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/state-of-the-state 2018-09-24T18:09:11+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com New York City Takeaways from Governor Cuomo's 2018 State of the State 2018-01-04T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-04T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7402:new-york-city-takeaways-from-governor-cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/25607923738_a615034c9b_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State podium" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo delivers his 2018 State of the State (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his full policy agenda for the 2018 legislative session on Wednesday, returning to his traditional State of the State format: a single address at the Empire State Convention Center, chock full of slideshow-aided proposals and lofty rhetoric, with legislative leaders of all five conferences and other statewide elected officials accompanying him on stage.</p> <p>During the 92-minute speech, Cuomo gave considerable attention on his women’s rights platform -- a timely legislation package in the face of international outcry over sexual misconduct in the workplace — as well as criminal justice reform proposals like significantly reducing the use of cash bail. Cuomo also focused a good deal on policies coming out of Washington, D.C., especially the recent tax overhaul program that will hit New York hard. He said the state will sue while also exploring other ways to blunt the impact of the drastically reduced ability for New Yorkers to deduct their high local and state taxes from their federal burden.</p> <p>The second-term governor outlined a wide variety of proposals for the state and some that apply to different geographic areas. He touched on only a portion of the proposals listed in his 374-page policy book. The next three months will determine which Cuomo can accomplish through some combination of executive action, the regular legislative process, and a grand budget deal, due by the April 1 start to the new state fiscal year. After that, there will be another three months of legislative session.</p> <p>Many of Cuomo’s broader proposals, like on criminal justice reform, workforce development, and protecting the environment, impact New York City, while several are aimed directly at the five boroughs, such as the creation of a subway station in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the creation of a new park in Brooklyn, and proposals to address the state’s homelessness problem, which is concentrated in New York City.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio was in attendance for Cuomo’s speech and, in a news conference afterward, praised certain aspects of it, such as Cuomo’s promise to fight the federal tax overhaul, while taking a wait-and-see approach as the governor still did not unveil a congestion pricing scheme, and outlining a few of the city’s top priorities for the upcoming state budget, like more funding for the mayor’s plan to extend pre-school to all three-year-olds.</p> <p>The Democratic governor wields an enormous degree of power over the state’s $160 billion-plus budget. He’ll unveil his executive budget proposal within the next few weeks, which will show at least some detail of how he plans to fund the initiatives in his State of the State while also balancing the roughly $4 billion deficit for next fiscal year.</p> <p>As he alluded to during his speech, touting his ability to lead the state to bipartisan compromise, Cuomo is again negotiating with a split Legislature. While Democrats handily control the 150-seat Assembly, with most New York City lawmakers sitting in the majority, the 63-seat Senate is controlled by the Republican conference, made up of many members representing suburban and Upstate areas, that has formed a ruling coalition with the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference and rogue Democratic Senator Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn. As a result, downstate and left-leaning interests often rely on the governor to take up their policy items, and watch his annual address closely for signs that he will make them a focal point of the coming budget negotiations.</p> <p>During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo took slightly different approaches to two hot-button issues, important to many in New York City, that are also indicative of the political moment Cuomo finds himself in. Democrats in New York want to see Cuomo fight for Democratic takeover of the state Senate, including through special elections for two Senate seats that the governor has not yet called, despite being able to as of January 1. A long list of progressive legislation has been blocked in the Senate, with many believing Cuomo largely prefers to deal with a split Legislature so that he can better control spending and policy.</p> <p>Advocates have been turning up their pressure on Cuomo to push for the Child Victims Act, legislation that makes it easier for people who were victims of childhood sex abuse to bring charges. The legislation has overwhelmingly passed the Assembly, but stalled in the Senate.</p> <p>Those pushing for the the bill were disheartened by the governor’s omission in his State of the State speech, though it is included in his policy book, as it was last year.</p> <p>"In the #MeToo moment it’s especially disappointing to see the Governor fail to mention child victims of sexual abuse in his State of the State address, even as he correctly prioritizes the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon, and survivor and advocate Bridie Farrell in a joint statement. “Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, advocates, and elected officials have been fighting to pass the Child Victims Act (CVA) for over a decade.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, the governor did give a brief shoutout to the New York Dream Act, which would allow undocumented college students who arrived here as children to obtain student financial aid as part of a comprehensive immigration package. Cuomo mentioned the Dream Act, which has also easily passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate, when discussing the next phase of his Excelsior Scholarship, the middle-class college-tuition supplement he announced and passed last year.</p> <p><strong>Women’s Rights</strong><br />Cuomo released more than 20 planks of his 2018 agenda in the lead-up to his speech, including his proposals related to fighting sexual harassment in workplaces.</p> <p>The governor’s full women’s right platform is wide-ranging, from policies Democrats have pushed each year like the codification of Roe v. Wade into state law and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, to his new call to criminalize “sextortion” and non-consensual pornography, often known as revenge porn, under state law, as well as legislation to remove firearms from domestic abusers.</p> <p>In addition, the governor is proposing legislation to prohibit public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, and a proposal to void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts. He vowed that any companies doing business with the state would be required to disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed. There <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/nyregion/albany-sexual-harassment-cuomo.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appears to be a good chance</a> that some, possibly most, of these measures will pass, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both houses have introduced legislation aimed at tightening sexual harassment laws.</p> <p>“No taxpayer funds should be used to pay for any public official’s sexual harassment or misconduct – period. It is the bad act of the individual, let the individual pay,” said Cuomo.</p> <p>Cuomo is also proposing that state pension funds only be invested in companies that have “adequate” representation of women and people of color on their boards of directors. And Cuomo is calling for the reauthorization and expansion of his Minority and Women Business Entrepreneurship program.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />In a dramatic moment, Cuomo addressed Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, the young man who took his own life after being held for three years at Rikers Island jail complex, awaiting a trial for allegedly stealing a backpack that never came. “Akeem, I want you to know that your brother did not die in vain,” Cuomo said, with the audience giving Akeem a standing ovation.</p> <p>Referencing Kalief Browder’s ordeal, Cuomo announced a comprehensive package including bail and speedy trial reforms, and improving the disclosure of evidence in the discovery process.</p> <p>“To begin, our jails are filled with people who should not be incarcerated,” said Cuomo. “Race and wealth should not be factors in our criminal justice system.”</p> <p>Many, including Public Advocate Letitia James and Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society, commended the governor.</p> <p>“This comprehensive package of criminal justice reforms places a spotlight on the current system’s flaws and the need for strong reforms to New York’s criminal discovery, bail and speedy trial statutes. Reforming these core issues is required to end mass incarceration, avoid wrongful convictions and, for New York City, expedite the closing of Rikers Island,” said Luongo. Mayor de Blasio has pointed to state-level bail reform as key to the goal of closing the Rikers jails by continuing to help reduce the city's detainee population.</p> <p>New York Civil Liberties Union’s Donna Lieberman noted that the initiatives could have gone further, including the passage of Kalief’s Law, which ensures the right to a speedy trial, and the STAT Act, which would disclose policing data to improve transparency and accountability.</p> <p><strong>Affordable Housing</strong><br />Cuomo lamented the state’s homelessness crisis, noting that he began his work in public service running a non-profit aiding homeless families, but critics say his proposals to address the crisis are slim.</p> <p>“Homelessness is on the rise in our cities and worse than ever before. It pains me personally to acknowledge this reality,” he said. “It has become a part of our new normal, but it is abnormal and it is wrong,” he later added.</p> <p>Cuomo vowed to build on the $20 billion investment made in 2016 on a five-year plan to combat homelessness, including thousands of supportive housing units that provide stable housing and social services. The governor said he would instruct the appropriate state agencies to expand street outreach, homelessness prevention activities, rapid rehousing, and ongoing housing stability for the formerly homeless.</p> <p>He said he would direct the state’s mental health and substance abuse agencies to increase access at homeless shelters across the state. He also implored localities to do more to help mentally ill homeless people, saying that some claim their hands are tied. He vowed to “change the law this session.”</p> <p>In a variety of directions, affordable housing and homelessness policy has been a topic of conflict between Cuomo and de Blasio.</p> <p>During his post-speech press conference, de Blasio said one major area the city wants to see more from the state is affordable housing. He called for the delivery of NYCHA funds allocated two years ago, among other items.</p> <p>“The supporting housing plan – as everyone knows, the City of New York is committed to, and is funding, and is acting on and implementing a plan for 15,000 supportive housing apartments. The State has a plan for 20,000. We need to see that plan take off and start to have an impact on the ground in New York City so it can help us address homelessness,” said de Blasio.</p> <p>“And then the broader affordable housing plan that was put together at the end of the legislative session – again, we’re looking for action, we’re looking for results that will help us address the huge affordability challenges in New York City.”</p> <p>In her statement reacting to Cuomo’s speech, Public Advocate James praised Cuomo on several fronts, but pointed to a need for Cuomo to improve his commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing. “I urge the Governor to push Albany legislators to adopt vacancy decontrol, make preferential rent permanent and repeal the twenty percent vacancy bonus and introduce a housing bond act to create more affordable housing,” she said. “In order to truly protect New Yorkers, we must ensure that everyone has access to safe and decent housing. It is the most critical step to creating a New York that is just and inclusive for all.”</p> <p><strong>Public Transportation</strong><br />While Cuomo suggested that there is a congestion pricing plan in the works, he did not provide details, saying that he is waiting for his Fix NYC commission to "present options" to the Legislature. Any plan would be intended to create revenue for the MTA and reduce congestion into much of Manhattan, likely would add tolls on the East River bridges and other access points to the “Manhattan business district.”</p> <p>He also appeared to take one of several jabs at de Blasio, who opposes congestion pricing and wants to see an added tax on high earners to additionally fund the MTA.</p> <p>“These are difficult choices, but difficult choices do not get easier by ignoring them,” Cuomo said. “They only get harder. And in the meantime, cheap political slogans are just that—cheap political slogans. It's not a real policy or policy discussion. And that's what we need. Santa Claus did not visit the State Capitol this year. I was watching. Funding must be provided in a very tight budget and funding must be provided this session because the riders have suffered for too long, politics has gone on for too long, and we can't leave our riders stranded anymore -- period.”</p> <p>Speaking with reporters, de Blasio reiterated that he believes passing an additional millionaires tax to pay for subway system repairs is achievable because his proposal only impacts New York City residents, not the main constituents of the Senate Republicans outside the city.</p> <p>“It’s a way that we can solve our own problems. So, I’m going to keep working for that because I think it’s the right solution,” de Blasio said, adding, “No, I don’t think we’ve seen enough now to know what any congestion pricing option may look like.”</p> <p><strong>Public Safety</strong> <br />Cuomo opened his speech by noting the growing threats of terrorism, extreme weather, rising anti-semitism, and increasingly divisive politics. He proposed a number of initiatives aimed at making New York City, which is often a target for attacks, safer.</p> <p>“Looking back, 2017 was a tough year by any measure, but New Yorkers once again rose to the occasion. We had frightening incidents of terrorism in New York City -- as Mayor Bill de Blasio well knows -- but we have the best police and first responders in the country and some of them are here today,” said Cuomo.</p> <p>To address gang activity, Cuomo has proposed a plan to cut off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13, which has a strong presence in Long Island and parts of the five boroughs. Cuomo’s five-point plan would improve access to social programs -- including after-school education and job training for at-risk youth -- additional support for unaccompanied minors and bolstered law enforcement in gang hotspots.</p> <p>He also introduced a number of counter terrorism initiatives, such as the construction of a new firefighter training facility to support the city’s first responders, expanded vehicle rental regulations, and a terrorism tip line.</p> <p>“[T]he state owns many of the places of potential vulnerability, our bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and airports, our transit hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central,” Cuomo said. “Our transportation system must be better protected, and we must do it now. We have had warning.” He specifically cited Penn Station as vulnerable and said he already has plans in motion, while also referencing the possible use of eminent domain to make the surrounding area more secure.</p> <p><strong>Voting and Other Reforms</strong><br />Leading up to his speech Cuomo unveiled parts of his “Democracy Agenda,” which aims to protect the integrity of elections, requires transparency for digital advertisements, and enact voting reforms.</p> <p>Reform advocates, like Common Cause/NY’s Executive Director, Susan Lerner, welcomed the proposals but said that “the Governor proposed a high tech blanket to protect an antiquated election system that cries out for common-sense low-tech improvement.”</p> <p>“It's not enough to simply pitch the idea of early voting – a crucial change that will bring New York in line with 37 other states- as well as same day voter registration, and no penalty absentee voting,” she said. “The Governor must put money behind it. Initiatives like automatic voter registration, electronic poll books, flexibility to change parties, and parolee voting rights are pivotal upgrades to our current system of elections administration that can not be ignored.”</p> <p>The governor <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7403-cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state-reform-agenda-largely-repeats-past-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">did not give much airtime to his government ethics and campaign finance initiatives this year</a>, many of which are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7403-cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state-reform-agenda-largely-repeats-past-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recycled from past years</a> in his 2018 policy book. On Wednesday he talked briefly about ending outside income for lawmakers, and “spent less than a minute total discussing his remaining reforms,” said Jennifer Wilson, of The League of Women Voters.</p> <p><strong>Education</strong><br />The governor put forth several education initiatives, including to expand the availability of early childhood care, pre-kindergarten education, and afterschool; a proposal to guarantee free food for school children; and supports for teachers.</p> <p>He also introduced a slew of measures to address the student loan debt crisis. Planks include appointing a Student Loan Ombudsman; requiring colleges to provide simple 'truth in lending' facts for students; and increasing consumer protection standards throughout the student loan industry.</p> <p>De Blasio, after the event, told reporters he hopes to see a boost in education aid in the governor’s 2018-2019 budget proposal, which would help fund the city’s <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/3k-for-all/default.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3-K for All</a> initiative.</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure</strong>&nbsp;<br />Cuomo said he would call on the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study potential options for relocating and improving maritime activities and enhancing transportation access to Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood and harbor. The plan would include the creation of a new subway line extending into the South Brooklyn neighborhood “to stimulate Red Hook’s community-based development.”</p> <p>Citing the Trump administration’s efforts to scale back national parks, Cuomo vowed to open the largest state part in New York City, a 407-acre plot of land on Jamaica Bay.</p> <p>He vowed to finally complete the Hudson River Park on Manhattan’s west side, a project started by his late father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, and Mayor David Dinkins.</p> <p>“It was supposed to be finished in 2003. It was derailed by ongoing disputes. We now have settled the disputes. We now have a full completion plan that completes the park from Battery Park City to 59th Street,” said Cuomo.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />Along with congestion pricing recommendations, Cuomo is also awaiting the results of a study he’s ordered of the possibility of eliminating a separate minimum wage for tipped workers, which could have significant impact in New York City.</p> <p>Threats from the federal government loomed large at the State of the State, as the governor, who is facing reelection in 2018 and has presidential aspirations, painted himself as a unifying leader in the face of a divisive and hostile president.</p> <p>While Cuomo prepares to release his executive budget plan in the coming weeks, he will continue to fight the federal tax overhaul and deal with other ways in which federal policies are cutting funds to New York. Still, Cuomo spoke in grand terms, saying that New York can accomplish anything it puts its mind to, as his tenure has shown.</p> <p>“Ladies and gents I am a realist,” Cuomo said. “I know that this an ambitious agenda and I know it is probably the most challenging agenda that I have ever put forth. But these are challenging times, and we have to rise to the challenge for the very survival of our state.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/25607923738_a615034c9b_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State podium" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo delivers his 2018 State of the State (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his full policy agenda for the 2018 legislative session on Wednesday, returning to his traditional State of the State format: a single address at the Empire State Convention Center, chock full of slideshow-aided proposals and lofty rhetoric, with legislative leaders of all five conferences and other statewide elected officials accompanying him on stage.</p> <p>During the 92-minute speech, Cuomo gave considerable attention on his women’s rights platform -- a timely legislation package in the face of international outcry over sexual misconduct in the workplace — as well as criminal justice reform proposals like significantly reducing the use of cash bail. Cuomo also focused a good deal on policies coming out of Washington, D.C., especially the recent tax overhaul program that will hit New York hard. He said the state will sue while also exploring other ways to blunt the impact of the drastically reduced ability for New Yorkers to deduct their high local and state taxes from their federal burden.</p> <p>The second-term governor outlined a wide variety of proposals for the state and some that apply to different geographic areas. He touched on only a portion of the proposals listed in his 374-page policy book. The next three months will determine which Cuomo can accomplish through some combination of executive action, the regular legislative process, and a grand budget deal, due by the April 1 start to the new state fiscal year. After that, there will be another three months of legislative session.</p> <p>Many of Cuomo’s broader proposals, like on criminal justice reform, workforce development, and protecting the environment, impact New York City, while several are aimed directly at the five boroughs, such as the creation of a subway station in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the creation of a new park in Brooklyn, and proposals to address the state’s homelessness problem, which is concentrated in New York City.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio was in attendance for Cuomo’s speech and, in a news conference afterward, praised certain aspects of it, such as Cuomo’s promise to fight the federal tax overhaul, while taking a wait-and-see approach as the governor still did not unveil a congestion pricing scheme, and outlining a few of the city’s top priorities for the upcoming state budget, like more funding for the mayor’s plan to extend pre-school to all three-year-olds.</p> <p>The Democratic governor wields an enormous degree of power over the state’s $160 billion-plus budget. He’ll unveil his executive budget proposal within the next few weeks, which will show at least some detail of how he plans to fund the initiatives in his State of the State while also balancing the roughly $4 billion deficit for next fiscal year.</p> <p>As he alluded to during his speech, touting his ability to lead the state to bipartisan compromise, Cuomo is again negotiating with a split Legislature. While Democrats handily control the 150-seat Assembly, with most New York City lawmakers sitting in the majority, the 63-seat Senate is controlled by the Republican conference, made up of many members representing suburban and Upstate areas, that has formed a ruling coalition with the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference and rogue Democratic Senator Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn. As a result, downstate and left-leaning interests often rely on the governor to take up their policy items, and watch his annual address closely for signs that he will make them a focal point of the coming budget negotiations.</p> <p>During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo took slightly different approaches to two hot-button issues, important to many in New York City, that are also indicative of the political moment Cuomo finds himself in. Democrats in New York want to see Cuomo fight for Democratic takeover of the state Senate, including through special elections for two Senate seats that the governor has not yet called, despite being able to as of January 1. A long list of progressive legislation has been blocked in the Senate, with many believing Cuomo largely prefers to deal with a split Legislature so that he can better control spending and policy.</p> <p>Advocates have been turning up their pressure on Cuomo to push for the Child Victims Act, legislation that makes it easier for people who were victims of childhood sex abuse to bring charges. The legislation has overwhelmingly passed the Assembly, but stalled in the Senate.</p> <p>Those pushing for the the bill were disheartened by the governor’s omission in his State of the State speech, though it is included in his policy book, as it was last year.</p> <p>"In the #MeToo moment it’s especially disappointing to see the Governor fail to mention child victims of sexual abuse in his State of the State address, even as he correctly prioritizes the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon, and survivor and advocate Bridie Farrell in a joint statement. “Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, advocates, and elected officials have been fighting to pass the Child Victims Act (CVA) for over a decade.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, the governor did give a brief shoutout to the New York Dream Act, which would allow undocumented college students who arrived here as children to obtain student financial aid as part of a comprehensive immigration package. Cuomo mentioned the Dream Act, which has also easily passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate, when discussing the next phase of his Excelsior Scholarship, the middle-class college-tuition supplement he announced and passed last year.</p> <p><strong>Women’s Rights</strong><br />Cuomo released more than 20 planks of his 2018 agenda in the lead-up to his speech, including his proposals related to fighting sexual harassment in workplaces.</p> <p>The governor’s full women’s right platform is wide-ranging, from policies Democrats have pushed each year like the codification of Roe v. Wade into state law and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, to his new call to criminalize “sextortion” and non-consensual pornography, often known as revenge porn, under state law, as well as legislation to remove firearms from domestic abusers.</p> <p>In addition, the governor is proposing legislation to prohibit public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, and a proposal to void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts. He vowed that any companies doing business with the state would be required to disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed. There <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/nyregion/albany-sexual-harassment-cuomo.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">appears to be a good chance</a> that some, possibly most, of these measures will pass, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both houses have introduced legislation aimed at tightening sexual harassment laws.</p> <p>“No taxpayer funds should be used to pay for any public official’s sexual harassment or misconduct – period. It is the bad act of the individual, let the individual pay,” said Cuomo.</p> <p>Cuomo is also proposing that state pension funds only be invested in companies that have “adequate” representation of women and people of color on their boards of directors. And Cuomo is calling for the reauthorization and expansion of his Minority and Women Business Entrepreneurship program.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />In a dramatic moment, Cuomo addressed Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, the young man who took his own life after being held for three years at Rikers Island jail complex, awaiting a trial for allegedly stealing a backpack that never came. “Akeem, I want you to know that your brother did not die in vain,” Cuomo said, with the audience giving Akeem a standing ovation.</p> <p>Referencing Kalief Browder’s ordeal, Cuomo announced a comprehensive package including bail and speedy trial reforms, and improving the disclosure of evidence in the discovery process.</p> <p>“To begin, our jails are filled with people who should not be incarcerated,” said Cuomo. “Race and wealth should not be factors in our criminal justice system.”</p> <p>Many, including Public Advocate Letitia James and Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society, commended the governor.</p> <p>“This comprehensive package of criminal justice reforms places a spotlight on the current system’s flaws and the need for strong reforms to New York’s criminal discovery, bail and speedy trial statutes. Reforming these core issues is required to end mass incarceration, avoid wrongful convictions and, for New York City, expedite the closing of Rikers Island,” said Luongo. Mayor de Blasio has pointed to state-level bail reform as key to the goal of closing the Rikers jails by continuing to help reduce the city's detainee population.</p> <p>New York Civil Liberties Union’s Donna Lieberman noted that the initiatives could have gone further, including the passage of Kalief’s Law, which ensures the right to a speedy trial, and the STAT Act, which would disclose policing data to improve transparency and accountability.</p> <p><strong>Affordable Housing</strong><br />Cuomo lamented the state’s homelessness crisis, noting that he began his work in public service running a non-profit aiding homeless families, but critics say his proposals to address the crisis are slim.</p> <p>“Homelessness is on the rise in our cities and worse than ever before. It pains me personally to acknowledge this reality,” he said. “It has become a part of our new normal, but it is abnormal and it is wrong,” he later added.</p> <p>Cuomo vowed to build on the $20 billion investment made in 2016 on a five-year plan to combat homelessness, including thousands of supportive housing units that provide stable housing and social services. The governor said he would instruct the appropriate state agencies to expand street outreach, homelessness prevention activities, rapid rehousing, and ongoing housing stability for the formerly homeless.</p> <p>He said he would direct the state’s mental health and substance abuse agencies to increase access at homeless shelters across the state. He also implored localities to do more to help mentally ill homeless people, saying that some claim their hands are tied. He vowed to “change the law this session.”</p> <p>In a variety of directions, affordable housing and homelessness policy has been a topic of conflict between Cuomo and de Blasio.</p> <p>During his post-speech press conference, de Blasio said one major area the city wants to see more from the state is affordable housing. He called for the delivery of NYCHA funds allocated two years ago, among other items.</p> <p>“The supporting housing plan – as everyone knows, the City of New York is committed to, and is funding, and is acting on and implementing a plan for 15,000 supportive housing apartments. The State has a plan for 20,000. We need to see that plan take off and start to have an impact on the ground in New York City so it can help us address homelessness,” said de Blasio.</p> <p>“And then the broader affordable housing plan that was put together at the end of the legislative session – again, we’re looking for action, we’re looking for results that will help us address the huge affordability challenges in New York City.”</p> <p>In her statement reacting to Cuomo’s speech, Public Advocate James praised Cuomo on several fronts, but pointed to a need for Cuomo to improve his commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing. “I urge the Governor to push Albany legislators to adopt vacancy decontrol, make preferential rent permanent and repeal the twenty percent vacancy bonus and introduce a housing bond act to create more affordable housing,” she said. “In order to truly protect New Yorkers, we must ensure that everyone has access to safe and decent housing. It is the most critical step to creating a New York that is just and inclusive for all.”</p> <p><strong>Public Transportation</strong><br />While Cuomo suggested that there is a congestion pricing plan in the works, he did not provide details, saying that he is waiting for his Fix NYC commission to "present options" to the Legislature. Any plan would be intended to create revenue for the MTA and reduce congestion into much of Manhattan, likely would add tolls on the East River bridges and other access points to the “Manhattan business district.”</p> <p>He also appeared to take one of several jabs at de Blasio, who opposes congestion pricing and wants to see an added tax on high earners to additionally fund the MTA.</p> <p>“These are difficult choices, but difficult choices do not get easier by ignoring them,” Cuomo said. “They only get harder. And in the meantime, cheap political slogans are just that—cheap political slogans. It's not a real policy or policy discussion. And that's what we need. Santa Claus did not visit the State Capitol this year. I was watching. Funding must be provided in a very tight budget and funding must be provided this session because the riders have suffered for too long, politics has gone on for too long, and we can't leave our riders stranded anymore -- period.”</p> <p>Speaking with reporters, de Blasio reiterated that he believes passing an additional millionaires tax to pay for subway system repairs is achievable because his proposal only impacts New York City residents, not the main constituents of the Senate Republicans outside the city.</p> <p>“It’s a way that we can solve our own problems. So, I’m going to keep working for that because I think it’s the right solution,” de Blasio said, adding, “No, I don’t think we’ve seen enough now to know what any congestion pricing option may look like.”</p> <p><strong>Public Safety</strong> <br />Cuomo opened his speech by noting the growing threats of terrorism, extreme weather, rising anti-semitism, and increasingly divisive politics. He proposed a number of initiatives aimed at making New York City, which is often a target for attacks, safer.</p> <p>“Looking back, 2017 was a tough year by any measure, but New Yorkers once again rose to the occasion. We had frightening incidents of terrorism in New York City -- as Mayor Bill de Blasio well knows -- but we have the best police and first responders in the country and some of them are here today,” said Cuomo.</p> <p>To address gang activity, Cuomo has proposed a plan to cut off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13, which has a strong presence in Long Island and parts of the five boroughs. Cuomo’s five-point plan would improve access to social programs -- including after-school education and job training for at-risk youth -- additional support for unaccompanied minors and bolstered law enforcement in gang hotspots.</p> <p>He also introduced a number of counter terrorism initiatives, such as the construction of a new firefighter training facility to support the city’s first responders, expanded vehicle rental regulations, and a terrorism tip line.</p> <p>“[T]he state owns many of the places of potential vulnerability, our bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and airports, our transit hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central,” Cuomo said. “Our transportation system must be better protected, and we must do it now. We have had warning.” He specifically cited Penn Station as vulnerable and said he already has plans in motion, while also referencing the possible use of eminent domain to make the surrounding area more secure.</p> <p><strong>Voting and Other Reforms</strong><br />Leading up to his speech Cuomo unveiled parts of his “Democracy Agenda,” which aims to protect the integrity of elections, requires transparency for digital advertisements, and enact voting reforms.</p> <p>Reform advocates, like Common Cause/NY’s Executive Director, Susan Lerner, welcomed the proposals but said that “the Governor proposed a high tech blanket to protect an antiquated election system that cries out for common-sense low-tech improvement.”</p> <p>“It's not enough to simply pitch the idea of early voting – a crucial change that will bring New York in line with 37 other states- as well as same day voter registration, and no penalty absentee voting,” she said. “The Governor must put money behind it. Initiatives like automatic voter registration, electronic poll books, flexibility to change parties, and parolee voting rights are pivotal upgrades to our current system of elections administration that can not be ignored.”</p> <p>The governor <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7403-cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state-reform-agenda-largely-repeats-past-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">did not give much airtime to his government ethics and campaign finance initiatives this year</a>, many of which are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7403-cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state-reform-agenda-largely-repeats-past-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recycled from past years</a> in his 2018 policy book. On Wednesday he talked briefly about ending outside income for lawmakers, and “spent less than a minute total discussing his remaining reforms,” said Jennifer Wilson, of The League of Women Voters.</p> <p><strong>Education</strong><br />The governor put forth several education initiatives, including to expand the availability of early childhood care, pre-kindergarten education, and afterschool; a proposal to guarantee free food for school children; and supports for teachers.</p> <p>He also introduced a slew of measures to address the student loan debt crisis. Planks include appointing a Student Loan Ombudsman; requiring colleges to provide simple 'truth in lending' facts for students; and increasing consumer protection standards throughout the student loan industry.</p> <p>De Blasio, after the event, told reporters he hopes to see a boost in education aid in the governor’s 2018-2019 budget proposal, which would help fund the city’s <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/3k-for-all/default.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3-K for All</a> initiative.</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure</strong>&nbsp;<br />Cuomo said he would call on the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study potential options for relocating and improving maritime activities and enhancing transportation access to Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood and harbor. The plan would include the creation of a new subway line extending into the South Brooklyn neighborhood “to stimulate Red Hook’s community-based development.”</p> <p>Citing the Trump administration’s efforts to scale back national parks, Cuomo vowed to open the largest state part in New York City, a 407-acre plot of land on Jamaica Bay.</p> <p>He vowed to finally complete the Hudson River Park on Manhattan’s west side, a project started by his late father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, and Mayor David Dinkins.</p> <p>“It was supposed to be finished in 2003. It was derailed by ongoing disputes. We now have settled the disputes. We now have a full completion plan that completes the park from Battery Park City to 59th Street,” said Cuomo.</p> <p><strong>Next Steps</strong><br />Along with congestion pricing recommendations, Cuomo is also awaiting the results of a study he’s ordered of the possibility of eliminating a separate minimum wage for tipped workers, which could have significant impact in New York City.</p> <p>Threats from the federal government loomed large at the State of the State, as the governor, who is facing reelection in 2018 and has presidential aspirations, painted himself as a unifying leader in the face of a divisive and hostile president.</p> <p>While Cuomo prepares to release his executive budget plan in the coming weeks, he will continue to fight the federal tax overhaul and deal with other ways in which federal policies are cutting funds to New York. Still, Cuomo spoke in grand terms, saying that New York can accomplish anything it puts its mind to, as his tenure has shown.</p> <p>“Ladies and gents I am a realist,” Cuomo said. “I know that this an ambitious agenda and I know it is probably the most challenging agenda that I have ever put forth. But these are challenging times, and we have to rise to the challenge for the very survival of our state.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Cuomo's 2018 State of the State 'Reform' Agenda Largely Repeats Past Proposals 2018-01-03T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-03T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7403:cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state-reform-agenda-largely-repeats-past-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/39477610921_158bf7e1ba_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State reforms" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at his 2018 State of the State (photo:&nbsp;Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>During his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo spent little time on government ethics reform, but did address at somewhat greater length his proposals to increase access to the ballot box and change state campaign finance law.</p> <p>In sum, the “reform” portion of Cuomo’s remarks were relatively brief, though the governor did expand more on his proposals to change voting, campaign financing, political advertising, and the jobs of legislators in the accompanying <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2018-stateofthestatebook.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">374-page policy book</a> that details his 2018 agenda. Many of these proposals are repeated from prior years. Cuomo has not prioritized things like early voting or a public campaign finance system, so they have not become law in New York.</p> <p>Known for his ability to bend the Legislature to his will for policy items he puts his weight behind -- like marriage equality or a $15 minimum wage program -- Cuomo has overseen some incremental ethics reforms but little by way of seismic shifts to prevent corruption or increase election participation. He has also been unwilling to go along with contracting reform that is aimed at bringing more oversight and transparency to his own economic development programming.</p> <p>The governor’s speech came just ahead of a handful of corruption trials that will occur this year, including some of his top aides and donors who are accused of engaging in major bid-rigging and kickback schemes dealing with the governor’s signature economic development programs. Two former legislative leaders will also be retried for public corruption after their recent convictions were overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling.</p> <p>In an hour-and-a-half speech on Wednesday, government ethics was sandwiched briefly between Cuomo’s discussion of doing more to help mentally ill homeless people and focusing on “new problems” facing the state, like the “rise in terrorism,” climate change, the opioid epidemic, and more. Cuomo devoted just one brief segment to the topic, and in doing so nodded to legislators’ disinterest in further reform.<br /> <br />“With all we have to do as a government, it is more important than ever that we have the public's trust,” Cuomo said. “I know the Legislature feels that we have done much on ethics reform and they are right. I know they feel that whatever we do, it will never be enough in this political atmosphere and they may be right, but we must do more anyway. The single best ethics reform is to ban outside income, remove any possibility for conflict and let legislators say 'I work for the public. Period. And there are no possible conflicts presented.’”<br /> <br />The Democratic governor, now in the final year of his second term and seeking a third, has proposed banning outside income for legislators before, along with other reforms that he did not name Wednesday but are again in his policy book, like term limits. These and campaign finance reforms have mostly gone nowhere in the Legislature, especially the Republican-controlled state Senate, though lawmakers would like their first salary increase since 1999. Cuomo is in favor of a pay raise for legislators, but in exchange for strict limits on outside income and other reforms.<br /> <br />In moving toward “new” challenges, Cuomo referenced previously announced pieces of his larger “Democracy Agenda,” including more transparency for online political advertisements. Action must be taken, he said, to address “the distortion and manipulation of our elections by big donors, foreign money and social media advertising and the alienation of our citizens.” <br /> <br />Noting that “social media has revolutionized our elections,” Cuomo said that the “freedom of the internet” must be respected, but that laws must be followed. “Foreign countries like Russia and big anonymous donors cannot jeopardize our democracy. Social media must disclose who or what pays for political advertising because sunlight is still the best disinfectant.”<br /> <br />“Disclosure must apply to social media the same way that it applies to a newspaper ad or a TV ad or a radio ad,” Cuomo said. “Anything else is a scam and a perversion of the law and an affront to democracy. Let's stop this abuse, and while Washington talks about it and dithers, let New York lead the way and address this challenge and let's do it this session.”<br /> <br />Cuomo also said that in “this time of citizen alienation and outrage, the best thing we can do is let people know that their voice is heard, that they matter and that they can and they should vote. And we should make voting easier, not harder, with same-day registration, no-fault absentee ballots, and early voting.”<br /> <br />He said that New York could “increase trust” through campaign finance reforms like closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from people and businesses through multiple limited liability companies (which Cuomo has benefited mightily from), and public financing of electoral campaigns. Both are ideas Cuomo has said he supports for years but has not been able to see passed through the Legislature. A 2014 pilot public campaign financing program that was passed but only applied to the comptroller race fizzled almost immediately.<br /> <br />Cuomo, king of the mega-donors, as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/nyregion/cuomo-a-master-of-the-50000-fund-raiser-bypasses-small-donors.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times recently pointed out</a>, says in his policy book that “candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones.” New York does have excessively high individual donation limits, at more than $65,000 for gubernatorial candidates. Cuomo writes that the only way to fix the situation is to offer matching funds for smaller donations, like the New York City system does.<br /> <br />The governor is also calling for laws mandating financial disclosures by local elected officials, which would institute requirements on officials not in state government, but municipal and county offices around the state, where there are not uniform requirements to create more transparency around potential conflicts of interest.</p> <p>Cuomo is also again calling for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the Legislature, which is not currently subject. He also calls for FOIL and the open meetings law to apply to state ethics monitors the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission.</p> <p>The governor is again calling for extending the power of the state Inspector General to nonprofits affiliated with the SUNY and CUNY systems, including their contracting processes. This reform relates to some of the alleged bid-rigging in Cuomo’s economic development programs. While Cuomo is open to the IG having more power, he continues to resist re-establishing the state Comptroller’s pre-clearance of contracts procured through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits.</p> <p>On that same note, Cuomo is also again proposing the creation of a Chief Procurement Officer in order to “oversee the integrity” of contracting processes. Critics have called this potential position duplicative given the role of the Comptroller. The governor’s policy book notes, “despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually.”</p> <p>Cuomo is also proposing legislation toward eventually creating a uniform contract-tracking system among various state entities that each currently use their own.</p> <p>There is no indication of a new appetite for the voting, ethics, and campaign finance reforms that Cuomo has proposed before, and it is unclear if there will be support for some of the new proposals, like more transparency around digital political advertisements. Several of the proposals would likely pass if the state Senate flips to Democrats, which could occur at some point later this year. The governor must first call a special election for the 11 vacancies in the Legislature, two of which are in the Senate.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/39477610921_158bf7e1ba_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State reforms" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at his 2018 State of the State (photo:&nbsp;Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>During his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo spent little time on government ethics reform, but did address at somewhat greater length his proposals to increase access to the ballot box and change state campaign finance law.</p> <p>In sum, the “reform” portion of Cuomo’s remarks were relatively brief, though the governor did expand more on his proposals to change voting, campaign financing, political advertising, and the jobs of legislators in the accompanying <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2018-stateofthestatebook.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">374-page policy book</a> that details his 2018 agenda. Many of these proposals are repeated from prior years. Cuomo has not prioritized things like early voting or a public campaign finance system, so they have not become law in New York.</p> <p>Known for his ability to bend the Legislature to his will for policy items he puts his weight behind -- like marriage equality or a $15 minimum wage program -- Cuomo has overseen some incremental ethics reforms but little by way of seismic shifts to prevent corruption or increase election participation. He has also been unwilling to go along with contracting reform that is aimed at bringing more oversight and transparency to his own economic development programming.</p> <p>The governor’s speech came just ahead of a handful of corruption trials that will occur this year, including some of his top aides and donors who are accused of engaging in major bid-rigging and kickback schemes dealing with the governor’s signature economic development programs. Two former legislative leaders will also be retried for public corruption after their recent convictions were overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling.</p> <p>In an hour-and-a-half speech on Wednesday, government ethics was sandwiched briefly between Cuomo’s discussion of doing more to help mentally ill homeless people and focusing on “new problems” facing the state, like the “rise in terrorism,” climate change, the opioid epidemic, and more. Cuomo devoted just one brief segment to the topic, and in doing so nodded to legislators’ disinterest in further reform.<br /> <br />“With all we have to do as a government, it is more important than ever that we have the public's trust,” Cuomo said. “I know the Legislature feels that we have done much on ethics reform and they are right. I know they feel that whatever we do, it will never be enough in this political atmosphere and they may be right, but we must do more anyway. The single best ethics reform is to ban outside income, remove any possibility for conflict and let legislators say 'I work for the public. Period. And there are no possible conflicts presented.’”<br /> <br />The Democratic governor, now in the final year of his second term and seeking a third, has proposed banning outside income for legislators before, along with other reforms that he did not name Wednesday but are again in his policy book, like term limits. These and campaign finance reforms have mostly gone nowhere in the Legislature, especially the Republican-controlled state Senate, though lawmakers would like their first salary increase since 1999. Cuomo is in favor of a pay raise for legislators, but in exchange for strict limits on outside income and other reforms.<br /> <br />In moving toward “new” challenges, Cuomo referenced previously announced pieces of his larger “Democracy Agenda,” including more transparency for online political advertisements. Action must be taken, he said, to address “the distortion and manipulation of our elections by big donors, foreign money and social media advertising and the alienation of our citizens.” <br /> <br />Noting that “social media has revolutionized our elections,” Cuomo said that the “freedom of the internet” must be respected, but that laws must be followed. “Foreign countries like Russia and big anonymous donors cannot jeopardize our democracy. Social media must disclose who or what pays for political advertising because sunlight is still the best disinfectant.”<br /> <br />“Disclosure must apply to social media the same way that it applies to a newspaper ad or a TV ad or a radio ad,” Cuomo said. “Anything else is a scam and a perversion of the law and an affront to democracy. Let's stop this abuse, and while Washington talks about it and dithers, let New York lead the way and address this challenge and let's do it this session.”<br /> <br />Cuomo also said that in “this time of citizen alienation and outrage, the best thing we can do is let people know that their voice is heard, that they matter and that they can and they should vote. And we should make voting easier, not harder, with same-day registration, no-fault absentee ballots, and early voting.”<br /> <br />He said that New York could “increase trust” through campaign finance reforms like closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from people and businesses through multiple limited liability companies (which Cuomo has benefited mightily from), and public financing of electoral campaigns. Both are ideas Cuomo has said he supports for years but has not been able to see passed through the Legislature. A 2014 pilot public campaign financing program that was passed but only applied to the comptroller race fizzled almost immediately.<br /> <br />Cuomo, king of the mega-donors, as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/nyregion/cuomo-a-master-of-the-50000-fund-raiser-bypasses-small-donors.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times recently pointed out</a>, says in his policy book that “candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones.” New York does have excessively high individual donation limits, at more than $65,000 for gubernatorial candidates. Cuomo writes that the only way to fix the situation is to offer matching funds for smaller donations, like the New York City system does.<br /> <br />The governor is also calling for laws mandating financial disclosures by local elected officials, which would institute requirements on officials not in state government, but municipal and county offices around the state, where there are not uniform requirements to create more transparency around potential conflicts of interest.</p> <p>Cuomo is also again calling for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the Legislature, which is not currently subject. He also calls for FOIL and the open meetings law to apply to state ethics monitors the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission.</p> <p>The governor is again calling for extending the power of the state Inspector General to nonprofits affiliated with the SUNY and CUNY systems, including their contracting processes. This reform relates to some of the alleged bid-rigging in Cuomo’s economic development programs. While Cuomo is open to the IG having more power, he continues to resist re-establishing the state Comptroller’s pre-clearance of contracts procured through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits.</p> <p>On that same note, Cuomo is also again proposing the creation of a Chief Procurement Officer in order to “oversee the integrity” of contracting processes. Critics have called this potential position duplicative given the role of the Comptroller. The governor’s policy book notes, “despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually.”</p> <p>Cuomo is also proposing legislation toward eventually creating a uniform contract-tracking system among various state entities that each currently use their own.</p> <p>There is no indication of a new appetite for the voting, ethics, and campaign finance reforms that Cuomo has proposed before, and it is unclear if there will be support for some of the new proposals, like more transparency around digital political advertisements. Several of the proposals would likely pass if the state Senate flips to Democrats, which could occur at some point later this year. The governor must first call a special election for the 11 vacancies in the Legislature, two of which are in the Senate.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Previewing Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State 2017-12-28T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-28T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7391:previewing-cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/39171789402_5071ab0b41_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State Long Island" width="600" height="428" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to deliver his 2018 State of the State address on Wednesday in Albany, at which he will outline his policy agenda for the year, his eighth as governor. A Democrat who plans to seek a third term later in the year, Cuomo has been rolling out planks of his State of the State agenda in the weeks leading up to the speech.</p> <p>As of Wednesday morning, Cuomo had officially announced 22 pieces of the agenda, each in a separate press release from his office, some in conjunction with public events. They range from statewide proposals like environmental protections to more local topics, like fighting the MS-13 gang on Long Island, and also include promises to take away gun rights from domestic abusers, criminalize “revenge porn” and “sextortion,” invest further in his program to revitalize local downtown areas, and reevaluate the lower minimum wage allowed for workers who regularly receive tips. Most of the 22 planks have several parts that at times cover a lot of ground.</p> <p>These announcements have come as Cuomo has been working to preempt, then react to recently-passed federal tax reform legislation that is opposed by New Yorkers across the political spectrum. While he’s put forth his initial 2018 agenda items, Cuomo has also been working to mitigate the effects of the tax reforms, which will likely force many New Yorkers to pay higher overall taxes, with measures such as allowing property tax prepayments.</p> <p>Along with what he’s announced so far, there are a number of topics the governor is expected to address either through his State of the State speech or the policy book that typically accompanies it. That policy agenda, in combination with his executive budget proposal, also due in January, forms the initial blueprint for bargaining with the Legislature.</p> <p>Cuomo's 18th plank came on Tuesday morning and deals with combating sexual harassment in workplaces, including throughout state government. Cuomo had indicated the would unveil comprehensive sexual misconduct legislation that strengthens harassment and discrimination laws in all industries, a response to the ongoing national reckoning, which has touched high-profile Cuomo donors Harvey Weinstein and Mario Batali as well as a now-former member of Cuomo’s administration, Sam Hoyt.</p> <p>The governor recently made waves when he defensively responded to a reporter who asked him what he was going to do to root out sexual misconduct in state government. Speaking with a group of journalists, Cuomo told the female reporter who asked the question that singling out state government did a “disservice to women” because there are problems across industries and sectors. Cuomo vowed to deal with the issue holistically and said to look for plans during the State of the State. The governor’s response drew widespread criticism and he made efforts to clarify his intent while he also called to apologize to the reporter, Karen DeWitt of upstate public radio.</p> <p>According to SUNY New Paltz political scientist Gerald Benjamin, Cuomo must further address the new tax code, signed into law by Republican President Donald Trump just before Christmas, while he also seeks attention for his other plans.</p> <p>“The run-up to the State of the State is being overpowered by the debate over the federal tax changes. So, it’s taking the headlines and the governor is directly involved, when he’s using terms like ‘traitor’ to describe people,” said Benjamin. “The purpose of the early release of these items, one proposal at a time, is to control and direct the news flow. It’s a classic practice that has gone on over decades in New York.”</p> <p>Cuomo recently told CNN hosts that even as he considers a legal challenge to the federal tax overhaul, “We're going to propose a restructuring of our tax code.”</p> <p>“I'm not even sure what they did is legal or constitutional and that's something we're looking at now,” Cuomo added, referring to federal lawmakers. He said that the ways in which the reforms targeted heavily Democratic states like New York and California that have higher state and local taxes could be grounds for legal action.</p> <p>Another piece of his agenda that Cuomo has already announced is his “<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7384-cuomo-unveils-democracy-agenda-of-ad-transparency-election-security-and-voting-reforms" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Democracy Project</a>,” which includes several measures to make online political advertisements more transparent; secure elections from cyberattacks, and improve New Yorkers’ access to the ballot box through measures like early voting.</p> <p>The governor has not yet released any proposals around government ethics or campaign finance reform, which are annual topics of controversy in Albany. When Cuomo announced the Democracy Project, Gotham Gazette inquired whether New Yorkers should expect campaign finance and government ethics reform proposals from the governor. A spokesperson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7384-cuomo-unveils-democracy-agenda-of-ad-transparency-election-security-and-voting-reforms" target="_blank" rel="noopener">did not give an indication</a> either way, but said the governor is committed to seeing his election reforms pass.</p> <p>Cuomo has proposed such measures every year he has been governor, with some measures and half-measures passing on several occasions. But they have not stemmed the tide of corruption in state government. The spotlight will again be on Cuomo to make headway this year as several of his close associates are facing trial in early 2018 for their roles in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7353-with-phase-one-going-on-trial-cuomo-s-buffalo-investment-moves-ahead-with-changes-and-broken-reform-promises" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an alleged bid-rigging scheme tied to Cuomo’s signature economic development programs</a>.</p> <p>“There may be a degree of uncertainty in this session because of the monumental scope and character of recent events, but the ethics question is going to be very important,” said Benjamin.</p> <p>Voting, government ethics, and campaign finance reforms are among many of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6710-all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo’s 2017 policy proposals</a> that did not materialize last year, either due to resistance from the Legislature, a lack of more aggressive lobbying by the governor, or other challenges.</p> <p>While it was not part of his agenda last year, Cuomo has indicated that a congestion pricing plan for the New York City region will be part of his 2018 agenda, and he empaneled a commission to make recommendations that are due soon. The governor may release the details of his proposal as part of his State of the State, with the goals of reducing congestion on city streets, especially in Manhattan, and funding MTA repairs, but he may also wait for later in the year. There are host of other issues Cuomo may look to address, including major areas like affordable housing, education, and health care.</p> <p>Ahead of Cuomo’s 2018 address, Gotham Gazette asked legislative leaders for what they would like to see on the governor’s agenda. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins -- who is in talks with Cuomo and members of the Independent Democratic Conference about a potential reunification deal if Democrats can secure a numerical majority in 2018 -- noted that New York faces a difficult economic reality due to actions taken by Trump and Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>“We must find more ways to protect taxpayers and create good jobs, ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare for all New Yorkers, protect women's rights, ensure our education system receives the resources it deserves, repair and fully fund our decaying infrastructure and MTA, and stand up for vulnerable communities under attack by the Trump Administration,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, and Senate Democrats will push for action to be taken immediately.”</p> <p>Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who was the first Republican to announce that he is running for governor in 2018, took aim at Cuomo.</p> <p>“The priority in 2018 must be on setting an agenda that helps New Yorkers, rather than setting an agenda that helps presidential ambitions,” said Kolb, referring to Cuomo’s apparent interest in a 2020 presidential campaign. “We have an affordability problem that’s driving residents and businesses to other states. The growing infrastructure crisis is making everyday life more difficult for millions of New Yorkers. Endless unfunded mandates from Albany continue to drive up local property tax burdens. Billions in taxpayer dollars are spent on job-creation programs, with little return on investment. Government accountability and transparency have been ignored for too long. These are the priorities of the Assembly Minority Conference and I hope the governor and our legislative colleagues agree that they demand our immediate attention.”</p> <p>Spokespeople for Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not return requests for comment. While an IDC spokesperson did not return a request for comment, the IDC did unveil on Thursday its 2018 state budget agenda -- a spending plan for next fiscal year is due by its April 1 start.</p> <p>Among other things, the breakaway group of eight Democratic senators led by Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx is calling for early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, dedicating a portion of New York City sales taxes toward MTA repairs, tax relief for many New Yorkers, and protecting health insurance for children from poor families.</p> <p>In a statement accompanying release of the agenda, Klein said that the “budget addresses issues...we can advance to improve participation in our elections, enhance our children’s education, protect our workers, upgrade our infrastructure, and help our immigrant communities. As one state we must unite around passing a budget that achieves these goals that transcend party lines.”</p> <p>As for Gov. Cuomo, he is returning this year to the typical State of the State address in Albany after he gave six smaller addresses around the state last year, finishing in Albany, which had been a break from tradition.</p> <p>A running list of Cuomo’s 2018 proposals unveiled so far:</p> <p>1. Removing firearms from domestic abusers - the legislation would build on existing restriction on gun ownership which currently only bars gun ownership from individuals convicted of a felony domestic abuse, not those convicted of a misdemeanor. <br />2. Protect the environment, protect the Hudson River - Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will take immediate action to sue the federal government if the Environmental Protection Agency deems the Hudson River PCB dredging complete. <br />3. Round three of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative - Invest $100 Million in 10 Economic Development Regions and build upon first two rounds of downtown revitalization awards.<br />4. Cutting off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13 - A five-point plan to improve access to social programs, like after-school education and job training for at-risk youth. Additional support for unaccompanied minors and bolstered law enforcement in gang hotspots. <br />5. Examine eliminating the minimum wage tip credit to strengthen economic justice in New York State - Cuomo will direct the Commissioner of Labor to hold hearings to evaluate eliminating tip credit. <br />6. Continue to reduce the local property tax burden by making the state’s county shared services panels permanent - state funding for local government performance aid will now be conditioned on shared services panels.<br />7. Major investment to accelerate improvement at Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant - Invest $20 million to launch phase one of treatment plant overhaul to protect water quality. Commit $500,000 to accelerate studies of outfall, facility upgrades required by consent order issued by DEC.<br />8. New York will take legal action to halt a rail operator's plan to store thousands of railcars indefinitely in the Adirondack Park.<br />9. Fossil fuel divestment - Calling on New York State Common Retirement Fund to cease all new investment in entities with significant fossil fuel-related activities and develop a decarbonization plan for divesting from fossil fuels. <br />10. Bringing the New York Islanders home with a world-class sports and entertainment destination at Belmont Park - Internationally recognized destination will feature 18,000-seat arena, 435,000-square-foot retail and dining village, and new hotel.<br />11, Ending sextortion - sextortion and non-consensual pornography will be criminalized under state law and require registration as a sex offender and be punishable by jail time<br />12. Protecting New York’s Lakes from harmful algal blooms - a $65M investment to combat algal blooms that threaten recreational use of lakes and drinking water <br />13. Democracy Agenda - Protect integrity of New York Elections, require transparency for digital ads, and enact voting reforms.<br />14. Fast track state-of-the-art containment and treatment of U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman contamination plume - Cites new analysis indicating it will be possible to fully contain and treat four-mile-long, two-mile-wide plume in Oyster Bay, Long Island.<br />15. Ensure students don’t go hungry - a five-point plan to combat hunger for students in kindergarten through college including requiring breakfast after the bell in schools, creating more pathways to healthy eating in schools, and ending practices that shame students who cannot afford school lunch.<br />16.&nbsp;Take further action to fight the burden of student loan debt. Planks include appointing a Student Loan Ombudsman; requiring colleges to provide simple 'truth in lending' facts for students; and increasing consumer protection standards throughout the student loan industry.<br />17. Invest $34 million to modernize and expand Stewart International Airport in Orange County. Cuomo proposes the Port Authority approve the investment, which would increase access to the Mid-Hudson Valley via construction of a permanent U.S. Customs and Border Protection federal inspection station, which would allow for both domestic and international flights. Cuomo is also proposing modernization efforts for the airport.<br />18. Combat sexual harassment in the workplace. "Cuomo will propose legislation to prevent public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts, and mandate that any companies that do business with the state disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed."<br />19.&nbsp;Strengthen workforce development. The governor is proposing "a comprehensive workforce development program to ensure all New Yorkers have access to training to meet growing workforce needs and continue to move New York's economy forward. The new Office of Workforce Development will implement a multi-pronged plan to strategically target local workforce needs in emerging industries across the state and help workers and businesses succeed in the 21st century economy."<br />20.&nbsp;"Combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing the clean energy economy. By further strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and welcoming new state members, New York will continue its progress in slashing emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants. In addition, unprecedented commitments announced today to advance clean energy technologies, including offshore wind, solar, energy storage and energy efficiency, will spur market development and create jobs across the state."<br />21. Taking steps to revitalize Red Hook.&nbsp;"[C]alling on the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study potential options for relocating and improving maritime activities and enhancing transportation access to Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood."<br />22.&nbsp;Overhaul the state's criminal justice system. "This comprehensive package - the most progressive set of reforms in the nation -- will guarantee fairness for the accused by reshaping New York's antiquated bail system, ensuring access to a speedy trial, improving the disclosure of evidence in the discovery process, transforming asset forfeiture procedures and implementing new initiatives to help individuals transition from incarceration to their communities."</p> <p>***<br />By Rachel Silberstein and Ben Max</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article will be updated as the governor's office releases more proposals ahead of his speech.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/39171789402_5071ab0b41_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State Long Island" width="600" height="428" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to deliver his 2018 State of the State address on Wednesday in Albany, at which he will outline his policy agenda for the year, his eighth as governor. A Democrat who plans to seek a third term later in the year, Cuomo has been rolling out planks of his State of the State agenda in the weeks leading up to the speech.</p> <p>As of Wednesday morning, Cuomo had officially announced 22 pieces of the agenda, each in a separate press release from his office, some in conjunction with public events. They range from statewide proposals like environmental protections to more local topics, like fighting the MS-13 gang on Long Island, and also include promises to take away gun rights from domestic abusers, criminalize “revenge porn” and “sextortion,” invest further in his program to revitalize local downtown areas, and reevaluate the lower minimum wage allowed for workers who regularly receive tips. Most of the 22 planks have several parts that at times cover a lot of ground.</p> <p>These announcements have come as Cuomo has been working to preempt, then react to recently-passed federal tax reform legislation that is opposed by New Yorkers across the political spectrum. While he’s put forth his initial 2018 agenda items, Cuomo has also been working to mitigate the effects of the tax reforms, which will likely force many New Yorkers to pay higher overall taxes, with measures such as allowing property tax prepayments.</p> <p>Along with what he’s announced so far, there are a number of topics the governor is expected to address either through his State of the State speech or the policy book that typically accompanies it. That policy agenda, in combination with his executive budget proposal, also due in January, forms the initial blueprint for bargaining with the Legislature.</p> <p>Cuomo's 18th plank came on Tuesday morning and deals with combating sexual harassment in workplaces, including throughout state government. Cuomo had indicated the would unveil comprehensive sexual misconduct legislation that strengthens harassment and discrimination laws in all industries, a response to the ongoing national reckoning, which has touched high-profile Cuomo donors Harvey Weinstein and Mario Batali as well as a now-former member of Cuomo’s administration, Sam Hoyt.</p> <p>The governor recently made waves when he defensively responded to a reporter who asked him what he was going to do to root out sexual misconduct in state government. Speaking with a group of journalists, Cuomo told the female reporter who asked the question that singling out state government did a “disservice to women” because there are problems across industries and sectors. Cuomo vowed to deal with the issue holistically and said to look for plans during the State of the State. The governor’s response drew widespread criticism and he made efforts to clarify his intent while he also called to apologize to the reporter, Karen DeWitt of upstate public radio.</p> <p>According to SUNY New Paltz political scientist Gerald Benjamin, Cuomo must further address the new tax code, signed into law by Republican President Donald Trump just before Christmas, while he also seeks attention for his other plans.</p> <p>“The run-up to the State of the State is being overpowered by the debate over the federal tax changes. So, it’s taking the headlines and the governor is directly involved, when he’s using terms like ‘traitor’ to describe people,” said Benjamin. “The purpose of the early release of these items, one proposal at a time, is to control and direct the news flow. It’s a classic practice that has gone on over decades in New York.”</p> <p>Cuomo recently told CNN hosts that even as he considers a legal challenge to the federal tax overhaul, “We're going to propose a restructuring of our tax code.”</p> <p>“I'm not even sure what they did is legal or constitutional and that's something we're looking at now,” Cuomo added, referring to federal lawmakers. He said that the ways in which the reforms targeted heavily Democratic states like New York and California that have higher state and local taxes could be grounds for legal action.</p> <p>Another piece of his agenda that Cuomo has already announced is his “<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7384-cuomo-unveils-democracy-agenda-of-ad-transparency-election-security-and-voting-reforms" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Democracy Project</a>,” which includes several measures to make online political advertisements more transparent; secure elections from cyberattacks, and improve New Yorkers’ access to the ballot box through measures like early voting.</p> <p>The governor has not yet released any proposals around government ethics or campaign finance reform, which are annual topics of controversy in Albany. When Cuomo announced the Democracy Project, Gotham Gazette inquired whether New Yorkers should expect campaign finance and government ethics reform proposals from the governor. A spokesperson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7384-cuomo-unveils-democracy-agenda-of-ad-transparency-election-security-and-voting-reforms" target="_blank" rel="noopener">did not give an indication</a> either way, but said the governor is committed to seeing his election reforms pass.</p> <p>Cuomo has proposed such measures every year he has been governor, with some measures and half-measures passing on several occasions. But they have not stemmed the tide of corruption in state government. The spotlight will again be on Cuomo to make headway this year as several of his close associates are facing trial in early 2018 for their roles in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7353-with-phase-one-going-on-trial-cuomo-s-buffalo-investment-moves-ahead-with-changes-and-broken-reform-promises" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an alleged bid-rigging scheme tied to Cuomo’s signature economic development programs</a>.</p> <p>“There may be a degree of uncertainty in this session because of the monumental scope and character of recent events, but the ethics question is going to be very important,” said Benjamin.</p> <p>Voting, government ethics, and campaign finance reforms are among many of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6710-all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo’s 2017 policy proposals</a> that did not materialize last year, either due to resistance from the Legislature, a lack of more aggressive lobbying by the governor, or other challenges.</p> <p>While it was not part of his agenda last year, Cuomo has indicated that a congestion pricing plan for the New York City region will be part of his 2018 agenda, and he empaneled a commission to make recommendations that are due soon. The governor may release the details of his proposal as part of his State of the State, with the goals of reducing congestion on city streets, especially in Manhattan, and funding MTA repairs, but he may also wait for later in the year. There are host of other issues Cuomo may look to address, including major areas like affordable housing, education, and health care.</p> <p>Ahead of Cuomo’s 2018 address, Gotham Gazette asked legislative leaders for what they would like to see on the governor’s agenda. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins -- who is in talks with Cuomo and members of the Independent Democratic Conference about a potential reunification deal if Democrats can secure a numerical majority in 2018 -- noted that New York faces a difficult economic reality due to actions taken by Trump and Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>“We must find more ways to protect taxpayers and create good jobs, ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare for all New Yorkers, protect women's rights, ensure our education system receives the resources it deserves, repair and fully fund our decaying infrastructure and MTA, and stand up for vulnerable communities under attack by the Trump Administration,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, and Senate Democrats will push for action to be taken immediately.”</p> <p>Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who was the first Republican to announce that he is running for governor in 2018, took aim at Cuomo.</p> <p>“The priority in 2018 must be on setting an agenda that helps New Yorkers, rather than setting an agenda that helps presidential ambitions,” said Kolb, referring to Cuomo’s apparent interest in a 2020 presidential campaign. “We have an affordability problem that’s driving residents and businesses to other states. The growing infrastructure crisis is making everyday life more difficult for millions of New Yorkers. Endless unfunded mandates from Albany continue to drive up local property tax burdens. Billions in taxpayer dollars are spent on job-creation programs, with little return on investment. Government accountability and transparency have been ignored for too long. These are the priorities of the Assembly Minority Conference and I hope the governor and our legislative colleagues agree that they demand our immediate attention.”</p> <p>Spokespeople for Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not return requests for comment. While an IDC spokesperson did not return a request for comment, the IDC did unveil on Thursday its 2018 state budget agenda -- a spending plan for next fiscal year is due by its April 1 start.</p> <p>Among other things, the breakaway group of eight Democratic senators led by Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx is calling for early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, dedicating a portion of New York City sales taxes toward MTA repairs, tax relief for many New Yorkers, and protecting health insurance for children from poor families.</p> <p>In a statement accompanying release of the agenda, Klein said that the “budget addresses issues...we can advance to improve participation in our elections, enhance our children’s education, protect our workers, upgrade our infrastructure, and help our immigrant communities. As one state we must unite around passing a budget that achieves these goals that transcend party lines.”</p> <p>As for Gov. Cuomo, he is returning this year to the typical State of the State address in Albany after he gave six smaller addresses around the state last year, finishing in Albany, which had been a break from tradition.</p> <p>A running list of Cuomo’s 2018 proposals unveiled so far:</p> <p>1. Removing firearms from domestic abusers - the legislation would build on existing restriction on gun ownership which currently only bars gun ownership from individuals convicted of a felony domestic abuse, not those convicted of a misdemeanor. <br />2. Protect the environment, protect the Hudson River - Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will take immediate action to sue the federal government if the Environmental Protection Agency deems the Hudson River PCB dredging complete. <br />3. Round three of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative - Invest $100 Million in 10 Economic Development Regions and build upon first two rounds of downtown revitalization awards.<br />4. Cutting off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13 - A five-point plan to improve access to social programs, like after-school education and job training for at-risk youth. Additional support for unaccompanied minors and bolstered law enforcement in gang hotspots. <br />5. Examine eliminating the minimum wage tip credit to strengthen economic justice in New York State - Cuomo will direct the Commissioner of Labor to hold hearings to evaluate eliminating tip credit. <br />6. Continue to reduce the local property tax burden by making the state’s county shared services panels permanent - state funding for local government performance aid will now be conditioned on shared services panels.<br />7. Major investment to accelerate improvement at Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant - Invest $20 million to launch phase one of treatment plant overhaul to protect water quality. Commit $500,000 to accelerate studies of outfall, facility upgrades required by consent order issued by DEC.<br />8. New York will take legal action to halt a rail operator's plan to store thousands of railcars indefinitely in the Adirondack Park.<br />9. Fossil fuel divestment - Calling on New York State Common Retirement Fund to cease all new investment in entities with significant fossil fuel-related activities and develop a decarbonization plan for divesting from fossil fuels. <br />10. Bringing the New York Islanders home with a world-class sports and entertainment destination at Belmont Park - Internationally recognized destination will feature 18,000-seat arena, 435,000-square-foot retail and dining village, and new hotel.<br />11, Ending sextortion - sextortion and non-consensual pornography will be criminalized under state law and require registration as a sex offender and be punishable by jail time<br />12. Protecting New York’s Lakes from harmful algal blooms - a $65M investment to combat algal blooms that threaten recreational use of lakes and drinking water <br />13. Democracy Agenda - Protect integrity of New York Elections, require transparency for digital ads, and enact voting reforms.<br />14. Fast track state-of-the-art containment and treatment of U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman contamination plume - Cites new analysis indicating it will be possible to fully contain and treat four-mile-long, two-mile-wide plume in Oyster Bay, Long Island.<br />15. Ensure students don’t go hungry - a five-point plan to combat hunger for students in kindergarten through college including requiring breakfast after the bell in schools, creating more pathways to healthy eating in schools, and ending practices that shame students who cannot afford school lunch.<br />16.&nbsp;Take further action to fight the burden of student loan debt. Planks include appointing a Student Loan Ombudsman; requiring colleges to provide simple 'truth in lending' facts for students; and increasing consumer protection standards throughout the student loan industry.<br />17. Invest $34 million to modernize and expand Stewart International Airport in Orange County. Cuomo proposes the Port Authority approve the investment, which would increase access to the Mid-Hudson Valley via construction of a permanent U.S. Customs and Border Protection federal inspection station, which would allow for both domestic and international flights. Cuomo is also proposing modernization efforts for the airport.<br />18. Combat sexual harassment in the workplace. "Cuomo will propose legislation to prevent public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts, and mandate that any companies that do business with the state disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed."<br />19.&nbsp;Strengthen workforce development. The governor is proposing "a comprehensive workforce development program to ensure all New Yorkers have access to training to meet growing workforce needs and continue to move New York's economy forward. The new Office of Workforce Development will implement a multi-pronged plan to strategically target local workforce needs in emerging industries across the state and help workers and businesses succeed in the 21st century economy."<br />20.&nbsp;"Combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing the clean energy economy. By further strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and welcoming new state members, New York will continue its progress in slashing emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants. In addition, unprecedented commitments announced today to advance clean energy technologies, including offshore wind, solar, energy storage and energy efficiency, will spur market development and create jobs across the state."<br />21. Taking steps to revitalize Red Hook.&nbsp;"[C]alling on the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study potential options for relocating and improving maritime activities and enhancing transportation access to Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood."<br />22.&nbsp;Overhaul the state's criminal justice system. "This comprehensive package - the most progressive set of reforms in the nation -- will guarantee fairness for the accused by reshaping New York's antiquated bail system, ensuring access to a speedy trial, improving the disclosure of evidence in the discovery process, transforming asset forfeiture procedures and implementing new initiatives to help individuals transition from incarceration to their communities."</p> <p>***<br />By Rachel Silberstein and Ben Max</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article will be updated as the governor's office releases more proposals ahead of his speech.</p>
Cuomo Unveils ‘Democracy Agenda’ of Ad Transparency, Election Security and Voting Reforms 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7384:cuomo-unveils-democracy-agenda-of-ad-transparency-election-security-and-voting-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38198034236_bf971489f7_z.jpg" alt="38198034236 bf971489f7 z" width="600" height="367" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled his “Democracy Agenda,” a plan to create more transparency in political advertising and require online platforms to archive political ads, protect state elections from hacking threats, and enhance voting opportunities.</p> <p>The 13th proposal of the governor’s developing 2018 State of the State speech, the advertising transparency and cybersecurity initiatives are joined by three voting reform measures that were introduced by Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last year</a> but did not pass: early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>"What we saw during the last election was a systematic effort to undermine and manipulate our very democracy," Cuomo said in a statement. "With these new safeguards, New York — in the strongest terms possible — will combat unscrupulous and shadowy threats to our electoral process, as well as break down fundamental barriers that for far too long have prevented New Yorkers from being heard and from exercising their right to vote."</p> <p>In his 2017 agenda, Cuomo included the voting reforms as part of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his 10-point government ethics program</a>, which included strengthening campaign finance laws, such as closing the LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited donations to elected officials. None of the planks were passed, either in the budget in April or at the end of the legislative session in June.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to reveal whether ethics and campaign finance reform will be introduced in a separate plank during the governor’s upcoming SOTS address, but said the administration was committed to getting the announced electoral reforms passed.</p> <p>“In our political environment, it can sometimes takes multiple years for the legislature to pass reforms like these—as was the case with raise the age, the minimum wage increase, and even marriage equality, which failed in 2009 and then passed with bipartisan support two years later,” said Cuomo spokesperson Elizabeth Bibi. “This administration remains committed to modernizing our election process and will work with the legislature on this issue.”</p> <p>The voting reform measures are not embraced by leadership in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which clings to power through a ruling coalition with breakaway Democrats, and Cuomo told reporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that there was “no appetite”</a> from the Legislature to implement them during budget negotiations earlier this year.</p> <p>After the legislative session, the governor did sign an executive order expanding the list of agencies required to provide voting registration assistance, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7089-voting-reform-advocates-say-cuomo-can-do-more-through-executive-order" target="_blank" rel="noopener">advocates said that the order could have gone further</a>. For example, they say, a task force assembled by Cuomo to explore the implementation of these new rules could also study the costs and benefits of more meaningful electoral reform -- such as early voting and automatic registration -- in order to better sell the proposals to legislative leaders in 2018.</p> <p>If passed, Cuomo’s early voting proposal would allow eligible New Yorkers to cast ballots up to 12 days before Election Day. Automatic voter registration would automatically register anyone who comes in contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles or other government agency unless the person chooses to opt-out, and same-day registration would allow New Yorkers to register to vote when going to the polls to cast their ballots.</p> <p>Reform advocates praised the governor’s Democracy Agenda while urging him to include funding for the proposals in his upcoming budget.</p> <p>“While Governor Cuomo's recent push in cyber security and transparency for elections is an important step forward to ensure that New York's elections remain fair and safe, our basic voting processes also demand improvement,” said Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner, in a statement. “Common Cause/NY urges the Governor to include Early Voting in his upcoming budget to create a more equitable voting process for all.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s democracy platform, as presented in a press release, focuses on the proliferation of “fake news” and political ad campaigns on social media platforms, which are not regulated in the same way as advertisements on traditional media platforms. Citing the influence of &nbsp;“unscrupulous and disruptive actors” on the 2016 presidential election, Cuomo’s proposal would codify state regulations as introduced by United States Senate and House members to regulate online advertising for federal elections. The governor vowed to ensure that all social media platforms, and other states, adopt similar policies.</p> <p>“As many as 126 million Americans are estimated to have seen Russian-bought political ads on Facebook alone last year, without realizing that they were seeing content paid for by Russia. &nbsp;Additionally, 131,000 Twitter messages, linked to more than 36,000 Russian accounts, have also been identified,” states the press release from Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>To ensure the fairness and transparency of New York elections, Cuomo has put forth a three-pronged strategy to: expand New York State's definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements; require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform; and require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.</p> <p>Violations of these requirements would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>The cybersecurity component seeks to keep elections uncorrupted by hackers. Earlier this year, following numerous reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Cuomo directed the New York State Cyber Security Advisory Board to work with state agencies and the State and County Boards of Election to assess the threats to the cybersecurity of New York's elections infrastructure, identify security priorities, and recommend any necessary additional security measures.</p> <p>As a result of this review, Cuomo says he is proposing a four-pronged approach to further strengthen cyber protections for New York's elections infrastructure: create an Election Support Center; develop an Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit; provide cyber risk vulnerability assessments and support for local boards of elections; and require counties to report data breaches to state authorities.</p> <p>Governmental reform advocates had praise for Cuomo’s proposals, as promoted through the governor’s press release.</p> <p>"Our democracy urgently needs repair. Washington has not yet acted, but states can. Today New York lags behind many other states. With these reforms it can step into the lead, making it easier to register and vote, and protecting the system from abuse,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, in a statement.</p> <p>He noted that automatic voter registration, if done right, could add millions to the rolls, cost less, and bolster security. Meanwhile, early voting and same-day registration would make voting far easier for working people.</p> <p>“And it is vital to ensure that foreign governments and other malevolent actors can't distort elections with dark money ads or attacks on voting machines and databases. Governor Cuomo's agenda would be a powerful step forward. It's worth fighting for. We hope Albany listens," Waldman said.</p> <p>The governor’s 13th State of the State proposal also received praise from Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Island who has introduced similar legislation to prevent anonymous and false political attack ads on social media, and Kaminsky’s fellow Senate Democrats, who have long pushed for voting reforms like the ones unveiled today.<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/338555295/7-Shocking-Facts-About-New-York-s-Voting-Laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><br /></a></p> <p>“I thank Governor Cuomo for joining this important effort to rid our election process of these false, misleading, and anonymous advertisements. These often dirty attacks that are aimed at providing misinformation to voters undermine our democracy. Voters deserve full transparency during their elections,” said Kaminsky. “It is important that we restore the voters' trust in government, and Governor Cuomo advancing this initiative will ensure we are able to take real steps to clean up campaigns in New York.”</p> <p>Each year, ahead of his annual State of the State address, which for 2018 will take place on January 3, Cuomo typically previews several planks of his new agenda. Other initiatives unveiled so far have focused on environmental investment and protections, strengthening of labor laws, gun control, and returning the Islanders hockey team to Long Island.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38198034236_bf971489f7_z.jpg" alt="38198034236 bf971489f7 z" width="600" height="367" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled his “Democracy Agenda,” a plan to create more transparency in political advertising and require online platforms to archive political ads, protect state elections from hacking threats, and enhance voting opportunities.</p> <p>The 13th proposal of the governor’s developing 2018 State of the State speech, the advertising transparency and cybersecurity initiatives are joined by three voting reform measures that were introduced by Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last year</a> but did not pass: early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>"What we saw during the last election was a systematic effort to undermine and manipulate our very democracy," Cuomo said in a statement. "With these new safeguards, New York — in the strongest terms possible — will combat unscrupulous and shadowy threats to our electoral process, as well as break down fundamental barriers that for far too long have prevented New Yorkers from being heard and from exercising their right to vote."</p> <p>In his 2017 agenda, Cuomo included the voting reforms as part of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his 10-point government ethics program</a>, which included strengthening campaign finance laws, such as closing the LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited donations to elected officials. None of the planks were passed, either in the budget in April or at the end of the legislative session in June.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to reveal whether ethics and campaign finance reform will be introduced in a separate plank during the governor’s upcoming SOTS address, but said the administration was committed to getting the announced electoral reforms passed.</p> <p>“In our political environment, it can sometimes takes multiple years for the legislature to pass reforms like these—as was the case with raise the age, the minimum wage increase, and even marriage equality, which failed in 2009 and then passed with bipartisan support two years later,” said Cuomo spokesperson Elizabeth Bibi. “This administration remains committed to modernizing our election process and will work with the legislature on this issue.”</p> <p>The voting reform measures are not embraced by leadership in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which clings to power through a ruling coalition with breakaway Democrats, and Cuomo told reporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that there was “no appetite”</a> from the Legislature to implement them during budget negotiations earlier this year.</p> <p>After the legislative session, the governor did sign an executive order expanding the list of agencies required to provide voting registration assistance, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7089-voting-reform-advocates-say-cuomo-can-do-more-through-executive-order" target="_blank" rel="noopener">advocates said that the order could have gone further</a>. For example, they say, a task force assembled by Cuomo to explore the implementation of these new rules could also study the costs and benefits of more meaningful electoral reform -- such as early voting and automatic registration -- in order to better sell the proposals to legislative leaders in 2018.</p> <p>If passed, Cuomo’s early voting proposal would allow eligible New Yorkers to cast ballots up to 12 days before Election Day. Automatic voter registration would automatically register anyone who comes in contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles or other government agency unless the person chooses to opt-out, and same-day registration would allow New Yorkers to register to vote when going to the polls to cast their ballots.</p> <p>Reform advocates praised the governor’s Democracy Agenda while urging him to include funding for the proposals in his upcoming budget.</p> <p>“While Governor Cuomo's recent push in cyber security and transparency for elections is an important step forward to ensure that New York's elections remain fair and safe, our basic voting processes also demand improvement,” said Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner, in a statement. “Common Cause/NY urges the Governor to include Early Voting in his upcoming budget to create a more equitable voting process for all.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s democracy platform, as presented in a press release, focuses on the proliferation of “fake news” and political ad campaigns on social media platforms, which are not regulated in the same way as advertisements on traditional media platforms. Citing the influence of &nbsp;“unscrupulous and disruptive actors” on the 2016 presidential election, Cuomo’s proposal would codify state regulations as introduced by United States Senate and House members to regulate online advertising for federal elections. The governor vowed to ensure that all social media platforms, and other states, adopt similar policies.</p> <p>“As many as 126 million Americans are estimated to have seen Russian-bought political ads on Facebook alone last year, without realizing that they were seeing content paid for by Russia. &nbsp;Additionally, 131,000 Twitter messages, linked to more than 36,000 Russian accounts, have also been identified,” states the press release from Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>To ensure the fairness and transparency of New York elections, Cuomo has put forth a three-pronged strategy to: expand New York State's definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements; require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform; and require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.</p> <p>Violations of these requirements would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>The cybersecurity component seeks to keep elections uncorrupted by hackers. Earlier this year, following numerous reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Cuomo directed the New York State Cyber Security Advisory Board to work with state agencies and the State and County Boards of Election to assess the threats to the cybersecurity of New York's elections infrastructure, identify security priorities, and recommend any necessary additional security measures.</p> <p>As a result of this review, Cuomo says he is proposing a four-pronged approach to further strengthen cyber protections for New York's elections infrastructure: create an Election Support Center; develop an Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit; provide cyber risk vulnerability assessments and support for local boards of elections; and require counties to report data breaches to state authorities.</p> <p>Governmental reform advocates had praise for Cuomo’s proposals, as promoted through the governor’s press release.</p> <p>"Our democracy urgently needs repair. Washington has not yet acted, but states can. Today New York lags behind many other states. With these reforms it can step into the lead, making it easier to register and vote, and protecting the system from abuse,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, in a statement.</p> <p>He noted that automatic voter registration, if done right, could add millions to the rolls, cost less, and bolster security. Meanwhile, early voting and same-day registration would make voting far easier for working people.</p> <p>“And it is vital to ensure that foreign governments and other malevolent actors can't distort elections with dark money ads or attacks on voting machines and databases. Governor Cuomo's agenda would be a powerful step forward. It's worth fighting for. We hope Albany listens," Waldman said.</p> <p>The governor’s 13th State of the State proposal also received praise from Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Island who has introduced similar legislation to prevent anonymous and false political attack ads on social media, and Kaminsky’s fellow Senate Democrats, who have long pushed for voting reforms like the ones unveiled today.<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/338555295/7-Shocking-Facts-About-New-York-s-Voting-Laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><br /></a></p> <p>“I thank Governor Cuomo for joining this important effort to rid our election process of these false, misleading, and anonymous advertisements. These often dirty attacks that are aimed at providing misinformation to voters undermine our democracy. Voters deserve full transparency during their elections,” said Kaminsky. “It is important that we restore the voters' trust in government, and Governor Cuomo advancing this initiative will ensure we are able to take real steps to clean up campaigns in New York.”</p> <p>Each year, ahead of his annual State of the State address, which for 2018 will take place on January 3, Cuomo typically previews several planks of his new agenda. Other initiatives unveiled so far have focused on environmental investment and protections, strengthening of labor laws, gun control, and returning the Islanders hockey team to Long Island.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Cuomo Proposed New Wall Street Regulation, But Left It Out of NYC Speech 2017-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6712:cuomo-proposes-new-wall-street-regulation-but-left-it-out-of-nyc-speech Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/31402021033_c6100ba34a_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo state of the state new york city " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>As part of his 2017 policy agenda, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday a plan to ban bad actors from the financial services industry. Cuomo’s proposal would empower a state agency, the Department of Financial Services, with the authority to mete out such punishment to those deemed to have violated the public trust.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, when he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6705-speaking-directly-to-middle-class-anger-cuomo-offers-something-for-everyone" target="_blank">launched</a> his three-day, six-event State of the State tour in New York City on Monday morning, just a few blocks from Wall Street, home to the country’s financial industry giants, Cuomo made no mention of the proposal, which his Sunday press release said would ”better help prevent situations like the one seen recently at Wells Fargo.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo’s 2017 agenda has been defined by an overarching focus on addressing “middle class anger” stemming from economic anxiety and a lack of inclusion in the state’s overall economic recovery since the Great Recession. In his New York City speech he alluded to perpetrators whose behavior led to that economic downturn, Wall Street bankers and insurance companies responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In the recession of 2007 the middle class saw their hard earned equity in their homes stolen,” Cuomo said from 1 World Trade Center. “Nearly half the homes of our middle class are not yet back to their pre-recession value. Just think of it. That home equity was their life’s work, their security blanket, the payment for their daughter’s wedding, it was their business loan, and their child’s college tuition. It was taken through no fault of their own. But they never got it back and no one even went to jail. Justice was never done. And that is not the American way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6710-all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals" target="_blank">sixth plank</a> from Cuomo’s 2017 policy agenda seeks to address that broader issue by giving the state Superintendent of Financial Services the ability to ban individuals from working in the banking and insurance industries in New York if they are found guilty of egregious wrongdoing.</p> <p dir="ltr">That the governor didn’t bring it up in his roughly 45-minute speech appears to be an odd omission, given the location of the speech and the fact that parts of it were specifically tailored to New York City. The governor’s entire 2017 agenda does contain 149 proposals, though only 19 had been made public by the end of his two speeches on Monday. Cuomo did not mention every region-specific proposal at its relevant stop on his tour. The governor’s office told Gotham Gazette there is nothing to the fact that Cuomo did not discuss the proposal during his New York City speech.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has made great strides in establishing a strong financial regulator and protecting consumers from unscrupulous practices,” said Abbey Fashouer, a spokesperson for the governor, in an email. “By banning bad actors from the financial services industry, we are taking another major step forward that will ensure that those who seek to defraud the hardworking people of New York are held accountable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The proposal is indeed an aggressive move to regulate the financial services industry and would give the Department of Financial Services (DFS) powers that federal regulators currently possess, a move allowed under federal law. “There is no federal preemption issue,” Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo told Gotham Gazette. “National banks and financial institutions must comply with New York State law. The proposal is a New York State statute that would authorize the Department of Financial Services to pursue individuals who commit bad acts that impact New Yorkers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">How the proposal will be received by state legislators and by those it seeks to regulate remains to be seen. The governor, in the announcement of the proposal, directly referred to the “excesses and systematic abuse” in the Wells Fargo case, where employees used customer information to create fake bank accounts and inflate their figures. A Wells Fargo spokesperson declined to comment on Cuomo’s proposal. Since the scandal broke in September, the bank has been attempting to make amends for its employees’ misdeeds. “We also recognize that aside from the financial impact, we’ve broken trust with some customers and...our priority is to restore trust with our customers,” Wells Fargo executive Justin Thornton told the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/wells-fargo-is-trying-to-fix-its-rogue-account-scandal-one-grueling-case-at-a-time-1482855852" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a> in December.</p> <p dir="ltr">The governor’s proposal has not been fleshed out entirely and state legislative leaders have yet to weigh in. “We will review it once we see the language,” said Mike Whyland, spokesperson for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo’s proposal indicates a plan to expand financial services law, but without further clarity or bill language, legislators, industry representatives, advocacy groups, and others have little to go on.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The New York Insurance Association (NYIA) will be reviewing the proposal and considering whether or not the measures outlined are an appropriate approach,” said Ellen Melchionni, president of the insurance trade association, in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo created the Department of Financial Services in 2011, shortly after taking office as governor, in order to create stronger oversight of the industry, which calls New York home. Since, DFS and other state entities, like the Attorney General’s office, have reached billions of dollars in settlements with financial institutions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform, a nonpartisan coalition that focuses on accountability in the industry, said the governor’s proposal was a “standard thing” for a state regulator. “I’m surprised they don’t have it already,” he said. He noted that despite numerous instances of misconduct over many years, federal regulators have tended not to use their power to ban individuals from the industry. “It’s a good thing for states to step into the gap,” he said. Although, he added, “It depends on whether they use [that power] and how they use it.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/31402021033_c6100ba34a_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo state of the state new york city " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>As part of his 2017 policy agenda, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday a plan to ban bad actors from the financial services industry. Cuomo’s proposal would empower a state agency, the Department of Financial Services, with the authority to mete out such punishment to those deemed to have violated the public trust.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, when he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6705-speaking-directly-to-middle-class-anger-cuomo-offers-something-for-everyone" target="_blank">launched</a> his three-day, six-event State of the State tour in New York City on Monday morning, just a few blocks from Wall Street, home to the country’s financial industry giants, Cuomo made no mention of the proposal, which his Sunday press release said would ”better help prevent situations like the one seen recently at Wells Fargo.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo’s 2017 agenda has been defined by an overarching focus on addressing “middle class anger” stemming from economic anxiety and a lack of inclusion in the state’s overall economic recovery since the Great Recession. In his New York City speech he alluded to perpetrators whose behavior led to that economic downturn, Wall Street bankers and insurance companies responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In the recession of 2007 the middle class saw their hard earned equity in their homes stolen,” Cuomo said from 1 World Trade Center. “Nearly half the homes of our middle class are not yet back to their pre-recession value. Just think of it. That home equity was their life’s work, their security blanket, the payment for their daughter’s wedding, it was their business loan, and their child’s college tuition. It was taken through no fault of their own. But they never got it back and no one even went to jail. Justice was never done. And that is not the American way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6710-all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals" target="_blank">sixth plank</a> from Cuomo’s 2017 policy agenda seeks to address that broader issue by giving the state Superintendent of Financial Services the ability to ban individuals from working in the banking and insurance industries in New York if they are found guilty of egregious wrongdoing.</p> <p dir="ltr">That the governor didn’t bring it up in his roughly 45-minute speech appears to be an odd omission, given the location of the speech and the fact that parts of it were specifically tailored to New York City. The governor’s entire 2017 agenda does contain 149 proposals, though only 19 had been made public by the end of his two speeches on Monday. Cuomo did not mention every region-specific proposal at its relevant stop on his tour. The governor’s office told Gotham Gazette there is nothing to the fact that Cuomo did not discuss the proposal during his New York City speech.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has made great strides in establishing a strong financial regulator and protecting consumers from unscrupulous practices,” said Abbey Fashouer, a spokesperson for the governor, in an email. “By banning bad actors from the financial services industry, we are taking another major step forward that will ensure that those who seek to defraud the hardworking people of New York are held accountable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The proposal is indeed an aggressive move to regulate the financial services industry and would give the Department of Financial Services (DFS) powers that federal regulators currently possess, a move allowed under federal law. “There is no federal preemption issue,” Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo told Gotham Gazette. “National banks and financial institutions must comply with New York State law. The proposal is a New York State statute that would authorize the Department of Financial Services to pursue individuals who commit bad acts that impact New Yorkers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">How the proposal will be received by state legislators and by those it seeks to regulate remains to be seen. The governor, in the announcement of the proposal, directly referred to the “excesses and systematic abuse” in the Wells Fargo case, where employees used customer information to create fake bank accounts and inflate their figures. A Wells Fargo spokesperson declined to comment on Cuomo’s proposal. Since the scandal broke in September, the bank has been attempting to make amends for its employees’ misdeeds. “We also recognize that aside from the financial impact, we’ve broken trust with some customers and...our priority is to restore trust with our customers,” Wells Fargo executive Justin Thornton told the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/wells-fargo-is-trying-to-fix-its-rogue-account-scandal-one-grueling-case-at-a-time-1482855852" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a> in December.</p> <p dir="ltr">The governor’s proposal has not been fleshed out entirely and state legislative leaders have yet to weigh in. “We will review it once we see the language,” said Mike Whyland, spokesperson for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo’s proposal indicates a plan to expand financial services law, but without further clarity or bill language, legislators, industry representatives, advocacy groups, and others have little to go on.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The New York Insurance Association (NYIA) will be reviewing the proposal and considering whether or not the measures outlined are an appropriate approach,” said Ellen Melchionni, president of the insurance trade association, in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo created the Department of Financial Services in 2011, shortly after taking office as governor, in order to create stronger oversight of the industry, which calls New York home. Since, DFS and other state entities, like the Attorney General’s office, have reached billions of dollars in settlements with financial institutions.</p> <p dir="ltr">Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform, a nonpartisan coalition that focuses on accountability in the industry, said the governor’s proposal was a “standard thing” for a state regulator. “I’m surprised they don’t have it already,” he said. He noted that despite numerous instances of misconduct over many years, federal regulators have tended not to use their power to ban individuals from the industry. “It’s a good thing for states to step into the gap,” he said. Although, he added, “It depends on whether they use [that power] and how they use it.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
A Cheat Sheet to Governor Cuomo's 2017 State of the State Proposals 2017-01-11T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6710:all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/31860185600_f6c8b43690_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State image presser" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>Breaking with decades of tradition, Governor Andrew Cuomo decided this year to deliver a series of State of the State addresses, making six speeches over three days to outline his 2017 agenda and tout some of his accomplishments during his first six years as governor.</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6705-speaking-directly-to-middle-class-anger-cuomo-offers-something-for-everyone" target="_blank">began his six-stop tour in New York City</a> on Monday, January 9 and concluded it in Albany on Wednesday, January 11. He tailored each speech and presentation to the particular region, and, in total, his administration announced 37 often broad proposals, most with several sub-planks. For example, there are 10 points to the 35th proposal, which is restoring trust in government through sweeping ethics reform. The governor has a nearly 400-page policy book that he is delivering to the Legislature and has made public. <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2017StateoftheStateBook.pdf" target="_blank">The books</a> contains about 150 proposals in sum.</p> <p>Some of the proposals are region- or city-specific, many are for the entire state. Various elements will need approval from or compromise with the Legislature. Cuomo starts the year feuding with legislative leaders, especially Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat.</p> <p>After outlining his policy agenda for 2017, Cuomo must release his Executive Budget proposal for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, then negotiate with legislative leaders, particularly Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, will also be heavily involved in negotiations -- the IDC is again forming a coalition with Senate Republicans. A new state budget is due by April 1.</p> <p>A cheat-sheet to Cuomo's State of the State proposals:</p> <p>1. Tuition-free public college for middle-class students:<br />-Ultimately tuition will be free for families/individuals earning less than $125,000 per year<br />-This program will be phased in over three years--it’ll be for people and families earning less than $100,000 in Fall 2017, going to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019<br />-The program, the Excelsior Scholarship, was unveiled by Cuomo with Senator&nbsp;Bernie Sanders<br /><a href="https://www.ny.gov/programs/tuition-free-degree-program-excelsior-scholarship" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>2. Transforming Kennedy Airport:<br />-It would involve improving roadways around the Airport to reduce congestion<br />-He would also either, 1. Increase the capacity of the AirTrain, or 2. Have a 1-seat ride from Manhattan to JFK<br />-Cuomo also wants to connect all the terminals at JFK<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-2nd-proposal-2017-state-sta%20te-transforming-jfk-international-airport" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>3. Expanded Child Care Tax Creidt:<br />-Child care tax benefits would increase for those making at least $50,000 a year but less than $150,000 a year<br />-Those earning between $60,000 a year and $150,000 a year will see their benefits more than double under this plan<br />-Over 200,000 taxpayers affected<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-3rd-proposal-2017-state-state-making-child-care-more-affordable-middle" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>4. Protecting New Yorkers from Cyber Attacks:<br />-Cuomo proposes strengthening cybercrime and identity theft laws<br />-Cuomo wants to “establish a Cyber Incident Response Team within the office of Counter Terrorism.”<br />-This team “will serve as a go-to resource for non-Executive agencies, local governments, and public authorities in how to better protect their information technology assets, critical operating systems and data from cyber-attacks, malware and ransomware.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-4th-proposal-2017%20-state-state-protecting-new-yorkers-cyber-attacks" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>5. Protecting Seniors from Financial Exploitation and Foreclosure<br />-Establish “an Elder Abuse Certification Program for banks located in New York State, amending the banking law to empower banks to place holds on potentially fraudulent transactions, and strengthening legislation that will protect senior homeowners with reverse mortgages.”<br />-Several measures to further protect seniors from financial exploitation<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-5th-proposal-2017-state-state-comprehensive-plan-protect-seniors" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>6. Banning Bad Actors from the Financial Services Industry for Egregious Conduct<br />-This proposal would “empower the state Superintendent of Financial Services to ban certain bad actors from the banking and insurance industries for misconduct like that seen in the Wells Fargo scandal.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-6th-proposal-2017-state-state-banning-bad-actors-financial-services" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>7. Further Strengthen New York’s Efforts to Crack Down on Wage Theft<br />-“[A]mend State law to hold the top 10 members of out-of-state limited liability companies personally financially liable for unsatisfied judgments for unpaid wages.”<br />-Such laws apply to in-state Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) but not out-of-state LLCs.<br />-“Further, the Governor will advance legislation to empower the Labor Commissioner to directly enforce all wage liabilities on behalf of workers with unpaid wage claims. Combined, these measures will get more money back into the hands of the hardworking New Yorkers who earned it.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-7th-proposal-2017-state-state-further-strengthening-new-yorks-efforts" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>8. Install Over 500 New Charging Stations to Promote Electric Vehicle Use<br />-500 new workplace charging stations<br />-69 charging stations along the New York State Thruway<br />-Encourage electric motor vehicle use and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-8th-proposal-2017-state-state-install-over-500-new-charging-stations" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>9. Modernizing Voting in New York to Increase Participation in the Democratic System<br />-“[A]llow early voting, and adopt both automatic voter registration and same day voter registration.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-9th-proposal-2017-state-state-modernizing-voting-new-york-increase" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>10. Close Indian Point power plant by 2021<br />-Unit 2 Reactor to close April 2020 and Unit 3 Reactor April 2021<br />-End use of a plant with numerous safety violations<br />-“Current Indian Point Employees will be Offered relocation and opportunities with other plants and utilities within the state; training in renewable technologies"<br />-“Entergy will provide $15 million in funding for environmental and community benefits"<br />-Cuomo is working on replacement resources so that there can be no cost increases in electricity after Indian Point closes<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-10th-proposal-2017-state-state-closure-indian-point-nuclear-power" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>11. Invest $650 Million to Fuel the Growth of a World-Class Life Sciences Cluster in New York<br />-$250 million for tax incentives for life science companies<br />-$200 million for “state capital grants to support investment in wet-lab and innovation space”<br />-$100 million for “investment capital for early stage life science initiatives”<br />-At least $100 million for “operating support from private sector partnerships”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-11th-proposal-2017-state-state-investing-650-million-fuel-growth-world" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>12. Launch the “New York Promise” Agenda to Advance Social Justice and Affirm New York’s Progressive Values<br />-Reforms of the Criminal Justice System including “overhauling New York’s antiquated bail system, ensuring access to a speedy trial, raising the age of criminal responsibility, improving witness identification procedures, recording police interrogations for serious offenses, and extending the Hurrell-Harring settlement reforms statewide.”<br />-Signed two executive orders to make it more likely for people to get equal pay for equal work.<br />-Help immigrants by “implementing the Empire State Immigrant Defense Project; expanding the naturalization services offered at the state’s Office of New Americans;&nbsp;pressing for passage of the DREAM Act; and convening the New York State Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrants to make recommendations that support the integration and success of immigrants and their families.”<br />-Establish a Statewide Hate Crimes Task Force<br />-Form an Interfaith Advisory Council led by Cardinal Dolan to “help achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of all religions and cultures, promote open-mindedness and inclusivity, and bolster the state’s efforts to protect all New Yorkers.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-12th-proposal-2017-state-state-agenda-launching-new-york-promise-agenda" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>13. Expand After-School Education to Children in High-Need Areas Across the State<br />-$35 million pilot program<br />-“[C]reate 22,000 new after-school slots in high-need areas across the state.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-13th-proposal-2017-state-state-expand-after-school-education-children" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>14. Lower Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Cap by 30 Percent Between 2020 and 2030<br />-Cuomo “has called upon RGGI states to join New York in an effort to continue to lead the fight against climate change and drive the nation’s transition toward a clean energy economy.” (RGGI = Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative)<br />-Lowers greenhouse gas emissions in New York and other states<br />-“By reviewing the RGGI program and adjusting the cap to reflect the progress made in just a few short years, New York and neighboring states will continue to reduce emissions annually after 2020 and ensure that power sector emission reductions continue through 2030.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-14th-proposal-2017-state-state-lower-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>15. Regional Investments to Move New York City Forward<br />-Investments in New York City’s outer boroughs<br />-$50 million investment in the Montefiore Health System<br />-Transform health and wellness in Brooklyn through measures such as affordable housing with “features such as exercise rooms, rooftop gardens, and health clinics,” the expansion of New York’s Land Bank Program, and the establishment of “Brooklyn as a primary location for the FreshConnect Mobile Markets and FreshConnect Checks program expansion to increase access to healthy foods in the area.”<br />-Permanent toll reductions at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge for Staten Island residents<br />-$10 million for upgrading the Orchard Beach Pavilion in Pelham Bay Park<br />-$108 million for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx<br />-“[I]ncorporate the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities into CUNY”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-15th-proposal-2017-state-state-regional-investments-move-new-york-city" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>16. $500 Million Buffalo Billion Phase II ("Buffalo Billion squared")<br />-“[E]xpansion of the Buffalo Billion initiative to continue building on the renewed economic engines and reinvigorated civic spirit throughout Buffalo and the entire Western New York region.”<br />-“[I]mplement revitalization and smart growth efforts; improve workforce development and job training; grow advanced manufacturing, tourism and life sciences; and connect communities and economic progress through rail expansion.”<br />-“[D]evelop a new commuter rail and multi-modal station in downtown Buffalo and completing Buffalo’s light rail extension to University at Buffalo’s North Campus will provide 20,000+ students access to downtown Buffalo and the waterfront, as well as connect urban job seekers with suburban employment centers, helping Buffalo to deliver economic inclusion for all the region’s workers.”<br />-A Buffalo Blueway, which would “create a network of expanded public access points to waterways and historic, cultural and natural assets to spur revitalization and tourism in the Buffalo/Niagara Region.”<br />-Investment at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus<br />-Doubles down on program with widespread alleged corruption involving Cuomo aides, associates, and donors<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-16th-proposal-2017-state-state-500-million-buffalo-billion-phase-ii" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>17. Invest $2 Billion in Clean Water Infrastructure and Water Quality Protection<br />-“[I]nvestment in drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure and source water protection.”<br />-“Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.”<br />-Drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgraded<br />-Advanced treatment installed for both drinking water and wastewater, and advanced filtration systems installed for drinking water<br />-Green infrastructure and open spaces built for source water protection<br />-“[E]nsuring proper management and storage of common contaminants like manure and road salt to prevent runoff; and increasing the state Superfund to expedite the cleanup of hazardous waste that may impact sources of drinking water.”<br />-Follows (ongoing) water quality crisis in Hoosick Falls and questions about water quality in other places in New York<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-17th-proposal-2017-state-state-invest-2-billion-clean-water" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>18. Enable Access to Ride-hailing Apps Throughout New York<br />-Ride-hailing apps are legal and regulated in New York City but not in the rest of the state<br />-Legalize and regulate throughout the state<br />-Create regulatory framework including zero-tolerance policy with drugs and alcohol, DMV licensing and regulating of ridesharing companies, consumer protections for users, and more<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-18th-proposal-2017-state-state-enabling-access-ridesharing-throughout" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>19. New $10 Million Photonics Venture Challenge in Rochester<br />-“This business competition will aim to support start-up companies that commercialize these rapidly developing technologies through a business accelerator program and a top award of $1 million to the most promising start-up company.”<br />-“[M]odeled after Western New York’s 43North, a $5 million start-up competition funded by Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative where cash prizes are awarded to some of the best entrepreneurs and start-ups from around the world.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-19th-proposal-2017-state-state-new-10-million-photonics-venture" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>20. Complete the Empire State Trail by 2020<br />-“The state will develop 350 miles of new trail in three phases to create a 750-mile pathway for hiking and biking along scenic vistas and through charming, historic communities.”<br />-“The Empire State Trail will span much of the state, from the New York Harbor up through the Adirondack Mountains to the Canadian border – and from the shores of Lake Erie along the historic Erie Canal to the heart of the Capital Region.”<br />-Gaps closed in the Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway, as well as connect the two trails<br />-When complete, “the largest state multi-use trail in the nation.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-20th-proposal-2017-state-state-complete-empire-state-trail-2020" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>21. Build the Town of Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub<br />-“[E]xpand the Route 32 corridor, replace the Route 32 bridge over Route 17, reconfigure the ramp leading to the New York State Thruway, and add a solar-powered bus station and a commuter parking lot and an interconnected traffic system to improve access and allow for increased commercial activity.” (Orange County)<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-21st-proposal-2017-state-state-build-town-woodbury-transit-and-economic" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>22. Extend the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards<br />-Honor 60 additional teachers<br />-“Winners will receive an honor from the Governor, the opportunity to advise education policy makers, and a stipend of $5,000.”<br />-“The funds can be used for continued learning and professional endeavors.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-22nd-proposal-2017-state-state-extend-empire-state-excellence-teaching" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>23. Empower Voters to Reduce Property Taxes and Costs of Local Government<br />-This plan “requires county officials to develop localized plans that find real, recurring property tax savings”<br />-Cost-saving plans would be up for voter referendum in the November 2017 elections<br />-“If the plan is not approved by a majority of voters, the county government must prepare a new plan for approval in November 2018.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-23rd-proposal-2017-state-state-empower-voters-reduce-property-taxes-and" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>24. $160 Million to Transform Long Island<br />-$80 million for improvements at 16 LIRR Stations<br />-$40 million will “support economic growth, environmental sustainability and water quality in business districts in Smithtown and Kings Park.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-24th-proposal-2017-state-state-160-million-transform-long-island" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>25. Nation's Largest Offshore Wind Energy Project Off Long Island Coast and Unprecedented Commitment to Develop up to 2.4 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Power by 2030<br />-Long Island Power Authority to approve of a wind project 30 miles southeast of Montauk, for&nbsp;90 megawatts of power<br />-“[A]n unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough power generation for 1.25 million homes and the largest commitment in U.S. history.”<br />-“[C]alls on state agencies to ensure a 79,000 acre lease area capable of siting approximately 800 megawatts of offshore wind off of the Rockaway Peninsula is developed cost-effectively and responsibly to customers.”<br />-Help New York reach its goal of 50% of energy needs met by renewable sources by 2030<br />-“[T]he Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to undertake a comprehensive study to determine the most rapid, cost-effective, and responsible pathway to reach 100 percent renewable energy statewide.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-25th-proposal-2017-state-state-nations-largest-offshore-wind-energy" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>26. Actions to Combat the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic in New York<br />-"[E]liminate insurance prior authorization for inpatient treatment to include outpatient treatment.”<br />-“[T]en 24/7 urgent access centers with crisis intervention on-call services, one in each region of the state.”<br />-“[R]equire emergency department prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry to combat “Doctor Shopping"<br />-"[L]egislation to create New York’s first recovery high schools in regions of the State hit especially by the disease of addiction.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-26th-proposal-2017-state-state-sweeping-comprehensive-actions-combat" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>27. "Buy American" Plan will Implement the Nation's Strongest State Procurement Laws Mandating the Preference of American Products<br />-"[A]ll state entities will be required to give preference to American-made goods and products in any new procurements more than $100,000.”<br />-Other states have “buy American incentives” and New York is missing out on the opportunity to incentivize people to buy American<br />-“To qualify as “American-made” under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, end manufacturing processes should take place in the United States and more than sixty percent of the components of the manufactured good should be of domestic origin.” There are a few exceptions to this requirement, though.<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-27th-proposal-2017-state-state-buy-american-plan-will-implement-nations" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>28. Saab to Establish North American Headquarters for Defense and Security Division in New York State<br />-Saab is in military defense and civil security, and&nbsp;will invest $55 million to relocate to New York State.<br />-Saab plans “strongly align with the region’s “CNY Rising” Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) plan.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-28th-proposal-2017-state-state-saab-establish-north-american" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>29. New Independent Study of All Possible Options to Replace I-81 Viaduct in Central New York<br />-This viaduct is in Syracuse and&nbsp;is in need of a replacement<br />-“The New York State Department of Transportation will engage an independent expert with international tunnel expertise to conduct the study.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-29th-proposal-2017-state-state-state-will-undertake-new-independent" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>30. $45 Million Revitalization of Syracuse Hancock International Airport<br />-“[W]ide-scale redesign of the grand hall, food, beverage and retail concessions, and the exterior façade. In addition, a new Regional Aviation History Museum, glass pedestrian bridge, and eco-friendly roof will be built along with new flooring and furniture to provide a welcoming atmosphere for travelers from across the world.”<br />-Expected to create 850 construction jobs<br />-Additional funding will come from the airport, county, and federal government; with estimated completion date in 2019<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-30th-proposal-2017-state-state-45-million-revitalization-syracuse" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>31. Foster the Industrial Hemp Industry in New York State<br />-“[T]he Governor has proposed to amend legislation to further grow the industry and authorize farmers to work with the state to conduct hemp research as an agricultural commodity.”<br />-“[T]he Governor will host the first-ever Industrial Hemp Summit in the Southern Tier”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-31st-proposal-2017-state-state-foster-industrial-hemp-industry-new-york" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>32. $38 Million Revitalization of Plattsburgh International Airport<br />-Modernize the airport, including&nbsp;“the construction of a new air cargo receiving and distribution center.” This “will allow existing manufacturers to transport their own materials, create jobs, and attract new companies to the region.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-32nd-proposal-2017-state-state-38-million-revitalization-plattsburgh" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>33. Protect New Yorkers from Soaring Prescription Drug Prices<br />-Three-pronged plan. One, to “effectively create a price ceiling for certain high cost prescription drugs reimbursed under the Medicaid program by requiring a 100 percent supplemental rebate for any amount that exceeds a benchmark price recommended by the state's Drug Utilization Review Board.”<br />-Two, to have “a surcharge on any amount by which the price of these high-priced drugs exceeds the benchmark recommended by the Drug Utilization Review Board in the Medicaid context, when these drugs are sold into the state.”<br />-Three, to have Pharmacy Benefit Managers register with the State, “and be subject to new regulations requiring disclosure of financial incentives or benefits for promoting the use of certain drugs, as well as other financial arrangements affecting customers.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-33rd-proposal-2017-state-state-protect-new-yorkers-soaring-prescription" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>34. Launch the Empire Star Public Service Award to Recognize the Meaningful Contributions of Public Employees<br />-Award will go to those who “go beyond simply what is routinely asked of them and display an admirable level of dedication and pride in their work.”<br />-“Individuals or teams will be nominated by their fellow state employees via the Empire Star Public Service Award website and an Awards Selection Committee will review all nominations and recommend winners to the Governor.”<br />-Winners get a $5,000 scholarship for professional development.<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-34th-proposal-2017-state-state-launching-empire-star-public-service" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>35. Restoring the Integrity and Accountability of State Government Through Comprehensive Ethics Reform<br />-Ten-point plan: limiting outside income and having a full-time Legislature (imposed through constitutional amendment), term limits (imposed through constitutional amendment), “requiring members of the Legislature to obtain an advisory opinion before earning outside income,” closing the so-called LLC Loophole and other campaign finance reforms including a public-financing system, “subjecting local elected officials to financial disclosure requirements,” reform to the state’s Freedom of Information Law, “expanding the State Inspector General's authority to SUNY and CUNY not-for-profits,” “new Inspectors General for the Port Authority and the State Education Department,” and “ensuring greater oversight of the state's procurement process.”<br />-Governor Cuomo: “State government must do more to restore the public trust because as public servants we earn the trust of the people we serve. Unfortunately, in Albany there have been a series of breaches of that trust. We must take action to show the people of this state that we get it, and that when someone does something wrong, they are punished to the full extent of the law and we have a system that is going to catch them. We have been doing historic work at the state level – the government is doing more than ever before – but imagine what we could do if we had the complete confidence of the people. If we had that confidence, there is nothing we couldn’t do – and I am not going to stop until I get there.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-35th-proposal-2017-state-state-restoring-integrity-and-accountability" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>36. Grow New York's 21st Century Workforce and Advance the Tech Economy<br />-Ideas including establishing a Tech Workforce Training Fund; starting the the New York Tech Workforce Development Task Force; starting more Early College High Schools, which would “provide high-performing, at-risk students the opportunity to receive hands-on training, a free associate’s degree and first-in-line job opportunities upon graduating; expanding the Master Teacher Program so that more teachers are trained in computer science; and establish what Cuomo calls a “tech workforce training fund.”<br />-Launch the New York Tech Workforce Task Force, “a body of industry experts, academic leaders, and state officials who will inform New York’s K-12, college, workforce and economic development investments and ensure their continued alignment with 21st century workforce demands.”<br />-A tax credit for incumbent worker training.<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-36th-proposal-2017-state-state-growing-new-yorks-21st-century" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>37. Encourage Recent College Graduates to Become First-Time Homeowners in Upstate Communities<br />-“Graduate to Homeownership” program would help recent college grads with homebuyer assistance to purchase homes upstate so that college grads can remain upstate.<br />-According to the Governor, “This $5 million pilot program will incentivize homeownership with subsidized low interest loans, down payment assistance and homebuyer education courses to encourage young people to stay and continue revitalizing Upstate New York’s downtown areas.”<br />-This is an initial pilot program of $5 million aimed at keeping upstate students in their home or school communities and reversing population and job losses.<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-37th-proposal-2017-state-state-encourage-recent-college-graduates" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2017StateoftheStateBook.pdf" target="_blank">Governor Cuomo's full 2017 State of the State policy book</a></p> <p>***<br />by Brendan Birth and Ben Max</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/31860185600_f6c8b43690_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State image presser" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>Breaking with decades of tradition, Governor Andrew Cuomo decided this year to deliver a series of State of the State addresses, making six speeches over three days to outline his 2017 agenda and tout some of his accomplishments during his first six years as governor.</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6705-speaking-directly-to-middle-class-anger-cuomo-offers-something-for-everyone" target="_blank">began his six-stop tour in New York City</a> on Monday, January 9 and concluded it in Albany on Wednesday, January 11. He tailored each speech and presentation to the particular region, and, in total, his administration announced 37 often broad proposals, most with several sub-planks. For example, there are 10 points to the 35th proposal, which is restoring trust in government through sweeping ethics reform. The governor has a nearly 400-page policy book that he is delivering to the Legislature and has made public. <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2017StateoftheStateBook.pdf" target="_blank">The books</a> contains about 150 proposals in sum.</p> <p>Some of the proposals are region- or city-specific, many are for the entire state. Various elements will need approval from or compromise with the Legislature. Cuomo starts the year feuding with legislative leaders, especially Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat.</p> <p>After outlining his policy agenda for 2017, Cuomo must release his Executive Budget proposal for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, then negotiate with legislative leaders, particularly Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, will also be heavily involved in negotiations -- the IDC is again forming a coalition with Senate Republicans. A new state budget is due by April 1.</p> <p>A cheat-sheet to Cuomo's State of the State proposals:</p> <p>1. Tuition-free public college for middle-class students:<br />-Ultimately tuition will be free for families/individuals earning less than $125,000 per year<br />-This program will be phased in over three years--it’ll be for people and families earning less than $100,000 in Fall 2017, going to $110,000 in 2018 and $125,000 in 2019<br />-The program, the Excelsior Scholarship, was unveiled by Cuomo with Senator&nbsp;Bernie Sanders<br /><a href="https://www.ny.gov/programs/tuition-free-degree-program-excelsior-scholarship" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>2. Transforming Kennedy Airport:<br />-It would involve improving roadways around the Airport to reduce congestion<br />-He would also either, 1. Increase the capacity of the AirTrain, or 2. Have a 1-seat ride from Manhattan to JFK<br />-Cuomo also wants to connect all the terminals at JFK<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-2nd-proposal-2017-state-sta%20te-transforming-jfk-international-airport" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>3. Expanded Child Care Tax Creidt:<br />-Child care tax benefits would increase for those making at least $50,000 a year but less than $150,000 a year<br />-Those earning between $60,000 a year and $150,000 a year will see their benefits more than double under this plan<br />-Over 200,000 taxpayers affected<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-3rd-proposal-2017-state-state-making-child-care-more-affordable-middle" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>4. Protecting New Yorkers from Cyber Attacks:<br />-Cuomo proposes strengthening cybercrime and identity theft laws<br />-Cuomo wants to “establish a Cyber Incident Response Team within the office of Counter Terrorism.”<br />-This team “will serve as a go-to resource for non-Executive agencies, local governments, and public authorities in how to better protect their information technology assets, critical operating systems and data from cyber-attacks, malware and ransomware.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-4th-proposal-2017%20-state-state-protecting-new-yorkers-cyber-attacks" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>5. Protecting Seniors from Financial Exploitation and Foreclosure<br />-Establish “an Elder Abuse Certification Program for banks located in New York State, amending the banking law to empower banks to place holds on potentially fraudulent transactions, and strengthening legislation that will protect senior homeowners with reverse mortgages.”<br />-Several measures to further protect seniors from financial exploitation<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-5th-proposal-2017-state-state-comprehensive-plan-protect-seniors" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>6. Banning Bad Actors from the Financial Services Industry for Egregious Conduct<br />-This proposal would “empower the state Superintendent of Financial Services to ban certain bad actors from the banking and insurance industries for misconduct like that seen in the Wells Fargo scandal.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-6th-proposal-2017-state-state-banning-bad-actors-financial-services" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>7. Further Strengthen New York’s Efforts to Crack Down on Wage Theft<br />-“[A]mend State law to hold the top 10 members of out-of-state limited liability companies personally financially liable for unsatisfied judgments for unpaid wages.”<br />-Such laws apply to in-state Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) but not out-of-state LLCs.<br />-“Further, the Governor will advance legislation to empower the Labor Commissioner to directly enforce all wage liabilities on behalf of workers with unpaid wage claims. Combined, these measures will get more money back into the hands of the hardworking New Yorkers who earned it.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-7th-proposal-2017-state-state-further-strengthening-new-yorks-efforts" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>8. Install Over 500 New Charging Stations to Promote Electric Vehicle Use<br />-500 new workplace charging stations<br />-69 charging stations along the New York State Thruway<br />-Encourage electric motor vehicle use and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-8th-proposal-2017-state-state-install-over-500-new-charging-stations" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>9. Modernizing Voting in New York to Increase Participation in the Democratic System<br />-“[A]llow early voting, and adopt both automatic voter registration and same day voter registration.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-9th-proposal-2017-state-state-modernizing-voting-new-york-increase" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>10. Close Indian Point power plant by 2021<br />-Unit 2 Reactor to close April 2020 and Unit 3 Reactor April 2021<br />-End use of a plant with numerous safety violations<br />-“Current Indian Point Employees will be Offered relocation and opportunities with other plants and utilities within the state; training in renewable technologies"<br />-“Entergy will provide $15 million in funding for environmental and community benefits"<br />-Cuomo is working on replacement resources so that there can be no cost increases in electricity after Indian Point closes<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-10th-proposal-2017-state-state-closure-indian-point-nuclear-power" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>11. Invest $650 Million to Fuel the Growth of a World-Class Life Sciences Cluster in New York<br />-$250 million for tax incentives for life science companies<br />-$200 million for “state capital grants to support investment in wet-lab and innovation space”<br />-$100 million for “investment capital for early stage life science initiatives”<br />-At least $100 million for “operating support from private sector partnerships”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-11th-proposal-2017-state-state-investing-650-million-fuel-growth-world" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>12. Launch the “New York Promise” Agenda to Advance Social Justice and Affirm New York’s Progressive Values<br />-Reforms of the Criminal Justice System including “overhauling New York’s antiquated bail system, ensuring access to a speedy trial, raising the age of criminal responsibility, improving witness identification procedures, recording police interrogations for serious offenses, and extending the Hurrell-Harring settlement reforms statewide.”<br />-Signed two executive orders to make it more likely for people to get equal pay for equal work.<br />-Help immigrants by “implementing the Empire State Immigrant Defense Project; expanding the naturalization services offered at the state’s Office of New Americans;&nbsp;pressing for passage of the DREAM Act; and convening the New York State Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrants to make recommendations that support the integration and success of immigrants and their families.”<br />-Establish a Statewide Hate Crimes Task Force<br />-Form an Interfaith Advisory Council led by Cardinal Dolan to “help achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of all religions and cultures, promote open-mindedness and inclusivity, and bolster the state’s efforts to protect all New Yorkers.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-12th-proposal-2017-state-state-agenda-launching-new-york-promise-agenda" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>13. Expand After-School Education to Children in High-Need Areas Across the State<br />-$35 million pilot program<br />-“[C]reate 22,000 new after-school slots in high-need areas across the state.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-13th-proposal-2017-state-state-expand-after-school-education-children" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>14. Lower Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Cap by 30 Percent Between 2020 and 2030<br />-Cuomo “has called upon RGGI states to join New York in an effort to continue to lead the fight against climate change and drive the nation’s transition toward a clean energy economy.” (RGGI = Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative)<br />-Lowers greenhouse gas emissions in New York and other states<br />-“By reviewing the RGGI program and adjusting the cap to reflect the progress made in just a few short years, New York and neighboring states will continue to reduce emissions annually after 2020 and ensure that power sector emission reductions continue through 2030.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-14th-proposal-2017-state-state-lower-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>15. Regional Investments to Move New York City Forward<br />-Investments in New York City’s outer boroughs<br />-$50 million investment in the Montefiore Health System<br />-Transform health and wellness in Brooklyn through measures such as affordable housing with “features such as exercise rooms, rooftop gardens, and health clinics,” the expansion of New York’s Land Bank Program, and the establishment of “Brooklyn as a primary location for the FreshConnect Mobile Markets and FreshConnect Checks program expansion to increase access to healthy foods in the area.”<br />-Permanent toll reductions at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge for Staten Island residents<br />-$10 million for upgrading the Orchard Beach Pavilion in Pelham Bay Park<br />-$108 million for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx<br />-“[I]ncorporate the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities into CUNY”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-15th-proposal-2017-state-state-regional-investments-move-new-york-city" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>16. $500 Million Buffalo Billion Phase II ("Buffalo Billion squared")<br />-“[E]xpansion of the Buffalo Billion initiative to continue building on the renewed economic engines and reinvigorated civic spirit throughout Buffalo and the entire Western New York region.”<br />-“[I]mplement revitalization and smart growth efforts; improve workforce development and job training; grow advanced manufacturing, tourism and life sciences; and connect communities and economic progress through rail expansion.”<br />-“[D]evelop a new commuter rail and multi-modal station in downtown Buffalo and completing Buffalo’s light rail extension to University at Buffalo’s North Campus will provide 20,000+ students access to downtown Buffalo and the waterfront, as well as connect urban job seekers with suburban employment centers, helping Buffalo to deliver economic inclusion for all the region’s workers.”<br />-A Buffalo Blueway, which would “create a network of expanded public access points to waterways and historic, cultural and natural assets to spur revitalization and tourism in the Buffalo/Niagara Region.”<br />-Investment at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus<br />-Doubles down on program with widespread alleged corruption involving Cuomo aides, associates, and donors<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-16th-proposal-2017-state-state-500-million-buffalo-billion-phase-ii" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>17. Invest $2 Billion in Clean Water Infrastructure and Water Quality Protection<br />-“[I]nvestment in drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure and source water protection.”<br />-“Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.”<br />-Drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgraded<br />-Advanced treatment installed for both drinking water and wastewater, and advanced filtration systems installed for drinking water<br />-Green infrastructure and open spaces built for source water protection<br />-“[E]nsuring proper management and storage of common contaminants like manure and road salt to prevent runoff; and increasing the state Superfund to expedite the cleanup of hazardous waste that may impact sources of drinking water.”<br />-Follows (ongoing) water quality crisis in Hoosick Falls and questions about water quality in other places in New York<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-17th-proposal-2017-state-state-invest-2-billion-clean-water" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>18. Enable Access to Ride-hailing Apps Throughout New York<br />-Ride-hailing apps are legal and regulated in New York City but not in the rest of the state<br />-Legalize and regulate throughout the state<br />-Create regulatory framework including zero-tolerance policy with drugs and alcohol, DMV licensing and regulating of ridesharing companies, consumer protections for users, and more<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-18th-proposal-2017-state-state-enabling-access-ridesharing-throughout" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>19. New $10 Million Photonics Venture Challenge in Rochester<br />-“This business competition will aim to support start-up companies that commercialize these rapidly developing technologies through a business accelerator program and a top award of $1 million to the most promising start-up company.”<br />-“[M]odeled after Western New York’s 43North, a $5 million start-up competition funded by Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative where cash prizes are awarded to some of the best entrepreneurs and start-ups from around the world.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-19th-proposal-2017-state-state-new-10-million-photonics-venture" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>20. Complete the Empire State Trail by 2020<br />-“The state will develop 350 miles of new trail in three phases to create a 750-mile pathway for hiking and biking along scenic vistas and through charming, historic communities.”<br />-“The Empire State Trail will span much of the state, from the New York Harbor up through the Adirondack Mountains to the Canadian border – and from the shores of Lake Erie along the historic Erie Canal to the heart of the Capital Region.”<br />-Gaps closed in the Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway, as well as connect the two trails<br />-When complete, “the largest state multi-use trail in the nation.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-20th-proposal-2017-state-state-complete-empire-state-trail-2020" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>21. Build the Town of Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub<br />-“[E]xpand the Route 32 corridor, replace the Route 32 bridge over Route 17, reconfigure the ramp leading to the New York State Thruway, and add a solar-powered bus station and a commuter parking lot and an interconnected traffic system to improve access and allow for increased commercial activity.” (Orange County)<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-21st-proposal-2017-state-state-build-town-woodbury-transit-and-economic" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>22. Extend the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards<br />-Honor 60 additional teachers<br />-“Winners will receive an honor from the Governor, the opportunity to advise education policy makers, and a stipend of $5,000.”<br />-“The funds can be used for continued learning and professional endeavors.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-22nd-proposal-2017-state-state-extend-empire-state-excellence-teaching" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>23. Empower Voters to Reduce Property Taxes and Costs of Local Government<br />-This plan “requires county officials to develop localized plans that find real, recurring property tax savings”<br />-Cost-saving plans would be up for voter referendum in the November 2017 elections<br />-“If the plan is not approved by a majority of voters, the county government must prepare a new plan for approval in November 2018.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-23rd-proposal-2017-state-state-empower-voters-reduce-property-taxes-and" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>24. $160 Million to Transform Long Island<br />-$80 million for improvements at 16 LIRR Stations<br />-$40 million will “support economic growth, environmental sustainability and water quality in business districts in Smithtown and Kings Park.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-24th-proposal-2017-state-state-160-million-transform-long-island" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>25. Nation's Largest Offshore Wind Energy Project Off Long Island Coast and Unprecedented Commitment to Develop up to 2.4 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Power by 2030<br />-Long Island Power Authority to approve of a wind project 30 miles southeast of Montauk, for&nbsp;90 megawatts of power<br />-“[A]n unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough power generation for 1.25 million homes and the largest commitment in U.S. history.”<br />-“[C]alls on state agencies to ensure a 79,000 acre lease area capable of siting approximately 800 megawatts of offshore wind off of the Rockaway Peninsula is developed cost-effectively and responsibly to customers.”<br />-Help New York reach its goal of 50% of energy needs met by renewable sources by 2030<br />-“[T]he Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to undertake a comprehensive study to determine the most rapid, cost-effective, and responsible pathway to reach 100 percent renewable energy statewide.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-25th-proposal-2017-state-state-nations-largest-offshore-wind-energy" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>26. Actions to Combat the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic in New York<br />-"[E]liminate insurance prior authorization for inpatient treatment to include outpatient treatment.”<br />-“[T]en 24/7 urgent access centers with crisis intervention on-call services, one in each region of the state.”<br />-“[R]equire emergency department prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry to combat “Doctor Shopping"<br />-"[L]egislation to create New York’s first recovery high schools in regions of the State hit especially by the disease of addiction.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-26th-proposal-2017-state-state-sweeping-comprehensive-actions-combat" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>27. "Buy American" Plan will Implement the Nation's Strongest State Procurement Laws Mandating the Preference of American Products<br />-"[A]ll state entities will be required to give preference to American-made goods and products in any new procurements more than $100,000.”<br />-Other states have “buy American incentives” and New York is missing out on the opportunity to incentivize people to buy American<br />-“To qualify as “American-made” under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, end manufacturing processes should take place in the United States and more than sixty percent of the components of the manufactured good should be of domestic origin.” There are a few exceptions to this requirement, though.<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-27th-proposal-2017-state-state-buy-american-plan-will-implement-nations" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>28. Saab to Establish North American Headquarters for Defense and Security Division in New York State<br />-Saab is in military defense and civil security, and&nbsp;will invest $55 million to relocate to New York State.<br />-Saab plans “strongly align with the region’s “CNY Rising” Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) plan.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-28th-proposal-2017-state-state-saab-establish-north-american" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>29. New Independent Study of All Possible Options to Replace I-81 Viaduct in Central New York<br />-This viaduct is in Syracuse and&nbsp;is in need of a replacement<br />-“The New York State Department of Transportation will engage an independent expert with international tunnel expertise to conduct the study.”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-29th-proposal-2017-state-state-state-will-undertake-new-independent" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>30. $45 Million Revitalization of Syracuse Hancock International Airport<br />-“[W]ide-scale redesign of the grand hall, food, beverage and retail concessions, and the exterior façade. In addition, a new Regional Aviation History Museum, glass pedestrian bridge, and eco-friendly roof will be built along with new flooring and furniture to provide a welcoming atmosphere for travelers from across the world.”<br />-Expected to create 850 construction jobs<br />-Additional funding will come from the airport, county, and federal government; with estimated completion date in 2019<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-30th-proposal-2017-state-state-45-million-revitalization-syracuse" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>31. Foster the Industrial Hemp Industry in New York State<br />-“[T]he Governor has proposed to amend legislation to further grow the industry and authorize farmers to work with the state to conduct hemp research as an agricultural commodity.”<br />-“[T]he Governor will host the first-ever Industrial Hemp Summit in the Southern Tier”<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-31st-proposal-2017-state-state-foster-industrial-hemp-industry-new-york" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>32. $38 Million Revitalization of Plattsburgh International Airport<br />-Modernize the airport, including&nbsp;“the construction of a new air cargo receiving and distribution center.” This “will allow existing manufacturers to transport their own materials, create jobs, and attract new companies to the region.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-32nd-proposal-2017-state-state-38-million-revitalization-plattsburgh" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>33. Protect New Yorkers from Soaring Prescription Drug Prices<br />-Three-pronged plan. One, to “effectively create a price ceiling for certain high cost prescription drugs reimbursed under the Medicaid program by requiring a 100 percent supplemental rebate for any amount that exceeds a benchmark price recommended by the state's Drug Utilization Review Board.”<br />-Two, to have “a surcharge on any amount by which the price of these high-priced drugs exceeds the benchmark recommended by the Drug Utilization Review Board in the Medicaid context, when these drugs are sold into the state.”<br />-Three, to have Pharmacy Benefit Managers register with the State, “and be subject to new regulations requiring disclosure of financial incentives or benefits for promoting the use of certain drugs, as well as other financial arrangements affecting customers.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-33rd-proposal-2017-state-state-protect-new-yorkers-soaring-prescription" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>34. Launch the Empire Star Public Service Award to Recognize the Meaningful Contributions of Public Employees<br />-Award will go to those who “go beyond simply what is routinely asked of them and display an admirable level of dedication and pride in their work.”<br />-“Individuals or teams will be nominated by their fellow state employees via the Empire Star Public Service Award website and an Awards Selection Committee will review all nominations and recommend winners to the Governor.”<br />-Winners get a $5,000 scholarship for professional development.<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-presents-34th-proposal-2017-state-state-launching-empire-star-public-service" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>35. Restoring the Integrity and Accountability of State Government Through Comprehensive Ethics Reform<br />-Ten-point plan: limiting outside income and having a full-time Legislature (imposed through constitutional amendment), term limits (imposed through constitutional amendment), “requiring members of the Legislature to obtain an advisory opinion before earning outside income,” closing the so-called LLC Loophole and other campaign finance reforms including a public-financing system, “subjecting local elected officials to financial disclosure requirements,” reform to the state’s Freedom of Information Law, “expanding the State Inspector General's authority to SUNY and CUNY not-for-profits,” “new Inspectors General for the Port Authority and the State Education Department,” and “ensuring greater oversight of the state's procurement process.”<br />-Governor Cuomo: “State government must do more to restore the public trust because as public servants we earn the trust of the people we serve. Unfortunately, in Albany there have been a series of breaches of that trust. We must take action to show the people of this state that we get it, and that when someone does something wrong, they are punished to the full extent of the law and we have a system that is going to catch them. We have been doing historic work at the state level – the government is doing more than ever before – but imagine what we could do if we had the complete confidence of the people. If we had that confidence, there is nothing we couldn’t do – and I am not going to stop until I get there.”<br /><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-35th-proposal-2017-state-state-restoring-integrity-and-accountability" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>36. Grow New York's 21st Century Workforce and Advance the Tech Economy<br />-Ideas including establishing a Tech Workforce Training Fund; starting the the New York Tech Workforce Development Task Force; starting more Early College High Schools, which would “provide high-performing, at-risk students the opportunity to receive hands-on training, a free associate’s degree and first-in-line job opportunities upon graduating; expanding the Master Teacher Program so that more teachers are trained in computer science; and establish what Cuomo calls a “tech workforce training fund.”<br />-Launch the New York Tech Workforce Task Force, “a body of industry experts, academic leaders, and state officials who will inform New York’s K-12, college, workforce and economic development investments and ensure their continued alignment with 21st century workforce demands.”<br />-A tax credit for incumbent worker training.<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-36th-proposal-2017-state-state-growing-new-yorks-21st-century" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p>37. Encourage Recent College Graduates to Become First-Time Homeowners in Upstate Communities<br />-“Graduate to Homeownership” program would help recent college grads with homebuyer assistance to purchase homes upstate so that college grads can remain upstate.<br />-According to the Governor, “This $5 million pilot program will incentivize homeownership with subsidized low interest loans, down payment assistance and homebuyer education courses to encourage young people to stay and continue revitalizing Upstate New York’s downtown areas.”<br />-This is an initial pilot program of $5 million aimed at keeping upstate students in their home or school communities and reversing population and job losses.<br /><a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-37th-proposal-2017-state-state-encourage-recent-college-graduates" target="_blank">More</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2017StateoftheStateBook.pdf" target="_blank">Governor Cuomo's full 2017 State of the State policy book</a></p> <p>***<br />by Brendan Birth and Ben Max</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.</p>
Speaking Directly to 'Middle Class Anger,' Cuomo Offers Something for Everyone 2017-01-09T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6705:speaking-directly-to-middle-class-anger-cuomo-offers-something-for-everyone Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32063564532_94ea250b7c_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo SOTS NYC" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo delivers his NYC State of the State (photo: Cuomo's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Invoking a populist message of economic inclusiveness and social progress that faces dire threats from a changing national reality, Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off his 2017 State of the State tour on Monday morning in New York City.</p> <p>On the 64th floor of 1 World Trade Center, at the first of six planned events around the state, the governor spoke to a seated assembly of more than 100 people, including state and local elected officials and everyday New Yorkers, relaying an overall message that kept with his recent record but was also engineered as a response to the widespread “middle class anger” evident in the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>Titled “Excelsior, Ever Upward” after New York’s state motto, the governor’s State of the State was pegged largely as a stimulus for middle class economic improvement and opportunity, but had something for nearly everyone in the Greater New York City area.</p> <p>Cuomo pledged a child care tax credit, tuition-free public college for about 80 percent of New York households, more jobs through investment in the private sector and public-private partnership, support for the homeless and funding for affordable housing, all while New York will be vigilant, he said, protecting and promoting the state’s progressive social bonafides. The governor spoke of criminal justice reform and improving access to voting, expanding and improving mass transit, protecting a woman’s right to choose, and defending quality healthcare.</p> <p>Cuomo likened New York to a hardy ship sailing choppy waters, where economic development has been swift but the middle class feels left behind, where social progress has been significant but people’s rights now feel under attack.</p> <p>“The ship of state is doing very well and is stronger than it has been in decades,” Cuomo said. “But at the same time, the troubling reality is, the sea upon which our ship of state sails is as rough and tempest-tossed as it has been in over 50 years.”</p> <p>The state’s progress on women’s rights, climate change, affordable healthcare, and public education is being threatened, the governor said, in a reference to national developments since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Without mentioning President-elect Trump by name, Cuomo emphasized throughout his speech that progressive values and equitable economic growth are not mutually exclusive and that New York would continue to promote the state’s middle class while upholding its secular progressivism.</p> <p>He also indicated that there was a lot to learn from the results of the election and that New York would show the way. While Cuomo was outlining his 2017 agenda -- much of which will have to be negotiated with the state Legislature -- he also further positioned himself as a national Democratic leader, perhaps with an eye on the 2020 presidential race.</p> <p>“We all heard the roar on Election Day and we must respond,” he said, insisting that the state must follow two crucial paths -- acknowledging and addressing the issues faced by the middle class and preventing “misdirected anger from doing damage to our country’s core values.” In that vein, Cuomo announced the Middle Class Economic Recovery Act -- a set of proposals aimed at creating jobs and infrastructure, improving access to education, and lowering the tax burden for the middle class.</p> <p>Some of Cuomo’s proposals outlined Monday were new, some had been announced in the week leading up to his three-day, six-stop State of the State tour. The previously-proposed include a doubling of a child care tax credit that will benefit about 200,000 families and free college tuition at CUNY and SUNY for families making up to $125,000. On Monday, he announced a pilot program with 22,000 slots for afterschool mentoring and tutoring.</p> <p>These ideas led Cuomo to say, with clear reference to the presidential election, "I believe these measures will help alleviate the middle class anger. Properly focused, the energy generated by that anger, in a positive way, it can become a great force for reform. But misdirected anger can be destructive. It can scapegoat and it can demonize, it can spread fear of those who are different, and it can destroy the uniquely American values and progressive principles that are the foundation of this society."</p> <p>Cuomo also said the state would invest $650 million in the Life Sciences industry, partnering with industry giant Johnson &amp; Johnson to create a hub in New York City. This investment will create about 25,000 middle class jobs and between $3 billion and $4 billion in economic output for the state, according to the Partnership for New York City.</p> <p>The governor’s proposals elicited varying degrees of enthusiasm from many who applauded his ideas, some with skepticism around implementation, viability in the Legislature, or funding.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, who remains on cold terms with Cuomo, said Cuomo outlined some “promising” ideas, but said he cannot give a full assessment until he sees the governor’s Executive Budget, which is due out by January 17.</p> <p>At an unrelated press conference later in the day, de Blasio quickly said “No” when Gotham Gazette asked if the budget communication from Cuomo’s office has been to his liking, fitting an annual pattern. Last year, Cuomo surprised the mayor in Albany on the day of his combined State of the State and budget address with proposed cost-shifts to the city.</p> <p>"Because the speech for the first time was not accompanied by the budget, we don’t know yet the ramifications of everything that was being talked about in the speech,” de Blasio told reporters on Monday, “which is why I’ll express my praise for some of the things I heard but until we see the details, and particularly the budgetary details, we can't pass a final judgement. It was different...than what we heard at the State of the State last year, but we just have to be very sober about the fact that budget documents are really where the rubber hits the road and we gotta see that.”</p> <p>About Cuomo’s budget, de Blasio said, “I don’t know what it looks like because we haven’t been given anything.”</p> <p>“It doesn’t shock me,” the mayor added. “You know, at the last moment we will be told what the budget looks like and then we’ll be able to analyze what it means and I’ll be very straightforward with the people of New York City about what it means for all of us. But we haven’t been given any inkling yet.”</p> <p>On the other hand, Comptroller Scott Stringer, who was also in attendance for the speech, was full of praise for Cuomo. “Today [Governor Cuomo] made a very strong case for a vision for New York State and New York City,” Stringer said after the speech, “that I believe goes a long way to helping the struggling middle class, the poorest people among us.”</p> <p>As is customary in State of the State speeches, Cuomo spent some of his Monday morning address looking back at accomplishments, touting the socio-economic progress under his leadership, including the passage of marriage equality, paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage program, and common-sense gun control. He also spoke of a second path forward, alongside the Middle Class Economic Recovery Act, that includes protections for the state’s most vulnerable populations.</p> <p>Termed the “New York Promise Agenda,” the broad-based proposals include criminal justice reform, voting access, women’s rights protections, fighting homelessness, preventing faith-based discrimination, protecting the environment, and improving immigrants rights and access to education. Many of these proposals were obvious responses to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and the records of Trump’s proposed appointees.</p> <p>Cuomo sought, in his speech, to reassure New Yorkers that the state would do everything in its power to protect against the possible negative consequences of national policies under a Trump administration. For instance, pledging to protect the 2.7 million New Yorkers currently insured under the Affordable Care Act should it be repealed; announcing a public-private partnership to provide legal counsel to immigrants and recommitting to passing the DREAM Act to ensure that immigrants, often the target of President-elect Trump’s ire, have access to education; stressing unqualified support for a woman’s right to choose, which could be threatened if a conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade; and creating a dedicated hate crimes task force to combat the rise in faith-based discrimination and attacks since the presidential election.</p> <p>“We will not stop working until the bright light of opportunity shines on all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said, emphasizing also the need for economic equity in the educational system, racial and economic justice in the judicial system and voter empowerment in the electoral system. Some of the items in Cuomo’s Promise Agenda are reliant on the state Legislature, where Republicans who control the Senate have been unsupportive of the Dream Act, codifying Roe v. Wade into state law, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, and more that Cuomo has proposed.</p> <p>As Cuomo spoke from New York City, he mentioned the need to restore “trust in government,” but did not address government ethics, despite the facts that his administration has seen a major corruption scandal in the past year and that the state Legislature has continued to see a parade of indictments. According to a Cuomo spokesperson, the governor will outline his ethics agenda during his last State of the State speech, on Wednesday afternoon in Albany.</p> <p>While many of the governor’s proposals were known before he gave his address, unveiled over the last week in news conferences and press releases, among the new announcements were a number of New York City-specific initiatives, including several aimed at boosting each of the “outer boroughs.”</p> <p>The governor announced that the city would receive an unprecedented level of funding for education. He also pledged, among other borough-centric proposals, $108 million in state funding for the stalled redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx; $50 million for the Montefiore Health System; $10 million for the redevelopment of the Orchard Beach pavilion, permanently reduced Verrazano Bridge tolls for Staten Island residents; and investments in healthcare, nutrition and healthy food programs in Brooklyn. He also reiterated plans to upgrade JFK Airport in Queens and criticized Rikers Island jail complex, though he stopped short of calling for its closure.</p> <p>Crucially, the governor’s initial State of the State speech came more than a week before he is due to release his Executive Budget for the next fiscal year, which throws much uncertainty into the mix as to how he proposes to pay for his ambitious proposals and whether the budget will include any surprise announcements. The State of the State, or in this case the six State of the States, set the governor’s policy and spending priorities, and the tone for negotiations with the state Legislature. A fiscal year 2017-2018 budget is due by April 1.</p> <p>Last year, Cuomo attempted to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in CUNY and Medicaid costs to New York City. The move was beat back by de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx. The mayor has repeatedly indicated he is eagerly awaiting budget information from the Cuomo administration and is expecting surprises like last year.</p> <p>The governor on Monday also called on the state legislative leaders to sign a memorandum of understanding to release more of the $2 billion the parties set aside last year to create 100,000 units of affordable and supportive housing across the state, which would significantly benefit New York City, where de Blasio has been struggling to bring a homelessness crisis under control. Only a small portion of the money was released last year and advocates and providers have been protesting the governor calling on him to come to terms with Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to release the rest so that projects can move.</p> <p>The governor concluded his speech with a call for unity, recalling how New Yorkers, and Americans, came together in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. “When we are at our best, we don’t focus on disparity, we focus on commonality,” he said. “That’s what this is all about....It’s about pulling people together.”</p> <p>The governor will have to do just that if he hopes to pass those proposals which will require approval from the Legislature where he currently has no shortage of enemies. The two legislative leaders declined to attend any of the six State of the State events, expressing their displeasure at the governor for interfering in the work of an independent commission that would have given lawmakers pay raises for the first time in years and then leveraging ethics reform to consider a special legislative session in December. The Legislature was also due in session on Monday and Tuesday, making it hardly possible that any state lawmakers could attend the first four of Cuomo’s speeches.</p> <p>Legislators would need to stay in Albany an extra day to attend Cuomo’s Wednesday speech in the capital area.</p> <p>Cuomo’s initial speech and his state tour have gotten mixed reviews, sometimes along party lines. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a fellow Democrat and sometimes Cuomo rival who attended the New York City speech, gave initial positive feedback. “It was really more of a reaffirmation of the fundamental New York values that many people feel have been challenged by some of the statements of the president elect and the resumes of some of his nominees,” Schneiderman said. “This is a day for setting forth a vision. The battles over the specifics, the programs, whatever does come out of Washington await another day.”</p> <p>Outside the World Trade Center, state Republican Party Chair Ed Cox held court with reporters, criticizing the governor as he had promised to do at each State of the State event. “He’s running from the Legislature,” Cox said of Cuomo’s decision to tour the state. “He can’t face criticism.”</p> <p>Cox did have minor qualified praise for the governor’s presentation. “There’s some good things -- I think tuition relief is good,” he said. “I think the costs are going to be a lot larger than he thinks they are. I think it’s gonna end up as an extension of TAP [Tuition Assistance Program], but the real costs are not tuition...the real costs are for books, room, food. This is gonna be minimal relief, but I’m sure it’s going to be looked at favorably in the Legislature.”</p> <p>But Cox criticized the governor for convening a speech attended by “groups selected by him, not groups that include the opposition. And that’s the problem.”</p> <p>On Monday afternoon, Cuomo headed to Buffalo for the second event of his tour. There he announced the 16th plank in his State of the State agenda -- a $500 million expansion of the Buffalo Billion economic development program, which is at the center of the federal corruption charges against Cuomo aides and donors.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32063564532_94ea250b7c_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo SOTS NYC" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo delivers his NYC State of the State (photo: Cuomo's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Invoking a populist message of economic inclusiveness and social progress that faces dire threats from a changing national reality, Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off his 2017 State of the State tour on Monday morning in New York City.</p> <p>On the 64th floor of 1 World Trade Center, at the first of six planned events around the state, the governor spoke to a seated assembly of more than 100 people, including state and local elected officials and everyday New Yorkers, relaying an overall message that kept with his recent record but was also engineered as a response to the widespread “middle class anger” evident in the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>Titled “Excelsior, Ever Upward” after New York’s state motto, the governor’s State of the State was pegged largely as a stimulus for middle class economic improvement and opportunity, but had something for nearly everyone in the Greater New York City area.</p> <p>Cuomo pledged a child care tax credit, tuition-free public college for about 80 percent of New York households, more jobs through investment in the private sector and public-private partnership, support for the homeless and funding for affordable housing, all while New York will be vigilant, he said, protecting and promoting the state’s progressive social bonafides. The governor spoke of criminal justice reform and improving access to voting, expanding and improving mass transit, protecting a woman’s right to choose, and defending quality healthcare.</p> <p>Cuomo likened New York to a hardy ship sailing choppy waters, where economic development has been swift but the middle class feels left behind, where social progress has been significant but people’s rights now feel under attack.</p> <p>“The ship of state is doing very well and is stronger than it has been in decades,” Cuomo said. “But at the same time, the troubling reality is, the sea upon which our ship of state sails is as rough and tempest-tossed as it has been in over 50 years.”</p> <p>The state’s progress on women’s rights, climate change, affordable healthcare, and public education is being threatened, the governor said, in a reference to national developments since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Without mentioning President-elect Trump by name, Cuomo emphasized throughout his speech that progressive values and equitable economic growth are not mutually exclusive and that New York would continue to promote the state’s middle class while upholding its secular progressivism.</p> <p>He also indicated that there was a lot to learn from the results of the election and that New York would show the way. While Cuomo was outlining his 2017 agenda -- much of which will have to be negotiated with the state Legislature -- he also further positioned himself as a national Democratic leader, perhaps with an eye on the 2020 presidential race.</p> <p>“We all heard the roar on Election Day and we must respond,” he said, insisting that the state must follow two crucial paths -- acknowledging and addressing the issues faced by the middle class and preventing “misdirected anger from doing damage to our country’s core values.” In that vein, Cuomo announced the Middle Class Economic Recovery Act -- a set of proposals aimed at creating jobs and infrastructure, improving access to education, and lowering the tax burden for the middle class.</p> <p>Some of Cuomo’s proposals outlined Monday were new, some had been announced in the week leading up to his three-day, six-stop State of the State tour. The previously-proposed include a doubling of a child care tax credit that will benefit about 200,000 families and free college tuition at CUNY and SUNY for families making up to $125,000. On Monday, he announced a pilot program with 22,000 slots for afterschool mentoring and tutoring.</p> <p>These ideas led Cuomo to say, with clear reference to the presidential election, "I believe these measures will help alleviate the middle class anger. Properly focused, the energy generated by that anger, in a positive way, it can become a great force for reform. But misdirected anger can be destructive. It can scapegoat and it can demonize, it can spread fear of those who are different, and it can destroy the uniquely American values and progressive principles that are the foundation of this society."</p> <p>Cuomo also said the state would invest $650 million in the Life Sciences industry, partnering with industry giant Johnson &amp; Johnson to create a hub in New York City. This investment will create about 25,000 middle class jobs and between $3 billion and $4 billion in economic output for the state, according to the Partnership for New York City.</p> <p>The governor’s proposals elicited varying degrees of enthusiasm from many who applauded his ideas, some with skepticism around implementation, viability in the Legislature, or funding.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, who remains on cold terms with Cuomo, said Cuomo outlined some “promising” ideas, but said he cannot give a full assessment until he sees the governor’s Executive Budget, which is due out by January 17.</p> <p>At an unrelated press conference later in the day, de Blasio quickly said “No” when Gotham Gazette asked if the budget communication from Cuomo’s office has been to his liking, fitting an annual pattern. Last year, Cuomo surprised the mayor in Albany on the day of his combined State of the State and budget address with proposed cost-shifts to the city.</p> <p>"Because the speech for the first time was not accompanied by the budget, we don’t know yet the ramifications of everything that was being talked about in the speech,” de Blasio told reporters on Monday, “which is why I’ll express my praise for some of the things I heard but until we see the details, and particularly the budgetary details, we can't pass a final judgement. It was different...than what we heard at the State of the State last year, but we just have to be very sober about the fact that budget documents are really where the rubber hits the road and we gotta see that.”</p> <p>About Cuomo’s budget, de Blasio said, “I don’t know what it looks like because we haven’t been given anything.”</p> <p>“It doesn’t shock me,” the mayor added. “You know, at the last moment we will be told what the budget looks like and then we’ll be able to analyze what it means and I’ll be very straightforward with the people of New York City about what it means for all of us. But we haven’t been given any inkling yet.”</p> <p>On the other hand, Comptroller Scott Stringer, who was also in attendance for the speech, was full of praise for Cuomo. “Today [Governor Cuomo] made a very strong case for a vision for New York State and New York City,” Stringer said after the speech, “that I believe goes a long way to helping the struggling middle class, the poorest people among us.”</p> <p>As is customary in State of the State speeches, Cuomo spent some of his Monday morning address looking back at accomplishments, touting the socio-economic progress under his leadership, including the passage of marriage equality, paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage program, and common-sense gun control. He also spoke of a second path forward, alongside the Middle Class Economic Recovery Act, that includes protections for the state’s most vulnerable populations.</p> <p>Termed the “New York Promise Agenda,” the broad-based proposals include criminal justice reform, voting access, women’s rights protections, fighting homelessness, preventing faith-based discrimination, protecting the environment, and improving immigrants rights and access to education. Many of these proposals were obvious responses to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and the records of Trump’s proposed appointees.</p> <p>Cuomo sought, in his speech, to reassure New Yorkers that the state would do everything in its power to protect against the possible negative consequences of national policies under a Trump administration. For instance, pledging to protect the 2.7 million New Yorkers currently insured under the Affordable Care Act should it be repealed; announcing a public-private partnership to provide legal counsel to immigrants and recommitting to passing the DREAM Act to ensure that immigrants, often the target of President-elect Trump’s ire, have access to education; stressing unqualified support for a woman’s right to choose, which could be threatened if a conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade; and creating a dedicated hate crimes task force to combat the rise in faith-based discrimination and attacks since the presidential election.</p> <p>“We will not stop working until the bright light of opportunity shines on all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said, emphasizing also the need for economic equity in the educational system, racial and economic justice in the judicial system and voter empowerment in the electoral system. Some of the items in Cuomo’s Promise Agenda are reliant on the state Legislature, where Republicans who control the Senate have been unsupportive of the Dream Act, codifying Roe v. Wade into state law, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, and more that Cuomo has proposed.</p> <p>As Cuomo spoke from New York City, he mentioned the need to restore “trust in government,” but did not address government ethics, despite the facts that his administration has seen a major corruption scandal in the past year and that the state Legislature has continued to see a parade of indictments. According to a Cuomo spokesperson, the governor will outline his ethics agenda during his last State of the State speech, on Wednesday afternoon in Albany.</p> <p>While many of the governor’s proposals were known before he gave his address, unveiled over the last week in news conferences and press releases, among the new announcements were a number of New York City-specific initiatives, including several aimed at boosting each of the “outer boroughs.”</p> <p>The governor announced that the city would receive an unprecedented level of funding for education. He also pledged, among other borough-centric proposals, $108 million in state funding for the stalled redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx; $50 million for the Montefiore Health System; $10 million for the redevelopment of the Orchard Beach pavilion, permanently reduced Verrazano Bridge tolls for Staten Island residents; and investments in healthcare, nutrition and healthy food programs in Brooklyn. He also reiterated plans to upgrade JFK Airport in Queens and criticized Rikers Island jail complex, though he stopped short of calling for its closure.</p> <p>Crucially, the governor’s initial State of the State speech came more than a week before he is due to release his Executive Budget for the next fiscal year, which throws much uncertainty into the mix as to how he proposes to pay for his ambitious proposals and whether the budget will include any surprise announcements. The State of the State, or in this case the six State of the States, set the governor’s policy and spending priorities, and the tone for negotiations with the state Legislature. A fiscal year 2017-2018 budget is due by April 1.</p> <p>Last year, Cuomo attempted to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in CUNY and Medicaid costs to New York City. The move was beat back by de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx. The mayor has repeatedly indicated he is eagerly awaiting budget information from the Cuomo administration and is expecting surprises like last year.</p> <p>The governor on Monday also called on the state legislative leaders to sign a memorandum of understanding to release more of the $2 billion the parties set aside last year to create 100,000 units of affordable and supportive housing across the state, which would significantly benefit New York City, where de Blasio has been struggling to bring a homelessness crisis under control. Only a small portion of the money was released last year and advocates and providers have been protesting the governor calling on him to come to terms with Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to release the rest so that projects can move.</p> <p>The governor concluded his speech with a call for unity, recalling how New Yorkers, and Americans, came together in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. “When we are at our best, we don’t focus on disparity, we focus on commonality,” he said. “That’s what this is all about....It’s about pulling people together.”</p> <p>The governor will have to do just that if he hopes to pass those proposals which will require approval from the Legislature where he currently has no shortage of enemies. The two legislative leaders declined to attend any of the six State of the State events, expressing their displeasure at the governor for interfering in the work of an independent commission that would have given lawmakers pay raises for the first time in years and then leveraging ethics reform to consider a special legislative session in December. The Legislature was also due in session on Monday and Tuesday, making it hardly possible that any state lawmakers could attend the first four of Cuomo’s speeches.</p> <p>Legislators would need to stay in Albany an extra day to attend Cuomo’s Wednesday speech in the capital area.</p> <p>Cuomo’s initial speech and his state tour have gotten mixed reviews, sometimes along party lines. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a fellow Democrat and sometimes Cuomo rival who attended the New York City speech, gave initial positive feedback. “It was really more of a reaffirmation of the fundamental New York values that many people feel have been challenged by some of the statements of the president elect and the resumes of some of his nominees,” Schneiderman said. “This is a day for setting forth a vision. The battles over the specifics, the programs, whatever does come out of Washington await another day.”</p> <p>Outside the World Trade Center, state Republican Party Chair Ed Cox held court with reporters, criticizing the governor as he had promised to do at each State of the State event. “He’s running from the Legislature,” Cox said of Cuomo’s decision to tour the state. “He can’t face criticism.”</p> <p>Cox did have minor qualified praise for the governor’s presentation. “There’s some good things -- I think tuition relief is good,” he said. “I think the costs are going to be a lot larger than he thinks they are. I think it’s gonna end up as an extension of TAP [Tuition Assistance Program], but the real costs are not tuition...the real costs are for books, room, food. This is gonna be minimal relief, but I’m sure it’s going to be looked at favorably in the Legislature.”</p> <p>But Cox criticized the governor for convening a speech attended by “groups selected by him, not groups that include the opposition. And that’s the problem.”</p> <p>On Monday afternoon, Cuomo headed to Buffalo for the second event of his tour. There he announced the 16th plank in his State of the State agenda -- a $500 million expansion of the Buffalo Billion economic development program, which is at the center of the federal corruption charges against Cuomo aides and donors.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Concerned with Lack of Clarity as State Budget Deadline Nears 2016-03-29T04:21:50+00:00 2016-03-29T04:21:50+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6248:de-blasio-concerned-with-lack-of-clarity-as-state-budget-deadline-nears Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15592874696_f8e1387917_z.jpg" alt="de blasio on phone we don't know with who" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>De Blasio (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/15592874696/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday afternoon that he has been in regular contact with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and that he spoke with Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier in the day, but that he did not gain much clarity as Albany budget negotiations enter their final days.</p> <p>A new state budget is due by midnight Thursday, with the state's fiscal year beginning Friday, April 1. There are several areas of budget concern for de Blasio and others who represent New York City, including Heastie. On Monday, de Blasio repeatedly cited Heastie and the Democratically-controlled Assembly as essential allies in the fight to protect city interests throughout negotiations.</p> <p>At an unrelated press conference at 1 Police Plaza, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor what he is watching for as state lawmakers negotiate the final details of a $140-plus billion budget. While expressing frustration about the lack of clarity, de Blasio said, "What I can tell you for sure, I've spoken to Speaker Heastie today and yesterday. He has, and the Assembly has, consistently supported the interests of New York City."</p> <p>It appears that de Blasio and others are again depending on Heastie to be the strongest defender of New York City during "three men in a room" negotiations with Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican.</p> <p>"I spoke to the governor this morning, and I still don't have real answers," de Blasio said Monday. "There's no budget language."</p> <p>Cuomo's Executive Budget, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6088-cuomo-outlines-144-billion-budget-" target="_blank">unveiled in January</a>, caused concern for de Blasio on several fronts, including hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed CUNY and Medicaid cost shifts to the city. The governor also upset de Blasio by proposing a new layer of state approval in the process by which the state allocates federal affordable housing bonds to the city, among other measures de Blasio and his allies have been fighting.</p> <p>"[T]here have been voices speaking out since February saying that the city should not suffer cutbacks when it comes to CUNY and when it comes to Medicaid," de Blasio said Monday. "We shouldn't have our affordable housing efforts undermined by needless bureaucracy. We should get more support in our efforts to end homelessness - these issues have been talked about now for months and months."</p> <p>"This is supposed to be one of the decision days," the mayor added, referring to the fact that state budget bills would need to be printed Monday in order to have the required three-day aging period so that they can be voted on and passed by Thursday night's deadline. No deal has been reached, no bills were printed, so the governor is likely to issue "messages of necessity" to waive the aging period. Cuomo has prided himself on leading a new era of on-time budgets and more functional and responsible government.</p> <p>The governor told reporters on Friday that he is reluctant to use messages of necessity, but that he does when needed. While the governor, whose tenure began in 2011, has indeed shepherded through on-time budgets (last year's was technically late by a few minutes), state government remains dogged by corruption scandals. Last year saw both legislative leaders convicted on federal corruption charges in separate cases.</p> <p>Cuomo, who vowed to clean up Albany and has not been able to, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6087-cuomo-unveils-ethics-plan-to-questions-of-follow-through" target="_blank">unveiled an aggressive ethics reform plan</a> in his January State of the State address, but has said little about it since and all parties have indicated that ethics will not be part of the budget.</p> <p>Asked about whether he is troubled that ethics reform won't be taken up in the state budget, de Blasio said Monday, "I want to see ethics reform in Albany." Citing "public financing of elections and obviously a lot more disclosure," de Blasio said state lawmakers must act, but he cut Cuomo, Heastie, and others slack in terms of when. "Whether it happens now or it happens in the legislative session is less important to me than the fact that it needs to happen," de Blasio said.</p> <p>On more urgent budgetary matters, after months of questions Cuomo's office said last week that it was tabling the CUNY cost shifts, but that it would be appointing a monitor to find efficiencies in the joint city-state system. It was a message met with some relief at City Hall, but de Blasio still said Monday that he wants to see budget language.</p> <p>"There's no confirmation or guarantees related to CUNY, related to Medicaid or any of these other issues," de Blasio said, sounding at least a little frustrated. "And the things I talked about back in February when I gave my budget testimony in Albany, I talked about the fact that the State was going to take away some of our sales tax revenue in a way that we thought was arbitrary and unfair, and now things have been resolved on that front. So I want to see action, and I want to see real language that we can take to the bank right now."</p> <p>De Blasio continued: "You know, the same reality as the day after the governor's State of the State is true. He said none of this would cost New York City a penny and I said I will hold him to it. I'll take a man's word but I'll hold him to it, and I'll still hold him to it because as of this moment, there are no guarantees and we need them. The people of New York City need those guarantees."</p> <p>A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo declined to comment in response to de Blasio.</p> <p>On other issues of concern to the mayor, it appears both mayoral control of city schools and a renewed property tax break to incentivize affordable housing development will have to wait for the legislative session after a budget is settled.</p> <p>The governor proposed a three-year extension of mayoral control, which expires in June, but Senate Republicans have rejected both that proposal and the Assembly Democrats' call for a longer extension. Last week, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">the Senate announced</a> it would be calling de Blasio to testify at two May hearings on his education leadership.</p> <p>There's been almost no talk of a new 421-a program, or something like it, to spur affordable housing development through tax abatements. The expiration of the previous system is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">one of the key sources of tension between de Blasio and Cuomo</a>.</p> <p>In Albany, de Blasio has had to rely on Heastie, the Bronx Democrat thrust into the Speaker's chair last year when Sheldon Silver was indicted on the federal corruption charges that led to his conviction.</p> <p>On Monday, de Blasio credited Heastie and other Assembly Democrats for sticking up for the city, as Silver was infamous for doing. The Assembly, de Blasio said, "fought hard to make sure that there would be no cuts to our budget in terms of CUNY and in terms of Medicaid; there would be nothing that would stand in the way of our efforts to create affordable housing. The Assembly and its one house bill went out of its way to say the State would have to do more to help us deal with homelessness. So the Assembly has been very consistent."</p> <p>Once de Blasio sees the details of the state budget, he'll have to adjust his city spending plan for fiscal year 2017 accordingly. De Blasio's preliminary $82 billion spending plan, which did not account for the CUNY and Medicaid cost shifts, is in the midst of a series of City Council hearings. The city's fiscal year begins July 1.</p> <p>Further north, Heastie said a few words Monday to reporters trying to find out how the closed-door budget negotiations were going. "Albany is the art of the compromise," Heastie <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/03/heastie-albany-is-the-art-of-the-compromise/?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter" target="_blank">said</a> in the capital on Monday, adding that the big-ticket items of minimum wage and paid family leave are being debated. Cuomo's two major policy priorities - both of which de Blasio supports - have taken center stage, though many other smaller issues could become part of a larger compromise by the time the budget is announced.</p> <p>"I think in some regards we are able to move forward," Heastie said, "but there's still some outstanding issues about how the City of New York comes out of this."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/15592874696_f8e1387917_z.jpg" alt="de blasio on phone we don't know with who" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>De Blasio (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/15592874696/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday afternoon that he has been in regular contact with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and that he spoke with Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier in the day, but that he did not gain much clarity as Albany budget negotiations enter their final days.</p> <p>A new state budget is due by midnight Thursday, with the state's fiscal year beginning Friday, April 1. There are several areas of budget concern for de Blasio and others who represent New York City, including Heastie. On Monday, de Blasio repeatedly cited Heastie and the Democratically-controlled Assembly as essential allies in the fight to protect city interests throughout negotiations.</p> <p>At an unrelated press conference at 1 Police Plaza, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor what he is watching for as state lawmakers negotiate the final details of a $140-plus billion budget. While expressing frustration about the lack of clarity, de Blasio said, "What I can tell you for sure, I've spoken to Speaker Heastie today and yesterday. He has, and the Assembly has, consistently supported the interests of New York City."</p> <p>It appears that de Blasio and others are again depending on Heastie to be the strongest defender of New York City during "three men in a room" negotiations with Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican.</p> <p>"I spoke to the governor this morning, and I still don't have real answers," de Blasio said Monday. "There's no budget language."</p> <p>Cuomo's Executive Budget, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6088-cuomo-outlines-144-billion-budget-" target="_blank">unveiled in January</a>, caused concern for de Blasio on several fronts, including hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed CUNY and Medicaid cost shifts to the city. The governor also upset de Blasio by proposing a new layer of state approval in the process by which the state allocates federal affordable housing bonds to the city, among other measures de Blasio and his allies have been fighting.</p> <p>"[T]here have been voices speaking out since February saying that the city should not suffer cutbacks when it comes to CUNY and when it comes to Medicaid," de Blasio said Monday. "We shouldn't have our affordable housing efforts undermined by needless bureaucracy. We should get more support in our efforts to end homelessness - these issues have been talked about now for months and months."</p> <p>"This is supposed to be one of the decision days," the mayor added, referring to the fact that state budget bills would need to be printed Monday in order to have the required three-day aging period so that they can be voted on and passed by Thursday night's deadline. No deal has been reached, no bills were printed, so the governor is likely to issue "messages of necessity" to waive the aging period. Cuomo has prided himself on leading a new era of on-time budgets and more functional and responsible government.</p> <p>The governor told reporters on Friday that he is reluctant to use messages of necessity, but that he does when needed. While the governor, whose tenure began in 2011, has indeed shepherded through on-time budgets (last year's was technically late by a few minutes), state government remains dogged by corruption scandals. Last year saw both legislative leaders convicted on federal corruption charges in separate cases.</p> <p>Cuomo, who vowed to clean up Albany and has not been able to, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6087-cuomo-unveils-ethics-plan-to-questions-of-follow-through" target="_blank">unveiled an aggressive ethics reform plan</a> in his January State of the State address, but has said little about it since and all parties have indicated that ethics will not be part of the budget.</p> <p>Asked about whether he is troubled that ethics reform won't be taken up in the state budget, de Blasio said Monday, "I want to see ethics reform in Albany." Citing "public financing of elections and obviously a lot more disclosure," de Blasio said state lawmakers must act, but he cut Cuomo, Heastie, and others slack in terms of when. "Whether it happens now or it happens in the legislative session is less important to me than the fact that it needs to happen," de Blasio said.</p> <p>On more urgent budgetary matters, after months of questions Cuomo's office said last week that it was tabling the CUNY cost shifts, but that it would be appointing a monitor to find efficiencies in the joint city-state system. It was a message met with some relief at City Hall, but de Blasio still said Monday that he wants to see budget language.</p> <p>"There's no confirmation or guarantees related to CUNY, related to Medicaid or any of these other issues," de Blasio said, sounding at least a little frustrated. "And the things I talked about back in February when I gave my budget testimony in Albany, I talked about the fact that the State was going to take away some of our sales tax revenue in a way that we thought was arbitrary and unfair, and now things have been resolved on that front. So I want to see action, and I want to see real language that we can take to the bank right now."</p> <p>De Blasio continued: "You know, the same reality as the day after the governor's State of the State is true. He said none of this would cost New York City a penny and I said I will hold him to it. I'll take a man's word but I'll hold him to it, and I'll still hold him to it because as of this moment, there are no guarantees and we need them. The people of New York City need those guarantees."</p> <p>A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo declined to comment in response to de Blasio.</p> <p>On other issues of concern to the mayor, it appears both mayoral control of city schools and a renewed property tax break to incentivize affordable housing development will have to wait for the legislative session after a budget is settled.</p> <p>The governor proposed a three-year extension of mayoral control, which expires in June, but Senate Republicans have rejected both that proposal and the Assembly Democrats' call for a longer extension. Last week, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">the Senate announced</a> it would be calling de Blasio to testify at two May hearings on his education leadership.</p> <p>There's been almost no talk of a new 421-a program, or something like it, to spur affordable housing development through tax abatements. The expiration of the previous system is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">one of the key sources of tension between de Blasio and Cuomo</a>.</p> <p>In Albany, de Blasio has had to rely on Heastie, the Bronx Democrat thrust into the Speaker's chair last year when Sheldon Silver was indicted on the federal corruption charges that led to his conviction.</p> <p>On Monday, de Blasio credited Heastie and other Assembly Democrats for sticking up for the city, as Silver was infamous for doing. The Assembly, de Blasio said, "fought hard to make sure that there would be no cuts to our budget in terms of CUNY and in terms of Medicaid; there would be nothing that would stand in the way of our efforts to create affordable housing. The Assembly and its one house bill went out of its way to say the State would have to do more to help us deal with homelessness. So the Assembly has been very consistent."</p> <p>Once de Blasio sees the details of the state budget, he'll have to adjust his city spending plan for fiscal year 2017 accordingly. De Blasio's preliminary $82 billion spending plan, which did not account for the CUNY and Medicaid cost shifts, is in the midst of a series of City Council hearings. The city's fiscal year begins July 1.</p> <p>Further north, Heastie said a few words Monday to reporters trying to find out how the closed-door budget negotiations were going. "Albany is the art of the compromise," Heastie <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/03/heastie-albany-is-the-art-of-the-compromise/?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter" target="_blank">said</a> in the capital on Monday, adding that the big-ticket items of minimum wage and paid family leave are being debated. Cuomo's two major policy priorities - both of which de Blasio supports - have taken center stage, though many other smaller issues could become part of a larger compromise by the time the budget is announced.</p> <p>"I think in some regards we are able to move forward," Heastie said, "but there's still some outstanding issues about how the City of New York comes out of this."</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Several Significant Questions About The Governor's Budget 2016-03-02T22:16:00+00:00 2016-03-02T22:16:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6203:several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/23994415209_01555788be_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo built to lead sots" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at his State of the State (via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2016-2017 budget proposal has legislators and budget experts scratching their heads as to how major capital projects will be paid for, how the state plans to make good on a promise to fund the MTA, and how certain measures might affect funding for New York City. Many are wondering if the governor will keep his pledge that his plan to shift millions in costs for CUNY and Medicaid "won't cost New York City a penny."</p> <p>These questions linger almost two months after the plan was first released, rankling Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council members, and city-based state legislators, and alarming budget watchdogs.</p> <p>Only one month remains until the April 1 start of the new fiscal year and budget negotiations have been muted. State of Politics <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/03/cuomo-meets-with-legislative-leaders/" target="_blank">reports</a> that there was an initial budget conversation on Wednesday morning among Cuomo and legislative leaders. The way Cuomo has positioned things, there are questions about whether the State Assembly and Speaker Carl Heastie, de Blasio's most important ally, will be willing and able to take on the political cost of going to battle for the city - on CUNY, Medicaid, and other issues like affordable housing bonds and homelessness-prevention vouchers. The Legislature recently finished holding budget hearings and the Assembly and Senate one-house budgets are expected imminently.</p> <p>Potential state cuts loomed large over the initial New York City Council preliminary budget hearing on Tuesday, at which de Blasio's budget director reiterated several times that possible state cuts could be crippling to the city, but that the city plans to hold the governor to his word and that Assembly Democrats will be essential in the process.</p> <p>Cuomo's move to have New York City assume additional MTA, CUNY, and Medicaid cuts are among his most controversial, along with the governor's plan to take more control of affordable housing being built in the city. While many await more detail from the governor as the clock ticks, there is also mystery around major infrastructure projects for the metropolitan region that the governor is overseeing as well as a proposal from the governor to create a new entity to take more control of such projects.</p> <p>As the governor pushes other policies that city Democrats back, like a minimum wage increase and paid family leave, he appears to be exacting whatever costs from the city he can in order to both undermine de Blasio and help the state pay its obligations.</p> <p>Cuomo has a variety of government ethics reform proposals in his budget, but he has not been promoting them publicly, leaving many to wonder their fate. Meanwhile, in recent days new light has been shone on billions of dollars in the governor's budget with no determined purpose, to be used by Cuomo and legislative leaders as they see fit at a later date.</p> <p><strong>The City's Burden</strong><br />A recent evaluation of New York City finances by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned that Governor Cuomo's budget provides major economic threat to the city. "The largest and most immediate budget risk is the proposed state Executive Budget, which includes three proposals that would increase the city's costs by $985 million in FY 2017 and by about $1.2 billion in each subsequent year (a total of $4.8 billion during the financial plan period)," reads the comptroller's report.</p> <p>It continues: "The two proposals with the greatest budgetary impact ($785 million in FY 2017 alone) would require New York City to pay a larger share of the local cost of Medicaid and of the costs of the senior colleges of the City University of New York. After the release of the Executive Budget, the Governor stated that efficiencies would be identified to mitigate the budgetary impact of these proposals, but such savings have not yet been identified."</p> <p>The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog based in New York City, quickly cried foul over the proposals in Cuomo's budget that would move costs for CUNY and Medicaid to the city (both are joint city-state programs that the state has traditionally supported to a far greater degree than the city).</p> <p>CBC estimates the shift would cost the city $800 million. De Blasio pledged he would do "whatever it takes" to stop the plan, saying it could impact major plans to expand pre-kindergarten and other initiatives. As focus on the budget measure intensified Cuomo characterized the plan as a mutual agreement between the city and state to find efficiencies in the programs. De Blasio had only met briefly with Cuomo before the State of the State address and said he had learned about the shift that could cost the city nearly a billion dollars when most New Yorkers did.</p> <p>Cuomo, in <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2016/01/14/ny1-online--cuomo-discusses-state-budget-and-how-it-affects-city.html" target="_blank">a NY1 interview</a>, claimed "At the end of the day, what you will see is it won't cost New York City a penny, but we will make joint streamlining policy efficiency changes."</p> <p>Some observers expected Cuomo to adjust the plan in his 30-day budget amendments, but nothing about it changed - apparently leaving it up to the city's allies in the Legislature to negotiate it.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the city's most powerful advocate in Albany, has expressed major concern over the plans, but it appears that he would have to own the cost of a change as part of budget negotiations, possibly preempting other major initiatives his conference wants.</p> <p>E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, a budget-focused think tank, said he believes that undoing Cuomo's plan would cost Heastie "$500 million" during negotiations which would limit what else Assembly Democrats could bargain for given that Cuomo appears committed to a 2 percent overall cap on spending growth.</p> <p>The governor's budget makes for 1.7 percent spending growth so there isn't much room for new initiatives and losing the savings created by the cost shift would further tighten the equation. "1.7 to 2 [percent] is $300 million," said McMahon, "So $500 million is a pretty significant number in budget negotiations."</p> <p>Dave Friedfel of the CBC agrees. "To add $500 million back on to the budget would blow through the governor's spending cap. It will have a major impact on negotiations," Friedfel said.</p> <p>The Fiscal Policy Institute, also a think tank, argued in its budget testimony that the state should scrap the 2 percent spending cap. "There is no reason to hold annual spending growth below two percent if it means that we are under-investing in education and poverty reduction," reads the FPI testimony. "This unforced austerity has already caused the state to underinvest in several critical areas, and the continuation of the cap guarantees further harmful cuts to local governments, education and human service programs."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Heastie has pressed for a millionaire's tax that would allow the state to spend more on education. The Cuomo administration has derided the plan and Heastie <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6158-heastie-takes-to-twitter-to-respond-to-cuomo-on-tax-plan" target="_blank">has fired back</a>. Mayor de Blasio has continued to express support for raising taxes on the highest earners, but he has not made a focused push on the issue since his efforts failed in 2014.</p> <p>Asked about whether there have been joint efforts between the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations to find efficiencies as the governor discussed, Morris Peters, spokesperson for the division of budget, said in a statement: "We have been having conversations with our partners in government and we will continue to do so."</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts" target="_blank">During City Council budget testimony on Tuesday</a>, de Blasio's budget director Dean Fuleihan said that talks had yet to occur between the city and state but that he expects them to take place soon.</p> <p>"I've also said I'm going to take him at his word, but I'll hold him to it," de Blasio told a gathering of the state Legislature's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus last month, referring to Gov. Cuomo and the CUNY and Medicaid cuts. "When the budget is passed on April 1 I fully expect there won't be any negative impact on New York City," de Blasio continued. "He said it won't cost us a single cent. That's what we expect, and I think a lot of people are going to make sure that happens."</p> <p><strong>Construction &amp; Housing Takeovers</strong><br />Another, little-discussed measure contained in Gov. Cuomo's budget would see the creation of "The New York State Design and Construction Corp." that would be given oversight of public construction projects worth over $50 million. The DCC would be a subsidiary of the state's Dormitory Authority and would be headed by three commissioners, all appointed by the governor.</p> <p>"The DCC's primary purpose will be to provide additional project management expertise and oversight on significant public works projects undertaken by state agencies, departments, public authorities and public benefit corporations throughout the state," reads the governor's State of the State <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2016StateoftheStateBook.pdf" target="_blank">policy book</a>.</p> <p>The proposal has raised concerns for legislators and budget watchdogs who believe Cuomo is trying to have more influence over independent authorities like the MTA. The MTA board is made up of members appointed by the city and other localities serviced by the agency. The Governor also appoints members and names the chair. Representatives of Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) are concerned the body would create more bureaucracy and confusion. For example, the DCC could void contracts signed by the MTA. CBC has written legislators urging them to oppose the plan.</p> <p>John Kaehny, of watchdog group Reinvent Albany, said he was taken aback by the plan. "The Dormitory Authority is the premier slush fund for pork barrel spending. To house a project management agency within it is alarming. We agree with budget watchdog groups who view this as a power grab and another attempt to reduce transparency and accountability."</p> <p>"What is his motivation for proposing this unprecedented design and construction corporation?" asked McMahon, of The Empire Center. "It will allow [Cuomo] to reach in and take control of any project he wants. The governor is the kind of guy who will say 'Stop that, give it to me, I can do it better!' The governor likes to draw power to the center, to the top, to him."</p> <p>Cuomo is also looking to increase the state's say over New York City development of affordable housing. Per the governor's plans, The Public Authorities Control Board would be allowed to veto individual housing projects proposed by the city that utilize tax-exempt bonds, given to the state by the federal government, which the state then allocates to municipalities.</p> <p>Cuomo administration officials say the plan would add a new level of transparency to a system that allocates billions of dollars to construction each year. City officials and affordable housing developers say that there is no need for another level of bureaucracy.</p> <p>The Control Board is made up of the governor and both legislative leaders. Mayor de Blasio has panned the proposal, as have a number of contractors and housing advocates who worry the plan will create overlap and uncertainty around badly-needed projects that increase affordable housing stock. The Real Estate Board of New York has also raised concerns that more state say would create uncertainty and possibly confuse lending institutions.</p> <p>"We think adding these additional layers will only slow down the process at a point where thousands and thousands of people are waiting for housing that will allow them and their families to be able to make ends meet," de Blasio told legislators during budget testimony earlier this year.</p> <p>Adding to the drama around the city's affordable housing plans, De Blasio administration officials, housing advocates and developers are also growing nervous that Cuomo may continue to divert some of the flow of federal housing bonds that the city relies on to create affordable housing. After doing so with millions of dollars in bonds that the city thought it could count on in 2015, Cuomo <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/29/nyregion/cuomo-de-blasio-feud-threatens-new-york-citys-plans-for-affordable-housing.html" target="_blank">is considering</a> using the bonds for the state's newly expanded role in creating affordable housing. During his State of the State, Cuomo outlined general plans to invest billions in affordable housing, but he has yet to flesh those plans out. His policy book promised details "in the coming weeks."</p> <p><strong>MTA Financing<br /></strong>Last year, Cuomo and his MTA Chair Thomas Prendergast began a campaign to push the city to contribute more to the MTA capital plan. Eventually a deal was struck where the city agreed to contribute $2.5 billion and the governor pledging an additional $7.3 billion, bringing the state's total pledged contribution to $8.3 billion, all part of the $26 billion overall five-year plan. For months Cuomo was asked how the state would pay its share and he retorted that the question would be answered in his budget.</p> <p>His budget plan simply raised more questions. Cuomo's plan appropriates $1 billion for the MTA capital plan and pledges to provide more of the promised $8.3 billion when the MTA spends through other capital funding. The city has in turn put off its commitment to extra funding since the city-state agreement was contingent upon parallel fund allocation.</p> <p>Budget experts believe the Cuomo administration will allow the MTA to issue bonds to raise the $7.3 billion once it spends the funds it has on hand. "[The governor] already committed to $8.3 million for the MTA and we all wondered where that would come from," said McMahon. "The answer is that the MTA commitment he signed was not worth the paper it was written on. Once the MTA is done spending money it raises itself, the state will direct them to issue their own bonds."</p> <p>Jamison Dague of CBC said that while the MTA has a backlog of projects that need to be addressed, he would like to see the state spell out specific funding for the agency. "What they've done here is tell the MTA, 'You have resources to draw down before we come in with the pledge.' The MTA has a lot of capital funding sources they are still trying to spend."</p> <p>However, Dague said knowing where the state funding is coming from is prudent for both the MTA and state's long-term planning. "You always want to identify revenue for big capital work before you get going with big contracts," Dague said.</p> <p>Legislators expressed outrage over the plan during a budget hearing last week. "I have no idea how we can actually do a capital program and actually approve a capital program with language that 'it'll be there when you need it.' Corporate America would laugh at this. Any country would be surprised with this type of approach in funding," said Senator Marty Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/02/8591986/state-legislators-bewildered-cuomos-mta-plan" target="_blank">according to</a> Politico New York.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has vigorously defended its position. "The Governor put unambiguous and iron-clad language in the budget to make good on his commitment to provide $8.3 billion towards the MTA's capital plan," Morris Peters of the Division of The Budget told Gotham Gazette in a statement. Peters pointed to <a href="http://publications.budget.ny.gov/eBudget1617/fy1617artVIIbills/TEDArticleVII.pdf" target="_blank">budget legislation</a> that he said would cement the state's commitment to funding the MTA "in law."</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure Spending</strong><br />This year's State of the State address was centered around the idea that Cuomo is rebuilding New York. "Built to Lead" was the theme and the governor announced a myriad of projects including revamping Penn Station, retooling the Javits Center, reconstructing LaGuardia Airport, and a major contribution to the rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River. The combined cost of the projects is estimated at over $100 billion.</p> <p>Budget watchdogs say Cuomo's plans are bold but not backed up with detailed funding mechanisms. The governor's budget points to federal funding, cash from public authorities, and investment from public/private partnerships to fund a number of the projects. It leaves the state assuming $29 billion of project costs. Watchdogs say the budget only appropriates two-thirds of that cash. "I think the situation was created by the governor's desire to portray himself as having a grand plan. So we all wondered: 'With what money?'" said McMahon.</p> <p>Cuomo has also already allocated billions of dollars worth of the state's bank settlement funds to other projects such as upstate revitalization. The state is also relatively close to bumping up against a borrowing cap that was signed into law under Gov. George Pataki, so it is unlikely the state could fund all of the projects if it wanted to.</p> <p>"I think the governor's ambition is admirable," said Dague of CBC. "But one of the concerns is he has promised to take on so many projects while leaving the funding details to be filled in. Another concern the legislature has is that the projects aren't being put through rigorous analysis. There isn't a discussion of how the state makes use of its limited capital projects funds--why this and not that. And there also is the question in some cases of: 'Why are these projects in the governor's budget and not the MTA's?'"</p> <p>Peters, of Cuomo's administration, said that the budget clearly lays out how Cuomo's grand plans will be paid for. The list of major infrastructure projects are funded by a combination of resources, including from the state and federal governments, public authorities, and private investment, as clearly laid out in our budget materials."</p> <p><strong>Cash Stash</strong><br />Another major concern for budget watchdogs is the $2.4 billion in funds stashed in 80 different pots in this year's executive budget not labeled for any specific use, as identified by good government group Citizens Union in <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/cu/site/hosting/Reports/FINAL%20CU%20Spending%20in%20the%20Shadows%20Report%20FY17%20Executive%20Budget%20-%202%2029%2016.pdf" target="_blank">a new report</a>.</p> <p>It is actually common for the governor and both houses of the Legislature to create slush funds in the budget each year. The practice came under increased scrutiny last year after the arrest of (now former) Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who used cash from one of those pots of money in a scheme to earn referral fees through his law firm. Silver has been convicted on federal corruption trials and faces sentencing soon.</p> <p>This year, according to the Citizens Union "spending in the shadows" report, the governor has $2.2 billion worth of this discretionary money, the Senate $815 million, and $686 million for the Assembly. Last year, Cuomo inserted language into the budget that would have required legislators to reveal their connections to any organization that received funding from these pots of cash, but he has not reinserted the language this year. Cuomo has outlined a series of ethics reforms that he says he intends to negotiate with legislative leaders</p> <p>"With former Speaker Silver convicted in part because of his access to and illegal use of a healthcare-related lump sum pot, we need no greater reason to reform this form of budgeting," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, in a statement. "We need a whole new set of rules and level of transparency to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to personally enrich elected officials or used in unseemly pay to play schemes."</p> <p><strong>Policy Questions</strong><br />Cuomo has again packed his budget with his major legislative priorities, a practice that has earned the governor criticism - some say that the budget should only include operational and capital spending, not new policy. This year, Cuomo is including an increase of the minimum wage toward $15 per hour, paid family leave, and raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, among other policies.</p> <p>The governor has the support of Assembly and Senate Democrats on the outlines of all of these issues while Senate and Assembly Republicans have voiced varying levels of dissent. The Governor recently told reporters the minimum wage issue might be removed from the budget debate.</p> <p>Assembly Democrats, who control that chamber, are pushing for The DREAM Act, which Cuomo has included in his budget but has not rallied for publicly this year. Senate Republicans, who control that chamber, have been vigorously opposed to the plan, which would allow undocumented residents access to education aid.</p> <p>Also on the Assembly to-do list is the millionaire's tax they argue will allow an increase in education spending, among other things. The Cuomo administration and the Senate have both rejected the idea.</p> <p>Cuomo has remained nearly silent on the package of ethics reforms he pitched in January. Although he's taken to touring the state in an RV to tout his wage plan at a series of rallies, he has discussed ethics reform when prompted by reporters. His plans would strictly limit legislators outside income and close the LLC loophole that allows corporate donors to avoid campaign finance limits.</p> <p>The governor was asked about the lack of discussion around ethics reform during one of his RV stops last week. He replied that discussions were happening "in phases."</p> <p>"There's not a lot of continuity between $15 minimum wage and ethics," <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/246460/cuomo-were-going-to-see-if-ethics-reforms-stay-in-budget/" target="_blank">he said</a>. "It's kind of a hard transition: 'I want to talk to you about a $15 minimum wage, oh, and now I wanna talk to you about limiting income for legislators.' It's not the most fluid transition. Maybe you could do it. It's tough for me."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been changed to reflect the report of the initial budget meeting between Cuomo and legislative leaders.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/23994415209_01555788be_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo built to lead sots" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at his State of the State (via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2016-2017 budget proposal has legislators and budget experts scratching their heads as to how major capital projects will be paid for, how the state plans to make good on a promise to fund the MTA, and how certain measures might affect funding for New York City. Many are wondering if the governor will keep his pledge that his plan to shift millions in costs for CUNY and Medicaid "won't cost New York City a penny."</p> <p>These questions linger almost two months after the plan was first released, rankling Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council members, and city-based state legislators, and alarming budget watchdogs.</p> <p>Only one month remains until the April 1 start of the new fiscal year and budget negotiations have been muted. State of Politics <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2016/03/cuomo-meets-with-legislative-leaders/" target="_blank">reports</a> that there was an initial budget conversation on Wednesday morning among Cuomo and legislative leaders. The way Cuomo has positioned things, there are questions about whether the State Assembly and Speaker Carl Heastie, de Blasio's most important ally, will be willing and able to take on the political cost of going to battle for the city - on CUNY, Medicaid, and other issues like affordable housing bonds and homelessness-prevention vouchers. The Legislature recently finished holding budget hearings and the Assembly and Senate one-house budgets are expected imminently.</p> <p>Potential state cuts loomed large over the initial New York City Council preliminary budget hearing on Tuesday, at which de Blasio's budget director reiterated several times that possible state cuts could be crippling to the city, but that the city plans to hold the governor to his word and that Assembly Democrats will be essential in the process.</p> <p>Cuomo's move to have New York City assume additional MTA, CUNY, and Medicaid cuts are among his most controversial, along with the governor's plan to take more control of affordable housing being built in the city. While many await more detail from the governor as the clock ticks, there is also mystery around major infrastructure projects for the metropolitan region that the governor is overseeing as well as a proposal from the governor to create a new entity to take more control of such projects.</p> <p>As the governor pushes other policies that city Democrats back, like a minimum wage increase and paid family leave, he appears to be exacting whatever costs from the city he can in order to both undermine de Blasio and help the state pay its obligations.</p> <p>Cuomo has a variety of government ethics reform proposals in his budget, but he has not been promoting them publicly, leaving many to wonder their fate. Meanwhile, in recent days new light has been shone on billions of dollars in the governor's budget with no determined purpose, to be used by Cuomo and legislative leaders as they see fit at a later date.</p> <p><strong>The City's Burden</strong><br />A recent evaluation of New York City finances by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned that Governor Cuomo's budget provides major economic threat to the city. "The largest and most immediate budget risk is the proposed state Executive Budget, which includes three proposals that would increase the city's costs by $985 million in FY 2017 and by about $1.2 billion in each subsequent year (a total of $4.8 billion during the financial plan period)," reads the comptroller's report.</p> <p>It continues: "The two proposals with the greatest budgetary impact ($785 million in FY 2017 alone) would require New York City to pay a larger share of the local cost of Medicaid and of the costs of the senior colleges of the City University of New York. After the release of the Executive Budget, the Governor stated that efficiencies would be identified to mitigate the budgetary impact of these proposals, but such savings have not yet been identified."</p> <p>The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog based in New York City, quickly cried foul over the proposals in Cuomo's budget that would move costs for CUNY and Medicaid to the city (both are joint city-state programs that the state has traditionally supported to a far greater degree than the city).</p> <p>CBC estimates the shift would cost the city $800 million. De Blasio pledged he would do "whatever it takes" to stop the plan, saying it could impact major plans to expand pre-kindergarten and other initiatives. As focus on the budget measure intensified Cuomo characterized the plan as a mutual agreement between the city and state to find efficiencies in the programs. De Blasio had only met briefly with Cuomo before the State of the State address and said he had learned about the shift that could cost the city nearly a billion dollars when most New Yorkers did.</p> <p>Cuomo, in <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2016/01/14/ny1-online--cuomo-discusses-state-budget-and-how-it-affects-city.html" target="_blank">a NY1 interview</a>, claimed "At the end of the day, what you will see is it won't cost New York City a penny, but we will make joint streamlining policy efficiency changes."</p> <p>Some observers expected Cuomo to adjust the plan in his 30-day budget amendments, but nothing about it changed - apparently leaving it up to the city's allies in the Legislature to negotiate it.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the city's most powerful advocate in Albany, has expressed major concern over the plans, but it appears that he would have to own the cost of a change as part of budget negotiations, possibly preempting other major initiatives his conference wants.</p> <p>E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, a budget-focused think tank, said he believes that undoing Cuomo's plan would cost Heastie "$500 million" during negotiations which would limit what else Assembly Democrats could bargain for given that Cuomo appears committed to a 2 percent overall cap on spending growth.</p> <p>The governor's budget makes for 1.7 percent spending growth so there isn't much room for new initiatives and losing the savings created by the cost shift would further tighten the equation. "1.7 to 2 [percent] is $300 million," said McMahon, "So $500 million is a pretty significant number in budget negotiations."</p> <p>Dave Friedfel of the CBC agrees. "To add $500 million back on to the budget would blow through the governor's spending cap. It will have a major impact on negotiations," Friedfel said.</p> <p>The Fiscal Policy Institute, also a think tank, argued in its budget testimony that the state should scrap the 2 percent spending cap. "There is no reason to hold annual spending growth below two percent if it means that we are under-investing in education and poverty reduction," reads the FPI testimony. "This unforced austerity has already caused the state to underinvest in several critical areas, and the continuation of the cap guarantees further harmful cuts to local governments, education and human service programs."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Heastie has pressed for a millionaire's tax that would allow the state to spend more on education. The Cuomo administration has derided the plan and Heastie <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6158-heastie-takes-to-twitter-to-respond-to-cuomo-on-tax-plan" target="_blank">has fired back</a>. Mayor de Blasio has continued to express support for raising taxes on the highest earners, but he has not made a focused push on the issue since his efforts failed in 2014.</p> <p>Asked about whether there have been joint efforts between the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations to find efficiencies as the governor discussed, Morris Peters, spokesperson for the division of budget, said in a statement: "We have been having conversations with our partners in government and we will continue to do so."</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts" target="_blank">During City Council budget testimony on Tuesday</a>, de Blasio's budget director Dean Fuleihan said that talks had yet to occur between the city and state but that he expects them to take place soon.</p> <p>"I've also said I'm going to take him at his word, but I'll hold him to it," de Blasio told a gathering of the state Legislature's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus last month, referring to Gov. Cuomo and the CUNY and Medicaid cuts. "When the budget is passed on April 1 I fully expect there won't be any negative impact on New York City," de Blasio continued. "He said it won't cost us a single cent. That's what we expect, and I think a lot of people are going to make sure that happens."</p> <p><strong>Construction &amp; Housing Takeovers</strong><br />Another, little-discussed measure contained in Gov. Cuomo's budget would see the creation of "The New York State Design and Construction Corp." that would be given oversight of public construction projects worth over $50 million. The DCC would be a subsidiary of the state's Dormitory Authority and would be headed by three commissioners, all appointed by the governor.</p> <p>"The DCC's primary purpose will be to provide additional project management expertise and oversight on significant public works projects undertaken by state agencies, departments, public authorities and public benefit corporations throughout the state," reads the governor's State of the State <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2016StateoftheStateBook.pdf" target="_blank">policy book</a>.</p> <p>The proposal has raised concerns for legislators and budget watchdogs who believe Cuomo is trying to have more influence over independent authorities like the MTA. The MTA board is made up of members appointed by the city and other localities serviced by the agency. The Governor also appoints members and names the chair. Representatives of Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) are concerned the body would create more bureaucracy and confusion. For example, the DCC could void contracts signed by the MTA. CBC has written legislators urging them to oppose the plan.</p> <p>John Kaehny, of watchdog group Reinvent Albany, said he was taken aback by the plan. "The Dormitory Authority is the premier slush fund for pork barrel spending. To house a project management agency within it is alarming. We agree with budget watchdog groups who view this as a power grab and another attempt to reduce transparency and accountability."</p> <p>"What is his motivation for proposing this unprecedented design and construction corporation?" asked McMahon, of The Empire Center. "It will allow [Cuomo] to reach in and take control of any project he wants. The governor is the kind of guy who will say 'Stop that, give it to me, I can do it better!' The governor likes to draw power to the center, to the top, to him."</p> <p>Cuomo is also looking to increase the state's say over New York City development of affordable housing. Per the governor's plans, The Public Authorities Control Board would be allowed to veto individual housing projects proposed by the city that utilize tax-exempt bonds, given to the state by the federal government, which the state then allocates to municipalities.</p> <p>Cuomo administration officials say the plan would add a new level of transparency to a system that allocates billions of dollars to construction each year. City officials and affordable housing developers say that there is no need for another level of bureaucracy.</p> <p>The Control Board is made up of the governor and both legislative leaders. Mayor de Blasio has panned the proposal, as have a number of contractors and housing advocates who worry the plan will create overlap and uncertainty around badly-needed projects that increase affordable housing stock. The Real Estate Board of New York has also raised concerns that more state say would create uncertainty and possibly confuse lending institutions.</p> <p>"We think adding these additional layers will only slow down the process at a point where thousands and thousands of people are waiting for housing that will allow them and their families to be able to make ends meet," de Blasio told legislators during budget testimony earlier this year.</p> <p>Adding to the drama around the city's affordable housing plans, De Blasio administration officials, housing advocates and developers are also growing nervous that Cuomo may continue to divert some of the flow of federal housing bonds that the city relies on to create affordable housing. After doing so with millions of dollars in bonds that the city thought it could count on in 2015, Cuomo <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/29/nyregion/cuomo-de-blasio-feud-threatens-new-york-citys-plans-for-affordable-housing.html" target="_blank">is considering</a> using the bonds for the state's newly expanded role in creating affordable housing. During his State of the State, Cuomo outlined general plans to invest billions in affordable housing, but he has yet to flesh those plans out. His policy book promised details "in the coming weeks."</p> <p><strong>MTA Financing<br /></strong>Last year, Cuomo and his MTA Chair Thomas Prendergast began a campaign to push the city to contribute more to the MTA capital plan. Eventually a deal was struck where the city agreed to contribute $2.5 billion and the governor pledging an additional $7.3 billion, bringing the state's total pledged contribution to $8.3 billion, all part of the $26 billion overall five-year plan. For months Cuomo was asked how the state would pay its share and he retorted that the question would be answered in his budget.</p> <p>His budget plan simply raised more questions. Cuomo's plan appropriates $1 billion for the MTA capital plan and pledges to provide more of the promised $8.3 billion when the MTA spends through other capital funding. The city has in turn put off its commitment to extra funding since the city-state agreement was contingent upon parallel fund allocation.</p> <p>Budget experts believe the Cuomo administration will allow the MTA to issue bonds to raise the $7.3 billion once it spends the funds it has on hand. "[The governor] already committed to $8.3 million for the MTA and we all wondered where that would come from," said McMahon. "The answer is that the MTA commitment he signed was not worth the paper it was written on. Once the MTA is done spending money it raises itself, the state will direct them to issue their own bonds."</p> <p>Jamison Dague of CBC said that while the MTA has a backlog of projects that need to be addressed, he would like to see the state spell out specific funding for the agency. "What they've done here is tell the MTA, 'You have resources to draw down before we come in with the pledge.' The MTA has a lot of capital funding sources they are still trying to spend."</p> <p>However, Dague said knowing where the state funding is coming from is prudent for both the MTA and state's long-term planning. "You always want to identify revenue for big capital work before you get going with big contracts," Dague said.</p> <p>Legislators expressed outrage over the plan during a budget hearing last week. "I have no idea how we can actually do a capital program and actually approve a capital program with language that 'it'll be there when you need it.' Corporate America would laugh at this. Any country would be surprised with this type of approach in funding," said Senator Marty Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/02/8591986/state-legislators-bewildered-cuomos-mta-plan" target="_blank">according to</a> Politico New York.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has vigorously defended its position. "The Governor put unambiguous and iron-clad language in the budget to make good on his commitment to provide $8.3 billion towards the MTA's capital plan," Morris Peters of the Division of The Budget told Gotham Gazette in a statement. Peters pointed to <a href="http://publications.budget.ny.gov/eBudget1617/fy1617artVIIbills/TEDArticleVII.pdf" target="_blank">budget legislation</a> that he said would cement the state's commitment to funding the MTA "in law."</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure Spending</strong><br />This year's State of the State address was centered around the idea that Cuomo is rebuilding New York. "Built to Lead" was the theme and the governor announced a myriad of projects including revamping Penn Station, retooling the Javits Center, reconstructing LaGuardia Airport, and a major contribution to the rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River. The combined cost of the projects is estimated at over $100 billion.</p> <p>Budget watchdogs say Cuomo's plans are bold but not backed up with detailed funding mechanisms. The governor's budget points to federal funding, cash from public authorities, and investment from public/private partnerships to fund a number of the projects. It leaves the state assuming $29 billion of project costs. Watchdogs say the budget only appropriates two-thirds of that cash. "I think the situation was created by the governor's desire to portray himself as having a grand plan. So we all wondered: 'With what money?'" said McMahon.</p> <p>Cuomo has also already allocated billions of dollars worth of the state's bank settlement funds to other projects such as upstate revitalization. The state is also relatively close to bumping up against a borrowing cap that was signed into law under Gov. George Pataki, so it is unlikely the state could fund all of the projects if it wanted to.</p> <p>"I think the governor's ambition is admirable," said Dague of CBC. "But one of the concerns is he has promised to take on so many projects while leaving the funding details to be filled in. Another concern the legislature has is that the projects aren't being put through rigorous analysis. There isn't a discussion of how the state makes use of its limited capital projects funds--why this and not that. And there also is the question in some cases of: 'Why are these projects in the governor's budget and not the MTA's?'"</p> <p>Peters, of Cuomo's administration, said that the budget clearly lays out how Cuomo's grand plans will be paid for. The list of major infrastructure projects are funded by a combination of resources, including from the state and federal governments, public authorities, and private investment, as clearly laid out in our budget materials."</p> <p><strong>Cash Stash</strong><br />Another major concern for budget watchdogs is the $2.4 billion in funds stashed in 80 different pots in this year's executive budget not labeled for any specific use, as identified by good government group Citizens Union in <a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/cu/site/hosting/Reports/FINAL%20CU%20Spending%20in%20the%20Shadows%20Report%20FY17%20Executive%20Budget%20-%202%2029%2016.pdf" target="_blank">a new report</a>.</p> <p>It is actually common for the governor and both houses of the Legislature to create slush funds in the budget each year. The practice came under increased scrutiny last year after the arrest of (now former) Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who used cash from one of those pots of money in a scheme to earn referral fees through his law firm. Silver has been convicted on federal corruption trials and faces sentencing soon.</p> <p>This year, according to the Citizens Union "spending in the shadows" report, the governor has $2.2 billion worth of this discretionary money, the Senate $815 million, and $686 million for the Assembly. Last year, Cuomo inserted language into the budget that would have required legislators to reveal their connections to any organization that received funding from these pots of cash, but he has not reinserted the language this year. Cuomo has outlined a series of ethics reforms that he says he intends to negotiate with legislative leaders</p> <p>"With former Speaker Silver convicted in part because of his access to and illegal use of a healthcare-related lump sum pot, we need no greater reason to reform this form of budgeting," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, in a statement. "We need a whole new set of rules and level of transparency to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to personally enrich elected officials or used in unseemly pay to play schemes."</p> <p><strong>Policy Questions</strong><br />Cuomo has again packed his budget with his major legislative priorities, a practice that has earned the governor criticism - some say that the budget should only include operational and capital spending, not new policy. This year, Cuomo is including an increase of the minimum wage toward $15 per hour, paid family leave, and raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, among other policies.</p> <p>The governor has the support of Assembly and Senate Democrats on the outlines of all of these issues while Senate and Assembly Republicans have voiced varying levels of dissent. The Governor recently told reporters the minimum wage issue might be removed from the budget debate.</p> <p>Assembly Democrats, who control that chamber, are pushing for The DREAM Act, which Cuomo has included in his budget but has not rallied for publicly this year. Senate Republicans, who control that chamber, have been vigorously opposed to the plan, which would allow undocumented residents access to education aid.</p> <p>Also on the Assembly to-do list is the millionaire's tax they argue will allow an increase in education spending, among other things. The Cuomo administration and the Senate have both rejected the idea.</p> <p>Cuomo has remained nearly silent on the package of ethics reforms he pitched in January. Although he's taken to touring the state in an RV to tout his wage plan at a series of rallies, he has discussed ethics reform when prompted by reporters. His plans would strictly limit legislators outside income and close the LLC loophole that allows corporate donors to avoid campaign finance limits.</p> <p>The governor was asked about the lack of discussion around ethics reform during one of his RV stops last week. He replied that discussions were happening "in phases."</p> <p>"There's not a lot of continuity between $15 minimum wage and ethics," <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/246460/cuomo-were-going-to-see-if-ethics-reforms-stay-in-budget/" target="_blank">he said</a>. "It's kind of a hard transition: 'I want to talk to you about a $15 minimum wage, oh, and now I wanna talk to you about limiting income for legislators.' It's not the most fluid transition. Maybe you could do it. It's tough for me."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been changed to reflect the report of the initial budget meeting between Cuomo and legislative leaders.</p>
Next Steps the State Must Make to Create and Maintain Affordable Housing 2016-02-10T18:05:44+00:00 2016-02-10T18:05:44+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6161:next-steps-the-state-must-make-to-create-and-maintain-affordable-housing Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/15148516147_f36f512ffe_z.jpg" alt="groundbreaking cuomo others" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">photo: a groundbreaking, via the Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>As the Legislature moves ahead with its 2016 session in Albany, a top priority must be creating and maintaining affordable housing across the state. We cannot be content with fellow New Yorkers sleeping in three-quarter houses, with too many to a room, because it’s the only alternative. It is only so long until the next severely rent burdened tenant - spending more than 50 percent of their earnings on rent - ends up homeless because they cannot afford their apartment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Cuomo’s State of the State agenda – including 20,000 units of supportive housing over 15 years and 100,000 units of permanent affordable housing - is a welcome first step. Now, there are steps the Legislature should take to spur the development and protection of affordable housing. As President Obama’s call to end chronic homelessness among veterans displays, when government acts and we mobilize on that action, we can address long-term, entrenched issues and ensure individuals have a safe and affordable place to live.</p> <p dir="ltr">A high priority for Albany should be a new 421-a property tax credit for real estate developers who build affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">After developers and labor were unable to come to an agreement on construction wages by January 15, the 421-a tax credit expired. Still, Albany can seize the opportunity and craft a new program that maximizes the cost-effective development of truly affordable housing. For example, a new 421-a credit should not include a tax break for condo development. Approximately two-thirds of New York City’s households are renters. Moreover, the median household income of renters in New York City - about $41,000 annually according to the Furman Center’s 2014 <a href="http://furmancenter.org/research/sonychan" target="_blank">State of New York City’s Housing &amp; Neighborhoods</a> - is unlikely enough to afford a co-op or condo.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Legislature must also adequately fund the 20,000 units of supportive housing announced by Cuomo. In particular, Albany must ensure state contracts with supportive housing providers promote the long-term viability of the units. A consistent challenge that we at Urban Pathways face in operating scattered-site supportive housing - apartments in various private buildings throughout communities - is that the service contracts lack rent escalations. As scattered-site units are in market-rate apartments, they are subject to rent increases, making rent escalation provisions critical to their preservation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lastly, after March of this year, the state will receive National Housing Trust Fund dollars. New York will be obligated to spend these funds - potentially $20 million - predominantly on rental housing for extremely low-income (ELI) households. ELI households are those with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income (ranging from about $18,150 for a one-person household to $29,500 for a four-person household in New York City). This is another opportunity for the state to invest in adequate exit options for homeless individuals throughout the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Nicole Bramstedt is the Director of Policy at <a href="http://www.urbanpathways.org/" target="_blank">Urban Pathways</a>, a nonprofit social services and supportive housing organization. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/UrbanPathwaysNY" target="_blank">@UrbanPathwaysNY</a></p> <p dir="ltr">

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

</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/15148516147_f36f512ffe_z.jpg" alt="groundbreaking cuomo others" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">photo: a groundbreaking, via the Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>As the Legislature moves ahead with its 2016 session in Albany, a top priority must be creating and maintaining affordable housing across the state. We cannot be content with fellow New Yorkers sleeping in three-quarter houses, with too many to a room, because it’s the only alternative. It is only so long until the next severely rent burdened tenant - spending more than 50 percent of their earnings on rent - ends up homeless because they cannot afford their apartment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Cuomo’s State of the State agenda – including 20,000 units of supportive housing over 15 years and 100,000 units of permanent affordable housing - is a welcome first step. Now, there are steps the Legislature should take to spur the development and protection of affordable housing. As President Obama’s call to end chronic homelessness among veterans displays, when government acts and we mobilize on that action, we can address long-term, entrenched issues and ensure individuals have a safe and affordable place to live.</p> <p dir="ltr">A high priority for Albany should be a new 421-a property tax credit for real estate developers who build affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">After developers and labor were unable to come to an agreement on construction wages by January 15, the 421-a tax credit expired. Still, Albany can seize the opportunity and craft a new program that maximizes the cost-effective development of truly affordable housing. For example, a new 421-a credit should not include a tax break for condo development. Approximately two-thirds of New York City’s households are renters. Moreover, the median household income of renters in New York City - about $41,000 annually according to the Furman Center’s 2014 <a href="http://furmancenter.org/research/sonychan" target="_blank">State of New York City’s Housing &amp; Neighborhoods</a> - is unlikely enough to afford a co-op or condo.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Legislature must also adequately fund the 20,000 units of supportive housing announced by Cuomo. In particular, Albany must ensure state contracts with supportive housing providers promote the long-term viability of the units. A consistent challenge that we at Urban Pathways face in operating scattered-site supportive housing - apartments in various private buildings throughout communities - is that the service contracts lack rent escalations. As scattered-site units are in market-rate apartments, they are subject to rent increases, making rent escalation provisions critical to their preservation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lastly, after March of this year, the state will receive National Housing Trust Fund dollars. New York will be obligated to spend these funds - potentially $20 million - predominantly on rental housing for extremely low-income (ELI) households. ELI households are those with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income (ranging from about $18,150 for a one-person household to $29,500 for a four-person household in New York City). This is another opportunity for the state to invest in adequate exit options for homeless individuals throughout the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Nicole Bramstedt is the Director of Policy at <a href="http://www.urbanpathways.org/" target="_blank">Urban Pathways</a>, a nonprofit social services and supportive housing organization. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/UrbanPathwaysNY" target="_blank">@UrbanPathwaysNY</a></p> <p dir="ltr">

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

</p>