposal and the possible special session to address it. Staffers at what is left of the Commission on Public Integrity are reportedly unsure of what their fate will be come next week when the CPI will no longer exist and Cuomo and the legislature are scheduled to announce their picks to serve on JCOPE. One person who has been rumored to be scheduled to survive the change over–executive director and chief council of the CPI, Barry Ginsburg, apparently wants to keep doing what he is doing as part of JCOPE. The New York World asked him where he is headed after CPI ends and this is what he had to say:

“I dont know for sure that Im leaving Im technically leaving the position as it will no longer exist in December. But whether Ill be a part of JCOPE, I cant say. My professional life has been primarily built around serving public and government, in some shape or form, and I intend to continue that. I find public work to be personally rewarding, and if it sounds egotistical I think I do it well. Theres a value and I hope to be able to keep contributing.”

One interested spectator told me it was curious to them that, “Andrew Cuomo is sharp enough that he is going to change the entire tax code by the end of the week. But they haven’t been able to get things together for the ethics commission in six months.”

So moving forward, where will you be headed?
I dont know for sure that Im leaving Im technically leaving the position as it will no longer exist in December. But whether Ill be a part of JCOPE, I cant say. My professional life has been primarily built around serving public and government, in some shape or form, and I intend to continue that. I find public work to be personally rewarding, and if it sounds egotistical I think I do it well. Theres a value and I hope to be able to keep contributing.
By on December 5, 2011, 4:43 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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