Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/andrew-cuomo 2018-11-21T18:23:41+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Agenda 2019: Long List of Transit Questions Starts with Saving the Subways 2018-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8094-agenda-2019-long-list-of-transit-questions-starts-with-saving-the-subways Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-an-cuomo-littering.jpg" alt="gov an cuomo littering" width="600" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo on the tracks (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>2019 will be a pivotal year for New York City transportation, unlike any this city has seen in decades. Not only is there near-universal agreement that the city’s transportation landscape, from the subways to the buses to the traffic and everything in between, is fundamentally broken, there is also a growing consensus on many of the steps needed to fix it, starting with—but by no means limited to—congestion pricing.</p> <p>The problems start, of course, with the subways. For the first time in a generation, there is a leader at the MTA, New York City Transit President Andy Byford, that activists, politicians, and the riding public believe in. And he’s getting results, at least enough of them to instill confidence in new-found competence. On-time subway performance has been steadily rising since a low of 58.1 percent in January to 70.3 percent in October. Overall delays are also trending in the right direction. The $836 million Subway Action Plan work has mostly been done, which also seems to have had an effect in reducing the number of “Major Incidents” that snarl commutes.</p> <p>Byford and his management team are always quick to admit there’s still much more work to do, but his efforts to improve “the basics” by reducing train dwell times, making sure all of the safety equipment in the system works properly so trains can go as fast as safely possible, and other “safe seconds” initiatives appear to be paying off.</p> <p>On top of that, the state Legislature, which has final say on many of the key issues facing the city’s transportation landscape, turned solidly Democratic in November, opening the door to changes that may otherwise have been off the table. Some legislators at least appear eager to tackle the transportation issue head-on. Plus, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, has made transportation a key tentpole issue of his early tenure by passing a temporary Uber/Lyft cap and the Fair Fares program for discounted MetroCards. In many ways, the stars are very much aligned.</p> <p>But the challenges are just as monumental as the opportunities. The MTA has a precarious financial situation, ridership is declining, and some miscalculations now such as cutting service or raising fares too high could have dire consequences. Congestion pricing still has its detractors, particularly in the outer boroughs who, reasonably, want commitments to better bus service in exchange. They need to be convinced. The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, is still curiously indifferent to all things transit with the exception of his beloved ferries, a <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/05/15/foamland-security-ferry-riders-say-de-blasios-subsidies-spare-them-subway-trauma/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tiny, heavily-subsidized slice of the overall pie</a>, and his still-far-off BQX streetcar.</p> <p>And the single most important person in this conversation, Governor Andrew Cuomo, has been too selective regarding what MTA issues he’s interested in and when, resulting in a revolving door of MTA leaders, whom Cuomo appoints. The agency needs a consistent, dedicated head who can team with Byford for long-term fixes. Cuomo will soon nominate someone for the position after Joe Lhota’s departure.</p> <p>A year from now, we’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what the future of the city’s transportation will look like. Perhaps decades from now, New Yorkers will look back on 2019 as the year the tide finally turned towards real fixes for the beleaguered transit picture, with a reliable subway system, buses that move, and other essentials. Or, despite the crises and challenges New York faces, maybe it will be perceived as a missed opportunity.</p> <p><strong>The L Train Shutdown</strong><br /> Believe it or not, the L train shutdown, that dark specter of fear and misery looming in the distance for years, is finally upon us. Starting on April 27, the L train will run at a reduced frequency and only in Brooklyn, diverting almost 300,000 riders per day. The MTA and NYC DOT have created <a href="http://web.mta.info/sandy/CanarsieTunnelRebuildingProcess.html#sdtr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an elaborate mitigation plan</a> they claim can accommodate every rider. The agencies anticipate four out of every five displaced L riders will use other subway routes (most notably the J, M, Z, G, 7, E, A, and C) and the rest will use some combination of special bus services across the Williamsburg Bridge, ferries, or bikes; 14th Street will become a busway for most of each day and the Williamsburg Bridge will be HOV-3 to accommodate all those buses.</p> <p>But there is simply no way to have hundreds of thousands of commuters change their habits all at once in an orderly fashion. The big question, then, is how the MTA and DOT adapt.</p> <p>“We'll be watching closely to see whether the MTA and DOT can work together to adapt to real-world transportation needs on the ground,” said Hayley Richardson of TransitCenter. Some of the adjustments they’ll keep an eye on: will the HOV-3 window on the bridge, from 5 AM to 10 PM, be sufficient? Will HOV-3 in general be restrictive enough, given that their modeling largely uses assumptions from crises before Uber and Lyft had shared-ride options and thus could easily meet the HOV-3 restriction? Perhaps they’ll need to institute <a href="https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2017/02/when-street-parking-becomes-a-pop-up-bus-lane/517404/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pop-up bus lanes</a> created with standard issue road cones.</p> <p>Another looming question is whether the HOV-3 restriction and bus lanes will be properly enforced. Given the volume of buses the MTA expects to run across the bridge and 14th Street—one or two buses per minute in some cases—even one blocked bus lane could be catastrophic during peak hours. It’s up to the NYPD to enforce it, and there has been little indication that the department <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/10/23/hike-in-nypd-bus-lane-enforcement-barely-makes-a-dent-for-riders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prioritizes such work</a>.</p> <p>Whatever the case, riders—whether former L commuters or those on the lines that will be swamped with more passengers—are going to be dealing with a lot of changes. Will the MTA be able to communicate effectively? It, too, <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2018/7/30/17632214/mta-nyc-subway-communication-fast-forward" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has left a lot to be desired</a> in that department.</p> <p>There’s a lot riding on the MTA and the city to get this right. Aside from the obvious need to get people where they need to go, it is a huge opportunity for the MTA to show riders it is improving, deserves more taxpayer and rider money, and will use it wisely because it is a competent, efficient organization. Because, well, the MTA is going to be asking for a lot of money.</p> <p><strong>Sorting Out the MTA’s Budget Mess</strong><br /> Earlier this month, MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran presented <a href="http://web.mta.info/news/pdf/MTA-2019-Final-Proposed-Budget-Nov-Financial-Plan-2019-2022-Presentation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a sobering financial picture</a> to the MTA Board. In short, the MTA projects a $991 million deficit by 2022 even with biennial fare and toll increases. Foran argued the MTA needs a new, recurring revenue stream in order to balance the budget beyond 2020. And this is just the MTA’s costs of providing day-to-day service; the next five-year capital plan—which would include Byford’s Fast Forward Plan to revitalize New York City Transit, plus the needs of LIRR and Metro-North—is <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-repairs-spending-1.22448049" target="_blank" rel="noopener">estimated to cost around $60 billion</a>, or nearly double the current capital plan. Who will pay for it and how is the single biggest question facing New York City transportation this year.</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo has been consistent on one MTA issue: he wants the city to pay more. He <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150724/civic-center/cuomo-wants-more-money-from-city-fund-mta-capital-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wanted the city to pay more in 2015</a> towards the current capital plan, he <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-subway-funding-1.17789464" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forced the city's hand into paying half of the Subway Action Plan</a>, and he regularly pledges—and <a href="http://gothamist.com/2018/10/09/governor_cuomos_unity_pledge.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">had suburban state Senators sign on</a>—to make the city pay its “fair share” going forward.</p> <p>Before Lhota resigned as MTA chair earlier this month, he stated the Board would not take a position regarding preferred revenue streams until the MTA Sustainability Advisory Working Group, created by this year’s state budget, issues its report on this topic, which is expected by the end of the year. That report will likely set the tone for discussions in Albany once the new legislative session begins in January, which is largely dictated by the governor’s State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation.</p> <p>In the meantime, Governor Cuomo declared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Monday that “the MTA is going to be a top priority for me this year” and that he favors congestion pricing as the additional revenue stream in need.</p> <p>Congestion pricing, which would charge drivers who enter Manhattan’s Central Business District, will accomplish far more than give the MTA additional money (perhaps more than $1 billion per year depending on what the exact model looks like). It will also address one of New York’s other major transportation issues: traffic. <a href="http://www.hntb.com/HNTB/media/HNTBMediaLibrary/Home/Fix-NYC-Panel-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to the FixNYC panel</a> convened by the governor last year to study congestion pricing, vehicles in the Central Business District moved at a mere 6.8 miles per hour in 2016, and only 4.7 miles per hour—a brisk walking pace—in the “Midtown Core.” By reducing the number of vehicles in Manhattan, congestion pricing would help speed things up.</p> <p>Because of the MTA’s dire financial outlook and Manhattan’s desperate need for traffic relief, congestion pricing is a two-birds-one-stone type deal. Combined with a revamped state Legislature more amenable to congestion pricing, there’s a growing consensus it will pass this coming session.</p> <p>“We certainly expect to see congestion pricing done this year in the budget process,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Nick Sifuentes predicted, before adding “and we also know additional resources of funding will be necessary if we’re going to see Fast Forward fully funded.” What those additional revenue sources might be is a question the MTA Sustainability Advisory Working Group will presumably address.</p> <p><strong>MTA Cost Control</strong><br /> But that’s just the revenue side of the equation. The MTA also has a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-construction-costs.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">highly-publicized</a> <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Building-Rail-Transit-Projects-Better-for-Less.pdf">cost control issue</a>, spending orders of magnitude more on big projects than comparable cities. It’s a problem Cuomo has finally vowed to tackle. “There is inefficiency that goes on at the MTA that has to end,” he told Lehrer. Easier said than done, especially for a governor who has been <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/08/13/cuomos-labor-allies-defend-his-record-on-subway-woes-555314" target="_blank" rel="noopener">extremely tight</a> with the <a href="http://www.twulocal100.org/story/cuomos-team-cruises-victory-twu-builds-political-clout" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Transportation Workers Union</a> and taken little apparent interest in how MTA contracting is managed.</p> <p>While the MTA has said that tackling high capital costs is a key goal <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/nyregion/mta-construction-costs-threaten-to-strangle-growth-report-warns.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for almost a year now</a>, there has so far been very little payoff. Presentations by the MTA Board’s <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/docs/Procurement-Task-Force061918.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">procurement</a> and <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/docs/Cost-Containment062018.pptx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cost containment</a> task forces in June have been the only public-facing initiatives within the authority to keep the ball moving forward. Nor has there been any transparency on why, exactly, the Fast Forward Plan will cost $40 billion, how that number was arrived at, or whether the cost can be lowered by prioritizing some initiatives over others.</p> <p>The MTA will also be re-negotiating its biggest labor contract with TWU Local 100 and its more than 40,000 members, whose contract expires in May. Payroll, health care, and pensions account for more than half of the MTA’s $16.7 billion 2019 budget.</p> <p>The main question is to what degree lawmakers will push the cost control issue when determining new revenue streams in the upcoming state budget. Will they insist on rigid cost containment guards to make sure the money is spent wisely? Or will they throw a bunch of money at the MTA and hope the problem doesn’t present its ugly head again until they’re long gone from office?</p> <p>The latter approach may be the more cynical one, but it’s also the historically preferred one in Albany. Nevertheless, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has <a href="https://twitter.com/AmyPaulin/status/1060562112211312641" target="_blank" rel="noopener">already vowed</a> to break form and “conduct [a] rigorous, public oversight during the legislative session” on the MTA. Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance expects lawmakers this time around to take a more active approach in ensuring the MTA is doing something about outsized construction costs. “Lawmakers and fare, toll, and taxpayers want to know that the money they raise and set aside for transit will be used efficiently and responsibly,’ Pearlstein said. “Ramping up toward the next MTA capital plan, look for the authority to articulate and implement new cost control measures.”</p> <p><strong>Get Buses Moving Again</strong><br /> For all the talk of fixing the subway for tens of billions of dollars, fixing the city’s bus service—which serves almost two million riders a day but has seen ridership plummet by almost 10 percent since 2012—is a relatively cheap and easy proposition by comparison. Instead of a matter of dollars, it’s largely a matter of will.</p> <p>Congestion pricing would likely help speed up bus service in some parts of Manhattan, but more needs to be done to make bus service throughout the five boroughs an attractive option, say both Sifuentes and Pearlstein, whose organizations have partnered with other advocacy groups to form the <a href="http://busturnaround.nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bus Turnaround Coalition</a>. The coalition calls for, among other measures, redesigning the city’s bus routes, which in many cases have not been touched in decades. The MTA just finished redesigning Staten Island’s express bus network and plans to tackle the Bronx next.</p> <p>But it’s not just an MTA problem. The roads and traffic signals are controlled by the city DOT and monitored by the NYPD, and thus far Mayor de Blasio has not made speeding up bus service a priority—or even a topic—of his administration’s efforts. “The city (DOT) really needs to step up its commitment on buses,” Sifuentes urged, which he says ought to include more bus lanes and more robust and expanded transit signal priority, which gives buses as many green lights as possible.</p> <p>There is something Albany can do, which is probably the most important thing to speed up buses. Both Pearlstein and Sifuentes plan to pressure the state Legislature to drastically expand the use of camera enforcement for bus lanes rather than relying on the NYPD to write tickets. For his part, Byford <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/11/15/byford-cameras-are-a-lot-better-than-cops-at-clearing-bus-lanes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wants those cameras</a> mounted on the front of buses, ensuring anyone who blocks a bus lane gets a ticket regardless of whether or not there’s a cop nearby.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>New Fare Payment System</strong><br /> The Bus Turnaround Coalition also calls for all-door boarding to speed up loading times, which can only be done with a new fare payment system. Luckily, the MTA is mere months from introducing this.</p> <p>Starting in May, riders will be able to use contactless payment such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or contactless-enabled credit cards that <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181114005710/en/Chase-Taps-Speedier-Checkout-Contactless-Visa-Credit?linkId=59628789" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chase and Visa will be rolling out</a> in the coming months, to pay their fare on the 4/5 subway line between Grand Central and Atlantic Ave/Barclays as well as Staten Island express buses. The MTA plans to roll out contactless payments to every other bus and subway station by October 2020. By the time MetroCards are no longer accepted in 2023, riders who don’t have credit cards or smartphones will be able to purchase NFC-enabled transit cards like the ones in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, London, and pretty much every other major city from new station vending machines and local stores.</p> <p>This new payment system will not only make bus boarding faster if implemented properly, it can also accommodate a more sensible fare structure that eliminates the need to face the existential question of adding value or adding time. This model, <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-metrocard-fare-1.14945261" target="_blank" rel="noopener">known as fare-capping</a>, means people pay per-ride until they hit a pre-determined maximum for a period of time, perhaps a day, week, or month, at which point each additional ride is free for that time period. This ensures nobody pays more than the “unlimited” amount and further incentivizes folks to use public transportation no matter how many trips they plan to make.</p> <p>Although fare-capping can’t happen until every subway station and bus has the new fare payment system in 2020, the 4/5 line rollout will be something to watch next year, particularly in concert with the city’s Fair Fares program that gives half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers. Going forward, contactless payments would make implementing that system simpler and cheaper. Although it’s not getting nearly as much attention, the New Fare Payment System may well be the most transformative change for the city’s transportation next year.</p> <p><strong>Other Important Transportation Issues on the Table, But with Less for 2019</strong><br />-With the House flipping Democratic, there is slightly more reason for optimism that something—anything—might develop in securing funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, although President Trump would have to renege on his vow to <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/07/06/gateway-tunnel-new-york-city-infrastructure-218839" target="_blank" rel="noopener">veto any federal funding for the project</a>. It would be nice if they also found ways to reduce that price tag, too.</p> <p>-2019 will likely see a series of “announcements” by Cuomo about progress on Penn Station’s redevelopment, but none of the major renovation projects such as the Moynihan extension are scheduled to be completed until 2020.</p> <p>-Placard abuse continues to run rampant throughout the city, with little attention from Mayor de Blasio, who has <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/placard-abuse-de-blasio-1.16914885" target="_blank" rel="noopener">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/342-17/city-hall-your-borough-mayor-de-blasio-new-plan-crack-down-parking-placard">vowed</a> to crack down on the widespread practice and <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/06/12/there-is-no-placard-crackdown-and-thats-how-nypd-wants-it/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/02/23/do-the-math-de-blasios-placard-crackdown-is-meaningless/">failed</a> to do so. Reining in this overtly corrupt practice would do wonders for city streets, but there’s no reason at this point to believe 2019 will be any different than previous years.</p> <p>-Returning to Fair Fares, which is designed to provide half-price MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers, the program is set to begin in 2019. It’s widely seen as a major step forward for the city, but some questions linger, such as how smoothly the implementation will go and whether there will be an option for single-ride Fair Fares down the road, since the initial program will be limited to seven-day and 30-day passes, an issue advocates and some elected officials have said needs to be solved.</p> <p>-For Long Island commuters, two massive improvements are on the distant horizon—East Side Access and <a href="https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/09/05/lirr-third-track-project-concerns/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Third Track</a>—but both are still years away, with scheduled completion dates of December 2022. Again, progress worth monitoring along with and aside from inevitable Cuomo “announcements.”</p> <p>-That point also applies to LaGuardia Airport, which will still be a lot of trouble in 2019 and probably for much beyond, too. Terminal B, the center of the new design, <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/infrastructure/cuomos-biggest-infrastructure-projects.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">won’t open until 2020</a> and Concourse A won’t be done until 2022, but work is ongoing the governor will be there.</p> <p>-And the city’s <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2018/9/5/17820046/bqx-nyc-brooklyn-queens-connector-cost-route" target="_blank" rel="noopener">much-maligned</a> streetcar project, the BQX, is still technically alive despite needing $1 billion in federal funding to become a reality, according to city officials who have changed their tune on funding since de Blasio announced the BQX in 2016. Don’t expect much if anything to change in 2019, as the Friends of the BQX’s <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/BQX/BQX_Report_August_2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">own timeline</a> says the city won’t complete its Environmental Impact Statement process until September 2020.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br /> Aaron Gordon is a freelance journalist and founder of <a href="http://signalproblems.nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Signal Problems</a>, a weekly newsletter about the subway. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/A_W_Gordon" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@A_W_Gordon</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-an-cuomo-littering.jpg" alt="gov an cuomo littering" width="600" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo on the tracks (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>2019 will be a pivotal year for New York City transportation, unlike any this city has seen in decades. Not only is there near-universal agreement that the city’s transportation landscape, from the subways to the buses to the traffic and everything in between, is fundamentally broken, there is also a growing consensus on many of the steps needed to fix it, starting with—but by no means limited to—congestion pricing.</p> <p>The problems start, of course, with the subways. For the first time in a generation, there is a leader at the MTA, New York City Transit President Andy Byford, that activists, politicians, and the riding public believe in. And he’s getting results, at least enough of them to instill confidence in new-found competence. On-time subway performance has been steadily rising since a low of 58.1 percent in January to 70.3 percent in October. Overall delays are also trending in the right direction. The $836 million Subway Action Plan work has mostly been done, which also seems to have had an effect in reducing the number of “Major Incidents” that snarl commutes.</p> <p>Byford and his management team are always quick to admit there’s still much more work to do, but his efforts to improve “the basics” by reducing train dwell times, making sure all of the safety equipment in the system works properly so trains can go as fast as safely possible, and other “safe seconds” initiatives appear to be paying off.</p> <p>On top of that, the state Legislature, which has final say on many of the key issues facing the city’s transportation landscape, turned solidly Democratic in November, opening the door to changes that may otherwise have been off the table. Some legislators at least appear eager to tackle the transportation issue head-on. Plus, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, has made transportation a key tentpole issue of his early tenure by passing a temporary Uber/Lyft cap and the Fair Fares program for discounted MetroCards. In many ways, the stars are very much aligned.</p> <p>But the challenges are just as monumental as the opportunities. The MTA has a precarious financial situation, ridership is declining, and some miscalculations now such as cutting service or raising fares too high could have dire consequences. Congestion pricing still has its detractors, particularly in the outer boroughs who, reasonably, want commitments to better bus service in exchange. They need to be convinced. The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, is still curiously indifferent to all things transit with the exception of his beloved ferries, a <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/05/15/foamland-security-ferry-riders-say-de-blasios-subsidies-spare-them-subway-trauma/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tiny, heavily-subsidized slice of the overall pie</a>, and his still-far-off BQX streetcar.</p> <p>And the single most important person in this conversation, Governor Andrew Cuomo, has been too selective regarding what MTA issues he’s interested in and when, resulting in a revolving door of MTA leaders, whom Cuomo appoints. The agency needs a consistent, dedicated head who can team with Byford for long-term fixes. Cuomo will soon nominate someone for the position after Joe Lhota’s departure.</p> <p>A year from now, we’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what the future of the city’s transportation will look like. Perhaps decades from now, New Yorkers will look back on 2019 as the year the tide finally turned towards real fixes for the beleaguered transit picture, with a reliable subway system, buses that move, and other essentials. Or, despite the crises and challenges New York faces, maybe it will be perceived as a missed opportunity.</p> <p><strong>The L Train Shutdown</strong><br /> Believe it or not, the L train shutdown, that dark specter of fear and misery looming in the distance for years, is finally upon us. Starting on April 27, the L train will run at a reduced frequency and only in Brooklyn, diverting almost 300,000 riders per day. The MTA and NYC DOT have created <a href="http://web.mta.info/sandy/CanarsieTunnelRebuildingProcess.html#sdtr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an elaborate mitigation plan</a> they claim can accommodate every rider. The agencies anticipate four out of every five displaced L riders will use other subway routes (most notably the J, M, Z, G, 7, E, A, and C) and the rest will use some combination of special bus services across the Williamsburg Bridge, ferries, or bikes; 14th Street will become a busway for most of each day and the Williamsburg Bridge will be HOV-3 to accommodate all those buses.</p> <p>But there is simply no way to have hundreds of thousands of commuters change their habits all at once in an orderly fashion. The big question, then, is how the MTA and DOT adapt.</p> <p>“We'll be watching closely to see whether the MTA and DOT can work together to adapt to real-world transportation needs on the ground,” said Hayley Richardson of TransitCenter. Some of the adjustments they’ll keep an eye on: will the HOV-3 window on the bridge, from 5 AM to 10 PM, be sufficient? Will HOV-3 in general be restrictive enough, given that their modeling largely uses assumptions from crises before Uber and Lyft had shared-ride options and thus could easily meet the HOV-3 restriction? Perhaps they’ll need to institute <a href="https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2017/02/when-street-parking-becomes-a-pop-up-bus-lane/517404/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pop-up bus lanes</a> created with standard issue road cones.</p> <p>Another looming question is whether the HOV-3 restriction and bus lanes will be properly enforced. Given the volume of buses the MTA expects to run across the bridge and 14th Street—one or two buses per minute in some cases—even one blocked bus lane could be catastrophic during peak hours. It’s up to the NYPD to enforce it, and there has been little indication that the department <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/10/23/hike-in-nypd-bus-lane-enforcement-barely-makes-a-dent-for-riders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prioritizes such work</a>.</p> <p>Whatever the case, riders—whether former L commuters or those on the lines that will be swamped with more passengers—are going to be dealing with a lot of changes. Will the MTA be able to communicate effectively? It, too, <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2018/7/30/17632214/mta-nyc-subway-communication-fast-forward" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has left a lot to be desired</a> in that department.</p> <p>There’s a lot riding on the MTA and the city to get this right. Aside from the obvious need to get people where they need to go, it is a huge opportunity for the MTA to show riders it is improving, deserves more taxpayer and rider money, and will use it wisely because it is a competent, efficient organization. Because, well, the MTA is going to be asking for a lot of money.</p> <p><strong>Sorting Out the MTA’s Budget Mess</strong><br /> Earlier this month, MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran presented <a href="http://web.mta.info/news/pdf/MTA-2019-Final-Proposed-Budget-Nov-Financial-Plan-2019-2022-Presentation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a sobering financial picture</a> to the MTA Board. In short, the MTA projects a $991 million deficit by 2022 even with biennial fare and toll increases. Foran argued the MTA needs a new, recurring revenue stream in order to balance the budget beyond 2020. And this is just the MTA’s costs of providing day-to-day service; the next five-year capital plan—which would include Byford’s Fast Forward Plan to revitalize New York City Transit, plus the needs of LIRR and Metro-North—is <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-repairs-spending-1.22448049" target="_blank" rel="noopener">estimated to cost around $60 billion</a>, or nearly double the current capital plan. Who will pay for it and how is the single biggest question facing New York City transportation this year.</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo has been consistent on one MTA issue: he wants the city to pay more. He <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150724/civic-center/cuomo-wants-more-money-from-city-fund-mta-capital-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wanted the city to pay more in 2015</a> towards the current capital plan, he <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-subway-funding-1.17789464" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forced the city's hand into paying half of the Subway Action Plan</a>, and he regularly pledges—and <a href="http://gothamist.com/2018/10/09/governor_cuomos_unity_pledge.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">had suburban state Senators sign on</a>—to make the city pay its “fair share” going forward.</p> <p>Before Lhota resigned as MTA chair earlier this month, he stated the Board would not take a position regarding preferred revenue streams until the MTA Sustainability Advisory Working Group, created by this year’s state budget, issues its report on this topic, which is expected by the end of the year. That report will likely set the tone for discussions in Albany once the new legislative session begins in January, which is largely dictated by the governor’s State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation.</p> <p>In the meantime, Governor Cuomo declared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Monday that “the MTA is going to be a top priority for me this year” and that he favors congestion pricing as the additional revenue stream in need.</p> <p>Congestion pricing, which would charge drivers who enter Manhattan’s Central Business District, will accomplish far more than give the MTA additional money (perhaps more than $1 billion per year depending on what the exact model looks like). It will also address one of New York’s other major transportation issues: traffic. <a href="http://www.hntb.com/HNTB/media/HNTBMediaLibrary/Home/Fix-NYC-Panel-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to the FixNYC panel</a> convened by the governor last year to study congestion pricing, vehicles in the Central Business District moved at a mere 6.8 miles per hour in 2016, and only 4.7 miles per hour—a brisk walking pace—in the “Midtown Core.” By reducing the number of vehicles in Manhattan, congestion pricing would help speed things up.</p> <p>Because of the MTA’s dire financial outlook and Manhattan’s desperate need for traffic relief, congestion pricing is a two-birds-one-stone type deal. Combined with a revamped state Legislature more amenable to congestion pricing, there’s a growing consensus it will pass this coming session.</p> <p>“We certainly expect to see congestion pricing done this year in the budget process,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Nick Sifuentes predicted, before adding “and we also know additional resources of funding will be necessary if we’re going to see Fast Forward fully funded.” What those additional revenue sources might be is a question the MTA Sustainability Advisory Working Group will presumably address.</p> <p><strong>MTA Cost Control</strong><br /> But that’s just the revenue side of the equation. The MTA also has a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-construction-costs.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">highly-publicized</a> <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Building-Rail-Transit-Projects-Better-for-Less.pdf">cost control issue</a>, spending orders of magnitude more on big projects than comparable cities. It’s a problem Cuomo has finally vowed to tackle. “There is inefficiency that goes on at the MTA that has to end,” he told Lehrer. Easier said than done, especially for a governor who has been <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/08/13/cuomos-labor-allies-defend-his-record-on-subway-woes-555314" target="_blank" rel="noopener">extremely tight</a> with the <a href="http://www.twulocal100.org/story/cuomos-team-cruises-victory-twu-builds-political-clout" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Transportation Workers Union</a> and taken little apparent interest in how MTA contracting is managed.</p> <p>While the MTA has said that tackling high capital costs is a key goal <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/nyregion/mta-construction-costs-threaten-to-strangle-growth-report-warns.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for almost a year now</a>, there has so far been very little payoff. Presentations by the MTA Board’s <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/docs/Procurement-Task-Force061918.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">procurement</a> and <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/docs/Cost-Containment062018.pptx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cost containment</a> task forces in June have been the only public-facing initiatives within the authority to keep the ball moving forward. Nor has there been any transparency on why, exactly, the Fast Forward Plan will cost $40 billion, how that number was arrived at, or whether the cost can be lowered by prioritizing some initiatives over others.</p> <p>The MTA will also be re-negotiating its biggest labor contract with TWU Local 100 and its more than 40,000 members, whose contract expires in May. Payroll, health care, and pensions account for more than half of the MTA’s $16.7 billion 2019 budget.</p> <p>The main question is to what degree lawmakers will push the cost control issue when determining new revenue streams in the upcoming state budget. Will they insist on rigid cost containment guards to make sure the money is spent wisely? Or will they throw a bunch of money at the MTA and hope the problem doesn’t present its ugly head again until they’re long gone from office?</p> <p>The latter approach may be the more cynical one, but it’s also the historically preferred one in Albany. Nevertheless, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has <a href="https://twitter.com/AmyPaulin/status/1060562112211312641" target="_blank" rel="noopener">already vowed</a> to break form and “conduct [a] rigorous, public oversight during the legislative session” on the MTA. Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance expects lawmakers this time around to take a more active approach in ensuring the MTA is doing something about outsized construction costs. “Lawmakers and fare, toll, and taxpayers want to know that the money they raise and set aside for transit will be used efficiently and responsibly,’ Pearlstein said. “Ramping up toward the next MTA capital plan, look for the authority to articulate and implement new cost control measures.”</p> <p><strong>Get Buses Moving Again</strong><br /> For all the talk of fixing the subway for tens of billions of dollars, fixing the city’s bus service—which serves almost two million riders a day but has seen ridership plummet by almost 10 percent since 2012—is a relatively cheap and easy proposition by comparison. Instead of a matter of dollars, it’s largely a matter of will.</p> <p>Congestion pricing would likely help speed up bus service in some parts of Manhattan, but more needs to be done to make bus service throughout the five boroughs an attractive option, say both Sifuentes and Pearlstein, whose organizations have partnered with other advocacy groups to form the <a href="http://busturnaround.nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Bus Turnaround Coalition</a>. The coalition calls for, among other measures, redesigning the city’s bus routes, which in many cases have not been touched in decades. The MTA just finished redesigning Staten Island’s express bus network and plans to tackle the Bronx next.</p> <p>But it’s not just an MTA problem. The roads and traffic signals are controlled by the city DOT and monitored by the NYPD, and thus far Mayor de Blasio has not made speeding up bus service a priority—or even a topic—of his administration’s efforts. “The city (DOT) really needs to step up its commitment on buses,” Sifuentes urged, which he says ought to include more bus lanes and more robust and expanded transit signal priority, which gives buses as many green lights as possible.</p> <p>There is something Albany can do, which is probably the most important thing to speed up buses. Both Pearlstein and Sifuentes plan to pressure the state Legislature to drastically expand the use of camera enforcement for bus lanes rather than relying on the NYPD to write tickets. For his part, Byford <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/11/15/byford-cameras-are-a-lot-better-than-cops-at-clearing-bus-lanes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wants those cameras</a> mounted on the front of buses, ensuring anyone who blocks a bus lane gets a ticket regardless of whether or not there’s a cop nearby.</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>New Fare Payment System</strong><br /> The Bus Turnaround Coalition also calls for all-door boarding to speed up loading times, which can only be done with a new fare payment system. Luckily, the MTA is mere months from introducing this.</p> <p>Starting in May, riders will be able to use contactless payment such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or contactless-enabled credit cards that <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181114005710/en/Chase-Taps-Speedier-Checkout-Contactless-Visa-Credit?linkId=59628789" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chase and Visa will be rolling out</a> in the coming months, to pay their fare on the 4/5 subway line between Grand Central and Atlantic Ave/Barclays as well as Staten Island express buses. The MTA plans to roll out contactless payments to every other bus and subway station by October 2020. By the time MetroCards are no longer accepted in 2023, riders who don’t have credit cards or smartphones will be able to purchase NFC-enabled transit cards like the ones in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, London, and pretty much every other major city from new station vending machines and local stores.</p> <p>This new payment system will not only make bus boarding faster if implemented properly, it can also accommodate a more sensible fare structure that eliminates the need to face the existential question of adding value or adding time. This model, <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/mta-metrocard-fare-1.14945261" target="_blank" rel="noopener">known as fare-capping</a>, means people pay per-ride until they hit a pre-determined maximum for a period of time, perhaps a day, week, or month, at which point each additional ride is free for that time period. This ensures nobody pays more than the “unlimited” amount and further incentivizes folks to use public transportation no matter how many trips they plan to make.</p> <p>Although fare-capping can’t happen until every subway station and bus has the new fare payment system in 2020, the 4/5 line rollout will be something to watch next year, particularly in concert with the city’s Fair Fares program that gives half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers. Going forward, contactless payments would make implementing that system simpler and cheaper. Although it’s not getting nearly as much attention, the New Fare Payment System may well be the most transformative change for the city’s transportation next year.</p> <p><strong>Other Important Transportation Issues on the Table, But with Less for 2019</strong><br />-With the House flipping Democratic, there is slightly more reason for optimism that something—anything—might develop in securing funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, although President Trump would have to renege on his vow to <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/07/06/gateway-tunnel-new-york-city-infrastructure-218839" target="_blank" rel="noopener">veto any federal funding for the project</a>. It would be nice if they also found ways to reduce that price tag, too.</p> <p>-2019 will likely see a series of “announcements” by Cuomo about progress on Penn Station’s redevelopment, but none of the major renovation projects such as the Moynihan extension are scheduled to be completed until 2020.</p> <p>-Placard abuse continues to run rampant throughout the city, with little attention from Mayor de Blasio, who has <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/placard-abuse-de-blasio-1.16914885" target="_blank" rel="noopener">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/342-17/city-hall-your-borough-mayor-de-blasio-new-plan-crack-down-parking-placard">vowed</a> to crack down on the widespread practice and <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/06/12/there-is-no-placard-crackdown-and-thats-how-nypd-wants-it/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/02/23/do-the-math-de-blasios-placard-crackdown-is-meaningless/">failed</a> to do so. Reining in this overtly corrupt practice would do wonders for city streets, but there’s no reason at this point to believe 2019 will be any different than previous years.</p> <p>-Returning to Fair Fares, which is designed to provide half-price MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers, the program is set to begin in 2019. It’s widely seen as a major step forward for the city, but some questions linger, such as how smoothly the implementation will go and whether there will be an option for single-ride Fair Fares down the road, since the initial program will be limited to seven-day and 30-day passes, an issue advocates and some elected officials have said needs to be solved.</p> <p>-For Long Island commuters, two massive improvements are on the distant horizon—East Side Access and <a href="https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/09/05/lirr-third-track-project-concerns/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Third Track</a>—but both are still years away, with scheduled completion dates of December 2022. Again, progress worth monitoring along with and aside from inevitable Cuomo “announcements.”</p> <p>-That point also applies to LaGuardia Airport, which will still be a lot of trouble in 2019 and probably for much beyond, too. Terminal B, the center of the new design, <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/infrastructure/cuomos-biggest-infrastructure-projects.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">won’t open until 2020</a> and Concourse A won’t be done until 2022, but work is ongoing the governor will be there.</p> <p>-And the city’s <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2018/9/5/17820046/bqx-nyc-brooklyn-queens-connector-cost-route" target="_blank" rel="noopener">much-maligned</a> streetcar project, the BQX, is still technically alive despite needing $1 billion in federal funding to become a reality, according to city officials who have changed their tune on funding since de Blasio announced the BQX in 2016. Don’t expect much if anything to change in 2019, as the Friends of the BQX’s <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/sites/default/files/filemanager/BQX/BQX_Report_August_2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">own timeline</a> says the city won’t complete its Environmental Impact Statement process until September 2020.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br /> Aaron Gordon is a freelance journalist and founder of <a href="http://signalproblems.nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Signal Problems</a>, a weekly newsletter about the subway. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/A_W_Gordon" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@A_W_Gordon</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Amazon’s Recent New York Campaign Contributions Mostly to Members of Congress 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8082-amazon-s-recent-new-york-campaign-contributions-mostly-to-members-of-congress Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_jeffries.jpg" alt="cuomo jeffries" width="600" height="419" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo &amp; Rep. Jeffries (photo via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Before Amazon announced the placement of one of its next satellite “headquarters” in Queens, drawing mixed reactions from local lawmakers and significant overall pushback, the company’s campaign finance footprint in New York shows it was spreading its money around to many New York politicians, mostly those at the federal level.</p> <p>Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City, all Democrats, who signed a now <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/fa1bvw2m82molqv/Amazon%20Elected%20Letter.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener">infamous letter</a> last year to compel Amazon to consider the city, received more than $26,000 in total campaign contributions from Amazon from the beginning of 2017 to October 2018, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, with four of the members receiving $7,500 of that total before signing the letter.</p> <p>Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes part of Queens, received $8,000 total from Amazon in four separate contributions to his campaign since 2017, including $1,500 before he had signed the letter and $6,500 afterward, a time period that coincided with Jeffries’ recent reelection to the House, though he did not face serious opposition. Jeffries’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but he said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/jiveDurkey/status/1062405232620175360" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Cheddar</a> that the deal “will supercharge New York City’s reputation as the single best place to do business in America.”</p> <p>Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke received $5,000 <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00398941&amp;committee_id=C00415331&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2017&amp;max_date=11/15/2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from Amazon</a>, half before signing the letter and half since -- Clarke did face a tough primary challenge this year, narrowly defeating Adem Bunkeddeko before cruising to victory in the general. In a <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/press-release/citywide-leaders-applaud-announcement-amazon-s-new-headquarters-long-island-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that was sent to members of the media upon the Amazon announcement, Clarke said, “Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector.”</p> <p>Other letter signees who received Amazon contributions include Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (whose district includes Long Island City), Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, all of the five boroughs. Maloney called for a fair “public review” of the deal in a <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/14/amazon-new-headquarters-reaction-foxconn-scott-walker-966375" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Politico</a>, arguing that “[a] beneficial deal will withstand public scrutiny.”</p> <p>Upon the announcement of the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, Espaillat issued a statement of praise, saying in a tweet, “Welcome to New York City, @Amazon. We have the best &amp; brightest technologically skilled workforce that is ready &amp; willing to work &amp; invest in our community &amp; help our economy continue to grow,” while Velazquez issued a statement criticizing the process and outcome, <a href="https://twitter.com/NydiaVelazquez/status/1063161109778173952" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saying</a>, “Many New Yorkers, myself included, are concerned by the enormous incentives this package extends to Amazon.”</p> <p>Rep. Joe Crowley of the Bronx and Queens received $2,500 from Amazon before he signed the letter, according to FEC filings. He lost his seat in an upset to now Congressional Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a strident critic of the Amazon deal. The democratic-socialist <a href="https://twitter.com/Ocasio2018/status/1062203458227503104" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> that she finds the deal “extremely concerning,” arguing that the money for tax breaks for Amazon could be better spent on the “crumbling” subway and disenfranchised communities.</p> <p>It’s unclear if any of the members of Congress played a role in the negotiation process, which was apparently led by Cuomo, along with de Blasio and members of their two teams -- those involved apparently signed non-disclosure agreements at Amazon’s insistence. Members of Congress’ support or opposition, however, can play a crucial role in the overall atmosphere around such a deal and the public perception thereof. For the most part, Amazon is more concerned with federal regulations and nationwide tax policy, evident from its campaign funding patterns. Data from <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cycle=2018&amp;cmte=C00360354" target="_blank" rel="noopener">OpenSecrets.org </a>shows that Amazon gave about $1.17 million to federal candidate campaigns in 2018 alone, 52% of which went to Republicans and 48% to Democrats.</p> <p>Amazon has also given some campaign contributions at the local level, including $1,000 to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s campaign committee in January of this year, according to state election records. Heastie did not respond to a request for comment, but the Bronx Democrat&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/nyregion/amazon-queens-opponents.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the New York Times</a> in a statement that “this deal has the potential to more than pay for itself.” He added that, “Of course we take our role in approving aspects of this deal very seriously and we will be closely reviewing it.”</p> <p>The only other local lawmaker whose campaign funds Amazon added to was Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who received $1,000 in January, according to state election records.</p> <p>New York City and State have agreed to roughly <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/11/13/new-york-amazon-incentives-billion/1986979002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$3 billion</a> in financial incentives to Amazon to settle in Long Island City, including tax breaks and rebates mostly from existing economic development programs that would be applicable to other companies, as well as a roughly $500 million capital grant from the state that is discretionary. The deal is based on a pledge by Amazon to create 25,000 new jobs in the city over 10 years, at an average salary of $150,000 per year. Some of the incentives are directly tied to those jobs coming to fruition. The company may also qualify for new federal tax savings.</p> <p>Critics have cried foul about a secretive process with virtually no public input before a deal was struck (there will be some before everything is finalized) and that there are billions of dollars of incentives going to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. A number of elected officials did praise the deal, including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic Senate minority leader. Schumer received a total of $10,000 from Amazon in three separate contributions to his campaign committee in 2015 ahead of his reelection the following year, according to <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00346312&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2015&amp;max_date=12/31/2016" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FEC filings</a>. He has not received any funds from Amazon since his 2016 reelection.</p> <p>Some of the criticism towards the Amazon deal is tied more broadly to Cuomo’s economic development programs and their incentives for companies to relocate or create jobs. Flanagan, whose 2018 campaign got the relatively minor boost from Amazon, <a href="https://wnyt.com/politics/state-senate-majority-leader-john-flanagan-gov-andrew-cuomo-amazon-deal/5145114/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticized</a> Cuomo for giving handouts rather than working to improve New York’s overall economic climate. Flanagan’s majority conference, which is handing over the reins next year to Democrats who flipped the chamber on Election Day, has signed off on budgets that have included Cuomo’s programs.</p> <p>Amazon, a trillion dollar-company, spent $110,000 lobbying the state Assembly, Senate, and executive branch on bills related to taxation and regulation of internet companies from the beginning of 2017 to October of 2018, according to state lobbying records. JCOPE (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics) lists Amazon lobbying activities as only related to “internet/online sales &amp; related issues,” but specific bills lobbied on include the <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=t&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A9844&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establishment</a> of a task force to study an internet marketplace tax and bills that propose to regulate voice-recognition technology.</p> <p>The company also spent over $120,000 lobbying New York City government in the last two years for participation in their cloud computing services, according to city lobbying records.</p> <p>The records do not show lobbying related to the new headquarters in Queens. That process appears to have been removed from official lobbying and instead part of the competition Amazon announced, wherein it received hundreds of pitches from governments and coalitions around the country. There are no records of Amazon donating to the campaigns of either Cuomo or de Blasio.</p> <p>Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and one of the wealthiest people in the world, said in a <a href="https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/amazon-selects-new-york-city-and-northern-virginia-for-new-headquarters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> on the day of the announcement that the new “headquarters” split between New York and Virginia “will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”</p> <p>Hiring for the new offices is scheduled to begin in 2019, according to Amazon. Governor Cuomo has said that the new office campus and related employment will generate more than $27 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years.</p> <p>

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by Jake Shore for Gotham Gazette
  

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_jeffries.jpg" alt="cuomo jeffries" width="600" height="419" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo &amp; Rep. Jeffries (photo via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Before Amazon announced the placement of one of its next satellite “headquarters” in Queens, drawing mixed reactions from local lawmakers and significant overall pushback, the company’s campaign finance footprint in New York shows it was spreading its money around to many New York politicians, mostly those at the federal level.</p> <p>Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City, all Democrats, who signed a now <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/fa1bvw2m82molqv/Amazon%20Elected%20Letter.pdf?dl=0&amp;utm_source=Press+Release&amp;utm_campaign=5db591fe9c-2017_10_18_NYC_Submits_Amazon_Proposal_PA&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_b804b7ba34-5db591fe9c-102476565" target="_blank" rel="noopener">infamous letter</a> last year to compel Amazon to consider the city, received more than $26,000 in total campaign contributions from Amazon from the beginning of 2017 to October 2018, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, with four of the members receiving $7,500 of that total before signing the letter.</p> <p>Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes part of Queens, received $8,000 total from Amazon in four separate contributions to his campaign since 2017, including $1,500 before he had signed the letter and $6,500 afterward, a time period that coincided with Jeffries’ recent reelection to the House, though he did not face serious opposition. Jeffries’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but he said in a <a href="https://twitter.com/jiveDurkey/status/1062405232620175360" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Cheddar</a> that the deal “will supercharge New York City’s reputation as the single best place to do business in America.”</p> <p>Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke received $5,000 <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00398941&amp;committee_id=C00415331&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2017&amp;max_date=11/15/2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">from Amazon</a>, half before signing the letter and half since -- Clarke did face a tough primary challenge this year, narrowly defeating Adem Bunkeddeko before cruising to victory in the general. In a <a href="https://www.nycedc.com/press-release/citywide-leaders-applaud-announcement-amazon-s-new-headquarters-long-island-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that was sent to members of the media upon the Amazon announcement, Clarke said, “Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector.”</p> <p>Other letter signees who received Amazon contributions include Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (whose district includes Long Island City), Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, all of the five boroughs. Maloney called for a fair “public review” of the deal in a <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/14/amazon-new-headquarters-reaction-foxconn-scott-walker-966375" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement to Politico</a>, arguing that “[a] beneficial deal will withstand public scrutiny.”</p> <p>Upon the announcement of the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, Espaillat issued a statement of praise, saying in a tweet, “Welcome to New York City, @Amazon. We have the best &amp; brightest technologically skilled workforce that is ready &amp; willing to work &amp; invest in our community &amp; help our economy continue to grow,” while Velazquez issued a statement criticizing the process and outcome, <a href="https://twitter.com/NydiaVelazquez/status/1063161109778173952" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saying</a>, “Many New Yorkers, myself included, are concerned by the enormous incentives this package extends to Amazon.”</p> <p>Rep. Joe Crowley of the Bronx and Queens received $2,500 from Amazon before he signed the letter, according to FEC filings. He lost his seat in an upset to now Congressional Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a strident critic of the Amazon deal. The democratic-socialist <a href="https://twitter.com/Ocasio2018/status/1062203458227503104" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> that she finds the deal “extremely concerning,” arguing that the money for tax breaks for Amazon could be better spent on the “crumbling” subway and disenfranchised communities.</p> <p>It’s unclear if any of the members of Congress played a role in the negotiation process, which was apparently led by Cuomo, along with de Blasio and members of their two teams -- those involved apparently signed non-disclosure agreements at Amazon’s insistence. Members of Congress’ support or opposition, however, can play a crucial role in the overall atmosphere around such a deal and the public perception thereof. For the most part, Amazon is more concerned with federal regulations and nationwide tax policy, evident from its campaign funding patterns. Data from <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cycle=2018&amp;cmte=C00360354" target="_blank" rel="noopener">OpenSecrets.org </a>shows that Amazon gave about $1.17 million to federal candidate campaigns in 2018 alone, 52% of which went to Republicans and 48% to Democrats.</p> <p>Amazon has also given some campaign contributions at the local level, including $1,000 to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s campaign committee in January of this year, according to state election records. Heastie did not respond to a request for comment, but the Bronx Democrat&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/nyregion/amazon-queens-opponents.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told the New York Times</a> in a statement that “this deal has the potential to more than pay for itself.” He added that, “Of course we take our role in approving aspects of this deal very seriously and we will be closely reviewing it.”</p> <p>The only other local lawmaker whose campaign funds Amazon added to was Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who received $1,000 in January, according to state election records.</p> <p>New York City and State have agreed to roughly <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/11/13/new-york-amazon-incentives-billion/1986979002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">$3 billion</a> in financial incentives to Amazon to settle in Long Island City, including tax breaks and rebates mostly from existing economic development programs that would be applicable to other companies, as well as a roughly $500 million capital grant from the state that is discretionary. The deal is based on a pledge by Amazon to create 25,000 new jobs in the city over 10 years, at an average salary of $150,000 per year. Some of the incentives are directly tied to those jobs coming to fruition. The company may also qualify for new federal tax savings.</p> <p>Critics have cried foul about a secretive process with virtually no public input before a deal was struck (there will be some before everything is finalized) and that there are billions of dollars of incentives going to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. A number of elected officials did praise the deal, including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic Senate minority leader. Schumer received a total of $10,000 from Amazon in three separate contributions to his campaign committee in 2015 ahead of his reelection the following year, according to <a href="https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&amp;data_type=processed&amp;committee_id=C00346312&amp;contributor_name=amazon&amp;min_date=01/01/2015&amp;max_date=12/31/2016" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FEC filings</a>. He has not received any funds from Amazon since his 2016 reelection.</p> <p>Some of the criticism towards the Amazon deal is tied more broadly to Cuomo’s economic development programs and their incentives for companies to relocate or create jobs. Flanagan, whose 2018 campaign got the relatively minor boost from Amazon, <a href="https://wnyt.com/politics/state-senate-majority-leader-john-flanagan-gov-andrew-cuomo-amazon-deal/5145114/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">criticized</a> Cuomo for giving handouts rather than working to improve New York’s overall economic climate. Flanagan’s majority conference, which is handing over the reins next year to Democrats who flipped the chamber on Election Day, has signed off on budgets that have included Cuomo’s programs.</p> <p>Amazon, a trillion dollar-company, spent $110,000 lobbying the state Assembly, Senate, and executive branch on bills related to taxation and regulation of internet companies from the beginning of 2017 to October of 2018, according to state lobbying records. JCOPE (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics) lists Amazon lobbying activities as only related to “internet/online sales &amp; related issues,” but specific bills lobbied on include the <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=t&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A9844&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establishment</a> of a task force to study an internet marketplace tax and bills that propose to regulate voice-recognition technology.</p> <p>The company also spent over $120,000 lobbying New York City government in the last two years for participation in their cloud computing services, according to city lobbying records.</p> <p>The records do not show lobbying related to the new headquarters in Queens. That process appears to have been removed from official lobbying and instead part of the competition Amazon announced, wherein it received hundreds of pitches from governments and coalitions around the country. There are no records of Amazon donating to the campaigns of either Cuomo or de Blasio.</p> <p>Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and one of the wealthiest people in the world, said in a <a href="https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/amazon-selects-new-york-city-and-northern-virginia-for-new-headquarters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">statement</a> on the day of the announcement that the new “headquarters” split between New York and Virginia “will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”</p> <p>Hiring for the new offices is scheduled to begin in 2019, according to Amazon. Governor Cuomo has said that the new office campus and related employment will generate more than $27 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years.</p> <p>

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by Jake Shore for Gotham Gazette
  

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</p>
Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Taking the Senate Reins, the Democratic Agenda & Getting Inside 'The Room' 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8085-andrea-stewart-cousins-on-taking-the-senate-reins-the-democratic-agenda-getting-inside-the-room Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/stewart-cousins-senate.jpg" alt="stewart cousins senate" width="600" /></p> <p>Andrea Stewart-Cousins (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>After the election results from earlier this month, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is set to become majority leader of the state Senate and, beginning in January, to preside over the chamber as it works with Democrats in charge of the Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat headed into his third term, to address a long-delayed liberal agenda. Stewart-Cousins, who represents parts of Westchester, will become the first woman and first woman of color to lead a legislative chamber in New York.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Appearing on the Max &amp; Murphy program on WBAI radio</a>, Stewart-Cousins discussed her approach to leading the Senate, outlined a few priorities for the upcoming session, explained some ways in which Democrats will differ from Republican who have led the upper chamber, and commented on becoming one of three people who will be in “the room,” ultimately making major decisions about the state budget and legislation along with Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>When asked, Stewart-Cousins mostly demurred about what issues would be at the top of the Senate agenda, saying that, especially with 15 new members in her roughly 40-member majority conference, senators would first need to meet and discuss how they will approach the upcoming legislative session.</p> <p>“I have avoided that ‘my first hundred days will look like this’ and ‘this is the batting order,’” Stewart-Cousins said, repeating the terms of the question from one of the hosts. “Because I think the first and foremost thing we’re going to do is [create] the type of conference and senators that people have frankly been voting for again and again and not been getting.”</p> <p>However, some policies she did mention were those that had already been set as first-order-of-business and seemingly non-controversial among virtually all Democrats: early voting, the Child Victims Act, and the Reproductive Health Act. These are among many policies Stewart-Cousins said “have not been able to move under Republican leadership for so many years” that Democrats plan to get to.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins noted that she has faith in the new members of the Senate, some of whom are part of a younger and more progressive movement that successfully claimed many of the seats formerly held by members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that had formed a coalition with the Republicans, at times giving them the seats for a majority. While these new members certainly won’t cut deals with Republicans, they still may not be on the same page with more senior members of the body, perhaps pushing for different, more progressive priorities like single-payer health care.</p> <p>“We have 15 brand new members and we have to make sure everyone is up to speed,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I am so impressed with every single one of them that I have no doubt that the leadership they will provide, along with my current members, will be absolutely outstanding.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins was also hesitant to name specifics when asked what legislation she sees as being tougher to pass, suggesting with a laugh that there could be conflict about anything and everything.</p> <p>“I almost want to say all of the above because, you know, we’re Democrats,” she said with a chuckle. “I think everyone agrees on the outcomes we want, it’s just how to get there.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins stressed her belief that Democratic takeover of the Senate is a major step forward for the state, as rather than having to debate over why policies that, for example, raise the minimum wage or ensure access to quality affordable healthcare, are necessary, the new Democrat supermajority will only have to decide on how to best design said policies.</p> <p>“We’re not starting at convincing people that these things are important,” she said. “Now we’re starting a conversation where we understand [what] the objectives are.”</p> <p>“Guess what, we’ll have a conference that is willing to acknowledge climate change and therefore, work towards ensuring our planet’s future,” she continued.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>While expectations are high about addressing climate change, criminal justice reform, gun control, voting and campaign finance reform, tightening rent regulations, and more, there have been concerns that if Democrats were to flip the Senate and full control of state government that taxes would go up in order for the new regime to pay for all its new programs. But, during the campaign and since, Stewart-Cousins and others in her incoming majority have said they have no plans to raise taxes, an approach in line with Cuomo’s, but not necessarily Assembly Democrats.</p> <p>Asked on Max &amp; Murphy if she is indeed committed to not raising taxes, Stewart-Cousins reiterated her stance, and pointed to the federal tax reforms passed in late 2017 that are likely to negatively affect many New Yorkers due to the new cap and local and state deductions from federal tax obligations.</p> <p>“We are not coming in there to raise people’s taxes,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We understand that New York is a big state and we understand that we need to make sure that it is affordable. I’m personally concerned about the impact of this federal tax bill on the New York taxpayers, and I think most people in our position are.”</p> <p>Taxpayers will find out if Democrats stay true to their promise in their first big test: the next state budget, which Stewart-Cousins and her conference will have significant influence on, as the new Senate majority leader negotiates with Cuomo and Heastie. As the first woman to lead a legislative majority, she will be entering that negotiating room that has been male-dominated. When asked what that may mean, Stewart-Cousins said it shows progress made and more to do.</p> <p>“I think it means that people see that once again another glass ceiling, marble ceiling, whatever you want to call it, has been broken,” she said. “We make certain assumptions about how far we’ve come, and we have in many ways, but I think everyday we’re also being reminded that there is more ground that has to be covered more ceilings to break.”</p> <p>When asked if she has any plans on how to change the backroom process that often leads to major budget and legislative agreements that are voted on with virtually no public review, Stewart-Cousins said she couldn’t yet say.</p> <p>“It’d be impossible to say, because I’ve never been in it,” she said, pausing to laugh. “I’m interested to see how this thing really works as well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of opinions once I’ve actually been part of it.”</p> <p>When it comes to those outside the Democratic conference, Stewart-Cousins said that she has not spoken to any Republicans who want to switch conferences, but would be happy to meet with Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who previously gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate, about his role in the upcoming session. She said Felder had reached out and they would set something up, though he is not expected to command any special perks as he had from Republicans for helping give them the majority.</p> <p>Of the former IDC members who kept their seats, Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci, Stewart-Cousins said they have been and continue to be part of the Democratic conference, which they returned to in an April deal reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Max &amp; Murphy</a>&nbsp;Nov. 14, 2018]</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/stewart-cousins-senate.jpg" alt="stewart cousins senate" width="600" /></p> <p>Andrea Stewart-Cousins (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>After the election results from earlier this month, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is set to become majority leader of the state Senate and, beginning in January, to preside over the chamber as it works with Democrats in charge of the Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat headed into his third term, to address a long-delayed liberal agenda. Stewart-Cousins, who represents parts of Westchester, will become the first woman and first woman of color to lead a legislative chamber in New York.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Appearing on the Max &amp; Murphy program on WBAI radio</a>, Stewart-Cousins discussed her approach to leading the Senate, outlined a few priorities for the upcoming session, explained some ways in which Democrats will differ from Republican who have led the upper chamber, and commented on becoming one of three people who will be in “the room,” ultimately making major decisions about the state budget and legislation along with Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>When asked, Stewart-Cousins mostly demurred about what issues would be at the top of the Senate agenda, saying that, especially with 15 new members in her roughly 40-member majority conference, senators would first need to meet and discuss how they will approach the upcoming legislative session.</p> <p>“I have avoided that ‘my first hundred days will look like this’ and ‘this is the batting order,’” Stewart-Cousins said, repeating the terms of the question from one of the hosts. “Because I think the first and foremost thing we’re going to do is [create] the type of conference and senators that people have frankly been voting for again and again and not been getting.”</p> <p>However, some policies she did mention were those that had already been set as first-order-of-business and seemingly non-controversial among virtually all Democrats: early voting, the Child Victims Act, and the Reproductive Health Act. These are among many policies Stewart-Cousins said “have not been able to move under Republican leadership for so many years” that Democrats plan to get to.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins noted that she has faith in the new members of the Senate, some of whom are part of a younger and more progressive movement that successfully claimed many of the seats formerly held by members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that had formed a coalition with the Republicans, at times giving them the seats for a majority. While these new members certainly won’t cut deals with Republicans, they still may not be on the same page with more senior members of the body, perhaps pushing for different, more progressive priorities like single-payer health care.</p> <p>“We have 15 brand new members and we have to make sure everyone is up to speed,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I am so impressed with every single one of them that I have no doubt that the leadership they will provide, along with my current members, will be absolutely outstanding.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins was also hesitant to name specifics when asked what legislation she sees as being tougher to pass, suggesting with a laugh that there could be conflict about anything and everything.</p> <p>“I almost want to say all of the above because, you know, we’re Democrats,” she said with a chuckle. “I think everyone agrees on the outcomes we want, it’s just how to get there.”</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins stressed her belief that Democratic takeover of the Senate is a major step forward for the state, as rather than having to debate over why policies that, for example, raise the minimum wage or ensure access to quality affordable healthcare, are necessary, the new Democrat supermajority will only have to decide on how to best design said policies.</p> <p>“We’re not starting at convincing people that these things are important,” she said. “Now we’re starting a conversation where we understand [what] the objectives are.”</p> <p>“Guess what, we’ll have a conference that is willing to acknowledge climate change and therefore, work towards ensuring our planet’s future,” she continued.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>While expectations are high about addressing climate change, criminal justice reform, gun control, voting and campaign finance reform, tightening rent regulations, and more, there have been concerns that if Democrats were to flip the Senate and full control of state government that taxes would go up in order for the new regime to pay for all its new programs. But, during the campaign and since, Stewart-Cousins and others in her incoming majority have said they have no plans to raise taxes, an approach in line with Cuomo’s, but not necessarily Assembly Democrats.</p> <p>Asked on Max &amp; Murphy if she is indeed committed to not raising taxes, Stewart-Cousins reiterated her stance, and pointed to the federal tax reforms passed in late 2017 that are likely to negatively affect many New Yorkers due to the new cap and local and state deductions from federal tax obligations.</p> <p>“We are not coming in there to raise people’s taxes,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We understand that New York is a big state and we understand that we need to make sure that it is affordable. I’m personally concerned about the impact of this federal tax bill on the New York taxpayers, and I think most people in our position are.”</p> <p>Taxpayers will find out if Democrats stay true to their promise in their first big test: the next state budget, which Stewart-Cousins and her conference will have significant influence on, as the new Senate majority leader negotiates with Cuomo and Heastie. As the first woman to lead a legislative majority, she will be entering that negotiating room that has been male-dominated. When asked what that may mean, Stewart-Cousins said it shows progress made and more to do.</p> <p>“I think it means that people see that once again another glass ceiling, marble ceiling, whatever you want to call it, has been broken,” she said. “We make certain assumptions about how far we’ve come, and we have in many ways, but I think everyday we’re also being reminded that there is more ground that has to be covered more ceilings to break.”</p> <p>When asked if she has any plans on how to change the backroom process that often leads to major budget and legislative agreements that are voted on with virtually no public review, Stewart-Cousins said she couldn’t yet say.</p> <p>“It’d be impossible to say, because I’ve never been in it,” she said, pausing to laugh. “I’m interested to see how this thing really works as well. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of opinions once I’ve actually been part of it.”</p> <p>When it comes to those outside the Democratic conference, Stewart-Cousins said that she has not spoken to any Republicans who want to switch conferences, but would be happy to meet with Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who previously gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate, about his role in the upcoming session. She said Felder had reached out and they would set something up, though he is not expected to command any special perks as he had from Republicans for helping give them the majority.</p> <p>Of the former IDC members who kept their seats, Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci, Stewart-Cousins said they have been and continue to be part of the Democratic conference, which they returned to in an April deal reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8071-max-murphy-podcast-senate-democratic-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-election-aftermath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Max &amp; Murphy</a>&nbsp;Nov. 14, 2018]</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
With Full Democratic Control, Sponsors of New York Single-Payer Health Care Hopeful About 2019 2018-11-13T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8066-with-full-democratic-control-sponsors-of-new-york-single-payer-health-care-hopeful-about-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29874812518_530478a409_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo health care" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>Though Governor Andrew Cuomo has not expressed support for instituting a single-payer health care system in New York, his fellow Democrats campaigned on the issue as they flipped control of the state Senate, landing all of state government into Democratic hands and providing a significant boost of optimism to the lead sponsors of the New York Health Act, which would create a government-administered single-payer health care system.</p> <p>The bill has passed the Democrat-dominated state Assembly several times and all the members of Senate Democratic conference signed on as co-sponsors at the end of last legislative session in a unified show of support for the program heading into the election season.</p> <p>Cuomo has said he supports a Medicare for all-type system at the federal level, but cast doubts on the cost and complexity of doing it in New York, and since their resounding wins on Election Day, the incoming leaders of the Democratic Senate majority have indicated that the massive undertaking of single-payer is not at the top of the agenda.</p> <p>Still, with Democratic control of the Senate and the Assembly by wide margins, single-payer healthcare could be passed as early as the 2019 session, according to Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee and lead sponsor of the New York Health Act.</p> <p>“It was clear in the country and New York that healthcare was the number one issue on voters’ minds,” Gottfried said, before pointing to his legislation. “A solid majority of the new state Senate has either been a cosigner, voted for it in the Assembly, or campaigned on it. So I think we’re on track to get it passed in the Assembly and state Senate.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2017/S4840" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Health Act</a> would replace health insurance companies with New York state government as the payer of healthcare costs for all New Yorkers. It has been <a href="https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2018/06/17/ny-assembly-oks-universal-health-care-bill-halted-senate/708708002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">passed</a> in the Assembly four years running but has yet to be voted on in the Senate, where Republicans have held control. All of the other 30 Democratic senators joined lead sponsor Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx to co-sponsor the legislation, though the Senate Democratic conference is seeing significant turnover due to primary wins by insurgent challengers. But, those challengers have in general been even more vocally supportive of single-payer health care than their more moderate predecessors. These facts give Gottfried confidence that the New York Health Act will pass during the 2019 session, which begins in January.</p> <p>But the bill still faces an uphill battle, in part because of the massive changes it would institute, and the fact that though it might reduce overall individual and business healthcare costs after implementation, for the state to run the system it would require raising taxes significantly, something many Democrats have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8047-tax-issues-at-center-of-new-york-elections-albany-year-to-come" target="_blank" rel="noopener">promised</a> not to do and Cuomo is vehemently opposed to. It would also drastically impact the state’s private and public hospitals, the health insurance industry, and more. Some of the changes would of course be beneficial to New Yorkers, but the undertaking is complex and the New York Health Act as currently written leaves a lot of detail undetermined, including funding.</p> <p>The governor has repeatedly opposed single-payer healthcare at the state level, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Cuomo-Universal-healthcare-easier-on-federal-13194080.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suggesting</a> that it would be more rational and financially feasible if administered by the federal government. Cuomo questioned in the past how a single-payer system could be put in place without doubling the tax burden, and cited <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypipes/2018/06/25/is-statewide-single-payer-feasible-or-is-it-just-california-dreamin/#7e0d989c636a" target="_blank" rel="noopener">California’s</a> and <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/single-payer-vermont-113711" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Vermont’s</a> debates over single-payer — which both ended when supporters were not able to answer one question: where would the funding come from? — as paragons of the impracticality of state-level single-payer.</p> <p>Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, is confident that with his fellow lead sponsor Senator Rivera, who is likely to be the Senate health committee chair come January, and other legislators, he will be able to sway Cuomo to support the legislation.</p> <p>“He’s obviously not on board yet, but he and his staff are very open to working with the Legislature on the issue,” Gottfried said. “I’m convinced we can satisfy their concerns.”</p> <p>And after a recent <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/pnhpnymetro/pages/3980/attachments/original/1533068488/RAND_NYHA_full_study_RR2424_compiled.pdf?1533068488" target="_blank" rel="noopener">study</a> by RAND Corporation concluded that the New York Health Act would result in a reduction of administrative costs, provide all New Yorkers with healthcare, and reduce healthcare costs for most, Gottfried says the financing of the bill will not be a problem.</p> <p>“New Yorkers are all going to have to think about what they will do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will end up in their pockets, and that’s a nice problem to have,” Gottfried said.</p> <p>The study has a caveat, however, stating in its conclusion that “the estimated effects depend heavily on the assumptions about provider payments, administrative costs and drug prices.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/08/01/rand-study-finds-single-payer-viable-in-new-york-but-with-big-caveats-536072" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico</a> highlighted these assumptions as well as the likely tax increases that have largely been brushed aside by Democrats supporting the legislation. Wealthy people leaving the state, companies restructuring, the cost of hospital expenses rising at a faster rate or the Trump administration not issuing a federal waiver to redirect all healthcare-related funds to the new state entity are all possible events that could result in RAND’s conclusion falling apart.</p> <p>For it to work, while health care costs drop, taxes would undoubtedly increase significantly for many New Yorkers. As cited by Politico, “a household reporting $150,000 in income would see its state tax rate increase from 6.45 percent in 2017 to 18.3 percent,” under one model scenario. Additionally, those who receive Medicaid or fall under the state’s Essential Plan, which subsidizes health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, have less to gain from the expansion. According to RAND, though, 1.2 million New Yorkers would gain health coverage.</p> <p>It is likely that funds for New York single-payer health care would partially come from a new payroll tax, which RAND projects to fall largely on employers. However, RAND suggests the health act payroll tax would cost less for businesses already contributing toward employee health insurance and the Medicare payroll tax, estimating decreases in employer costs fairly quickly.</p> <p>Concerns about businesses and high-income individuals leaving the state persist, with a tax atmosphere in New York that many, including Cuomo, acknowledge is already burdensome and became more so for many taxpayers, especially top earners, under the new federal tax code.</p> <p>Senator Rivera, aware that cost is the primary argument against single-payer health care, repeatedly emphasized the need to work towards a version of the bill that would reduce the financial strain.</p> <p>“I will continue working diligently with Assembly Member Gottfried, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Senate Democratic Conference to make the New York Health Act a bill that is not only fiscally responsible, but that provides comprehensive coverage to all New Yorkers,” Rivera wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The bill and its potential ramifications have been studied closely by Bill Hammond, director of health policy at The Empire Center, a think tank. "Regardless of which party controls the state Senate, the New York Health Act remains a wildly unrealistic idea," Hammond said by email.&nbsp;"It means putting New York's entire health-care system — representing one-fifth of the economy — in the hands of the same state government that struggles to run the subways.&nbsp;It requires massive, draconian tax hikes, enough to roughly triple total state revenues."</p> <p>"Plus, a true single-payer plan would need federal waivers that the Trump administration has vowed to block," Hammond continued, also noting a political angle -- that if Democrats spend great sums of money and political capital on a health care overhaul of this magnitude, what will they ignore, like fighting climate change or improving mass transit.</p> <p>"It was easy to cast a symbolic yes vote for a single-payer bill that had no chance of passing," Hammond said. "Now that that it might actually happen, supporters are going to be forced to confront the practical realities. Then, hopefully, they’ll focus on helping the 6% of New Yorkers who still lack insurance, rather than disrupting coverage for those who already have it."</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>Rivera acknowledged that moving to single-payer would not satisfy everyone, especially those who benefit from the current system, and that there are negotiations to come that will likely adjust the bill to make it more palatable to holdouts.</p> <p>“The biggest challenge will be to reach a consensus among stakeholders that the NY Health Act is feasible [and] fiscally responsible,” Rivera wrote.</p> <p>Citing “healthcare practitioners, prescription drug companies, healthcare providers, employers, unions and New Yorkers,” as the various groups involved, Rivera also mentioned courting Cuomo as an important step to take in the coming legislative session.</p> <p>“Our main priority for the next legislative session is to continue shaping the bill so that it is feasible, affordable, that the Governor is willing to sign, and that primarily, provides quality healthcare for everybody,” Rivera wrote. “During the next legislative session, we will focus on making the necessary amendments to the bill so that it truly reflects the different healthcare needs affecting all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>For now, it is very difficult to imagine Cuomo coming on board, especially given the pains he’s taken to keep state spending increases at around 2 percent per year and to lower taxes. Asked about single-payer health care during a Thursday appearance on The Capitol Pressroom with host Susan Arbetter, Cuomo painted it as unrealistic given budget constraints. He said Democrats are generally in agreement on the concept, but legislators will have to deal with reality in working with him on a state budget next year, while he also said he thinks it's much more workable on the federal level. “Single-payer health plan, for example," Cuomo said, "conceptually I think it’s the right way to go in. I believe it’s more feasible financially on the national level. No state has been able to finance the transition costs.”</p> <p>A variety of factors, including the challenge of getting Cuomo’s support and not wanting to come into power quickly pursuing something as revolutionary as single-payer health care, may be why the likely next Senate majority leader, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8061-agenda-2019-major-policy-tests-ahead-for-state-and-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Andrea Stewart-Cousins</a>, and her likely deputy, Senator <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8024-two-tiered-agenda-for-democrats-if-they-take-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Michael Gianaris</a>, have not highlighted it as top priorities for the coming session.</p> <p>Assemblymember Gottfried noted that state Senators’ public approval of the bill gives him no reason not to “take them at their word,” and said he expects the legislation to move through the Legislature. He knows that private health insurers are certain to vehemently oppose the continued push.</p> <p>“The insurance industry will be fiercely lobbying against the bill and they have a lot of money, going up against their lobbying will take a lot of work,” Gottfried said. “but I’m convinced with so many senators on the record in support of the bill, we will prevail.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

***
by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This article has been updated with Cuomo's comments from 11/15/18 on The Capitol Pressroom.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29874812518_530478a409_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo health care" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>Though Governor Andrew Cuomo has not expressed support for instituting a single-payer health care system in New York, his fellow Democrats campaigned on the issue as they flipped control of the state Senate, landing all of state government into Democratic hands and providing a significant boost of optimism to the lead sponsors of the New York Health Act, which would create a government-administered single-payer health care system.</p> <p>The bill has passed the Democrat-dominated state Assembly several times and all the members of Senate Democratic conference signed on as co-sponsors at the end of last legislative session in a unified show of support for the program heading into the election season.</p> <p>Cuomo has said he supports a Medicare for all-type system at the federal level, but cast doubts on the cost and complexity of doing it in New York, and since their resounding wins on Election Day, the incoming leaders of the Democratic Senate majority have indicated that the massive undertaking of single-payer is not at the top of the agenda.</p> <p>Still, with Democratic control of the Senate and the Assembly by wide margins, single-payer healthcare could be passed as early as the 2019 session, according to Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee and lead sponsor of the New York Health Act.</p> <p>“It was clear in the country and New York that healthcare was the number one issue on voters’ minds,” Gottfried said, before pointing to his legislation. “A solid majority of the new state Senate has either been a cosigner, voted for it in the Assembly, or campaigned on it. So I think we’re on track to get it passed in the Assembly and state Senate.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2017/S4840" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Health Act</a> would replace health insurance companies with New York state government as the payer of healthcare costs for all New Yorkers. It has been <a href="https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2018/06/17/ny-assembly-oks-universal-health-care-bill-halted-senate/708708002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">passed</a> in the Assembly four years running but has yet to be voted on in the Senate, where Republicans have held control. All of the other 30 Democratic senators joined lead sponsor Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx to co-sponsor the legislation, though the Senate Democratic conference is seeing significant turnover due to primary wins by insurgent challengers. But, those challengers have in general been even more vocally supportive of single-payer health care than their more moderate predecessors. These facts give Gottfried confidence that the New York Health Act will pass during the 2019 session, which begins in January.</p> <p>But the bill still faces an uphill battle, in part because of the massive changes it would institute, and the fact that though it might reduce overall individual and business healthcare costs after implementation, for the state to run the system it would require raising taxes significantly, something many Democrats have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8047-tax-issues-at-center-of-new-york-elections-albany-year-to-come" target="_blank" rel="noopener">promised</a> not to do and Cuomo is vehemently opposed to. It would also drastically impact the state’s private and public hospitals, the health insurance industry, and more. Some of the changes would of course be beneficial to New Yorkers, but the undertaking is complex and the New York Health Act as currently written leaves a lot of detail undetermined, including funding.</p> <p>The governor has repeatedly opposed single-payer healthcare at the state level, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Cuomo-Universal-healthcare-easier-on-federal-13194080.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suggesting</a> that it would be more rational and financially feasible if administered by the federal government. Cuomo questioned in the past how a single-payer system could be put in place without doubling the tax burden, and cited <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypipes/2018/06/25/is-statewide-single-payer-feasible-or-is-it-just-california-dreamin/#7e0d989c636a" target="_blank" rel="noopener">California’s</a> and <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/single-payer-vermont-113711" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Vermont’s</a> debates over single-payer — which both ended when supporters were not able to answer one question: where would the funding come from? — as paragons of the impracticality of state-level single-payer.</p> <p>Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, is confident that with his fellow lead sponsor Senator Rivera, who is likely to be the Senate health committee chair come January, and other legislators, he will be able to sway Cuomo to support the legislation.</p> <p>“He’s obviously not on board yet, but he and his staff are very open to working with the Legislature on the issue,” Gottfried said. “I’m convinced we can satisfy their concerns.”</p> <p>And after a recent <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/pnhpnymetro/pages/3980/attachments/original/1533068488/RAND_NYHA_full_study_RR2424_compiled.pdf?1533068488" target="_blank" rel="noopener">study</a> by RAND Corporation concluded that the New York Health Act would result in a reduction of administrative costs, provide all New Yorkers with healthcare, and reduce healthcare costs for most, Gottfried says the financing of the bill will not be a problem.</p> <p>“New Yorkers are all going to have to think about what they will do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will end up in their pockets, and that’s a nice problem to have,” Gottfried said.</p> <p>The study has a caveat, however, stating in its conclusion that “the estimated effects depend heavily on the assumptions about provider payments, administrative costs and drug prices.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/08/01/rand-study-finds-single-payer-viable-in-new-york-but-with-big-caveats-536072" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico</a> highlighted these assumptions as well as the likely tax increases that have largely been brushed aside by Democrats supporting the legislation. Wealthy people leaving the state, companies restructuring, the cost of hospital expenses rising at a faster rate or the Trump administration not issuing a federal waiver to redirect all healthcare-related funds to the new state entity are all possible events that could result in RAND’s conclusion falling apart.</p> <p>For it to work, while health care costs drop, taxes would undoubtedly increase significantly for many New Yorkers. As cited by Politico, “a household reporting $150,000 in income would see its state tax rate increase from 6.45 percent in 2017 to 18.3 percent,” under one model scenario. Additionally, those who receive Medicaid or fall under the state’s Essential Plan, which subsidizes health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, have less to gain from the expansion. According to RAND, though, 1.2 million New Yorkers would gain health coverage.</p> <p>It is likely that funds for New York single-payer health care would partially come from a new payroll tax, which RAND projects to fall largely on employers. However, RAND suggests the health act payroll tax would cost less for businesses already contributing toward employee health insurance and the Medicare payroll tax, estimating decreases in employer costs fairly quickly.</p> <p>Concerns about businesses and high-income individuals leaving the state persist, with a tax atmosphere in New York that many, including Cuomo, acknowledge is already burdensome and became more so for many taxpayers, especially top earners, under the new federal tax code.</p> <p>Senator Rivera, aware that cost is the primary argument against single-payer health care, repeatedly emphasized the need to work towards a version of the bill that would reduce the financial strain.</p> <p>“I will continue working diligently with Assembly Member Gottfried, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Senate Democratic Conference to make the New York Health Act a bill that is not only fiscally responsible, but that provides comprehensive coverage to all New Yorkers,” Rivera wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The bill and its potential ramifications have been studied closely by Bill Hammond, director of health policy at The Empire Center, a think tank. "Regardless of which party controls the state Senate, the New York Health Act remains a wildly unrealistic idea," Hammond said by email.&nbsp;"It means putting New York's entire health-care system — representing one-fifth of the economy — in the hands of the same state government that struggles to run the subways.&nbsp;It requires massive, draconian tax hikes, enough to roughly triple total state revenues."</p> <p>"Plus, a true single-payer plan would need federal waivers that the Trump administration has vowed to block," Hammond continued, also noting a political angle -- that if Democrats spend great sums of money and political capital on a health care overhaul of this magnitude, what will they ignore, like fighting climate change or improving mass transit.</p> <p>"It was easy to cast a symbolic yes vote for a single-payer bill that had no chance of passing," Hammond said. "Now that that it might actually happen, supporters are going to be forced to confront the practical realities. Then, hopefully, they’ll focus on helping the 6% of New Yorkers who still lack insurance, rather than disrupting coverage for those who already have it."</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>Rivera acknowledged that moving to single-payer would not satisfy everyone, especially those who benefit from the current system, and that there are negotiations to come that will likely adjust the bill to make it more palatable to holdouts.</p> <p>“The biggest challenge will be to reach a consensus among stakeholders that the NY Health Act is feasible [and] fiscally responsible,” Rivera wrote.</p> <p>Citing “healthcare practitioners, prescription drug companies, healthcare providers, employers, unions and New Yorkers,” as the various groups involved, Rivera also mentioned courting Cuomo as an important step to take in the coming legislative session.</p> <p>“Our main priority for the next legislative session is to continue shaping the bill so that it is feasible, affordable, that the Governor is willing to sign, and that primarily, provides quality healthcare for everybody,” Rivera wrote. “During the next legislative session, we will focus on making the necessary amendments to the bill so that it truly reflects the different healthcare needs affecting all New Yorkers.”</p> <p>For now, it is very difficult to imagine Cuomo coming on board, especially given the pains he’s taken to keep state spending increases at around 2 percent per year and to lower taxes. Asked about single-payer health care during a Thursday appearance on The Capitol Pressroom with host Susan Arbetter, Cuomo painted it as unrealistic given budget constraints. He said Democrats are generally in agreement on the concept, but legislators will have to deal with reality in working with him on a state budget next year, while he also said he thinks it's much more workable on the federal level. “Single-payer health plan, for example," Cuomo said, "conceptually I think it’s the right way to go in. I believe it’s more feasible financially on the national level. No state has been able to finance the transition costs.”</p> <p>A variety of factors, including the challenge of getting Cuomo’s support and not wanting to come into power quickly pursuing something as revolutionary as single-payer health care, may be why the likely next Senate majority leader, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8061-agenda-2019-major-policy-tests-ahead-for-state-and-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Andrea Stewart-Cousins</a>, and her likely deputy, Senator <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8024-two-tiered-agenda-for-democrats-if-they-take-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Michael Gianaris</a>, have not highlighted it as top priorities for the coming session.</p> <p>Assemblymember Gottfried noted that state Senators’ public approval of the bill gives him no reason not to “take them at their word,” and said he expects the legislation to move through the Legislature. He knows that private health insurers are certain to vehemently oppose the continued push.</p> <p>“The insurance industry will be fiercely lobbying against the bill and they have a lot of money, going up against their lobbying will take a lot of work,” Gottfried said. “but I’m convinced with so many senators on the record in support of the bill, we will prevail.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

***
by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This article has been updated with Cuomo's comments from 11/15/18 on The Capitol Pressroom.</p>
More Formerly Incarcerated New Yorkers Were Able to Vote This Year, But Barriers Remain 2018-11-13T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8070-more-formerly-incarcerated-new-yorkers-were-able-to-vote-this-year-but-barriers-remain Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lymus_rivera_voting.jpg" alt="lymus rivera voting" width="600" height="603" /></p> <p>Lymus Rivera and family (photo:&nbsp;Beatrix Lockwood)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Advocates say misinformation and lack of education can suppress votes</em></p> <p>Lymus Rivera brought his whole family to the polls on Election Day. His wife and daughter were there, and his son even brought his grandson along. They took pictures and stood proudly alongside him as he cast his ballot.</p> <p>“It was a celebration,” Rivera said. “When I think about voting, I think about redemption. I think about being a part of society where I was once part of the problem.”</p> <p>Rivera was one of the roughly 35,000 people re-enfranchised by Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of an <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-signs-executive-order-restore-voting-rights-new-yorkers-parole" target="_blank" rel="noopener">April executive order</a> granting voter restoration pardons to people on parole.</p> <p>The move was celebrated by criminal justice reform advocates as a step toward equal constitutional rights for all citizens. Still, significant barriers stand in the way of the ballot box for formerly incarcerated people. Out of the tens of thousands of people granted voting pardons by Cuomo, only an estimated 1,000 had registered by early October, according to data compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice and presented at a City Council hearing.</p> <p>That small number points to “miseducation and misinformation,” said Isabel Zeitz-Moskin of the National Action Network at an October City Council hearing, “not a lack of interest among justice-involved people.”</p> <p>“People still don’t believe that they have the right to vote as a justice-involved individual,” Zeitz-Moskin said. “And it is no wonder they have this skepticism with the amount of misinformation that is originating from the state itself.”</p> <p>New York law, which allows people who are on probation to vote, but not people who are on parole. The executive order restored the voting rights to people who are on parole, meaning they have been released from prison before their sentence is finished, on certain conditions. The executive order was not a change to the law, but created a process in which people on parole could apply for “voter restoration pardons” from the governor’s office.</p> <p>Six months after Cuomo signed his executive order, the New York City Campaign Finance Board website and its voter guide <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-voter-guide-mistakenly-tells-paroled-felons-they-cant-vote/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">failed to include</a> information about the voter restoration pardons. The CFB did not update its materials until late October, just days before New Yorkers headed to the polls.</p> <p>Advocates like Zeitz-Moskin say mistakes like this are sometimes the result of confusion among BOE employees. On multiple occasions, she and people she knew were told by Board of Elections employees that in order to register, people on parole needed to turn in their pardons along with registration forms, despite the fact that this was not BOE policy. New York law, which allows people who are on probation to vote, but not people who are on parole, also leads to confusion among BOE staff, many of whom are not well-versed in criminal justice terminology and fail to differentiate between the two.</p> <p>Although the office has granted thousands of pardons, voter enfranchisement for this population has not been codified in state law. Confusion remains among formerly incarcerated people, many of whom fear violating the terms of their parole, or simply do not know they are eligible to vote.</p> <p>“Some people on parole are distrusting of the system that incarcerated them and do not want to engage with it,” said Nick Encalada-Malinowski, the Civil Rights Campaign Director at Vocal New York. “And some people think that if they have a felony conviction they are not eligible.”</p> <p>“There is very little effort by the government to actually ensure that people are re-enfranchised,” &nbsp;&nbsp;Encalada-Malinowski said. “This is why people should never lose the right to vote to begin with.” He said that his organization had heard from poll workers that some people on parole showed up to vote on Tuesday, not realizing that they had to be registered. “They heard from the news that people on parole could vote, and showed up, only to be denied.”</p> <p>“These are people who never voted in their life,” said Vidal Guzman, a Community Organizer at JustLeadership USA. “You just give them a ballot and they don't know what's next.”</p> <p>“There’s a lot of people who don’t vote because of the fear of being embarrassed and not knowing how to vote,” he said. “And they don’t believe they can make a difference in their communities.”</p> <p>Howard Harris, who works for the Fortune Society’s Alternatives to Incarceration Program, says he doesn’t think the information about voter pardons is being disseminated to people just coming out of prison. “I have had a couple of clients who didn’t realize that they had the opportunity to vote.”</p> <p>Harris, who himself was re-enfranchised by Cuomo’s executive order, said he was “mesmerized” by the experience of voting for the first time in the New York primary.</p> <p>Harris said that during his first two years home from prison, he was angered by the fact that he had to pay taxes but wasn’t able to vote. “It was discouraging to think I’ve served my time for the crime that I’ve committed and now I’m not even allowed to do my civic duty.”</p> <p>“There are 36,000 parolees in New York state who have the opportunity to vote now,” he said. “That’s a little voting bloc. That could change the course of an election and I want to be a part of that.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a><a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felony-disenfranchisement-2016/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to</a> the Sentencing Project, two percent of black New Yorkers are disenfranchised by New York State law, a population that could, conceivably, swing a local election.</p> <p>For that reason, some on the other side of the aisle saw Cuomo’s executive order as a cynical move in an election year. Some Republicans even argued that that the move endangered public safety by granting “secretive pardons to cop killers, sex offenders, and violent felons.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s Republican opponent Marc Molinaro seized on the governor in <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/10/07/widow-rips-into-cuomo-in-campaign-ad-after-cop-killer-herman-bell-gets-parole/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a campaign ad</a> featuring the widow of Herman Bell, who was released on parole this year after spending 40 years in prison for the murder of two New York City police officers. “Governor Cuomo and his parole board set this cold-blooded killer free,” she says in the ad. “Then Governor Cuomo gave him the right to vote.”</p> <p>But criminal justice advocates say it’s especially important for people who have been in the justice system to have the right to vote, to participate in civic life as they work to reintegrate. “Voting is a categorical good, but especially for people who are formerly incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system,” Perry Grossman, Voting Rights Project Attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union said. “They have unique issues that they are dealing with that provide the electorate with the perspective they can’t get elsewhere.”</p> <p>It’s also a population that is especially important to hear from in an election, said Perry Grossman, Voting Rights Project Attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Voting is a categorical good, but especially for people who are formerly incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system,” he said. “They have unique issues that they are dealing with that provide the electorate with the perspective they can’t get elsewhere.”</p> <p>“Civic engagement and political participation are important aspects of rehabilitation,” he added, which is one reason law enforcement agencies like the American Probation and Parole Association have advocated for re-enfranchisement of all people on parole. “The more connections people on parole have with their community, the less likely they are to engage in behavior that can lead to recidivism.”</p> <p>“You can’t hurt anybody with the right to vote,” Grossman said. “All you can do is help people become better citizens.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br /> by Beatrix Lockwood for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/beelockwood" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BeeLockwood</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lymus_rivera_voting.jpg" alt="lymus rivera voting" width="600" height="603" /></p> <p>Lymus Rivera and family (photo:&nbsp;Beatrix Lockwood)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Advocates say misinformation and lack of education can suppress votes</em></p> <p>Lymus Rivera brought his whole family to the polls on Election Day. His wife and daughter were there, and his son even brought his grandson along. They took pictures and stood proudly alongside him as he cast his ballot.</p> <p>“It was a celebration,” Rivera said. “When I think about voting, I think about redemption. I think about being a part of society where I was once part of the problem.”</p> <p>Rivera was one of the roughly 35,000 people re-enfranchised by Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of an <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-signs-executive-order-restore-voting-rights-new-yorkers-parole" target="_blank" rel="noopener">April executive order</a> granting voter restoration pardons to people on parole.</p> <p>The move was celebrated by criminal justice reform advocates as a step toward equal constitutional rights for all citizens. Still, significant barriers stand in the way of the ballot box for formerly incarcerated people. Out of the tens of thousands of people granted voting pardons by Cuomo, only an estimated 1,000 had registered by early October, according to data compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice and presented at a City Council hearing.</p> <p>That small number points to “miseducation and misinformation,” said Isabel Zeitz-Moskin of the National Action Network at an October City Council hearing, “not a lack of interest among justice-involved people.”</p> <p>“People still don’t believe that they have the right to vote as a justice-involved individual,” Zeitz-Moskin said. “And it is no wonder they have this skepticism with the amount of misinformation that is originating from the state itself.”</p> <p>New York law, which allows people who are on probation to vote, but not people who are on parole. The executive order restored the voting rights to people who are on parole, meaning they have been released from prison before their sentence is finished, on certain conditions. The executive order was not a change to the law, but created a process in which people on parole could apply for “voter restoration pardons” from the governor’s office.</p> <p>Six months after Cuomo signed his executive order, the New York City Campaign Finance Board website and its voter guide <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-voter-guide-mistakenly-tells-paroled-felons-they-cant-vote/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">failed to include</a> information about the voter restoration pardons. The CFB did not update its materials until late October, just days before New Yorkers headed to the polls.</p> <p>Advocates like Zeitz-Moskin say mistakes like this are sometimes the result of confusion among BOE employees. On multiple occasions, she and people she knew were told by Board of Elections employees that in order to register, people on parole needed to turn in their pardons along with registration forms, despite the fact that this was not BOE policy. New York law, which allows people who are on probation to vote, but not people who are on parole, also leads to confusion among BOE staff, many of whom are not well-versed in criminal justice terminology and fail to differentiate between the two.</p> <p>Although the office has granted thousands of pardons, voter enfranchisement for this population has not been codified in state law. Confusion remains among formerly incarcerated people, many of whom fear violating the terms of their parole, or simply do not know they are eligible to vote.</p> <p>“Some people on parole are distrusting of the system that incarcerated them and do not want to engage with it,” said Nick Encalada-Malinowski, the Civil Rights Campaign Director at Vocal New York. “And some people think that if they have a felony conviction they are not eligible.”</p> <p>“There is very little effort by the government to actually ensure that people are re-enfranchised,” &nbsp;&nbsp;Encalada-Malinowski said. “This is why people should never lose the right to vote to begin with.” He said that his organization had heard from poll workers that some people on parole showed up to vote on Tuesday, not realizing that they had to be registered. “They heard from the news that people on parole could vote, and showed up, only to be denied.”</p> <p>“These are people who never voted in their life,” said Vidal Guzman, a Community Organizer at JustLeadership USA. “You just give them a ballot and they don't know what's next.”</p> <p>“There’s a lot of people who don’t vote because of the fear of being embarrassed and not knowing how to vote,” he said. “And they don’t believe they can make a difference in their communities.”</p> <p>Howard Harris, who works for the Fortune Society’s Alternatives to Incarceration Program, says he doesn’t think the information about voter pardons is being disseminated to people just coming out of prison. “I have had a couple of clients who didn’t realize that they had the opportunity to vote.”</p> <p>Harris, who himself was re-enfranchised by Cuomo’s executive order, said he was “mesmerized” by the experience of voting for the first time in the New York primary.</p> <p>Harris said that during his first two years home from prison, he was angered by the fact that he had to pay taxes but wasn’t able to vote. “It was discouraging to think I’ve served my time for the crime that I’ve committed and now I’m not even allowed to do my civic duty.”</p> <p>“There are 36,000 parolees in New York state who have the opportunity to vote now,” he said. “That’s a little voting bloc. That could change the course of an election and I want to be a part of that.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a><a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felony-disenfranchisement-2016/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to</a> the Sentencing Project, two percent of black New Yorkers are disenfranchised by New York State law, a population that could, conceivably, swing a local election.</p> <p>For that reason, some on the other side of the aisle saw Cuomo’s executive order as a cynical move in an election year. Some Republicans even argued that that the move endangered public safety by granting “secretive pardons to cop killers, sex offenders, and violent felons.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s Republican opponent Marc Molinaro seized on the governor in <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/10/07/widow-rips-into-cuomo-in-campaign-ad-after-cop-killer-herman-bell-gets-parole/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a campaign ad</a> featuring the widow of Herman Bell, who was released on parole this year after spending 40 years in prison for the murder of two New York City police officers. “Governor Cuomo and his parole board set this cold-blooded killer free,” she says in the ad. “Then Governor Cuomo gave him the right to vote.”</p> <p>But criminal justice advocates say it’s especially important for people who have been in the justice system to have the right to vote, to participate in civic life as they work to reintegrate. “Voting is a categorical good, but especially for people who are formerly incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system,” Perry Grossman, Voting Rights Project Attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union said. “They have unique issues that they are dealing with that provide the electorate with the perspective they can’t get elsewhere.”</p> <p>It’s also a population that is especially important to hear from in an election, said Perry Grossman, Voting Rights Project Attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Voting is a categorical good, but especially for people who are formerly incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system,” he said. “They have unique issues that they are dealing with that provide the electorate with the perspective they can’t get elsewhere.”</p> <p>“Civic engagement and political participation are important aspects of rehabilitation,” he added, which is one reason law enforcement agencies like the American Probation and Parole Association have advocated for re-enfranchisement of all people on parole. “The more connections people on parole have with their community, the less likely they are to engage in behavior that can lead to recidivism.”</p> <p>“You can’t hurt anybody with the right to vote,” Grossman said. “All you can do is help people become better citizens.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br /> by Beatrix Lockwood for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/beelockwood" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BeeLockwood</a></p> Cuomo's Third Term Agenda Takes Shape 2018-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8065-cuomo-s-third-term-agenda-takes-shape Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/44645343474_abab33fd90_z.jpg" alt="Governor Cuomo third term" width="600" height="501" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, was comfortably reelected to a third term on November 6, priding himself on having won a strong mandate from voters to carry out his agenda. But that agenda was far from clear during the campaign as Cuomo declined to articulate a cogent vision for the next four years and instead largely touted accomplishments from his first two terms in office and focused on fighting President Donald Trump and other Republicans in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>At times, Cuomo also expressed support for broad progressive proposals that have languished under his watch for years, failures due to Republican control of the state Senate, he said, while campaigning for Democratic takeover of the upper chamber and thus entire Legislature, which occurred in convincing fashion when the votes were cast.</p> <p>In the closing weeks of the election and in interviews afterwards, Cuomo has more directly laid out a policy roadmap and, with the state Senate soon to be in Democratic hands and an overwhelming Democratic majority in the Assembly, he will have even more ability than in the past to advance his priorities. On the other hand, the more moderate Cuomo may also have new battles on his hands with a Legislature controlled by his party-mates as opposed to the split control that allowed him to triangulate.</p> <p>During two radio interviews that, along with his Trump-focused election night speech, made up his victory lap this past week, Cuomo asserted that his win margin and the help he gave to Senate candidates would give him more weight in Albany next year. “When you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that,” he said in a WVOX interview with Bill O’Shaughnessy. “It’s not determinative, but it does.”</p> <p>Ahead of the September primary, facing a spirited challenge from actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7928-ahead-of-primary-cuomo-gives-limited-insight-into-third-term-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo said little</a> about concrete ideas for a third term. But early indications are that he will likely move ahead on a raft of socially progressive bills while maintaining his centrist approach to fiscal and economic policy. “We are going to be the most aggressive state in terms of progressive measures and the most intelligent and aggressive in terms of economic development,” Cuomo said in the WVOX interview, touting that he is able to be the best of both Democratic and Republican principles. As Cuomo suggested, most legislation will likely sail through both chambers of the state Legislature with ease. But there will undoubtedly be some issues that will prove divisive even among Democrats, particularly between suburban and upstate legislators on one hand and those representing New York City on the other, or between what legislative majorities get behind and what Cuomo prizes.</p> <p>In the recent radio interviews, Cuomo spoke of several policies that he wants to advance immediately at the start of the legislative session in January, which will coincide with his annual State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation, setting out in much more concrete terms his priorities for the year. For now, Cuomo has highlighted measures including codifying new abortion protections into state law, passing voting and ethics reforms, expanded gun control measures, the DREAM Act, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. During the campaign, appearing with state Senate candidates in Long Island, the Hudson Valley and New York City, Cuomo signed several pledges along those lines as well.</p> <p>“[N]one of these things could get done with a Republican Senate,” he said on WVOX. “We can now get them done with a Democratic Senate. And they are significant, they are issues that frankly have bothered me and a lot of other New Yorkers for years.”</p> <p>During Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings to the Supreme Court, amid a national outcry over how it could affect abortion protections across the country, Cuomo promised to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the protections of Roe v. Wade, within the first 30 days of the legislative session. “I am going to do everything possible. I'm going to send up the bill as soon as the session starts,” he told radio host Alan Chartock on The Capitol Connection.</p> <p>He also pledged to push for voting, government ethics, and campaign finance reforms. Though he has benefited greatly from campaign donations from limited liability companies, which do not have to disclose their ownership and are used to circumvent contribution limits, he has repeatedly expressed support for closing the LLC loophole and has promised to prioritize that measure. He also said he would push to make legislative positions full-time, banning outside income, which he has attempted to leverage over the Legislature in the past when an outside commission was exploring pay raises for state elected officials. A new commission created by Cuomo and legislative leaders last year is due with binding recommendations in the coming weeks, meaning the conversation around reforms attached to pay raises will be ripe for the start of the year.</p> <p>Cuomo has expressed support for a public campaign finance system in the past, as have Democrats in the Legislature, so it is expected that he will also work to enact such a system in the new session.</p> <p>Following another election administration debacle in New York City, there’s also expected to be quick movement on voting reforms, including establishing early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots, both items that Cuomo has pledged to advance. Cuomo even sought to fund a pilot program for early voting earlier this year, proposing $7 million in funding prior to the passage of the state budget, but the idea did not gain much traction, particularly among Senate Republicans.</p> <p>Gun control has been a signature policy issue for Cuomo, who acted quickly following the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting to pass the SAFE Act in New York. He has proposed new measures for the next legislative session, including a Red Flag Gun Protection bill that would allow courts to order the seizure of guns from the homes of individuals deemed a safety risk to themselves or the public, and to prevent those individuals from purchasing any firearms. Cuomo attempted to pass the measure this year, launching a cross-state bus tour to advocate for it, but was unsuccessful. He’s also pledged to alter the background check wait period for gun purchases from three to ten days.</p> <p>Cuomo has also been vocal about passing the Child Victims Act, which gives victims of child abuse greater legal recourse when they are adults by expanding the statute of limitations to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers or institutions. The legislation has repeatedly failed in the Republican-controlled Senate while passing in the Democrat-led Assembly.</p> <p>Other criminal justice reforms are also expected to be on the docket as Cuomo has pushed for bail and speedy trial reform. A bill to eliminate cash bail and Kalief’s Law -- a speedy trial bill named for Bronx youth Kalief Browder who spent two years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime and later died by suicide after being released when the charges were dropped -- both passed the Assembly this year and would likely be approved by a Democratic Senate next year.</p> <p>The governor prides himself on being a builder, in the vein of Robert Moses, and in two speeches ahead of the election to the Association for a Better New York and the Business Council of New York State, he touted his plan to invest $150 billion in infrastructure -- in state, local, federal, and private funding -- in projects spanning into his third term (he raised the estimate by $50 billion as he eyed the next four years and new investments). He pegged $66 billion to transportation projects and $32 billion to environmental facilities. The investments are meant to build on a $100 billion program that is already underway which includes modernizing airports, train and bus stations, and repairing and building bridges around the state. One essential goal of the coming years for Cuomo is figuring out funding for the Gateway project, the new tunnels to connect New York and New Jersey. Cuomo has recently pleaded with President Trump to return federal money to the table to fund half the project, with New York and New Jersey set to split the other half, after Trump had reneged on an Obama era commitment.&nbsp;</p> <p>Environmental conservation issues are also on the governor’s list and he has promised to advance his “Save Our Waters” bill to prohibit offshore drilling and exploration, and drilling infrastructure off the Long Island coast. Like on other issues, there are pending battles between Cuomo and legislators (and advocates) over environmental policy, including how quickly the state is moving to renewable energy and other efforts to take on climate change.</p> <p>On the fiscal front, Cuomo, who prides himself on having passed eight on-time or nearly on-time budgets, has repeatedly vowed to continue the state’s 2 percent property tax cap and to keep state spending increases from going beyond 2 percent each year. Though Cuomo has used some budgeting gimmicks to account for the 2 percent annual growth, which has at times really been closer to 3 or 4 percent, he is largely praised by fiscal watchdogs for his restraint. Tax rates will, as always, be a topic of discussion in Albany in 2019, and while Cuomo is likely to insist on little movement and Democratic legislators are already explaining that they do not plan to raise taxes, as has been the warning about them from Republicans, the parties will at least have to deal with whether to extend the expiring “millionaires tax” that Cuomo and a split Legislature have passed multiple times, while reducing other rates over the years. The state is facing projected budget deficits and the impact of federal tax reform is yet to be seen in full. Cuomo's initial attempts to mitigate the negative effects of the tax overhaul and, specifically, its new cap on state and local tax deductions from federal taxes, have not panned out.</p> <p>Cuomo will likely also revive legislation for a speed camera program in New York City that lapsed in the face of Republican recalcitrance in the Senate. The governor and elected officials in the city implemented a workaround for the program which required an executive order but Cuomo has since promised to push the bill, which provides for cameras in school zones, through the Legislature.</p> <p>There are several issues on which Cuomo might find himself at odds with one or both houses of the Legislature, even if there is widespread agreement on overarching goals.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>Cuomo has pushed for a comprehensive congestion pricing program to fund the MTA, arrest the decline of New York City’s subway system, and reduce the clog of Manhattan streets. But Democrats, particularly in the outer boroughs and in suburban areas around the city, are far from unanimous on the proposal. Cuomo seemed to recognize these differences in appearances in early October on Long Island and South Brooklyn. In Long Island, he pledged to make the city “pay its fair share for the MTA,” while at the Brooklyn event, he pledged to secure funding for the beleaguered transit authority through congestion pricing.</p> <p>The fight for increased education funding occupies Albany each year and Cuomo has been criticized as failing to fully comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling that would require billions more in state funds being sent to struggling public schools (he and his administration argue that they are in compliance and due funds have been allocated). Several Democrats elected to the Senate this year made fair student funding a part of their platform and will probably push for increased funding for urban districts from the governor, who has insisted each year that his administration is funding schools at record levels. There may be a more vigorous discussion this year about the exact formulas used for state school aid.</p> <p>Charter schools, privately-run public schools, are an additional aspect of that debate. Senate Republicans hold a more favorable position on charters and have clashed with Democrats in the Assembly over providing them with increased per-pupil funding, not to mention increasing the cap on the number of charters that can be awarded to start new schools. But Cuomo has long been a charter school champion, and the charter sector has also donated large sums of money to his campaign, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-cuomo-fundraising-molinaro-james-wofford-dinapoli-trichter-20181029-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as much as $130,000</a> in the days leading up to the election. Cuomo has repeatedly stated that he supports charter schools and has in the past done a great deal to ensure their growth. The charter cap will be a subject of negotiation in 2019, and it may again be tied to mayoral control of New York City schools, which is again set to expire next year.</p> <p>Perhaps the most contentious debate in next year’s session will come near the tail end when rent stabilization laws are set to expire. Real estate interests have been another particularly generous segment of donors to Cuomo, as well as to many state legislators, and though the governor has pledged to “protect and expand rent stabilization in New York City,” he’s likely to face strong lobbying and opposition from the industry. Within his own party, a slate of newly elected progressive Senators refused real estate donations when they ran for office and have promised to fight for stronger tenant protections and more affordable housing. As on many topics, the discussion among Cuomo and his fellow Democrats is likely to come down to how far they can agree to go as they move in a progressive direction.</p> <p>While there will be a lot of like-mindedness in Albany come January, along with some of the contentious issues mentioned, there may also be more protracted battles over whether the state should move toward a single-payer health care system, legalize recreational marijuana, and provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. There may also be conflict around Cuomo's economic development spending with regard to how much influence the Legislature seeks and whether the Democratic majorities demand additional transparency and accountability in how the money is spent.</p> <p>In January, Cuomo will present his State of the State address, setting the stage for the year ahead. It remains to be seen how ambitious he will be with his party controlling the entire state government and with no Republican obstruction that he can scapegoat for any failures.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/44645343474_abab33fd90_z.jpg" alt="Governor Cuomo third term" width="600" height="501" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, was comfortably reelected to a third term on November 6, priding himself on having won a strong mandate from voters to carry out his agenda. But that agenda was far from clear during the campaign as Cuomo declined to articulate a cogent vision for the next four years and instead largely touted accomplishments from his first two terms in office and focused on fighting President Donald Trump and other Republicans in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>At times, Cuomo also expressed support for broad progressive proposals that have languished under his watch for years, failures due to Republican control of the state Senate, he said, while campaigning for Democratic takeover of the upper chamber and thus entire Legislature, which occurred in convincing fashion when the votes were cast.</p> <p>In the closing weeks of the election and in interviews afterwards, Cuomo has more directly laid out a policy roadmap and, with the state Senate soon to be in Democratic hands and an overwhelming Democratic majority in the Assembly, he will have even more ability than in the past to advance his priorities. On the other hand, the more moderate Cuomo may also have new battles on his hands with a Legislature controlled by his party-mates as opposed to the split control that allowed him to triangulate.</p> <p>During two radio interviews that, along with his Trump-focused election night speech, made up his victory lap this past week, Cuomo asserted that his win margin and the help he gave to Senate candidates would give him more weight in Albany next year. “When you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that,” he said in a WVOX interview with Bill O’Shaughnessy. “It’s not determinative, but it does.”</p> <p>Ahead of the September primary, facing a spirited challenge from actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7928-ahead-of-primary-cuomo-gives-limited-insight-into-third-term-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo said little</a> about concrete ideas for a third term. But early indications are that he will likely move ahead on a raft of socially progressive bills while maintaining his centrist approach to fiscal and economic policy. “We are going to be the most aggressive state in terms of progressive measures and the most intelligent and aggressive in terms of economic development,” Cuomo said in the WVOX interview, touting that he is able to be the best of both Democratic and Republican principles. As Cuomo suggested, most legislation will likely sail through both chambers of the state Legislature with ease. But there will undoubtedly be some issues that will prove divisive even among Democrats, particularly between suburban and upstate legislators on one hand and those representing New York City on the other, or between what legislative majorities get behind and what Cuomo prizes.</p> <p>In the recent radio interviews, Cuomo spoke of several policies that he wants to advance immediately at the start of the legislative session in January, which will coincide with his annual State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation, setting out in much more concrete terms his priorities for the year. For now, Cuomo has highlighted measures including codifying new abortion protections into state law, passing voting and ethics reforms, expanded gun control measures, the DREAM Act, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. During the campaign, appearing with state Senate candidates in Long Island, the Hudson Valley and New York City, Cuomo signed several pledges along those lines as well.</p> <p>“[N]one of these things could get done with a Republican Senate,” he said on WVOX. “We can now get them done with a Democratic Senate. And they are significant, they are issues that frankly have bothered me and a lot of other New Yorkers for years.”</p> <p>During Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings to the Supreme Court, amid a national outcry over how it could affect abortion protections across the country, Cuomo promised to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the protections of Roe v. Wade, within the first 30 days of the legislative session. “I am going to do everything possible. I'm going to send up the bill as soon as the session starts,” he told radio host Alan Chartock on The Capitol Connection.</p> <p>He also pledged to push for voting, government ethics, and campaign finance reforms. Though he has benefited greatly from campaign donations from limited liability companies, which do not have to disclose their ownership and are used to circumvent contribution limits, he has repeatedly expressed support for closing the LLC loophole and has promised to prioritize that measure. He also said he would push to make legislative positions full-time, banning outside income, which he has attempted to leverage over the Legislature in the past when an outside commission was exploring pay raises for state elected officials. A new commission created by Cuomo and legislative leaders last year is due with binding recommendations in the coming weeks, meaning the conversation around reforms attached to pay raises will be ripe for the start of the year.</p> <p>Cuomo has expressed support for a public campaign finance system in the past, as have Democrats in the Legislature, so it is expected that he will also work to enact such a system in the new session.</p> <p>Following another election administration debacle in New York City, there’s also expected to be quick movement on voting reforms, including establishing early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots, both items that Cuomo has pledged to advance. Cuomo even sought to fund a pilot program for early voting earlier this year, proposing $7 million in funding prior to the passage of the state budget, but the idea did not gain much traction, particularly among Senate Republicans.</p> <p>Gun control has been a signature policy issue for Cuomo, who acted quickly following the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting to pass the SAFE Act in New York. He has proposed new measures for the next legislative session, including a Red Flag Gun Protection bill that would allow courts to order the seizure of guns from the homes of individuals deemed a safety risk to themselves or the public, and to prevent those individuals from purchasing any firearms. Cuomo attempted to pass the measure this year, launching a cross-state bus tour to advocate for it, but was unsuccessful. He’s also pledged to alter the background check wait period for gun purchases from three to ten days.</p> <p>Cuomo has also been vocal about passing the Child Victims Act, which gives victims of child abuse greater legal recourse when they are adults by expanding the statute of limitations to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers or institutions. The legislation has repeatedly failed in the Republican-controlled Senate while passing in the Democrat-led Assembly.</p> <p>Other criminal justice reforms are also expected to be on the docket as Cuomo has pushed for bail and speedy trial reform. A bill to eliminate cash bail and Kalief’s Law -- a speedy trial bill named for Bronx youth Kalief Browder who spent two years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime and later died by suicide after being released when the charges were dropped -- both passed the Assembly this year and would likely be approved by a Democratic Senate next year.</p> <p>The governor prides himself on being a builder, in the vein of Robert Moses, and in two speeches ahead of the election to the Association for a Better New York and the Business Council of New York State, he touted his plan to invest $150 billion in infrastructure -- in state, local, federal, and private funding -- in projects spanning into his third term (he raised the estimate by $50 billion as he eyed the next four years and new investments). He pegged $66 billion to transportation projects and $32 billion to environmental facilities. The investments are meant to build on a $100 billion program that is already underway which includes modernizing airports, train and bus stations, and repairing and building bridges around the state. One essential goal of the coming years for Cuomo is figuring out funding for the Gateway project, the new tunnels to connect New York and New Jersey. Cuomo has recently pleaded with President Trump to return federal money to the table to fund half the project, with New York and New Jersey set to split the other half, after Trump had reneged on an Obama era commitment.&nbsp;</p> <p>Environmental conservation issues are also on the governor’s list and he has promised to advance his “Save Our Waters” bill to prohibit offshore drilling and exploration, and drilling infrastructure off the Long Island coast. Like on other issues, there are pending battles between Cuomo and legislators (and advocates) over environmental policy, including how quickly the state is moving to renewable energy and other efforts to take on climate change.</p> <p>On the fiscal front, Cuomo, who prides himself on having passed eight on-time or nearly on-time budgets, has repeatedly vowed to continue the state’s 2 percent property tax cap and to keep state spending increases from going beyond 2 percent each year. Though Cuomo has used some budgeting gimmicks to account for the 2 percent annual growth, which has at times really been closer to 3 or 4 percent, he is largely praised by fiscal watchdogs for his restraint. Tax rates will, as always, be a topic of discussion in Albany in 2019, and while Cuomo is likely to insist on little movement and Democratic legislators are already explaining that they do not plan to raise taxes, as has been the warning about them from Republicans, the parties will at least have to deal with whether to extend the expiring “millionaires tax” that Cuomo and a split Legislature have passed multiple times, while reducing other rates over the years. The state is facing projected budget deficits and the impact of federal tax reform is yet to be seen in full. Cuomo's initial attempts to mitigate the negative effects of the tax overhaul and, specifically, its new cap on state and local tax deductions from federal taxes, have not panned out.</p> <p>Cuomo will likely also revive legislation for a speed camera program in New York City that lapsed in the face of Republican recalcitrance in the Senate. The governor and elected officials in the city implemented a workaround for the program which required an executive order but Cuomo has since promised to push the bill, which provides for cameras in school zones, through the Legislature.</p> <p>There are several issues on which Cuomo might find himself at odds with one or both houses of the Legislature, even if there is widespread agreement on overarching goals.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>Cuomo has pushed for a comprehensive congestion pricing program to fund the MTA, arrest the decline of New York City’s subway system, and reduce the clog of Manhattan streets. But Democrats, particularly in the outer boroughs and in suburban areas around the city, are far from unanimous on the proposal. Cuomo seemed to recognize these differences in appearances in early October on Long Island and South Brooklyn. In Long Island, he pledged to make the city “pay its fair share for the MTA,” while at the Brooklyn event, he pledged to secure funding for the beleaguered transit authority through congestion pricing.</p> <p>The fight for increased education funding occupies Albany each year and Cuomo has been criticized as failing to fully comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling that would require billions more in state funds being sent to struggling public schools (he and his administration argue that they are in compliance and due funds have been allocated). Several Democrats elected to the Senate this year made fair student funding a part of their platform and will probably push for increased funding for urban districts from the governor, who has insisted each year that his administration is funding schools at record levels. There may be a more vigorous discussion this year about the exact formulas used for state school aid.</p> <p>Charter schools, privately-run public schools, are an additional aspect of that debate. Senate Republicans hold a more favorable position on charters and have clashed with Democrats in the Assembly over providing them with increased per-pupil funding, not to mention increasing the cap on the number of charters that can be awarded to start new schools. But Cuomo has long been a charter school champion, and the charter sector has also donated large sums of money to his campaign, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-cuomo-fundraising-molinaro-james-wofford-dinapoli-trichter-20181029-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as much as $130,000</a> in the days leading up to the election. Cuomo has repeatedly stated that he supports charter schools and has in the past done a great deal to ensure their growth. The charter cap will be a subject of negotiation in 2019, and it may again be tied to mayoral control of New York City schools, which is again set to expire next year.</p> <p>Perhaps the most contentious debate in next year’s session will come near the tail end when rent stabilization laws are set to expire. Real estate interests have been another particularly generous segment of donors to Cuomo, as well as to many state legislators, and though the governor has pledged to “protect and expand rent stabilization in New York City,” he’s likely to face strong lobbying and opposition from the industry. Within his own party, a slate of newly elected progressive Senators refused real estate donations when they ran for office and have promised to fight for stronger tenant protections and more affordable housing. As on many topics, the discussion among Cuomo and his fellow Democrats is likely to come down to how far they can agree to go as they move in a progressive direction.</p> <p>While there will be a lot of like-mindedness in Albany come January, along with some of the contentious issues mentioned, there may also be more protracted battles over whether the state should move toward a single-payer health care system, legalize recreational marijuana, and provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. There may also be conflict around Cuomo's economic development spending with regard to how much influence the Legislature seeks and whether the Democratic majorities demand additional transparency and accountability in how the money is spent.</p> <p>In January, Cuomo will present his State of the State address, setting the stage for the year ahead. It remains to be seen how ambitious he will be with his party controlling the entire state government and with no Republican obstruction that he can scapegoat for any failures.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Agenda 2019: Major Policy Tests Ahead for State and City 2018-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8061-agenda-2019-major-policy-tests-ahead-for-state-and-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_asc_nydems.jpg" alt="cuomo stewart-cousins democrats" width="600" height="387" /></p> <p>Byron Brown, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo (photo: NY Democratic State Party)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>The voting machines are back in storage, the “Vote Here” signs are gone, and politics in New York have entered the interregnum between Election Day and the start of the new term in Albany, when a newly-Democratic State Senate and a re-elected Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic governor will begin to set the direction of the Empire State in 2019 -- while a new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives vies with a Republican U.S. Senate and President Trump over where and how to steer the nation.</p> <p>The rhetoric, posturing, and proposals of the campaign will give way to the rhetoric and posturing -- and, ultimately, policymaking -- of government. It’s too early to know how the new balances of power will play out, but some of the newly powerful or electorally emboldened are already giving indications of some of their priorities, which, in combination with campaign trail promises, form the outline of what to expect in Albany in the year ahead. Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have quickly provided a sense of what they plan to tackle first and what might be on the backburner as the state governing session begins in January.</p> <p>“I did better than I had done in my previous election which is normally unheard of,” Cuomo said the day after the election, on WVOX radio, “but we also won the Senate, which is very important and I worked very hard to make that happen, which it allows me to get all sorts of things done that we haven’t done before.”</p> <p>As is always the case, so much of what happens in the state capital will impact New York City, and though there were no elections for city-level positions this year, those who live and work in the city have a great deal at stake as the new state government takes shape. Mayor Bill de Blasio and others are already laying out their priorities for 2019 in Albany, where the mayor and other city Democrats hope the atmosphere will be more friendly toward the five boroughs than in the past.</p> <p>“[T]he fact that we not only have a Democratic majority in the State Senate but a resounding Democratic majority is going to allow for a host of progress for this state and going to allow some really important initiatives to finally be acted on that we’ve been waiting for, for years and in some cases decades,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Most especially reform to our election process, campaign finance reform, finally getting a solution for the MTA. Huge changes could come from the fact that we now have a strong, clear Democratic majority in the State Senate.”</p> <p>Still, much will happen at the city level in the year ahead that is not necessarily a product of Albany decision-making. Even as he seeks legislative and funding changes in the state capital, de Blasio has city challenges to address, programs to implement, and major decisions to make. There is a Charter Revision Commission exploring sweeping changes to how city government operates, and there will be a handful of elections in the city, starting with a special election for Public Advocate, likely in February.</p> <p>There will be a great deal at stake in 2019. Advocates, organizers, strategists, and elected and appointed officials have already provided a long list of topics and decisions that will come to the fore next year. So City Limits, Gotham Gazette, and other partners are teaming up over the next eight weeks to explore major policy issues where action is expected over the next 12 months.</p> <p>Each week we will bring you an in-depth look at one issue area with comprehensive reporting, broadcast interviews, opinion columns, and other features to provide insight into the policies, politics, and people involved and set the stage for what will be an incredibly important year in New York City, New York State, and national politics.</p> <p>First, an overview of what’s on hand.</p> <p><strong>Albany</strong><br /> The story begins in Albany. The 2019 landscape in the state capital will be unlike anything seen in roughly a decade: full Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches. This time around is likely to be far more functional than last, when the Senate Democratic conference quickly devolved into chaos and a weak governor was unable to keep his party-mates from disgracing themselves (several of those involved have served time in jail) and bringing legislative business to a long halt.</p> <p>In 2019, Cuomo enters a third term with wind at his back, major infrastructure projects in motion, and a long to-do list; while Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate finally get the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to pass an agenda repeatedly stalled by Republicans in the upper chamber.</p> <p>The questions that hang over this new arrangement include to what extent various Democrats with varied priorities are able to agree upon an order of operation and the specific details of policies they’ve championed but never actually had the power to pass into law without compromising with Republicans. Expected Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others have already given indication of what they see as the top priorities with widespread agreement.</p> <p>Cuomo, who has appeared mostly happy with a split Legislature, now faces the challenge of dictating terms to legislative majorities that may want to move faster and further left than he’s comfortable with, though Democrats also know that the next legislative elections are now less than two years away and their members from swing suburban districts need to be especially careful with ‘pocketbook’ issues. Taxpayers across the state will soon be adjusting to the full new reality of federal tax reforms, which capped state and local deductions and are of great concern to suburban homeowners. Plus, the state’s current “millionaires tax” is set to expire in 2019 and Cuomo hasn’t yet indicated his stance on renewing it, even as he faces upcoming budget deficits.</p> <p>“I am a suburban legislator,” Stewart-Cousins of Westchester <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/state-senate-turnover-1.23031265" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Long Island-based Newsday</a>. “I am very proud that New Yorkers have elected many great suburban legislators to take their place in the Senate Democratic Majority.”</p> <p>Cuomo has been clear that he plans to continue the fiscal restraint and center-left governance of his first two terms. At the same time, he’s poised to push through many significant policies his critics have blamed him for not delivering, while addressing the twin crises of his second term: the failing New York City subways and the corruption that has continued to plague state government, recently in the governor’s own inner circle.</p> <p>Cuomo wants to keep state spending increases to roughly two percent annually, to keep an annual cap on property tax growth everywhere outside New York City, and to take steps to mitigate the effects of federal tax reform, especially the new cap on state and local deductions. But he also has a lengthy professed agenda for 2019 and his larger third term, including voting reform, additional gun control regulations, the Child Victims Act, codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, the Dream Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and more. For the most part, the policy agenda Cuomo has laid out, which is noticeably light on new spending, should not be a heavy lift in either house of the Legislature with both under Democratic control.</p> <p>There may very well be areas of conflict, however, even if legislators stay away from raising taxes or pursuing policies like single-payer health care that Cuomo has thrown cold water on. These include government ethics and campaign finance reform, funding the MTA, rent regulations, education funding, charter schools, criminal justice reform, and others. How to move the state ahead in combating climate change may also be a source of disagreement in terms of degree.</p> <p>The governor knows he must -- and has promised to -- move ahead with congestion pricing for Manhattan travel as part of funding the MTA and the Fast Forward subway modernization plan that is ballparked at around $35 billion. It’s unclear where the rest of the needed money will come from, though Cuomo has already indicated he expects the New York City government to kick in more (de Blasio continues to call for an additional tax on high-earners, which Cuomo has mocked). The governor even got several Senate candidates on Long Island to sign a pledge that they’d squeeze the city for more transit money -- not the only episode of the fall campaign to raise the possibility that Cuomo is readying to continue to hold sway over policy-making in Albany no matter how other pieces may shift.</p> <p>The governor is also frustrated with hearing about his failures on government ethics and campaign finance reform, and will likely look to put that talk to bed by the time a new state budget is passed at the end of March. The details of any such deals will be closely examined for whether they truly advance the causes of good government and provide the best possible circumstances for both preventing and punishing corruption.</p> <p>A major unknown is whether some of the newly elected State Senate Democrats, especially those on Long Island, will feel more beholden to Cuomo than to the conference itself, and help him restrain the larger group. On the other hand, it is unclear how the new group of state senators who defeated members of what was the Independent Democratic Conference, some of whom cross-endorsed with Cynthia Nixon in her challenge to Cuomo, will approach the governor and raising their voices within the Senate majority.</p> <p>During a Wednesday appearance <a href="http://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/capital-tonight-interviews/2018/11/08/senate-democrats-flip-majority-#" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Spectrum’s Capitol Tonight</a>, Stewart-Cousins was asked about unifying her new conference and finding agreement. “So people understand that there’s a lot of great hope in our ascension to power,” she said, “and in order to really fulfill those hopes, we have to move as a body. That means we’re going to have to find ways to get to the desired end...We must consider that it is one New York, but there are a lot of different places, a lot of different regions and areas and needs and interests, and if we do our job right we will be able to manage and take care of all of it.”</p> <p>Democrats in the state Assembly, which is dominated by New York City members and led by Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, may be itching to enact an agenda they have repeatedly passed that has not had Cuomo’s full support and that is not necessarily the same agenda as the new Senate Democratic majority. Assembly Democrats have spent years passing one-house bills and budgets advancing progressive priorities, including things like single-payer health care, higher taxes on top earners, tighter rent regulations, and sweeping criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>Still, there is much that Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and governor’s mansion agree on and will all-but-certainly find common ground to pass, starting with a handful of policies that Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins, and Heastie have already mentioned since the election results came in: voting reform, women’s reproductive choice, gun control, and more.</p> <p>“There have been measures that I could not get done with a Republican Senate and I believe they were short-sighted,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “...And I worked so hard for a Democratic Senate, because these are pieces that I believe are essential to really move this state forward.”</p> <p>“We need ethics reform and there's no reason not to pass it,” he continued, mentioning making legislative positions full-time with no outside income, campaign finance reform (including closure of the LLC loophole), and voting reform, including early voting.</p> <p>“The women's right to choose has to be protected,” Cuomo said, referring to the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law. He also mentioned the Dream Act, “gun safety” legislation, which would likely include a “red flag bill” to remove guns from the homes of potentially troubled young people and extending the background check wait time from three to ten days.</p> <p>All of the issues listed by Cuomo are ones that Stewart-Cousins, members of her conference, and Heastie have mentioned in the first days after the election as top priorities.</p> <p>While Cuomo appears ready to knock down any criticism that he is not a ‘real Democrat’ and create additional buzz around a possible presidential run, he always wants to move on his terms. A deal-maker who leverages his counterparts, the governor has clearly been sizing up the new dynamics he’s facing ahead of the state budget session that will kick off in January with his State of the State speech and Executive Budget presentation. Discussing the facts that he received the most votes of any governor ever and won this year by a bigger margin than in 2014, Cuomo said Wednesday that it “helps practically in governmentally when you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that.”</p> <p>And even as Cuomo has pledged to serve another four-year term and there are very serious questions about his viability as a presidential candidate, he has regularly stoked the flames and after another resounding electoral victory, may be poised to flirt even more explicitly with a run for president.</p> <p>One possibility is that Cuomo focuses intently on moving an aggressive progressive agenda through in the first few months of the Albany year, then takes his new list of accomplishments to a few of the necessary stops on a presidential exploration tour, such as New Hampshire.</p> <p>Another uncertainty for the year ahead is exactly how Attorney General-elect Letitia James approaches her new role. James, a Democrat who is currently the New York City public advocate, will vacate that position and take charge of a vast and immensely powerful legal office. She has promised to continue the aggressive approach the office of attorney general has taken to President Trump, his administration and his other enterprises, while also taking on criminal justice reform in New York and working to root out public corruption, among other aspects of the role she has said she will embrace. In the face of skepticism about her closeness to Cuomo and other Democrats, James has promised to be an independent voice and to pursue wrongdoing wherever it may be.</p> <p>There is no speculating that much of New York City’s policy agenda depends on legislative action in Albany. Speedy trial and bail reform legislation seen as vital to the effort to close Rikers island jails will be a top priority for progressives in the capital and City Hall. And the renewal of rent regulations presents a major opportunity to reduce the displacement pressures that dog de Blasio’s rezoning and development plans. There is almost guaranteed to be city-state tension in 2019 over funding the MTA, among other policy and budget issues.</p> <p>Asked the day after the election about his top priorities for the Albany year ahead, de Blasio said, “One: strengthen rent regulations, protect affordable housing. Two: fix the MTA, provide a permanent funding source for our subways and buses. Three: continue our progress on education funding and on having the power to keep fixing our schools.”</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br /> Under normal circumstances, 2019 would be a quiet year in city politics—an off-year between the 2018 statewide elections and the presidential race in 2020, with municipal elections a full two years off in 2021.</p> <p>But circumstances are not normal. A a citywide official is leaving her office vacant, a veteran district attorney is retiring, and big decisions on everything from charter revision to jail-siting and neighborhood rezoning are due.</p> <p>As is always the case in the years after statewide elections, three district attorney races are on the docket in the city. All five of the city’s sitting district attorneys are Democrats. Incumbent Darcel Clark in the Bronx, who was elected in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote, is unlikely to be threatened. Staten Island's Michael McMahon won his post in 2015 with 55 percent of the vote, and could face a more competitive re-election contest. But the Queens DA's race is shaping up to be the most dramatic affair, with incumbent Richard Brown—who ran uncontested in '15 and has held his post since '91—likely to step down and a roster of well-known names (City Council Member Rory Lancman, former Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Michael Gianaris) in the mix of declared or potential candidates.</p> <p>Letitia James' victory in the race for attorney general means there'll be a special election to fill the post of public advocate. Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off his campaign for lieutenant governor, and Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake are already in the mix for that post, along with a couple of others like Nomiki Konst and David Eisenbach, and a host of other names are considered possible candidates.</p> <p>The special election to select an interim public advocate will be a nonpartisan affair held in early 2019; the winner of that could then face a primary in September before a general election in November 2019 to decide who serves the remainder of James' term. Worth noting: If someone currently in elected office wins the special election for public advocate, there will need to be another election to fill the slot the winner vacates. It could be a very special year.</p> <p>Also expected to be on the ballot next November: the proposals from the City Council's 2019 charter revision commission. The hearings and meetings (and behind the scenes machinations) that will shape those proposals will be a significant story to watch in the city next year, because the changes on the table next November could be the most significant in 30 years. Already, the commission has been asked to consider ambitious alterations to how the city does budgeting and land-use planning.</p> <p>Critical housing policy decisions will come throughout the year. The city's "Where We Live NYC" fair-housing planning process—a landmark examination of whether city housing programs have reduced or exacerbated segregation—is supposed to wrap up by the fall of 2019. A decision could come in the lawsuits over the fairness of the community preference policy and the property-tax system, and the property-tax reform commission empaneled by de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is holding its final first-wave meetings in later November and December and could issue a report soon—with whatever plan emerges subject to intense debate, as well as legislation at both the city and state levels.</p> <p>Major neighborhood rezonings of Bushwick, Gowanus, and Bay Street are likely, with action on Long Island City and the Southern Boulevard area of the Bronx also possible. And the Council and mayor will render decisions on the plans to build new jails to replace the facilities on Rikers Island.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the NYCHA settlement with federal authorities awaits approval—and NYCHA families await another winter and the potential for heat and hot-water problems. The federal criminal investigation of NYCHA and its decision-makers is not over and could produce more news, and some housing advocates will bring more pressure on the mayor to build new senior housing on NYCHA land rather than market-rate units. De Blasio may name a permanent head of NYCHA, or keep the interim leader, Stan Brezenoff, in place. The city will also be looking to Washington for more funding help for public housing, and may put forward a revamped long-term plan for NYCHA that accelerates the pace of development on under-utilized NYCHA land as a way to bring in revenue.</p> <p>2019 is the year when the hit from the Trump tax plan's capping of federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes will start to affect high earners—and it will be interesting to see if that encourages calls to rein in spending during the city's budget process. As one business advocate notes, "Only a relatively small number of high earners have to relocate to lower tax states for NYC to suffer major revenue losses." People in the top 1 percent – those in the 38,000 households making more than $713,000—earned about 35 percent of the city's income and contributed roughly 44 percent of total income-tax revenue in 2016. But keeping budget growth modest will be challenging, with the MTA, NYCHA, and the public hospital system in need of major investment.</p> <p>The city's ability to implement the Fair Fares Metrocard subsidy program will be tested, and bus riders should get a glimpse of the newly redesigned bus routes coming under the MTA's Fast Forward plan. The rollout of the school desegregation effort in District 15 will continue as New Yorkers get more of a sense of whether and how Richard Carranza will put his stamp on the school system.</p> <p>The x-factor in all these stories is how much power Bill de Blasio will have to shape these critical policy decisions, all of which will help sculpt his legacy.</p> <p>The mayor did little to define a second-term agenda before he was re-elected in a landslide a year ago, and he's not done much to fill in those blanks over the past 12 months. His signature policy idea of 2018, the democracy initiative, has not had an auspicious start, though de Blasio did see the three ballot proposals from his charter revision commission approved by voters on Election Day. While the mayor has made substantive policy moves, on cybersecurity and guns for instance, they have been drowned out by a torrent of dreadful headlines about NYCHA, his school renewal plan, his beef with the Department of Investigations commissioner, and, of course, the "agent of the city" emails.</p> <p>Some of that static is merely what comes with the territory of a second term in one of the toughest jobs in the country. But de Blasio's unusually acrimonious relationship with the press, his feud with a governor who was just resoundingly elected for a third time, the rise of a less-cooperative City Council and the pre-2021 positioning that is already taking place among his partners in government could combine to irreversibly weaken the mayor years before he ought to look like a lame duck. While that might sound like good news to those who dislike de Blasio, the fact is the city's interests in Albany or Washington depend on there being a strong figure in City Hall. Other players might claim some spotlight and gain some juice, but Bill de Blasio is alone at New York City's helm for another 1,150 days. That would be a long time to be adrift.</p> <p><strong>Washington, D.C.</strong><br /> And then there’s Washington. The new Democratic House could move a legislative agenda to try to limit the impact of the limitations on SALT deductions, support infrastructure spending, shore up the Affordable Care Act, and take steps to thwart the president’s harshest moves on immigration -- all of which would have direct impact on New York City and State. But with Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and the White House, Democrats will not be able to move anything through Congress without major compromise. It’s unclear who will lead the House Democrats or what their strategy over the next year will be: seeking a deal with centrist Republicans, or even with the mercurial president himself, to create new policy, or instead maintaining a more combative posture until the 2020 presidential election resets the country.</p> <p>The Iowa caucus, after all, is only 15 months away.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette &amp; Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Part of "Agenda 2019," a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project to get New Yorkers ready for the political year ahead.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="Agenda 2019" width="600" height="302" /></p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo_asc_nydems.jpg" alt="cuomo stewart-cousins democrats" width="600" height="387" /></p> <p>Byron Brown, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo (photo: NY Democratic State Party)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>The voting machines are back in storage, the “Vote Here” signs are gone, and politics in New York have entered the interregnum between Election Day and the start of the new term in Albany, when a newly-Democratic State Senate and a re-elected Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic governor will begin to set the direction of the Empire State in 2019 -- while a new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives vies with a Republican U.S. Senate and President Trump over where and how to steer the nation.</p> <p>The rhetoric, posturing, and proposals of the campaign will give way to the rhetoric and posturing -- and, ultimately, policymaking -- of government. It’s too early to know how the new balances of power will play out, but some of the newly powerful or electorally emboldened are already giving indications of some of their priorities, which, in combination with campaign trail promises, form the outline of what to expect in Albany in the year ahead. Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have quickly provided a sense of what they plan to tackle first and what might be on the backburner as the state governing session begins in January.</p> <p>“I did better than I had done in my previous election which is normally unheard of,” Cuomo said the day after the election, on WVOX radio, “but we also won the Senate, which is very important and I worked very hard to make that happen, which it allows me to get all sorts of things done that we haven’t done before.”</p> <p>As is always the case, so much of what happens in the state capital will impact New York City, and though there were no elections for city-level positions this year, those who live and work in the city have a great deal at stake as the new state government takes shape. Mayor Bill de Blasio and others are already laying out their priorities for 2019 in Albany, where the mayor and other city Democrats hope the atmosphere will be more friendly toward the five boroughs than in the past.</p> <p>“[T]he fact that we not only have a Democratic majority in the State Senate but a resounding Democratic majority is going to allow for a host of progress for this state and going to allow some really important initiatives to finally be acted on that we’ve been waiting for, for years and in some cases decades,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Most especially reform to our election process, campaign finance reform, finally getting a solution for the MTA. Huge changes could come from the fact that we now have a strong, clear Democratic majority in the State Senate.”</p> <p>Still, much will happen at the city level in the year ahead that is not necessarily a product of Albany decision-making. Even as he seeks legislative and funding changes in the state capital, de Blasio has city challenges to address, programs to implement, and major decisions to make. There is a Charter Revision Commission exploring sweeping changes to how city government operates, and there will be a handful of elections in the city, starting with a special election for Public Advocate, likely in February.</p> <p>There will be a great deal at stake in 2019. Advocates, organizers, strategists, and elected and appointed officials have already provided a long list of topics and decisions that will come to the fore next year. So City Limits, Gotham Gazette, and other partners are teaming up over the next eight weeks to explore major policy issues where action is expected over the next 12 months.</p> <p>Each week we will bring you an in-depth look at one issue area with comprehensive reporting, broadcast interviews, opinion columns, and other features to provide insight into the policies, politics, and people involved and set the stage for what will be an incredibly important year in New York City, New York State, and national politics.</p> <p>First, an overview of what’s on hand.</p> <p><strong>Albany</strong><br /> The story begins in Albany. The 2019 landscape in the state capital will be unlike anything seen in roughly a decade: full Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches. This time around is likely to be far more functional than last, when the Senate Democratic conference quickly devolved into chaos and a weak governor was unable to keep his party-mates from disgracing themselves (several of those involved have served time in jail) and bringing legislative business to a long halt.</p> <p>In 2019, Cuomo enters a third term with wind at his back, major infrastructure projects in motion, and a long to-do list; while Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate finally get the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to pass an agenda repeatedly stalled by Republicans in the upper chamber.</p> <p>The questions that hang over this new arrangement include to what extent various Democrats with varied priorities are able to agree upon an order of operation and the specific details of policies they’ve championed but never actually had the power to pass into law without compromising with Republicans. Expected Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others have already given indication of what they see as the top priorities with widespread agreement.</p> <p>Cuomo, who has appeared mostly happy with a split Legislature, now faces the challenge of dictating terms to legislative majorities that may want to move faster and further left than he’s comfortable with, though Democrats also know that the next legislative elections are now less than two years away and their members from swing suburban districts need to be especially careful with ‘pocketbook’ issues. Taxpayers across the state will soon be adjusting to the full new reality of federal tax reforms, which capped state and local deductions and are of great concern to suburban homeowners. Plus, the state’s current “millionaires tax” is set to expire in 2019 and Cuomo hasn’t yet indicated his stance on renewing it, even as he faces upcoming budget deficits.</p> <p>“I am a suburban legislator,” Stewart-Cousins of Westchester <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/state-senate-turnover-1.23031265" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Long Island-based Newsday</a>. “I am very proud that New Yorkers have elected many great suburban legislators to take their place in the Senate Democratic Majority.”</p> <p>Cuomo has been clear that he plans to continue the fiscal restraint and center-left governance of his first two terms. At the same time, he’s poised to push through many significant policies his critics have blamed him for not delivering, while addressing the twin crises of his second term: the failing New York City subways and the corruption that has continued to plague state government, recently in the governor’s own inner circle.</p> <p>Cuomo wants to keep state spending increases to roughly two percent annually, to keep an annual cap on property tax growth everywhere outside New York City, and to take steps to mitigate the effects of federal tax reform, especially the new cap on state and local deductions. But he also has a lengthy professed agenda for 2019 and his larger third term, including voting reform, additional gun control regulations, the Child Victims Act, codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, the Dream Act, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and more. For the most part, the policy agenda Cuomo has laid out, which is noticeably light on new spending, should not be a heavy lift in either house of the Legislature with both under Democratic control.</p> <p>There may very well be areas of conflict, however, even if legislators stay away from raising taxes or pursuing policies like single-payer health care that Cuomo has thrown cold water on. These include government ethics and campaign finance reform, funding the MTA, rent regulations, education funding, charter schools, criminal justice reform, and others. How to move the state ahead in combating climate change may also be a source of disagreement in terms of degree.</p> <p>The governor knows he must -- and has promised to -- move ahead with congestion pricing for Manhattan travel as part of funding the MTA and the Fast Forward subway modernization plan that is ballparked at around $35 billion. It’s unclear where the rest of the needed money will come from, though Cuomo has already indicated he expects the New York City government to kick in more (de Blasio continues to call for an additional tax on high-earners, which Cuomo has mocked). The governor even got several Senate candidates on Long Island to sign a pledge that they’d squeeze the city for more transit money -- not the only episode of the fall campaign to raise the possibility that Cuomo is readying to continue to hold sway over policy-making in Albany no matter how other pieces may shift.</p> <p>The governor is also frustrated with hearing about his failures on government ethics and campaign finance reform, and will likely look to put that talk to bed by the time a new state budget is passed at the end of March. The details of any such deals will be closely examined for whether they truly advance the causes of good government and provide the best possible circumstances for both preventing and punishing corruption.</p> <p>A major unknown is whether some of the newly elected State Senate Democrats, especially those on Long Island, will feel more beholden to Cuomo than to the conference itself, and help him restrain the larger group. On the other hand, it is unclear how the new group of state senators who defeated members of what was the Independent Democratic Conference, some of whom cross-endorsed with Cynthia Nixon in her challenge to Cuomo, will approach the governor and raising their voices within the Senate majority.</p> <p>During a Wednesday appearance <a href="http://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/capital-tonight-interviews/2018/11/08/senate-democrats-flip-majority-#" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Spectrum’s Capitol Tonight</a>, Stewart-Cousins was asked about unifying her new conference and finding agreement. “So people understand that there’s a lot of great hope in our ascension to power,” she said, “and in order to really fulfill those hopes, we have to move as a body. That means we’re going to have to find ways to get to the desired end...We must consider that it is one New York, but there are a lot of different places, a lot of different regions and areas and needs and interests, and if we do our job right we will be able to manage and take care of all of it.”</p> <p>Democrats in the state Assembly, which is dominated by New York City members and led by Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, may be itching to enact an agenda they have repeatedly passed that has not had Cuomo’s full support and that is not necessarily the same agenda as the new Senate Democratic majority. Assembly Democrats have spent years passing one-house bills and budgets advancing progressive priorities, including things like single-payer health care, higher taxes on top earners, tighter rent regulations, and sweeping criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>Still, there is much that Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and governor’s mansion agree on and will all-but-certainly find common ground to pass, starting with a handful of policies that Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins, and Heastie have already mentioned since the election results came in: voting reform, women’s reproductive choice, gun control, and more.</p> <p>“There have been measures that I could not get done with a Republican Senate and I believe they were short-sighted,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “...And I worked so hard for a Democratic Senate, because these are pieces that I believe are essential to really move this state forward.”</p> <p>“We need ethics reform and there's no reason not to pass it,” he continued, mentioning making legislative positions full-time with no outside income, campaign finance reform (including closure of the LLC loophole), and voting reform, including early voting.</p> <p>“The women's right to choose has to be protected,” Cuomo said, referring to the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law. He also mentioned the Dream Act, “gun safety” legislation, which would likely include a “red flag bill” to remove guns from the homes of potentially troubled young people and extending the background check wait time from three to ten days.</p> <p>All of the issues listed by Cuomo are ones that Stewart-Cousins, members of her conference, and Heastie have mentioned in the first days after the election as top priorities.</p> <p>While Cuomo appears ready to knock down any criticism that he is not a ‘real Democrat’ and create additional buzz around a possible presidential run, he always wants to move on his terms. A deal-maker who leverages his counterparts, the governor has clearly been sizing up the new dynamics he’s facing ahead of the state budget session that will kick off in January with his State of the State speech and Executive Budget presentation. Discussing the facts that he received the most votes of any governor ever and won this year by a bigger margin than in 2014, Cuomo said Wednesday that it “helps practically in governmentally when you have a larger mandate electorally, the other elected officials know you’ve literally come into government with a stronger hand, and having a larger victory helps you governmentally, I believe that.”</p> <p>And even as Cuomo has pledged to serve another four-year term and there are very serious questions about his viability as a presidential candidate, he has regularly stoked the flames and after another resounding electoral victory, may be poised to flirt even more explicitly with a run for president.</p> <p>One possibility is that Cuomo focuses intently on moving an aggressive progressive agenda through in the first few months of the Albany year, then takes his new list of accomplishments to a few of the necessary stops on a presidential exploration tour, such as New Hampshire.</p> <p>Another uncertainty for the year ahead is exactly how Attorney General-elect Letitia James approaches her new role. James, a Democrat who is currently the New York City public advocate, will vacate that position and take charge of a vast and immensely powerful legal office. She has promised to continue the aggressive approach the office of attorney general has taken to President Trump, his administration and his other enterprises, while also taking on criminal justice reform in New York and working to root out public corruption, among other aspects of the role she has said she will embrace. In the face of skepticism about her closeness to Cuomo and other Democrats, James has promised to be an independent voice and to pursue wrongdoing wherever it may be.</p> <p>There is no speculating that much of New York City’s policy agenda depends on legislative action in Albany. Speedy trial and bail reform legislation seen as vital to the effort to close Rikers island jails will be a top priority for progressives in the capital and City Hall. And the renewal of rent regulations presents a major opportunity to reduce the displacement pressures that dog de Blasio’s rezoning and development plans. There is almost guaranteed to be city-state tension in 2019 over funding the MTA, among other policy and budget issues.</p> <p>Asked the day after the election about his top priorities for the Albany year ahead, de Blasio said, “One: strengthen rent regulations, protect affordable housing. Two: fix the MTA, provide a permanent funding source for our subways and buses. Three: continue our progress on education funding and on having the power to keep fixing our schools.”</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br /> Under normal circumstances, 2019 would be a quiet year in city politics—an off-year between the 2018 statewide elections and the presidential race in 2020, with municipal elections a full two years off in 2021.</p> <p>But circumstances are not normal. A a citywide official is leaving her office vacant, a veteran district attorney is retiring, and big decisions on everything from charter revision to jail-siting and neighborhood rezoning are due.</p> <p>As is always the case in the years after statewide elections, three district attorney races are on the docket in the city. All five of the city’s sitting district attorneys are Democrats. Incumbent Darcel Clark in the Bronx, who was elected in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote, is unlikely to be threatened. Staten Island's Michael McMahon won his post in 2015 with 55 percent of the vote, and could face a more competitive re-election contest. But the Queens DA's race is shaping up to be the most dramatic affair, with incumbent Richard Brown—who ran uncontested in '15 and has held his post since '91—likely to step down and a roster of well-known names (City Council Member Rory Lancman, former Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Michael Gianaris) in the mix of declared or potential candidates.</p> <p>Letitia James' victory in the race for attorney general means there'll be a special election to fill the post of public advocate. Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, fresh off his campaign for lieutenant governor, and Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake are already in the mix for that post, along with a couple of others like Nomiki Konst and David Eisenbach, and a host of other names are considered possible candidates.</p> <p>The special election to select an interim public advocate will be a nonpartisan affair held in early 2019; the winner of that could then face a primary in September before a general election in November 2019 to decide who serves the remainder of James' term. Worth noting: If someone currently in elected office wins the special election for public advocate, there will need to be another election to fill the slot the winner vacates. It could be a very special year.</p> <p>Also expected to be on the ballot next November: the proposals from the City Council's 2019 charter revision commission. The hearings and meetings (and behind the scenes machinations) that will shape those proposals will be a significant story to watch in the city next year, because the changes on the table next November could be the most significant in 30 years. Already, the commission has been asked to consider ambitious alterations to how the city does budgeting and land-use planning.</p> <p>Critical housing policy decisions will come throughout the year. The city's "Where We Live NYC" fair-housing planning process—a landmark examination of whether city housing programs have reduced or exacerbated segregation—is supposed to wrap up by the fall of 2019. A decision could come in the lawsuits over the fairness of the community preference policy and the property-tax system, and the property-tax reform commission empaneled by de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is holding its final first-wave meetings in later November and December and could issue a report soon—with whatever plan emerges subject to intense debate, as well as legislation at both the city and state levels.</p> <p>Major neighborhood rezonings of Bushwick, Gowanus, and Bay Street are likely, with action on Long Island City and the Southern Boulevard area of the Bronx also possible. And the Council and mayor will render decisions on the plans to build new jails to replace the facilities on Rikers Island.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the NYCHA settlement with federal authorities awaits approval—and NYCHA families await another winter and the potential for heat and hot-water problems. The federal criminal investigation of NYCHA and its decision-makers is not over and could produce more news, and some housing advocates will bring more pressure on the mayor to build new senior housing on NYCHA land rather than market-rate units. De Blasio may name a permanent head of NYCHA, or keep the interim leader, Stan Brezenoff, in place. The city will also be looking to Washington for more funding help for public housing, and may put forward a revamped long-term plan for NYCHA that accelerates the pace of development on under-utilized NYCHA land as a way to bring in revenue.</p> <p>2019 is the year when the hit from the Trump tax plan's capping of federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes will start to affect high earners—and it will be interesting to see if that encourages calls to rein in spending during the city's budget process. As one business advocate notes, "Only a relatively small number of high earners have to relocate to lower tax states for NYC to suffer major revenue losses." People in the top 1 percent – those in the 38,000 households making more than $713,000—earned about 35 percent of the city's income and contributed roughly 44 percent of total income-tax revenue in 2016. But keeping budget growth modest will be challenging, with the MTA, NYCHA, and the public hospital system in need of major investment.</p> <p>The city's ability to implement the Fair Fares Metrocard subsidy program will be tested, and bus riders should get a glimpse of the newly redesigned bus routes coming under the MTA's Fast Forward plan. The rollout of the school desegregation effort in District 15 will continue as New Yorkers get more of a sense of whether and how Richard Carranza will put his stamp on the school system.</p> <p>The x-factor in all these stories is how much power Bill de Blasio will have to shape these critical policy decisions, all of which will help sculpt his legacy.</p> <p>The mayor did little to define a second-term agenda before he was re-elected in a landslide a year ago, and he's not done much to fill in those blanks over the past 12 months. His signature policy idea of 2018, the democracy initiative, has not had an auspicious start, though de Blasio did see the three ballot proposals from his charter revision commission approved by voters on Election Day. While the mayor has made substantive policy moves, on cybersecurity and guns for instance, they have been drowned out by a torrent of dreadful headlines about NYCHA, his school renewal plan, his beef with the Department of Investigations commissioner, and, of course, the "agent of the city" emails.</p> <p>Some of that static is merely what comes with the territory of a second term in one of the toughest jobs in the country. But de Blasio's unusually acrimonious relationship with the press, his feud with a governor who was just resoundingly elected for a third time, the rise of a less-cooperative City Council and the pre-2021 positioning that is already taking place among his partners in government could combine to irreversibly weaken the mayor years before he ought to look like a lame duck. While that might sound like good news to those who dislike de Blasio, the fact is the city's interests in Albany or Washington depend on there being a strong figure in City Hall. Other players might claim some spotlight and gain some juice, but Bill de Blasio is alone at New York City's helm for another 1,150 days. That would be a long time to be adrift.</p> <p><strong>Washington, D.C.</strong><br /> And then there’s Washington. The new Democratic House could move a legislative agenda to try to limit the impact of the limitations on SALT deductions, support infrastructure spending, shore up the Affordable Care Act, and take steps to thwart the president’s harshest moves on immigration -- all of which would have direct impact on New York City and State. But with Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and the White House, Democrats will not be able to move anything through Congress without major compromise. It’s unclear who will lead the House Democrats or what their strategy over the next year will be: seeking a deal with centrist Republicans, or even with the mercurial president himself, to create new policy, or instead maintaining a more combative posture until the 2020 presidential election resets the country.</p> <p>The Iowa caucus, after all, is only 15 months away.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is the opening story in a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project: AGENDA 2019<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette &amp; Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Part of "Agenda 2019," a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project to get New Yorkers ready for the political year ahead.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="Agenda 2019" width="600" height="302" /></p>
Cuomo Reelected, Democrats Take the State Senate; 2018 General Election Results in New York 2018-11-06T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8058-2018-general-election-results-in-new-york Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/and-cuomo-nov.png" alt="and cuomo nov" width="600" height="431" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Democrats will take full control of New York state government in 2019 thanks to the reelection of Governor Andrew Cuomo and other candidates for statewide office, as well as wins in the state Senate that flipped control of the upper chamber. Democrats continue to hold a wide majority in the state Assembly. With help from New York, Democrats also flipped the U.S. House of Representatives.</p> <p>The state Senate and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7928-ahead-of-primary-cuomo-gives-limited-insight-into-third-term-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">gubernatorial</a> victories open the door for Democrats to move <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8024-two-tiered-agenda-for-democrats-if-they-take-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a sweeping policy agenda</a> that has been blocked by Republicans, some items for years, in areas such as voting, campaign finance, and criminal justice reform, women's reproductive rights, alterations to rent regulations, and more. While some results are still to be finalized, Democrats may have 39 seats in the 63-seat chamber come January.</p> <p>Cuomo won a third term on Tuesday, easily defeating Republican challenger Marc Molinaro and three other candidates, while his running-mate Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul won a second term alongside the governor.</p> <p>Letitia James, currently the New York City Public Advocate, was elected Attorney General and is the first woman of color elected to a statewide position in New York. She's also the first woman and first person of color elected to become New York Attorney General.</p> <p>The other Democrats running for statewide positions were also victorious, with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli both winning reelection by wide margins, as expected.</p> <p>New York City and State races also contributed to a Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives.</p> <p>And, in New York City, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the three ballot proposals from Mayor de Blasio’s charter revision commission</a> were all approved by wide margins, ushering in campaign finance reform, a new civic engagement commission, and term limits for community board members.</p> <p>In the overall race for control of the state Senate, Democrats claimed a majority, and seemed on their way to winning at least 36 and up to 39 seats while several remained neck-and-neck and could also tilt their way, according to unofficial state Board of Elections results.&nbsp;With Democrats in control, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins will become the first woman of color majority leader of the state Senate. "I am confident our majority will grow even larger after all results are counted, and we will finally give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they have been demanding," she&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/AndreaSCousins/status/1060017117838348289">tweeted</a>&nbsp;Tuesday night.</p> <p>Much of the action was on Long Island, but one of the few Republican-held seats in New York City was also hotly-contested and appears to be a Democratic pick-up for Andrew Gounardes, though Senator Marty Golden has not conceded.</p> <p>In the open race for District 3, Democrat Monica Martinez defeated Republican Dean Murray. In District 5, Democrat James Gaughran won by more than 9 points against Republican Carl Marcellino. In District 39, Democrat James Skoufis beat Republican Tom Basile. Kevin Thomas, the Democrat in District 6, closely defeated Republican Kemp Hannon. In District 7, Democrat Anna Kaplan defeated Republican Elaine Phillips with an almost ten-point margin.</p> <p>In two other open races, however, Democrats lost to their Republican opponents. In District 43, Aaron Gladd was defeated by Republican Daphne Jordan, and in District 50, John Mannion was defeated by Bob Antonacci.</p> <p>The current Republican majority leader, Senator John Flanagan, said in a statement, "This election is over, but our mission is not. Senate Republicans will never stop advocating for the principles we believe in or the agenda that New Yorkers and their families deserve."</p> <p>Along with competitive races for state Senate seats, many eyes were on potential swing districts for New York seats in the House of Representatives, part of the national picture whereby Democrats flipped the chamber to secure some control of government in Washington, D.C. and a significant leverage point regarding legislation, funding, and oversight of President Trump and his administration. That effort was aided by outcomes in New York, including an upset in New York City.</p> <p>In the one city-based congressional seat held by a Republican, Rep. Dan Donovan lost to Democrat Max Rose, who will go to the House to represent New York’s 11th congressional district of Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn. In the 19th congressional district covering parts of the Hudson Valley and Catskills, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8044-antonio-delgado-makes-final-pitch-in-bid-to-swing-new-york-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Democrat Antonio Delgado</a> defeated incumbent Republican Rep. John Faso. And in Central New York's District 22, Democratic candidate Anthony Brindisi was ahead by a razor-thin margin over incumbent Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, in a race that seems too close to call. In Congressional District 27, though Democrat Nate McMurray had conceded to Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Collins, McMurray's campaign later called for a recount when the margin between the two was only one point.</p> <p>Back in the five boroughs, of the three ballot proposals passing, Mayor de Blasio said in an election night statement, “Tonight we took a big step toward becoming the fairest big city in America. The question in front of voters was simple: are we going to be a city that works for everyone? New Yorkers answered with a resounding ‘YES, YES, YES!’ They voted to set a historic new direction for campaigns in our city by getting big money out of politics. They voted to give voters more power over their tax dollars. They voted to bring new voices into our democracy. The end result of the charter revision process that began nine months ago at the State of City is a democracy that can work for all of us – not just the wealthy and well-connected.”</p> <p>In terms of specific outcomes in important New York races, as of 2 a.m. on election night, initial results and tentative margins included:</p> <p>-Governor Cuomo was reelected with about 58% to 36% for Molinaro, while Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins received 1.7%, Libertarian Larry Sharpe won 1.6%, and Stephanie Miner of the Serve America Movement got less than 1%. Both Sharpe and Miner earned their parties automatic ballot access for the next four years (Cuomo on the Women's Equality Party line and Molinaro on the Reform Party line did not get enough votes on those lines and parties will lose their automatic ballot lines.</p> <p>-James won the attorney general office with 60% over Republican Keith Wofford, who received 34.3%, and other candidates splitting 2.3%.</p> <p>-DiNapoli was reelected comptroller with 64.4%, while Republican nominee Jonathan Trichter got about 31%, and other candidates split 1.7%.</p> <p>-Gillibrand won 64.5% of the vote, while Republican Chele Farley received 32.5%.</p> <p>In competitive state Senate races, the results included:</p> <p>-Democrat Andrew Gounardes appears to have won with 49.8% over Republican Senator Marty Golden's 48% in Senate District 22</p> <p>-Democrat&nbsp;Monica Martinez won with 52.2% over Republican incumbent Dean Murray's 47.5% in Senate District 3, which includes parts of Suffolk County.</p> <p>-Republican Phil Boyle won with 50.4% over Democrat&nbsp;Louis D’Amaro's 46.7% in Senate District 4, which also includes parts of Suffolk County.</p> <p>-Democrat James Gaughran won with 53.23% over Republican incumbent Carl Marcellino's 44.7% in Senate District 5, which includes parts of Suffolk County.</p> <p>-Democrat Kevin Thomas won with 49.2% over Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon's 48% in Senate District 6, which includes a portion of Nassau County.</p> <p>-Democrat Anna Kaplan won with 53.7% over Republican incumbent Elaine Phillips' 44.5% in Senate District 7, which a portion of Nassau County.</p> <p>-Democrat incumbent John Brooks successfully defended his seat, with 53% against Republican Jeff Pravato's 44% in Senate District 8, which includes Eastern Nassau and Western Suffolk counties.</p> <p>-Democrat James Skoufis won with 52% over Republican Tom Basile's 45% in Senate District 39, which includes parts of Rockland, Orange, and Ulster counties.</p> <p>-Democrat Pete Harckham won with 49.9% over&nbsp;Republican incumbent Terrence Murphy's 48% in Senate District 40, which includes Yorktown and Putnam, Westchester and Dutchess counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican incumbent Sue Serino won with 50% over Democrat Karen Smythe's 48% in Senate District 41, which includes parts of Dutchess County.</p> <p>-Democrat Jen Metzger won with 50% over Republican Ann Rabbitt's 47.4% in Senate District 42, includes parts of Delaware, Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican Daphne Jordan won with 52.1% over Democrat Aaron Gladd's 44.2% in Senate District 43, which includes parts of Saratoga, Rensselaer, Columbia, Washington counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican incumbent George Amedore Jr. won with 55% over Democrat Pat Strong's 42.2% in Senate District 46, which includes Montgomery and Greene counties and portions of Schenectady, Albany and Ulster counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican Robert Antonacci won with 50.4% over Democrat John Mannion's 48% in Senate District 50, which includes Syracuse and the surrounding area.</p> <p>In competitive House of Representatives races, the results included:&nbsp;</p> <p>-Democrat Max Rose won with 52% against Republican incumbent Dan Donovan's 46% in Congressional District 11, which includes Staten Island and parts of South Brooklyn.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Democrat Antonio Delgado won with 49.2% against Republican incumbent John Faso's 46.4% in Congressional District 19, which includes the Hudson Valley and Catskills region.</p> <p>-Democrat Anthony Brindisi led with 49.5% against Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney's 48.9% in Congressional District 22, which includes parts of Chenango, Cortland, Madison, and Oneida counties.</p> <p>-Republican Incumbent John Katko won with 52.2% against&nbsp;Democrat Dana Balter's 46% in Congressional District 24, which includes pats of Cayuga, Onondaga, and Wayne counties.</p> <p>- Republican incumbent Chris Collins, who is under indictment for insider trading, received 48.1% over Democrat&nbsp;Nate McMurray's 47.1% in Congressional&nbsp;District 27, which includes Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, and Livingston counties. McMurray's campaign has called for a recount.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Samar Khurshid contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/and-cuomo-nov.png" alt="and cuomo nov" width="600" height="431" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Democrats will take full control of New York state government in 2019 thanks to the reelection of Governor Andrew Cuomo and other candidates for statewide office, as well as wins in the state Senate that flipped control of the upper chamber. Democrats continue to hold a wide majority in the state Assembly. With help from New York, Democrats also flipped the U.S. House of Representatives.</p> <p>The state Senate and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7928-ahead-of-primary-cuomo-gives-limited-insight-into-third-term-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">gubernatorial</a> victories open the door for Democrats to move <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8024-two-tiered-agenda-for-democrats-if-they-take-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a sweeping policy agenda</a> that has been blocked by Republicans, some items for years, in areas such as voting, campaign finance, and criminal justice reform, women's reproductive rights, alterations to rent regulations, and more. While some results are still to be finalized, Democrats may have 39 seats in the 63-seat chamber come January.</p> <p>Cuomo won a third term on Tuesday, easily defeating Republican challenger Marc Molinaro and three other candidates, while his running-mate Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul won a second term alongside the governor.</p> <p>Letitia James, currently the New York City Public Advocate, was elected Attorney General and is the first woman of color elected to a statewide position in New York. She's also the first woman and first person of color elected to become New York Attorney General.</p> <p>The other Democrats running for statewide positions were also victorious, with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli both winning reelection by wide margins, as expected.</p> <p>New York City and State races also contributed to a Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives.</p> <p>And, in New York City, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the three ballot proposals from Mayor de Blasio’s charter revision commission</a> were all approved by wide margins, ushering in campaign finance reform, a new civic engagement commission, and term limits for community board members.</p> <p>In the overall race for control of the state Senate, Democrats claimed a majority, and seemed on their way to winning at least 36 and up to 39 seats while several remained neck-and-neck and could also tilt their way, according to unofficial state Board of Elections results.&nbsp;With Democrats in control, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins will become the first woman of color majority leader of the state Senate. "I am confident our majority will grow even larger after all results are counted, and we will finally give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they have been demanding," she&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/AndreaSCousins/status/1060017117838348289">tweeted</a>&nbsp;Tuesday night.</p> <p>Much of the action was on Long Island, but one of the few Republican-held seats in New York City was also hotly-contested and appears to be a Democratic pick-up for Andrew Gounardes, though Senator Marty Golden has not conceded.</p> <p>In the open race for District 3, Democrat Monica Martinez defeated Republican Dean Murray. In District 5, Democrat James Gaughran won by more than 9 points against Republican Carl Marcellino. In District 39, Democrat James Skoufis beat Republican Tom Basile. Kevin Thomas, the Democrat in District 6, closely defeated Republican Kemp Hannon. In District 7, Democrat Anna Kaplan defeated Republican Elaine Phillips with an almost ten-point margin.</p> <p>In two other open races, however, Democrats lost to their Republican opponents. In District 43, Aaron Gladd was defeated by Republican Daphne Jordan, and in District 50, John Mannion was defeated by Bob Antonacci.</p> <p>The current Republican majority leader, Senator John Flanagan, said in a statement, "This election is over, but our mission is not. Senate Republicans will never stop advocating for the principles we believe in or the agenda that New Yorkers and their families deserve."</p> <p>Along with competitive races for state Senate seats, many eyes were on potential swing districts for New York seats in the House of Representatives, part of the national picture whereby Democrats flipped the chamber to secure some control of government in Washington, D.C. and a significant leverage point regarding legislation, funding, and oversight of President Trump and his administration. That effort was aided by outcomes in New York, including an upset in New York City.</p> <p>In the one city-based congressional seat held by a Republican, Rep. Dan Donovan lost to Democrat Max Rose, who will go to the House to represent New York’s 11th congressional district of Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn. In the 19th congressional district covering parts of the Hudson Valley and Catskills, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8044-antonio-delgado-makes-final-pitch-in-bid-to-swing-new-york-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Democrat Antonio Delgado</a> defeated incumbent Republican Rep. John Faso. And in Central New York's District 22, Democratic candidate Anthony Brindisi was ahead by a razor-thin margin over incumbent Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, in a race that seems too close to call. In Congressional District 27, though Democrat Nate McMurray had conceded to Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Collins, McMurray's campaign later called for a recount when the margin between the two was only one point.</p> <p>Back in the five boroughs, of the three ballot proposals passing, Mayor de Blasio said in an election night statement, “Tonight we took a big step toward becoming the fairest big city in America. The question in front of voters was simple: are we going to be a city that works for everyone? New Yorkers answered with a resounding ‘YES, YES, YES!’ They voted to set a historic new direction for campaigns in our city by getting big money out of politics. They voted to give voters more power over their tax dollars. They voted to bring new voices into our democracy. The end result of the charter revision process that began nine months ago at the State of City is a democracy that can work for all of us – not just the wealthy and well-connected.”</p> <p>In terms of specific outcomes in important New York races, as of 2 a.m. on election night, initial results and tentative margins included:</p> <p>-Governor Cuomo was reelected with about 58% to 36% for Molinaro, while Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins received 1.7%, Libertarian Larry Sharpe won 1.6%, and Stephanie Miner of the Serve America Movement got less than 1%. Both Sharpe and Miner earned their parties automatic ballot access for the next four years (Cuomo on the Women's Equality Party line and Molinaro on the Reform Party line did not get enough votes on those lines and parties will lose their automatic ballot lines.</p> <p>-James won the attorney general office with 60% over Republican Keith Wofford, who received 34.3%, and other candidates splitting 2.3%.</p> <p>-DiNapoli was reelected comptroller with 64.4%, while Republican nominee Jonathan Trichter got about 31%, and other candidates split 1.7%.</p> <p>-Gillibrand won 64.5% of the vote, while Republican Chele Farley received 32.5%.</p> <p>In competitive state Senate races, the results included:</p> <p>-Democrat Andrew Gounardes appears to have won with 49.8% over Republican Senator Marty Golden's 48% in Senate District 22</p> <p>-Democrat&nbsp;Monica Martinez won with 52.2% over Republican incumbent Dean Murray's 47.5% in Senate District 3, which includes parts of Suffolk County.</p> <p>-Republican Phil Boyle won with 50.4% over Democrat&nbsp;Louis D’Amaro's 46.7% in Senate District 4, which also includes parts of Suffolk County.</p> <p>-Democrat James Gaughran won with 53.23% over Republican incumbent Carl Marcellino's 44.7% in Senate District 5, which includes parts of Suffolk County.</p> <p>-Democrat Kevin Thomas won with 49.2% over Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon's 48% in Senate District 6, which includes a portion of Nassau County.</p> <p>-Democrat Anna Kaplan won with 53.7% over Republican incumbent Elaine Phillips' 44.5% in Senate District 7, which a portion of Nassau County.</p> <p>-Democrat incumbent John Brooks successfully defended his seat, with 53% against Republican Jeff Pravato's 44% in Senate District 8, which includes Eastern Nassau and Western Suffolk counties.</p> <p>-Democrat James Skoufis won with 52% over Republican Tom Basile's 45% in Senate District 39, which includes parts of Rockland, Orange, and Ulster counties.</p> <p>-Democrat Pete Harckham won with 49.9% over&nbsp;Republican incumbent Terrence Murphy's 48% in Senate District 40, which includes Yorktown and Putnam, Westchester and Dutchess counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican incumbent Sue Serino won with 50% over Democrat Karen Smythe's 48% in Senate District 41, which includes parts of Dutchess County.</p> <p>-Democrat Jen Metzger won with 50% over Republican Ann Rabbitt's 47.4% in Senate District 42, includes parts of Delaware, Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican Daphne Jordan won with 52.1% over Democrat Aaron Gladd's 44.2% in Senate District 43, which includes parts of Saratoga, Rensselaer, Columbia, Washington counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican incumbent George Amedore Jr. won with 55% over Democrat Pat Strong's 42.2% in Senate District 46, which includes Montgomery and Greene counties and portions of Schenectady, Albany and Ulster counties.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Republican Robert Antonacci won with 50.4% over Democrat John Mannion's 48% in Senate District 50, which includes Syracuse and the surrounding area.</p> <p>In competitive House of Representatives races, the results included:&nbsp;</p> <p>-Democrat Max Rose won with 52% against Republican incumbent Dan Donovan's 46% in Congressional District 11, which includes Staten Island and parts of South Brooklyn.&nbsp;</p> <p>-Democrat Antonio Delgado won with 49.2% against Republican incumbent John Faso's 46.4% in Congressional District 19, which includes the Hudson Valley and Catskills region.</p> <p>-Democrat Anthony Brindisi led with 49.5% against Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney's 48.9% in Congressional District 22, which includes parts of Chenango, Cortland, Madison, and Oneida counties.</p> <p>-Republican Incumbent John Katko won with 52.2% against&nbsp;Democrat Dana Balter's 46% in Congressional District 24, which includes pats of Cayuga, Onondaga, and Wayne counties.</p> <p>- Republican incumbent Chris Collins, who is under indictment for insider trading, received 48.1% over Democrat&nbsp;Nate McMurray's 47.1% in Congressional&nbsp;District 27, which includes Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, and Livingston counties. McMurray's campaign has called for a recount.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Samar Khurshid contributed to this article.</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated.</p>
Tax Issues at Center of State Elections, Albany Year to Come 2018-11-04T04:00:00+00:00 2018-11-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8047-tax-issues-at-center-of-new-york-elections-albany-year-to-come Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27652181388_e68bd4c1b7_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo taxes" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When the dust settles on the 2018 elections, whoever is governing the state will be faced with problems like what to do about&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7978-at-brooklyn-town-hall-angry-nycha-residents-told-to-vote-as-a-bloc">NYCHA</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8008-8-steps-to-fix-new-york-transit-and-get-new-yorkers-moving-again">the MTA</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race">how New York should respond to climate change</a>, among many others. Another pressing issue that has been an area of focus in many campaigns around the state, from the governor’s race through those for the state Senate, is taxes, and what the next governor and Legislature will or won’t do about them in a number of ways, including the ongoing question of how New York must adjust to the new federal tax code.</p> <p>Though proposals and arguments have often been hazy, the issue of taxes has been among the most discussed this election season and will be a topic of significant debate when the new state government starts doing business in January. The contours of those discussions and the actual proposals put forward will vary greatly depending on the outcomes of the governor’s race and which party controls the state Senate (the Assembly is home to an overwhelming Democratic majority).</p> <p>Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, has pitched his candidacy largely based on a plan that he says will lead to a 30 percent reduction in property taxes for New Yorkers over five years, but the party’s state Senate conference, hoping to cling to a one-seat majority during a promising year for the opposition, has mostly stuck to arguing that Democrats will increase taxes to previously unseen levels if given full control of state government.</p> <p>For their part, Democrats have been quieter on taxes, with Governor Andrew Cuomo promising to extend the state’s property tax cap and keep state spending to two percent annual increases, even as some members of his party’s Senate slate push for things like state-run single-payer healthcare and a polluter’s tax -- neither of which Cuomo supports. Running for a third term, Cuomo has said little else about taxes, despite the fact that his attempts to thwart the impact of the federal tax reform have thus far not panned out, the state’s current millionaires tax is set to expire next year, the state is facing upcoming budget gaps, and the state-run MTA is in need of tens of billions of dollars to get the New York City subway system functioning properly.</p> <p>Molinaro has made broad tax reform&nbsp;<a href="https://molinaroforny.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Empire-State-Freedom-Plan-9-28-18-1.pdf">one of the centerpieces of his campaign</a>, along with restoring trust in government and generally being a governor who isn’t followed by corruption investigations. His tax plan proposes reductions across the board, from the end of the millionaires tax to an expansion of the earned income tax credit to childless workers and noncustodial parents and the indexing the state’s income tax brackets, standard deduction and dependent exemptions to inflation (a move that Molinaro says prevents a filer’s tax bracket increasing due to inflation without any real change in their earning power).</p> <p>Molinaro wants to limit annual state spending increases to three percent, but wants that cap codified into state law, unlike Cuomo’s two percent cap, which is self-imposed and the governor, despite his claims to the contrary, has not completely kept to.</p> <p>The Dutchess county executive’s plan has “a lot of good elements in it and establishes some very worthy and desirable goals,” according to E.J. McMahon, the founder and research director of the conservative Empire Center of New York, although McMahon said he didn’t think the math behind the plan added up to the promised 30 percent reduction in property taxes. Asked repeatedly throughout the campaign, Molinaro has not laid out exactly how he would get there, only promising in broad terms to modernize state government, find efficiencies, and more effectively deliver services.</p> <p>On the Democratic side, clarity also doesn’t come easy. Cuomo’s priorities on socially liberal but fiscally moderate governance can be seen most clearly in something like his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.andrewcuomo.com/news/governor-cuomo-and-long-island-senate-candidates-propose-nine-point-plan-make-long-island">Long Island Senate Democratic Agenda</a>, but even that plan lacks specifics and has seemingly competing priorities. On the one hand, the agenda lays out a promise to keep the two percent property tax cap and the two percent spending cap going, while also promising “historic tax cuts.” On the other hand, there are promises to include Long Island in increased infrastructure, education, and economic development funding.</p> <p>Cuomo has resisted calls for a New York City-based addition to the millionaires tax, recently pitting his philosophy against Mayor Bill de Blasio in sarcastic terms, saying, “'[W]ell, ideally we would like to have a millionaires tax.' Yes, I wish I could be an elected official who lived in the ideal,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-photos-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-13-billion-plan-transform-jfk-world">at a gathering of the Association for A Better New York</a>, a business group. He also explicitly cast himself as a different kind of politician than legislators and local politicians “who like to spend”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-delivers-remarks-business-council-new-york-states-0">at a speech in front of the Business Council of New York</a>, boasting that he has overseen lower year-over-year state spending increases than previous governors including Republicans and his father.</p> <p>Part of the lack of clarity on the Democratic side has to do with the uncertainty of where the party will be after the general election. A newly won Senate majority may rely on seats outside New York City, which would require a collaboration of city, suburban, and upstate interests that don’t always align perfectly. And even as Democrats in swing districts&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7995-despite-lack-of-support-from-cuomo-democrats-in-swing-districts-run-on-not-from-single-payer-health-care">run on platforms that include single-payer healthcare</a>&nbsp;in New York, they are pledging not to increase the taxes that would fund it, and many are seeking to represent high-tax Long Island and north-of-the-city areas very sensitive to any additional tax increases and another election right around the corner in 2020, when all the seats in the Legislature will again be on the ballot.</p> <p>“I think out of the gate you're gonna see a Senate Democratic Conference that's gonna correct some of the wrongs, the missed opportunities by the Senate Republicans like voting reform and gun control, women's health,” Democratic state Senate spokesperson Mike Murphy told Gotham Gazette, suggesting the party would focus on progressive social issues at the beginning of the 2019 session if in the majority. And even as the New York Health Act that would establish state single-payer health care emerged as a hot issue for New York City progressives, among other Democrats, they will have the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180323/OPINION/180329956/op-ed-state-must-patch-holes-in-city-s-rent-regulation">state’s expiring laws around rent control to deal with next year</a>, and candidates outside of the city, like the Hudson Valley’s Pete Harckham, want much of a full two-year term to work out how a single-payer program would look, or to craft a universal health insurance program compromise with Cuomo.</p> <p>On the issues of the new federal limitations on state and local tax (SALT) deductions, which dramatically affects high-tax states like New York, the state has joined with other Democratic states&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2018/07/new-york-sues-feds-over-tax-laws-salt-cap/">to sue the federal government</a>&nbsp;over the $10,000 cap that was included in federal tax reform efforts, in part on the grounds that they were targeted after not voting for Donald Trump for president. At the same time, the IRS has blocked efforts by New York and other states to get around the deduction cap by&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-23/irs-blocks-new-york-new-jersey-plans-to-bypass-state-tax-cap">limiting the federal tax credit</a>&nbsp;taxpayers would get by “donating” their property tax payments to charitable organizations designed to accept the taxes.</p> <p>Cuomo has been otherwise quiet about how he would solve the issue of the SALT deduction problem, which is likely to most acutely hurt high earners as well as suburban middle and upper middle class property owners, though he has said one goal is for Democrats to recapture control of the federal government and repeal the deduction cap.</p> <p>The governor has been silent on the question of whether the millionaires tax will be allowed to sunset next year as its currently designed to -- it has been extended multiple times under Cuomo, in partnership with a split Legislature, and there is a significant question around how the state would make up for the revenue if it is not extended. On the other hand, it affects many individuals and families that will be paying higher taxes given the new SALT cap, and Cuomo and others have expressed concern about high-income individuals leaving the state. Cuomo’s campaign did not provide an answer to multiple Gotham Gazette inquiries about the governor’s stance on the millionaires tax.</p> <p>Molinaro has said he would let the millionaires tax expire.</p> <p>His plan on the SALT deduction cap is to get rid of New York’s “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/12/nyregion/highest-tax-will-apply-at-one-rate.html">tax benefit recapture” policy</a>, a practice that charges the highest marginal tax rate for taxpayers above a certain income band, for New Yorkers making between $107,650 and $323,200, thus addressing some of the lost deductions for those earners.</p> <p>Tax shifts rather than cuts or increases are the most common kinds of plans on the table from both parties. On the Democratic side, Long Island’s John Brooks, running for reelection in a swing district, has offered up a plan that he says would allow areas like Long Island to get out from under high property tax bills related to education spending by capping the amount of school funding coming from property taxes at 50 percent, with any budget needs above 50 percent picked up by the state.</p> <p>“What Brooks is saying is we need to lower your taxes by finding someone else to pay them. But if you're in Long Island, there is no ‘someone else,’ it's you, you have the higher average incomes,” McMahon said in reaction to the proposal.</p> <p>For Republicans, requiring the state government to pick up Medicaid costs from local governments is something that Molinaro and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tom4ny.com/news/basile-unveils-property-tax-reform-plan">state Senate Republicans</a>&nbsp;are running on (<a href="https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/10/editorial_endorsements_robert_antonacci_rachel_may_for_ny_state_senate.html">to the delight of local editorial boards</a>). It would cost $7 to $8 billion, and require either new or higher taxes or a reduction in the actual delivered services&nbsp;<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/still-poor-way-pay-medicaid">according to a Citizens Budget Commission study on the shift</a>&nbsp;(Cuomo has mocked it as an unserious proposal). But the state Senate conference&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senate-majority-continues-efforts-make-new-york-more-affordable-cutting-0">has also endorsed the idea</a>&nbsp;of exempting seniors from paying property taxes, arguing that since they don’t make use of the schools, they shouldn’t pay to keep them running. It’s a proposition McMahon&nbsp;<a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/the-ny-senate-gops-bankrupt-blueprint/">has panned before</a>&nbsp;and he compared it unfavorably to Brooks’ plan as irresponsible and unfeasible. “How is that fair to a working couple with three or four kids living paycheck to paycheck, and the retired couple next door get to pay no property tax? Are you kidding?”</p> <p>

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27652181388_e68bd4c1b7_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo taxes" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Don Pollard/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>When the dust settles on the 2018 elections, whoever is governing the state will be faced with problems like what to do about&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7978-at-brooklyn-town-hall-angry-nycha-residents-told-to-vote-as-a-bloc">NYCHA</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8008-8-steps-to-fix-new-york-transit-and-get-new-yorkers-moving-again">the MTA</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race">how New York should respond to climate change</a>, among many others. Another pressing issue that has been an area of focus in many campaigns around the state, from the governor’s race through those for the state Senate, is taxes, and what the next governor and Legislature will or won’t do about them in a number of ways, including the ongoing question of how New York must adjust to the new federal tax code.</p> <p>Though proposals and arguments have often been hazy, the issue of taxes has been among the most discussed this election season and will be a topic of significant debate when the new state government starts doing business in January. The contours of those discussions and the actual proposals put forward will vary greatly depending on the outcomes of the governor’s race and which party controls the state Senate (the Assembly is home to an overwhelming Democratic majority).</p> <p>Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, has pitched his candidacy largely based on a plan that he says will lead to a 30 percent reduction in property taxes for New Yorkers over five years, but the party’s state Senate conference, hoping to cling to a one-seat majority during a promising year for the opposition, has mostly stuck to arguing that Democrats will increase taxes to previously unseen levels if given full control of state government.</p> <p>For their part, Democrats have been quieter on taxes, with Governor Andrew Cuomo promising to extend the state’s property tax cap and keep state spending to two percent annual increases, even as some members of his party’s Senate slate push for things like state-run single-payer healthcare and a polluter’s tax -- neither of which Cuomo supports. Running for a third term, Cuomo has said little else about taxes, despite the fact that his attempts to thwart the impact of the federal tax reform have thus far not panned out, the state’s current millionaires tax is set to expire next year, the state is facing upcoming budget gaps, and the state-run MTA is in need of tens of billions of dollars to get the New York City subway system functioning properly.</p> <p>Molinaro has made broad tax reform&nbsp;<a href="https://molinaroforny.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Empire-State-Freedom-Plan-9-28-18-1.pdf">one of the centerpieces of his campaign</a>, along with restoring trust in government and generally being a governor who isn’t followed by corruption investigations. His tax plan proposes reductions across the board, from the end of the millionaires tax to an expansion of the earned income tax credit to childless workers and noncustodial parents and the indexing the state’s income tax brackets, standard deduction and dependent exemptions to inflation (a move that Molinaro says prevents a filer’s tax bracket increasing due to inflation without any real change in their earning power).</p> <p>Molinaro wants to limit annual state spending increases to three percent, but wants that cap codified into state law, unlike Cuomo’s two percent cap, which is self-imposed and the governor, despite his claims to the contrary, has not completely kept to.</p> <p>The Dutchess county executive’s plan has “a lot of good elements in it and establishes some very worthy and desirable goals,” according to E.J. McMahon, the founder and research director of the conservative Empire Center of New York, although McMahon said he didn’t think the math behind the plan added up to the promised 30 percent reduction in property taxes. Asked repeatedly throughout the campaign, Molinaro has not laid out exactly how he would get there, only promising in broad terms to modernize state government, find efficiencies, and more effectively deliver services.</p> <p>On the Democratic side, clarity also doesn’t come easy. Cuomo’s priorities on socially liberal but fiscally moderate governance can be seen most clearly in something like his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.andrewcuomo.com/news/governor-cuomo-and-long-island-senate-candidates-propose-nine-point-plan-make-long-island">Long Island Senate Democratic Agenda</a>, but even that plan lacks specifics and has seemingly competing priorities. On the one hand, the agenda lays out a promise to keep the two percent property tax cap and the two percent spending cap going, while also promising “historic tax cuts.” On the other hand, there are promises to include Long Island in increased infrastructure, education, and economic development funding.</p> <p>Cuomo has resisted calls for a New York City-based addition to the millionaires tax, recently pitting his philosophy against Mayor Bill de Blasio in sarcastic terms, saying, “'[W]ell, ideally we would like to have a millionaires tax.' Yes, I wish I could be an elected official who lived in the ideal,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-photos-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-13-billion-plan-transform-jfk-world">at a gathering of the Association for A Better New York</a>, a business group. He also explicitly cast himself as a different kind of politician than legislators and local politicians “who like to spend”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-delivers-remarks-business-council-new-york-states-0">at a speech in front of the Business Council of New York</a>, boasting that he has overseen lower year-over-year state spending increases than previous governors including Republicans and his father.</p> <p>Part of the lack of clarity on the Democratic side has to do with the uncertainty of where the party will be after the general election. A newly won Senate majority may rely on seats outside New York City, which would require a collaboration of city, suburban, and upstate interests that don’t always align perfectly. And even as Democrats in swing districts&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7995-despite-lack-of-support-from-cuomo-democrats-in-swing-districts-run-on-not-from-single-payer-health-care">run on platforms that include single-payer healthcare</a>&nbsp;in New York, they are pledging not to increase the taxes that would fund it, and many are seeking to represent high-tax Long Island and north-of-the-city areas very sensitive to any additional tax increases and another election right around the corner in 2020, when all the seats in the Legislature will again be on the ballot.</p> <p>“I think out of the gate you're gonna see a Senate Democratic Conference that's gonna correct some of the wrongs, the missed opportunities by the Senate Republicans like voting reform and gun control, women's health,” Democratic state Senate spokesperson Mike Murphy told Gotham Gazette, suggesting the party would focus on progressive social issues at the beginning of the 2019 session if in the majority. And even as the New York Health Act that would establish state single-payer health care emerged as a hot issue for New York City progressives, among other Democrats, they will have the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20180323/OPINION/180329956/op-ed-state-must-patch-holes-in-city-s-rent-regulation">state’s expiring laws around rent control to deal with next year</a>, and candidates outside of the city, like the Hudson Valley’s Pete Harckham, want much of a full two-year term to work out how a single-payer program would look, or to craft a universal health insurance program compromise with Cuomo.</p> <p>On the issues of the new federal limitations on state and local tax (SALT) deductions, which dramatically affects high-tax states like New York, the state has joined with other Democratic states&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2018/07/new-york-sues-feds-over-tax-laws-salt-cap/">to sue the federal government</a>&nbsp;over the $10,000 cap that was included in federal tax reform efforts, in part on the grounds that they were targeted after not voting for Donald Trump for president. At the same time, the IRS has blocked efforts by New York and other states to get around the deduction cap by&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-23/irs-blocks-new-york-new-jersey-plans-to-bypass-state-tax-cap">limiting the federal tax credit</a>&nbsp;taxpayers would get by “donating” their property tax payments to charitable organizations designed to accept the taxes.</p> <p>Cuomo has been otherwise quiet about how he would solve the issue of the SALT deduction problem, which is likely to most acutely hurt high earners as well as suburban middle and upper middle class property owners, though he has said one goal is for Democrats to recapture control of the federal government and repeal the deduction cap.</p> <p>The governor has been silent on the question of whether the millionaires tax will be allowed to sunset next year as its currently designed to -- it has been extended multiple times under Cuomo, in partnership with a split Legislature, and there is a significant question around how the state would make up for the revenue if it is not extended. On the other hand, it affects many individuals and families that will be paying higher taxes given the new SALT cap, and Cuomo and others have expressed concern about high-income individuals leaving the state. Cuomo’s campaign did not provide an answer to multiple Gotham Gazette inquiries about the governor’s stance on the millionaires tax.</p> <p>Molinaro has said he would let the millionaires tax expire.</p> <p>His plan on the SALT deduction cap is to get rid of New York’s “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/12/nyregion/highest-tax-will-apply-at-one-rate.html">tax benefit recapture” policy</a>, a practice that charges the highest marginal tax rate for taxpayers above a certain income band, for New Yorkers making between $107,650 and $323,200, thus addressing some of the lost deductions for those earners.</p> <p>Tax shifts rather than cuts or increases are the most common kinds of plans on the table from both parties. On the Democratic side, Long Island’s John Brooks, running for reelection in a swing district, has offered up a plan that he says would allow areas like Long Island to get out from under high property tax bills related to education spending by capping the amount of school funding coming from property taxes at 50 percent, with any budget needs above 50 percent picked up by the state.</p> <p>“What Brooks is saying is we need to lower your taxes by finding someone else to pay them. But if you're in Long Island, there is no ‘someone else,’ it's you, you have the higher average incomes,” McMahon said in reaction to the proposal.</p> <p>For Republicans, requiring the state government to pick up Medicaid costs from local governments is something that Molinaro and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tom4ny.com/news/basile-unveils-property-tax-reform-plan">state Senate Republicans</a>&nbsp;are running on (<a href="https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/10/editorial_endorsements_robert_antonacci_rachel_may_for_ny_state_senate.html">to the delight of local editorial boards</a>). It would cost $7 to $8 billion, and require either new or higher taxes or a reduction in the actual delivered services&nbsp;<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/still-poor-way-pay-medicaid">according to a Citizens Budget Commission study on the shift</a>&nbsp;(Cuomo has mocked it as an unserious proposal). But the state Senate conference&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senate-majority-continues-efforts-make-new-york-more-affordable-cutting-0">has also endorsed the idea</a>&nbsp;of exempting seniors from paying property taxes, arguing that since they don’t make use of the schools, they shouldn’t pay to keep them running. It’s a proposition McMahon&nbsp;<a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/the-ny-senate-gops-bankrupt-blueprint/">has panned before</a>&nbsp;and he compared it unfavorably to Brooks’ plan as irresponsible and unfeasible. “How is that fair to a working couple with three or four kids living paycheck to paycheck, and the retired couple next door get to pay no property tax? Are you kidding?”</p> <p>

***
by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Keep the Party Dedicated to Women’s Equality Alive in New York 2018-11-04T04:00:00+00:00 2018-11-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8050-keep-the-party-dedicated-to-women-s-equality-alive-in-new-york Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21740828424_bbb20b8709_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo women's equality" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo signs legislation (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Never has the time to stand up against the attacks on women and people of all races and religions been more important. Since the election of Donald Trump, it has been critically important to protect women’s rights against the barrage of attacks including assaults on reproductive rights, attempts to restrict access to healthcare, verbal abuse towards women, and the fight for representation on the Supreme Court.</p> <p>The President of the United States publicly mocks victims of sexual assault. The Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate calls survivors of sexual assault and rape “clowns!”</p> <p>Did you know one in five women will be raped and one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime? Annually, rape costs the U.S. $127 billion, more than any other crime. Nearly three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners. More than half of female homicide victims were killed in connection to violence by an intimate partner. During their lifetimes, 81% of women will experience some form of sexual harassment, with more than three out of four women experiencing verbal harassment.</p> <p>During his first week in office, President Trump began issuing executive orders that reinstated the ‘Global Gag Rule.’ This Reagan-era policy bans international organizations that receive U.S. funding from providing abortion services or offering information about the procedure.</p> <p>Last week, the Trump administration announced that it was expanding protections for doctors, nurses and other health care workers who have a moral or religious objection to performing abortion services. President Trump has appointed prominent anti-choice activists to high-level positions within the administration, and, of course, the appointments of anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court is the greatest threat to women’s right to choose.</p> <p>But this is not just an anti-choice attack. The repercussions are serious and wide-ranging: rollbacks on no-copay contraception and maternity care are already taking place, and accessible health care for low-income children is at risk. Planned Parenthood is sometimes the only women’s health care provider in rural counties, offering maternal care, cancer screenings, and more. Those life-saving services are now being threatened.</p> <p>Never before has the Women’s Equality Party of New York State been more critical. New York State Election Law provides that a party will exist if it receives at least 50,000 votes for its gubernatorial candidate on its party line. Four years ago, Governor Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and received 53,000 votes on its line. The most important thing New Yorkers can do to ensure the continued existence of the Women’s Equality Party, the only women’s party in the nation, is to vote for Governor Cuomo on the WEP line this year, and help toward more than <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/qlbip8044mhnv0i/Count%20Your%20Blessings_2.mp4?dl=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">50,000 votes on Election Day</a>.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration’s Women’s Equality Agenda advanced critical policies to protect domestic violence victims and prevent sexual assault on college campuses, legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers and to close a loophole in state law that will ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns.</p> <p>The passage of the SAFE Act helps our children be safer in school during a time of mass school shootings.</p> <p>The passage of an increased minimum wage and paid family leave is critical in lifting up the millions of women and children living in poverty, among many other New Yorkers.</p> <p>These issues, along with others of importance to women and children, are detailed on the Women’s Equality Party <a href="https://nywomensequalityparty.org">newly launched website</a>, which I encourage you to review ahead of casting your ballot on Tuesday.</p> <p>The WEP aims to fight the policies designed to take back hard-fought rights gained over years of organizing and legislative battles. We need your help to keep our voice strong and in the fight. All of the WEP-endorsed federal, state, and local candidates will fight to protect women and children.</p> <p>The 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote is in 2020. Women fought long and hard at great personal sacrifice to win this right. Now, in New York, women finally have a ballot line dedicated to their issues. We need to preserve this ballot status and grow our voice. We will march, speak up, and win political office. We will break glass ceilings everywhere. Most importantly – we will never go back!</p> <p>***<br /> Susan Zimet is Chair of the Women’s Equality Party of New York State.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21740828424_bbb20b8709_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo women's equality" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo signs legislation (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Never has the time to stand up against the attacks on women and people of all races and religions been more important. Since the election of Donald Trump, it has been critically important to protect women’s rights against the barrage of attacks including assaults on reproductive rights, attempts to restrict access to healthcare, verbal abuse towards women, and the fight for representation on the Supreme Court.</p> <p>The President of the United States publicly mocks victims of sexual assault. The Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate calls survivors of sexual assault and rape “clowns!”</p> <p>Did you know one in five women will be raped and one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime? Annually, rape costs the U.S. $127 billion, more than any other crime. Nearly three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners. More than half of female homicide victims were killed in connection to violence by an intimate partner. During their lifetimes, 81% of women will experience some form of sexual harassment, with more than three out of four women experiencing verbal harassment.</p> <p>During his first week in office, President Trump began issuing executive orders that reinstated the ‘Global Gag Rule.’ This Reagan-era policy bans international organizations that receive U.S. funding from providing abortion services or offering information about the procedure.</p> <p>Last week, the Trump administration announced that it was expanding protections for doctors, nurses and other health care workers who have a moral or religious objection to performing abortion services. President Trump has appointed prominent anti-choice activists to high-level positions within the administration, and, of course, the appointments of anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court is the greatest threat to women’s right to choose.</p> <p>But this is not just an anti-choice attack. The repercussions are serious and wide-ranging: rollbacks on no-copay contraception and maternity care are already taking place, and accessible health care for low-income children is at risk. Planned Parenthood is sometimes the only women’s health care provider in rural counties, offering maternal care, cancer screenings, and more. Those life-saving services are now being threatened.</p> <p>Never before has the Women’s Equality Party of New York State been more critical. New York State Election Law provides that a party will exist if it receives at least 50,000 votes for its gubernatorial candidate on its party line. Four years ago, Governor Cuomo created the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and received 53,000 votes on its line. The most important thing New Yorkers can do to ensure the continued existence of the Women’s Equality Party, the only women’s party in the nation, is to vote for Governor Cuomo on the WEP line this year, and help toward more than <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/qlbip8044mhnv0i/Count%20Your%20Blessings_2.mp4?dl=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">50,000 votes on Election Day</a>.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration’s Women’s Equality Agenda advanced critical policies to protect domestic violence victims and prevent sexual assault on college campuses, legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers and to close a loophole in state law that will ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns.</p> <p>The passage of the SAFE Act helps our children be safer in school during a time of mass school shootings.</p> <p>The passage of an increased minimum wage and paid family leave is critical in lifting up the millions of women and children living in poverty, among many other New Yorkers.</p> <p>These issues, along with others of importance to women and children, are detailed on the Women’s Equality Party <a href="https://nywomensequalityparty.org">newly launched website</a>, which I encourage you to review ahead of casting your ballot on Tuesday.</p> <p>The WEP aims to fight the policies designed to take back hard-fought rights gained over years of organizing and legislative battles. We need your help to keep our voice strong and in the fight. All of the WEP-endorsed federal, state, and local candidates will fight to protect women and children.</p> <p>The 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote is in 2020. Women fought long and hard at great personal sacrifice to win this right. Now, in New York, women finally have a ballot line dedicated to their issues. We need to preserve this ballot status and grow our voice. We will march, speak up, and win political office. We will break glass ceilings everywhere. Most importantly – we will never go back!</p> <p>***<br /> Susan Zimet is Chair of the Women’s Equality Party of New York State.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>