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February 25, 2013 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, new york.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) is carrying out a number of interviews to garner support for his legislation that would allow New Yorkers to answer the question “Do you support the division of New York into two separate states?”

Hawley has participated in, and scheduled future interviews with, high-profile outlets such as Capital Tonight, Talk 1300 Radio and WBEN Radio to highlight Assembly Bill 391, which would help Upstate and Western New Yorkers make their voices heard in state government by allowing counties to put the aforementioned question to a non-binding voter referendum.

“Due to the fact that much of New York’s population is concentrated Downstate – primarily in New York City – the vast majority of statewide legislative leaders are not from Upstate or Western New York. As a result, many local families feel their needs are ignored in state government,” Hawley said.

“I have been promoting this legislation across New York to garner support for this measure, which would allow the people of this state to decide for themselves if they would be better represented in the Capitol if New York were split into two separate states. This legislation is meant to give our local families a voice in state government, and I will continue fighting to make our voices heard in all corners of this great state.”

Hawley cited two examples of statewide policy advanced by New York City-area legislators that has drawn the ire of Upstate and Western New Yorkers -- gun control and Medicaid spending.

“We have seen time and time again that one-size-fits-all is not an effective way to approach government,” Hawley said. “When Downstate politicians tax and spend our economy into peril and infringe on our Constitutional rights, our communities are the ones that suffer. We deserve a voice at the table, and that’s what this legislation aims to achieve.”

January 23, 2013 - 11:04am

A fact has become clear to me: The State of New York no longer exists. What we have today is a polity that is, in effect, the City of New York and its possessions.

The passage of the “SAFE” Act is a clear message to the residents of the possessions of the City of New York that our interests and lifestyle are no longer relevant to the politicians of the State of New York. The passage of this bill is the legislative equivalent of rape. It was passed suddenly and without our consent. Our interests and concerns, as well as our rights, were secondary to the whims and desires of the City of New York.

I am sure that there are state-level politicians who are absolutely befuddled by the fact that they are required to vote on farm issues since they have never seen a farm in the Bronx. I would not be surprised if the legislature of the State of the City of New York voted for a car tax that required New Yorkers to pay 100% of the value of their automobile each year since, in reality, a car is a luxury. You can always take the subway or a bus to wherever your going, after all. The cultural gap between the City and the State of New York is as vast as the gap between Washington, D.C., and America.

In a perfect world, the residents of the State of New York would have the right, and ability, to divorce themselves from the political overreaching of the City of New York. In the real world, we are stuck with its mandates and its world-view. I have had a recurring dream: I stand at the Rockland County line with a huge saw. I cut, and I cut. Eventually, NYC and Long Island are cut free and I push them out to sea. I wish them good luck in their journeys, but I do not miss them.

Back in the land of the awake, we have to deal with the costs of this NYC control to the people of the possessions of the City of New York. Unfunded mandates, regulations and laws, passed to solve NYC and NYC suburban county problems, but having statewide effect and statewide costs, have built upon and compounded on themselves. These costs are bringing our local governments to the brink of bankruptcy. The State Senate is controlled now by the politicians of the City of New York, regardless of the fig leaf of a few Democrats caucusing with the Republicans to form a “Republican” majority. The situation will continue to worsen and the costs to rise.

I can dream of the counties of Western New York declaring their separation and forming their own polity to free themselves from the tyranny of the City of New York, but this will not happen. It would create a new entity that would potentially result in a new state that would bring with it two new U.S. Senators who would inevitably be Republican. The City of New York would never stomach that, let alone the party of which it is a wholly owned subsidiary.

Alternatively, perhaps the border counties, and their neighbors, could petition Pennsylvania for admission to the Commonwealth. That will not be allowed for very much the same reason. It would tip the balance of power in Pennsylvania in favor of the Republicans. That would never be allowed.

What I suspect will continue to happen, though, is that former citizens of what was, once, the Empire State will continue to make their homes in Free States in the South and West of the United States of America in increasing numbers as the oppression of the City of New York continues. With lower taxes, and better employment prospects than are available in the possessions of the City of New York, it is a no-brainer to flee. Good luck paying your ever-increasing bills with an ever-increasing out-migration of taxpayers, State of the City of New York.

January 11, 2013 - 1:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, new york, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy was in Batavia today and spoke at Genesee Community College providing a recap Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address.

Duffy covered all the major points of the speech, from economic development, education reform (including longer school days and creating a "master teacher program," reducing gun violence and protecting the rights of women.

"It is about making New York State the best we can make it," Duffy said. "This is year three for the governor. He could have rested on his laurels. He has some of the highest support numbers of anybody around. He’s taken on things, some things may be controversial. He’s taken on things he believes are right for the state. It really is about economy, education and really looking at things that make our state stronger."

Absent from both the governor's speech Tuesday and Duffy's remarks today was any talk of mandate relief for local government.

Asked about it after remarks, Duffy said the failure to mention it doesn't mean the governor's office isn't working on the issue.

"There’s been a lot of work on the underpinnings of mandate relief," Duffy said. "I personally went to a lot of the mandate relief council meetings and listened firsthand. There’s work being done. There are not any big announcements to be made right now but there are a number of things happening."

After his appearance at GCC, Duffy went to Larry's Steak House for lunch.

January 5, 2011 - 5:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in new york, Andrew Cuomo.

Newly minted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his first State of the State message today and came out strongly against taxes:

The New York Times:

Mr. Cuomo proposed to freeze the salaries of the vast majority of public employees for one year, to limit new spending to no higher than the rate of inflation, to limit school property tax increases and to “hold the line” on taxes in general.

“New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Our young people will not stay, businesses will not come, this has to change. Put it simply, the people of this state simply cannot afford to pay more taxes, period.”

Cuomo pledged to cut spending, consolidate agencies and reform programs such as Medicaid.

We've been receiving reactions today from local leaders. Their full statements after the jump:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

In today’s State of the State Address, the governor acknowledged the dark times ahead, but looked to a brighter future on the horizon. Many of his cornerstone proposals, from a property tax cap to an independent redistricting commission, have been advanced by the Assembly Minority Conference for years.

What we must do now as state legislators is change the way we operate in Albany and run state government like a private-sector business. We need to find savings in the state budget through consolidating state agencies and ending optional Medicaid programs that other states do not offer.

Unfunded mandates that force localities to raise property taxes and drive our families across state lines must be repealed immediately. Powerful job-creating programs like IDA’s need to be embraced, not ignored. I am eager to work with the governor to accomplish these goals that will improve the quality of life for Western New Yorkers.

State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer:

Today, the Governor’s State of the State address echoed opinions of so many New Yorkers, including myself – especially for the state to close the budget deficit, impose a property-tax cap, and create private-sector jobs. 

I have been an outspoken advocate and introduced legislation on many of these issues during my first term and I am pleased to hear the Governor make them his major legislative priorities.  More importantly, New Yorkers have been demanding property tax relief and a smaller and leaner State government over the past few years as well. 

As the 2011 Legislative Session begins, the governor and legislature have an opportunity to turn our state’s fiscal and economic future around. I am eager to begin working with the governor and my senate and assembly colleagues during the 2011 Legislative Session.”

Steve Hyde, director of the Genesee County Economic Development Center:

The governor’s message today was one of change, coming together, and hope for a prosperous economic future for the Empire State. During his State of the State, Governor Cuomo mentioned his idea of creating 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC’s) throughout the state which will be chaired by Lt. Governor Bob Duffy. 

Steve Hyde, President and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), was impressed with the Governor’s message. “I’m optimistic that the REDC’s will help foster job growth and benefit Genesee County. The private industry uses pay-for-performance and competition to drive success and I think that our state will succeed through rewarding performance.”

He continued “… if done right the REDC’s have potential to better integrate the GCEDC’s regional partners, including Greater Rochester Enterprise and Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, with the development communities, local governments, and the state’s Economic Development Agency. These ongoing partnerships will lead to more efficiency and development for all of Western New York.”

Genesee County has continued to grow and strategically invest to develop shovel-ready industry specific sites for medical devices, food processing, distribution logistics and high-tech advanced manufacturing companies. A mega site, Western New York Science, Technology, Advanced Manufacturing Park (WNY STAMP), is under development in Genesee County, Alabama, NY and has the ability to transform Western New York.

Hyde is convinced that STAMP will be a contender in the competitive funding pool that the governor announced. Funds will be allocated to the most innovative and creative regional job creating initiatives. The WNY STAMP project and the Buffalo East Tech Park in Pembroke, NY, have the potential to bring 11,000 jobs directly into Genesee County and add an additional 27,000 jobs through the supply chain impact between Buffalo and Rochester. Potentially, the REDC will assist to promote WNY STAMP and bring the project to a reality for Western New York.

New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton:

Governor Cuomo's property tax cap plan is a much needed New Year's resolution for New York State farmers.

Because of our land holdings, property taxes are killing us. We love the governor’s plan to cap taxes at 2 percent. Also, we love the cap because it's coupled with a recognition that long-term restructuring is needed to Medicaid, government consolidation and education reform.

Equally exciting is his mandate relief program, which will help shrink the massive tax burden local municipalities are forced to levy against its residents and businesses.

The governor made it clear today, as he did throughout his campaign last fall, that agriculture will be a central factor in his effort to revitalize the economy.

We are grateful for his vow to help get more New York-grown food into the New York City market. This is a no-brainer. This idea will benefit farmers as well as city residents who will have greater access to fresh local produce and dairy products.

We applaud his support to renovate the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market, which is a vital resource for farmers to deliver produce into the New York City market.

We’re looking forward to working with Lt. Gov. Duffy in his role as advisor to regional economic development councils. He’s already visited my farm and many others over the past several months. He has demonstrated a clear recognition of agriculture and its role in the economy and culture of Upstate New York and Long Island.

Governor Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Duffy have pledged their commitment to the farm families of New York and we’re looking forward to working with this exciting new administration.

August 4, 2010 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, new york.

Parents, do your back-to-school shopping now.

Starting in October, under the 123-day-late budget passed by the Senate last night, clothing priced at under $110 will once again be assessed a 4-percent sales tax.

That's one of the provisions to increase revenue.

Even so, Associated Press reports that budget isn't balanced and Republicans complain that it both raises taxes and increases spending (Gothamist).

The revenue package is expected to generate $1.5 billion dollars and was approved by the Senate on a 32-28 vote.

A soda tax was not included in the bill.

The total budget: $136 billion.

Buffalo News: New financing provision for UB not included in budget.

New York Times: With Connecticut trying to woo hedge funds, the budget doesn't include a change in state law that would have taxed bonuses as ordinary income.

Albany Times-Union: Statement from Gov. Paterson's office.

LoHud.com: Senate is planning property tax cap.

July 25, 2010 - 4:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, new york, prisons.

Felons can't vote, but they do, it appears, have a tremendous influence on New York State politics.

It turns out, where they live (like in a prison in Upstate New York) has some influence on how legislative districts are proportioned.

Some Downstate interests don't like the fact that NYC criminals housed in Upstate facilities get counted as Upstate residents.

There's a proposal in the State Legislature to change how prisoners are counted for legislative districting purposes.

Newsweek wrote about the issue recently.

Its prospects are good in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but it may not get through the nearly evenly split State Senate, where seven districts, including those of two Democrats, would need to be redrawn due to insufficient population if they lost their prisoners in redistricting. The state senators from those districts contend that their constituents are absorbing a public need, not just government dollars, because the prisoners exact a toll on the surrounding areas. “Upstate communities accepted prisons for the economic benefit,” says Sen. Joe Griffo, “but there’s also other impacts, both positive and negative. The fire department, police department, and hospitals all have to respond to the prison and the inmates.”

...

Although the New York proposal, like the new law in Maryland, would affect only legislative redistricting, not state funding for social services, Griffo argues that political power always translates into government funding, so prison-heavy districts upstate have a real financial stake in preserving their claim on prisoners in redistricting. A spokesperson for Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who sponsored the redistricting bill, characterizes that thinking as “the upstate prison-industrial complex,” protecting its own interests.

July 4, 2010 - 10:48am
posted by C. M. Barons in budget, debt, new york, Chris Barons.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE According to a USDA study, it costs between $124,800 and $249,180 for a dual-parent family (range based on annual family incomes between $39,100 and over $65,000) to raise a child from birth to age 18.  As of 2007, the number of children in an average U. S. Family is 1.86.  27% of U. S. families are single-parented.  Single women, by far the majority of single-parent households, earn an average of $26,500 a year.  The average 3-person family in New York State has annual income of $69,421.  8.5% of adults age 55 or older were employed part-time compared to 20.3% of those ages 20 to 24 and 9.4% of adults ages 25 to 54.  Although median household income rose by about $700 between 2006 and 2007, the average income for households between the 20th and 40th percentile of the income distribution—the typical income range for low-income working families—did not grow at all, coming in at $29,442 in 2007. For households at this income level, an affordable housing payment would be $735 a month, so fair-market rents for a two-bedroom apartment would be technically unaffordable.  Government workers in blue-collar jobs earn $0.87 more per hour than private sector counterparts in the five-county Rochester region.

 

New York State Average Annual Salary by Occupation:

Legislators- $76,230

Education Administrators- $103,510

Accountants and Auditors- $84,280

Loan Officers- $77,310

Computer Software Engineers- $93,910

Computer Support Specialists- $52,570

Surveyors- $58,910

Urban and Regional Planners- $62,700

Substance Abuse Counselors- $42,460

Lawyers- $152,710

Secondary Teachers- $68,010

Teacher Assistants- $25,530

Dentists- $149,370

Veterinarians- $97,890

Landscaping, Groundskeeping- $28,700

Nursing Aides and Orderlies- $30,850

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers- $60,180

Cooks, Fast Food- $19,480

Waiters, Waitresses- $25,660

Janitors and Cleaners- $28,100

Barbers- $22,510

Childcare Workers- $24,040

Cashiers- $19,710

Telemarketers- $27,120

Bookkeepers- $38,570

File clerks- $28,090

Farmworkers and Laborers- $22,010

Carpenters- $53,300

Roofer helpers- $25,840

Automotive Mechanics- $37,230

Machinists- $39,940

Packaging Machine Operators- $26,790

School Bus Drivers- $34,890

Stock Handlers- $26,650

Assemblers- $26,840

Retail Sales- $26,750

 

 

DSS Cash Assistance & Shelter Allowance (Family of three) - $8292

Unemployment Benefit- $21,060

 

Total New York State recorded debt: $52,100,000,000 as of March 31, 2009.  Six years ago public authority debt (increases annually) amounted to $120.4 billion. Only 30% of public authority debt is represented as recorded debt, yet amounts to more than 90 percent of total outstanding New York public debt. Current New York per capita public debt is $5,666- up from $2,420 in 2004. The state Debt Reform Act was enacted in 2000.

 

May 25, 2010 - 6:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, new york, Gary Maha.

Sheriff Gary Maha calls a pending Assembly bill which would require cops to shoot a suspect only to wound him -- presumably aiming for an arm or a leg -- "ridiculous."

mug_gary_maha.jpgThe so-called "minimum force" bill says, "(a peace officer or police officer) uses such force with the intent to stop, rather than kill, the person who he or she reasonably believes is using unlawful force, and uses only the minimal amount of force necessary to effect such stop."

No shooting course teaches law enforcement officers to aim at limbs, Maha noted.

The first job of a cop in a dangerous situation is to protect himself and the people he's sworn to serve, Maha said.

"Deadly physical force, under the (current) law, can only be used as a last resort, under extreme circumstances," Maha told WBTA. "You're going to put more pressure on the officer if he has to shoot to wound. You're putting that officer in jeopardy."

Under provisions of the bill, any officer accused of shooting to kill another person in the line of duty would be charged with manslaughter.

The bill is sponsored by Annette Robinson (D-Bedford Stuyvesant) and Darryl Towns (D-East New York).

While the "minimum force" bill hasn't died, it is languishing in committee and is still drawing reaction from New York's law enforcement community.

A New York detective told the New York Post that the bill would create a situation where cops are expected to shoot the gun out of the hands of suspect, while the criminal would still be firing with the intent to kill. It's been called the "John Wayne" bill because it requires a level of accuracy only seen in Hollywood Westerns.

"These are split-second, spontaneous events -- and officers have to make a full assessment in a fraction of a second," said an angry Michael Paladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

The bill was drafted in response to the shooting death of Sean Bell, a man who was killed by police following a fight at a strip club where he was celebrating his bachelor party. An undercover officer reportedly heard Bell say at some point that he had a gun. In the melee that followed, Bell reportedly slammed his Nissan into a police vehicle.

Photo: File photo of Sheriff Gary Maha.

May 12, 2010 - 9:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, new york, farm labor.

Sen. George Onorato, a Democrat from Queens, represents no farmers and probably no farm workers, but he has reintroduced legislation that New Yorker's farmers have spent close to two years fighting and thought they had defended.

The farm labor bill is now S.7787 and Watertown-area Democratic Senator Dean Aurbertine, who successfully lobbied Senate leadership to have the previous farm labor bill moved into his agriculture committee, where it died last month, said the new bill makes only cosmetic changes to the previously defeated legislation.

In a news release, Aubertine said:

“It’s disheartening that advocates for this legislation after suffering a defeat refuse to accept the fact that this bill went through an open process, was considered and defeated by a majority of senators. Up to now a majority of Senators who have voted on this bill, voted against this bill. The process was set up by the Senate to deal with these bills and the process worked. There really is no substantive change between this legislation and the legislation that went down to defeat.”

The bill allows farm workers to form unions, receive workers compensation and unemployment benefits and provides for 24-consecutive hours of off time each week and mandates an eight-hour work day.

Farmers say the provisions would drive up farm labor costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and put many of New York's farms out of business.

May 7, 2010 - 9:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, steve hawley, new york.

With a state budget five weeks late and a $9.5 billion budget gap, Assemblyman Steve Hawley found a debate on seahorse protection legislation just a bit ridiculous.

Hawley voted no on the bill just as a matter of protest.

“The dysfunction in Albany has reached a breaking point, and today’s debate on seahorse legislation is a prime example of that," Hawley said in a news release. "Despite the fact I want to save my seahorse friends, I voted no on this bill in protest because of the sheer lunacy of its timing during this fiscal crisis. Over the last four weeks, the Assembly Majority has introduced trivial legislation, while continuing to send the rank-and-file members home after only a couple days of work.”

WGRB out of Albany spoke to the bill's sponsor:

The sponsor of the seahorse bill, Steve Englebright of Long Island, says this is important legislation to protect seahorses off Long Island that are collected for the aquarium industry, and that it would be malpractice for the Assembly not to work on other bills while waiting for a budget deal.

Hawley said he's frustrated with the lack of progress on a budget.

"Since April 1, four emergency budget extenders have been put in place, and there are no concrete plans for a budget to be passed anytime soon," Hawley said.

April 13, 2010 - 7:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, new york, Carl Paladino.

Carl Paladino wants to be your next governor.

Frankly, I never heard of the guy until he announced his candidacy. 

Let's just say, his first impressions have not been favorable. He made a rather tasteless comment that Obama's health care reform would kill more Americans than the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We also learned that he apparently fathered a child out of wedlock 10 years ago.

Now come revelations by Buffalo blogger Alan Bedenko (his wife works in Batavia), who has exposed racist and pornographic (to put it mildly) e-mails Paladino forwarded to his political and civic associates. Click here, if you must, but keep in mind that even Bedenko's sanitized versions are not appropriate for children.

The images include screen shots (some parts blacked out) of pornographic movies, including one involving an animal, as well as blatantly racist shots at President Obama, such as a video of African tribesmen dancing under the caption "Obama inauguration rehearsal."

Here's what Paladino said about the e-mails, according to the New York Daily News:

"I confess to being human and imperfect, as are all of God's children," he told a Buffalo crowd Monday. "I am proud that I've created hundreds of jobs and opportunity for people of every ethnicity, color and sexual preference."

Paladino said he "didn't originate any of these e-mails" and was "somewhat careless" in forwarding them.

He said he tried to send the e-mails to "a very specific bunch of friends who somewhat enjoy that humor."

Paladino apologized to women for passing along porn -- but not men.

"I say this to the men out there who have never opened a graphic image on the Internet: Don't vote for me. For those who have, I welcome your vote," he said.

Paladino's campaign manager dismisses the revelation of the e-mails as "we think this is a smear campaign authorized by Democrats in Albany," according to the New York Times.

Paladino is running for the GOP nomination. The NY Daily News says he has ties to the Tea Party Movement.

UPDATE: Buffalo News has a pretty complete story on the topic of the e-mails. Apparently, Paladino thought he was being funny:

Paladino said Satalin referred to Bob Lanier, a Paladino friend and All-America center who led the Bonnies to the NCAA Final Four in 1970.

"He takes me to task, and I respond, "Jim, you've lost your humor,'" Paladino said, adding he was trying to explain he sent the items only for the sake of their humor.

UPDATE II: Now the Buffalo News reports that even tea party leaders want nothing to do with Paladino.

And in Albany this morning, the same Tea Party Express group that staged a rally at Erie Canal Harbor on Monday distanced itself from Paladino — who just a day ago was emerging as a key ally of tea party groups.

"You've seen the emails ... so what makes you think we would support him? That's absolutely incompatible with anything we stand for," said Mark Williams, the group's chairman.

"Pornographic, racist e-mails. How do you think that we would ever support something like that?"

April 12, 2010 - 4:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, taxes, new york, Don Read, fees.

It's called a "sweep." Imagine if all the money for the state's various special funds were on a big table, and Gov. David Paterson reached out his arm and dragged it across the top of those stack of bills and pushed the greenbacks into a giant gunny sack labeled, "General Fund."

newplate_read.jpgNew York has been doing it for years -- taking money earmarked for dozens of special programs, collected from dedicated fees, and using the funds to make up budget imbalances.

"Much of it is money that would be expended but the time has not come up yet for it to be spent," said County Clerk Don Read. "In (sweeping), they tend to make liars out of us who have to collect that money and tell people (what it’s used for)."

Two examples out of the County Clerk's Office: document fees and snowmobile license fees. The state has taken more than $500,000 from that fund over the past three years, Read said.

The first fee is used to fund grants for cities, schools, libraries and other smaller agencies to store, maintain and retain important records, and to modernize old systems.The snowmobile fee -- $90 for a non-snowmobile club member, $45 for members -- is used to maintain trails and facilities for snowmobilers.

Paterson's office is planning a $1 million sweep from the snowmobile fund this year.

"By sweeping out that money, there’s less to distribute to the grants, so a number of grants just don’t get funded," Read said. "Yet, we still have to tell the people that’s what we collect the money for."

The New York Post recently ran a story about Albany sweeping $8.5 million from a fund dedicated to building a veteran's retirement home.

Photo: Don Read from a previous story about license plates.

April 9, 2010 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, new york.

Gov. David Paterson plans to withhold funding for union raises in his next emergency budget act, which effectively suspends a 4-percent raise for the state's union workers.

The raise was part of a contract negotiated in 2007, but with a $9 billion budget deficit, Paterson says the state can't afford the extra expense.

“I am just shocked and amazed that every time you ask the special interests or the unions for some kind of sacrifice that the answer is either ‘no’ or ‘I’m going to sue you,’” Paterson said Thursday after a private meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “The state has run out of money twice, for the first time in its history, in the last four months. We’re doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And some people are just very reticent or unable to recognize the gravity of the crisis.”

Meanwhile, Albany has yet to approve a new budget. Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued the following statement on the situation:

After another week of inaction, and seven days past the due date, the 2010-2011 State Budget has not passed. Instead, the Majority continues to meet behind closed doors, which will likely lead to new taxes, increased government spending, and worst of all, more state borrowing, while sending the rank-and-file members of the Assembly trivial legislation to vote on. With New York State nearly bankrupt, this kind of inaction is unacceptable. We should have been in session last week, and not passing the budget this week only wasted more taxpayer money at a cost of more than $100,000. I am willing to stay in Albany until the budget crisis is solved. Unfortunately, it appears that my colleagues in the Majority are not, and despite the ensuing fiscal crisis, would rather put the budget off until next week, if not next month. Clearly, this year’s budget process shows how broken New York state government really is.

April 8, 2010 - 8:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, taxes, new york.

Some members of public employees unions in New York are bucking their union bosses and saying they should give back their 4-percent raises, according to Associated Press.

"I talked to my friends and neighbors who are losing their jobs and taking pay cuts and for me to get a raise, I functionally have to ask them to pay for it," Regan said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said he hasn't heard from anyone who opposes his view.

In other budget news, a group calling itself Better Choice for Budgeting Campaign, is calling on higher taxes and closing tax loopholes for Wall Street financiers and hedge fund managers.

“When you look at hedge fund managers making millions and millions of dollars and Wall Street having caused a great deal of the economic turmoil we find ourselves in, they should really help pay for it,” said Sen. Neil Breslin.

And while New York's budget is a week late today, Albany's Democrats and Republics are squabbling over procedure, according to the Times-Union.

Senate Democrats gathered on Wednesday to roll out an ambitious set of reforms to New York's budget process. Republicans shot back that the majority would do better to devote their time to the work at hand, and lambasted Democrats for failing to follow budget reforms that are already on the books.

April 7, 2010 - 11:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, new york.

The official deficit number is $9 billion, but years of accounting tricks aimed at hiding deficit spending masks New York's true fiscal picture, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

For years, governors and legislators used a grab bag of fiscal gimmicks to cover up the growing gaps between revenue and expenditures. Those gimmicks are now so widespread and so embedded in Albany budgeting, DiNapoli said, that they have essentially rendered the state’s balance sheet immaterial.

One common device is the “sweep,” where the state grabs a surplus from an another entity — say, the Battery Park City Authority — to cover recurring expenses in the general fund, the state’s main bank account and the one that is required to be kept in balance.

Officials have also moved many day-to-day operating expenses out of the general fund and into other funds, hiding spending growth and hiding the true cost of running the government. For example, Governor Paterson’s proposed budget uses $40 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which is supposed to pay for parkland acquisitions, to pay salaries and other expenses of the state’s environmental and parks agencies.

Read the whole story.

April 5, 2010 - 8:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, new york.

Dr. Richard F. Daines is on a crusade. The one-time Morman missionary thinks people should not consume sugary drinks.

He wants the state to impose a one-cent-per-ounce tax on these beverages. He figures the tax would reduce consumption by 15 percent. He also estimates the tax will help raise $1 billion for the state.

And if you happen to believe this is just one more government intrusion on personal choice, then he thinks you're a dupe of the soft-drink lobby.

He ridiculed what he called the “personal choice” argument that government should stay out of people’s kitchens, saying it was being promulgated by “AstroTurf false-flag operations” that are really supported by the soda pop industry.

Read the story in the New York Times.

April 5, 2010 - 8:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, taxes, new york, unions.

At a time when New York is struggling to close a $9.2 billion budget deficit, the state's workers represented by labor unions received a 4-percent pay increase April 1.

The wage hike will saddle taxpayers with another $400 million in annual expenses to cover.

The contracts with the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employee Federation were negotiated by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007.

Gov. David Paterson thinks the unions should turn down the raises, according to Business First.

"All public employees are a critical part of our state government. They deliver essential public services and, for that, they deserve our respect," he said Thursday. "But New York remains mired in a fiscal crisis of nearly unprecedented magnitude that will require real sacrifices. In agreeing to forego these scheduled 4-percent salary increases, the leaders of New York’s public employee unions have a real and concrete opportunity to demonstrate they understand the dire nature of this fiscal and economic crisis, and that they are willing to become a serious partner in addressing it.”

Unions flatly stated they will not budge. They say their contracts were fairly negotiated and must be honored.

“PEF will not reopen its contract with the state of New York,” said Kenneth Brynien, president of the Latham-based union that represents 58,000 white-collar state workers.

“What people don’t seem to grasp is, if you break a contract, you’re setting a terrible precedent. It ignores that you have legally binding documents,” said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for CSEA.

There are 196,375 workers on the state payroll, and 94 percent of them are represented by a union.

April 1, 2010 - 12:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in new york, license plates, County Clerk.

newplate_read.jpg

Genesee County Clerk Don Read holds up one of the new New York license plates, which are now available.

Unlike the original plan, switching to the new plate is not mandatory, and just because you register your new vehicle, doesn't mean you will get the blue and gold plate. Unless requested, according to Read, the old Empire State plates will be given out until there are none left (that's them on the shelves behind Read).

People who want the new plate when it's time to renew their vehicle registration, can request a pair.

However, vehicle owners with "County Clerk Plates" (GS, BA and 7H series) will have to wait until the current supply of those Empire Plates are used up. The State isn't sending out county plates until current supplies ares are depleted.

Read, a history buff, said he likes the plates' retro design.

"A lot of people don't like them," Read said. "I think they're nice."

March 25, 2010 - 8:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, steve hawley, new york.

Assembly Democrats want to cut state aid to schools by only $800 million, not the $1.4 billion proposed by Senate Democrats and Gov. David Paterson.

The Assembly proposal also includes $2 billion in borrowing.

According to the New York Times, Assembly leader Sheldon Silver says,

“With this plan,” Mr. Silver said, “we close the deficit, we make responsible cuts, we hold the line on spending, we preserve vital programs and services, we reject a number of taxes and fees, and dramatically reform the budget process.”

The Assembly budget does not include Paterson's tax on soda, nor does it propose closing all 81 state parks, which Paterson asked for.

The Assembly budget cuts $4.3 billion in spending. Paterson's proposal cut $4.9 billion, but without borrowing.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley's office released this statement about the budget:

Earlier tonight, the Assembly Majority introduced, and passed, their 2010-2011 State Budget resolution. While it did eliminate the proposed tax on sugared beverages and the closure of state parks throughout the state, it still looks to solve the projected budget shortfalls by increasing state borrowing by $2 billion. With the state already on the brink of insolvency, we cannot afford anymore debt or borrowing. I voted against this resolution and hope that as the budget deadline approaches my colleagues in the Majority will not plan on voting for this in the final budget.

For more on the Assembly budget, here's the Albany Times-Union story.

March 23, 2010 - 9:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, new york.

Senate Democrats have approved a budget proposal that increases state spending by $1 billion, even as it cuts $1.4 billion in school spending, according to the Albany Business Journal.

The Senate budget -- which Republicans say they did not get time to review thoroughly, therefore voted against -- does not include a tax on soft drinks proposed by Gov. David Paterson, nor authorization for grocery stores to sell wine.

The proposed budget, which will need to be reconciled with an as-yet-unannounced Assembly budget, passed the Senate 32-29.

The two houses have until April 1 to agree on a budget.

Democrats say the increase in spending is still below the rate of inflation.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer released the following statement:

The Senate Democrats drafted their final budget resolution in secret, without any input from Republicans. They then released the resolution less than an hour before it was voted on. Only a budget resolution crafted in secret would produce such a bad deal for New Yorkers.

The Budget Resolution increases spending by $1.5 billion, expands welfare programs, and fails to restore the STAR rebate check program for all homeowners. Even worse, the resolution does nothing to help create private sector jobs. Instead, it only adds more government jobs by expanding welfare eligibility and increases public assistance payments again this year.

I will only support a budget which does not increase taxes and spending, delivers property tax relief to homeowners and enables the private sector to create jobs. This is the budget the people want. It’s a budget they deserve and the budget we must achieve.

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