Cuomo’s Surprise Package Waltzes Through Legislature
As happened last spring, when Cuomo rammed through pension reform, a real estate tax cap and same sex marriage legislation, the governor was hailed as a magician by some, as a brilliant tactician by others and as a bold politician who pushed around major labor unions, such as the state’s teachers and government workers and came out of it all with the highest favorability ratings ever achieved by a new governor.
Needless to say, the legislative victories he racked up between Sunday, December 4 and Wednesday, December 7 were far superior and more impressive than those early 2011 gains he had made.
•Cuomo’s new tax plan is expected to bring $2 billion into the state’s coffers and help to make that anticipated $3.5 billion deficit next April disappear.
•Included in the next budget, the governor will be able to deliver to the teachers union the promises that were made earlier this year of more money for education.
•To get the state senate to renege on their no new taxes pledge, just as readily as the governor did, he repealed the MTA’s controversial and literally hated payroll tax plan that had been foisted upon small and some large businesses. Senate GOPers, who could have blocked Cuomo’s entire tax code reform plan because of their majority control in the upper house instead went along with the governor’s plan because he ridded them of the MTA payroll tax. Meanwhile, Cuomo kept the MTA happy by agreeing to compensate it for the money it will lose from the now former tax levy.
•Not to be outdone, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his house couldn’t get the governor to budge on the millionaire’s tax extension they wanted so badly. But they finally got their wish when Cuomo forgot about his aversion to tax increases and changed the tax code so millionaires will pay higher taxes next year.
So that’s the way it was done. The governor, facing a real $3.5 billion deficit threat next year, just reached into his magic hat and came up with a very old formula to give everybody a little bit of what they want and they’ll roll over dead.
Come to think of it, it’s not such a bad way to play the game.
Here’s a sample of legislators’ reaction to the package devised by the governor and passed by the lawmakers last week.
•Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria)—The lawmaker said the “historic” package “will provide much-needed relief for middle and working-class families and invest in programs that will put our state back on the path to prosperity.”
Simotas said the reforms bring a level of fairness to our tax system and and will create jobs.
•Assemblymember Michael DenDekker (D–Jackson Heights)—The “revisions” to the state tax code corrected “inequities and inefficient ‘positions of the tax code, said DenDekker, which had “placed an undue and unaffordable burden on our working families while allowing high earners to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”
Small businesses will grow because of the MTA payroll tax, he said, and “the elimination of the tax will provide an immediate and significant benefit to New York state’s education system.”
DenDekker concluded: “It’s always a good day when New York state can give something more back to its residents.”
•Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder (D–Rockaways)—The elimination of the MTA payroll tax will be a major benefit. “Creating a more business friendly climate here in Queens is the best way to ensure our small businesses cannot only keep their doors open, but can grow and prosper,” said Goldfeder.
MALONEY BILL HELPS SMALL BIZ GROW: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney is filing legislation to increase available funds that would enable small businesses to take out loans of up to $25,000 to increase the size of their business.
One objective of the new program is to create jobs for America, Maloney explained:
“This bill will expand a vital source of seed money for entrepreneurs who don’t have access to bank loans. The billion dollar corporation that began in a dorm room or a garage is no urban myth, as the employees of Facebook and Hewlett- Packard can tell you, but the Great Recession has made it harder than ever for entrepreneurs to access credit. It’s my hope that this ‘micro biz’ bill will be a bridge not only to vital financing for entrepreneurs, but also to a brighter economic future for our country.”
Maloney’s bill would increase the availability of micro loans by giving federal grants to Community Development Financial Institutions to establish loan-loss reserves, which would leverage private investment to provide small businesses with loans of up to $25,000.
ANOTHER FOE FOR GILLIBRAND?: According to press reports, another possible to run against U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand next year has emerged. He is Marc Cenedella, a 41-yearold Yale and Harvard business school grad who now operates the very successful job finding firm called The Ladder, which he founded.
Cenedella has approached state Republican and Conservative Party leaders to get their support to become the candidate. Already seeking consideration to be the GOP candidate opposite Gillibrand is George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller. Also a possibility to run is George Wilson, who ran unsuccessfully, but impressively against Thomas DiNapoli for state comptroller last year.
Cenedella reportedly is huddling with E. O’Brien Murray, a GOP consultant, to manage his campaign. Earlier this year, Murray handled now Congressmember Bob Turner’s successful campaign to defeat David Weprin.
Gillibrand, meanwhile, is getting her campaign ready. She has introduced a bill recently to prohibit congressmembers from using insider information to operate profitably in the stock market. According to recent information, Gillibrand has built her campaign fund up to $5.3 million, but that’s suspect because it comes from Maragos.
CATSIMATIDIS RUNNING FOR MAYOR? According to some reports, millionaire grocer John Catsimatidis may be running on the Republican line in the 2013 race for mayor of New York City. Catsimatidis was set to run four years ago, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg changed those plans by getting the three-term law passed, giving him a chance to run again which, of course, he won easily.
The 63-year-old Catsimatidis is known as the millionaire grocer because of his 32 grocery chain, but his $4 billion empire also includes vast real estate holdings. All tolled, he owns 300 properties throughout the country, according to a recent story in Crain’s New York Business.
ACKERMAN: DON’T CLOSE QUEENS P.O. FACILITY: Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D–Bayside/L.I.) has complained to Frank Calabrese, a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) official, that the proposed transfer of operations from the Queens Processing and Distribution Center in College Point to Brooklyn is unsatisfactory and would cause the loss of 702 jobs.
The proposed switch, to help the USPS avoid bankruptcy, would in Ackerman’s words, decrease the high level of service which the center gives presently to businesses, organizations and residents in Queens.
Instead of forcing Queens residents into accepting an unsatisfactory level of service, there are other options that Congress is considering to ease the financial burdens of the USPS, among them certain measures Ackerman supports.
One would allow the USPS to be more flexible in its business practices and pricing structure, and legislation that would relieve the burdens of prefunding retiree health costs.
Changes by USPS are necessary to enable USPS to continue functioning and Ackerman says he can accept, but “the closing of a viable facility should not be one of them”.
Ackerman states: “The large loss of jobs would not only devastate the hardworking postal workers themselves, but would have negative consequences for the local businesses and individuals that are dependent on reliable postal service in Queens.”
PROTESTS GREET MUNI METERS IN D.K.: Despite having a history of a lack of parking, Dutch Kills community activists and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) rallied against the installation of new Muni Meters on 29th Street last week. But rather than putting in more meters, Van Bramer and CB 1 members complained, the city Department of Traffic (DOT) should go after illegal parkers who hog existing parking meters.
Van Bramer explained that in this area, 60 families share just eight public parking meters on 29th Street between 41st Street and Queens Plaza North. But five of those spots are reserved for cars with parking placards.
At the rally, Van Bramer said DOT should stop parking abuse in Dutch Kills and enforce responsible parking. He also expressed concern about the lack of notification when installing Muni Meters. He said no local official or community member received any notification when the most recent Muni Meters went in, he noted.
In the face of these on-going problems, Van Bramer proposed legislation that would require consultation with community boards before meters could be installed.
The lawmaker declared: “We are calling on the DOT to end the placard abuse in Dutch Kills that is attacking the quality of life of the neighborhood. I am calling on the city to protect the rights of the residents of this block and surrounding blocks to park near their homes.
“Muni Meters will further restrict their opportunities to use these spaces. To avoid these problems in the future, I have proposed legislation to make sure the local community board is consulted whenever new meters are proposed.”
Dutch Kills Civic Association President Jerry Walsh pointed out that the “residents are victims at the hands of New York City” because the Muni Meters will cost local residents of 29th Street “$9.00 a day, six days-a week to park in front of their homes while city workers would use their city placard at the Muni Meters and not pay at all.”
ACKERMAN CALLS FOR ‘TOUGHEST SANCTIONS POSSIBLE’ AGAINST IRAN: As the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, Congressmember Gary Ackerman will be participating in, among other matters, “imposing sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank to undermine Iran’s effort to acquire the capability to produce nuclear weapons…”
In opening remarks to a House-Senate Conference Committee, which will eventually cast a final vote on the legislation including Iran sanctions, Ackerman stated:
“My concern in this conference is very limited: to ensure that the toughest, most crippling, most unbearably painful sanctions possible are imposed on Iran and particularly on Iran’s Central Bank. Iran’s Central Bank is the keystone in the arch supporting Iran’s economy and what supports Iran’s illicit drive for nuclear weapons.”
Further on into his speech, the veteran Queens lawmaker amplified his comments on the Iranian Central Bank, saying “and the entire Iranian banking sector needs to lose whatever capacity they retain to facilitate Iran’s illicit WMD programs.”
In the next paragraph, Ackerman states that the goal of the sanctions against Iran is “To inflict crippling, unendurable economic pain over there. Iran’s banking sector— especially its central bank—needs to become the financial equivalent of Chernobyl: radioactive, dangerous and most of all empty.”
Ackerman also paints a picture of Iran—our greatest potential threat anywhere in the world, stating:
“A nation that funds terrorism around the world, that organizes subversion and chaos throughout the Middle East, that is responsible for the deaths of American citizens and soldiers, that plots against and threatens American allies and that has sworn to destroy the State of Israel must never have access to nuclear arms. Ideally, we would want to persuade Iran to change course by itself, rather than undertaking the physical elimination of its capacity for creating nuclear arms. But whether by peaceful, though painful political, economic and financial sanctions or ultimately, by military means, with all the awful consequences that could be expected, the ayatollah’s drive for nuclear arms weapons must MUST—be stopped.”
This country’s threat from Iran couldn’t be stated more clearly—and couldn’t be presented by anyone but someone who has had a front row seat to view the dangerous situation in the Middle East.
TURNER JOINS ‘NO CROSS BAY BRIDGE’ TOLLS CHORUS: Congressmember Bob Turner (R–C–Queens/Brooklyn) last week joined Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, the Rockaways’ representative, in calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to join in the effort to eliminate the toll for Queens residents on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, which connects the Queens mainland to the Rockaway peninsula.
The move by Turner, who resides in Breezy Point in the Rockaways, comes shortly after the lawmaker called on
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota to discuss the issue and received a commitment, he said, that Lhota made to look into the issue further.
The toll, which for 12 years was free for residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways, was reinstated for everyone by the MTA in 2010 to meet the budget deficit.
In his letter to the governor, Turner, whose district includes the bridge, told Cuomo:
“Quite simply, the toll is a discriminatory fee against Queens residents. It forces them to pay a toll to travel from one part of the borough to another. It is a dubious and expensive distinction that my constituents, who commute to New York City, who visit friends and family in Queens and travel throughout the area, have to pay this toll.”
Turner asked the governor, “to make this a top priority on your agenda for relieving the economic burden on the citizens of my district”.
ADDABBO AGREES ON LEGALIZING ‘FULL’ GAMING: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) also took note of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new fiscal plan, but he noted that while he awaited further details, he registered his full agreement going ahead with, “beginning the process for legalizing full gaming in New York”, which could assure the future success of Resorts World at Aqueduct Racetrack in Addabbo’s district.
Noting that the full gaming idea will also “allow for certain jobs and economic growth”, Addabbo stated:
“This multi year process [to authorize full gaming], which allows for the critical element of public input through a referendum, would eventually result in our state retaining much of the approximately $6 billion which we lose to New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania gaming.
MILLER APPLAUDS MTA PAYROLL TAX: Following the Assembly’s vote to end the MTA payroll tax, Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven) said, “It was great news for small businesses because lifting this onerous financial burden will enable us to create a more business friendly climate in the 38th AD,” Miller’s district.
Miller said the tax, part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tax and financial package announced last week, had affected taxes on payrolls for those who are self employed and earn less than $50,000 per year.
By killing the tax, schools both public and private will be relieved of the tax and many other small businesses will see a considerable decrease in the tax, Miller said, including those with payrolls up to $1.75 million.
“This is a positive step toward a brighter future in our community,” said Miller. “This will relieve small businesses from this damaging tax and spur hiring so local families can get back to work.”