With help from Shawn Ness
Education leaders and advocates are backing new legislation that they say could bring more than $1.8 billion in tax dollars back to school districts.
A coalition that includes several state advocacy groups and unions is calling for the passage of a bill that would prohibit Industrial Development Authorities from abating property taxes that would go to school districts across New York.
In a letter sent to Senate and Assembly leaders today, the group points to the diverted funds as another fiscal hardship school districts are expected to overcome.
According to an analysis of New York’s local tax data by the union-backed group Good Jobs First, school districts missed out on $1.8 billion in the 2021 fiscal year that went instead to lower companies’ tax bills.
The report equates that to an average $541 per student, but notes there is a disproportionate impact on communities with students of color.
“We are sick of our schools being shortchanged,” New York State United Teachers president Melinda Person said at a Capitol news conference. “We need this bill because our schools deserve all the resources they’ve been promised…We don’t support tax breaks that drain the resources from our schools.”
Sen. Sean Riley (D-Buffalo) said there is bipartisan support for his bill to limit IDAs, especially given the governor’s proposal for school aid that would result in cuts to some districts.
“When a business is exempted from the property tax, they’re saving money, but they’re saving it at the expense of every other taxpayer,” Ryan said. “It creates shortfalls in our school districts, the state taxpayer, or the local taxpayer is forced to fill the gap.”
The letter was signed by the state’s teachers union, AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees – as well as the state Association of School Board; the state Council of School Superintendents and the Parent Teacher Association.
REPUBLICANS PROTEST PRISON CLOSURES: Assemblymember Chris Tague, along with his Republican colleagues and a handful of prison employees. held a press conference in protest of Hochul’s budget proposal to close of up to five prisons. The facilities hold about 500 inmates each.
Under current state law, the governor is required to give prisons at least a one-year notice before moving forward with a prison closure; Hochul’s proposal only gives the prisons 90 days, the lawmakers contended.
“We are once again watching ignorance and a lack common sense governing the state of New York. Instead of talking to corrections officers and prison staff, Governor Hochul thinks the best course of action… is to bypass state law and close up to five prisons…” Tague, whose district cuts across the Hudson Valley and Mohawk Valley, said.
The Division of Budget projected the closures would be able to save $77 million in the coming fiscal year and $128 million in the first full year of the closures.
There is currently a ratio among most prisons across the state of 50 inmates to one correctional officer, unions said. Randi Diantonio, the vice president of the Public Employees Federation, said the closures would not just affect the inmates and correctional officers, but also the hundreds of doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, as well as the vocational and rehabilitative professionals.
“We are losing every two weeks approximately 54 COs, and there are only 50 to 100 currently in training or at the academy. If, and when we close five prisons, that is not a long term sustainable solution,” Assemblymember Brian Maher, whose district contains four prisons, said.
For her part, Hochul has continued a trend of closing prisons and trying to lower the state’s number of inmates through other programs.— Shawn Ness
HOCHUL’S APPOINTMENTS: The second floor is staffing up.
Hochul will announce later today 11 new appointments to her office, shared first with Playbook.
The appointments include Edgar Santana, the governor’s new executive deputy secretary. Ivan Acosta, a former budget official for the New York City mayor’s office, has been appointed deputy chief of staff.
Shanna Cassidy, a former legislative director for state Sen. Joe Addabbo, has been appointed assistant secretary to the governor. Colleen Deacon, a former staffer for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is now the deputy secretary for upstate intergovernmental affairs.
Daniel Dornbaum, formerly at the state Democratic Committee, has been appointed assistant secretary to governor. Jacqueline Paredes, a former NYSUT official, has been appointed assistant secretary for legislative affairs.
Shirley Paul has been elevated to assistant counsel for judiciary. Jessica Scaperotti, who most recently worked in real estate development, has been appointed assistant secretary for cabinet affairs.
Stevens Martinez has become the deputy secretary for Long Island intergovernmental affairs. Robert Calarco, a former DEC official, is now the governor’s assistant secretary for Long Island intergovernmental affairs.
Angel Vasquez is now the deputy secretary for downstate intergovernmental affairs. — Nick Reisman
STATE POLICE LEADERSHIP: Hochul tapped Steven James today to become the next superintendent of the State Police.
Hochul used her announcement made at a State Police troop headquarters in suburban Albany to put an exclamation point on her approach to addressing voters’ concerns over public safety.
“People say defund the police; I say fund the police to the greatest extent possible,” she said.
Hochul pointed to her $233 billion budget proposal that includes efforts to address retail theft by spending $25 million to bolster law enforcement in tackling the problem.
At the same time, Hochul said she was confident James’ nomination would clear the Democratic-led state Senate.
“I feel really good about it,” she told reporters. “I spoke with both leaders yesterday. They’re excited about his nomination. We feel really good about someone who has been clearly vetted over 32 years of public service to this institution.”
A person familiar with the discussions in the Legislature said the nomination, at the moment, won’t be a repeat of her ill-fated appointment of Hector LaSalle last year to lead the Court of Appeals.
James started his career as a state trooper and rose through the ranks to become a deputy superintendent. He was retired and living in Florida when the post was offered.
“I always had that burning desire,” he said. “When you come through the academy as a recruit, they tell you that one day you can aspire to be the superintendent. I was naïve enough to believe it and look at where I’m standing.” — Nick Reisman
LABOR, LABOR BETTER: The state Department of Labor is way behind on investigating labor law violations in New York City, according to a new audit from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
Some 80 percent of wage theft cases weren’t resolved within the one-year timeframe. And two-thirds of the child labor investigations weren’t completed within three months, as is the target.
Workplace infractions like wage theft and child labor law violations are up nationally, DiNapoli notes, but New York is struggling with the workload.
Recommendations included a new central intake unit for cases and collaborating with the city Department of Education on child labor cases. — Jeff Coltin
RIGHT TO SHELTER UPDATE: The city’s homeless services commissioner insisted today that the administration is not retreating from the longstanding “right-to-shelter” requirement — as the city continues mediation talks with the Legal Aid Society on the future of the mandate.
The administration went to court last year to try to suspend the requirement for single adults during times of emergency — like the current migrant influx, which has overwhelmed city shelters. A judge directed the parties to work towards a settlement in October, and those discussions are ongoing.
“We’re talking about temporary modifications, so we’re not looking to end our obligation to provide temporary housing,” Commissioner Molly Wasow Park said during a panel hosted by the homeless services provider HELP USA. “I couldn’t sit here as the commissioner and do that, that is not who I am, it’s not who the agency is, it is not who the city is. But we are, I think, looking for different ways that we can adapt the models that we provide services.”
Joshua Goldfein, an attorney at Legal Aid – which serves in a watchdog role over the sheltering requirement – said Judge Gerald Lebovits, who is overseeing the case, has been “extremely helpful” in facilitating mediation over the city requirement to house anyone homeless.
“His approach was, everybody tell me, what’s your bottom line? What do you really need? And then he kind of wrote all those things down and he said, there’s your agreement, now just fill in the details,” Goldfein said at the panel. — Janaki Chadha
MIGRANTS ASSAULT NYPD OFFICERS: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), as well as congressional candidate Alison Esposito, are both calling on the deportation of a group of five migrants that were caught on video assaulting two NYPD officers over the weekend.
The group got into an altercation with the officers in Times Square when one officer brought a man down to the ground, then prompting the man’s friends to kick the officers in the ribs and back repeatedly as the scuffle ensued.
The NYPD said that the five suspects were arrested and charged with felony assault, CBS reported.
“We are living in an upside down world. Our leaders have created a system where criminals are protected over law-abiding citizens, and illegal migrants are prioritized over police officers,” Esposito, a former NYPD officer of 25 years, said in a statement.
Malliotakis called the incident “infuriating” and a prime example of why Adams needs to stop his misinterpretation of “right to shelter.”
“Citizens should not be paying to house ingrates who are wreaking havoc in our city,” Malliotakis said in a statement.— Shawn Ness
NY-03 DONOR WATCH: A member of an influential group tied to the Turkish president has donated to Tom Suozzi’s bid for Congress after also giving to his 2022 campaign for governor, according to filings reviewed by Playbook.
Erol Akyurek, a New York representative for the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan-aligned Turkish American National Steering Committee, contributed $2,500 to Suozzi’s special election campaign last weekend, Federal Election Commission disclosures show.
Akyurek separately had hosted a gubernatorial fundraiser for Suozzi, as first reported by Playbook.
The prolific donor to Democrats has also contributed to Adams’ campaign. Other TASC members have also given to Adams.
Suozzi has been commended by TASC. But he repeated again that he rejects the policies of the authoritarian Erdoğan.
“Tom Suozzi remains publicly critical of the Erdogan administration and its human rights positions regarding Armenia, Cyprus and the Gulen community,” a campaign spokesperson said. “Tom is committed to fixing what is not right and will always call out bad actors.”
Suozzi faces Republican-backed Mazi Pilip in the Feb. 13 special election to replace ousted Rep. George Santos in Nassau County and Queens.
Adams’ campaign, meanwhile, is under federal investigation for potential collusion with the Turkish government. The mayor has not been accused of wrongdoing. — Emily Ngo
FARMERS WORKING OVERTIME: Hochul announced this week the new Farm Employer Overtime Credit advance portal, which will allow for farmers to register and begin work on documentation to apply for reimbursements. The plan is a means to help New York’s farmers support their workers as well as to meet food production goals.
“Our farmers and farm workers are essential, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that they can thrive in their work to bring fresh, local products to the tables of New Yorkers. The Farm Employer Overtime Credit is a big part of that,” Hochul said in a statement.
The credit is a refundable tax credit available to farm employers who give their employees overtime pay as they slowly move to getting overtime after 40 hours a week. Starting July 31, employers can submit payroll documentation to the Department of Agriculture and Markets for certificates of advance payments for eligible overtime.
“Farm labor is a critical issue, and we at the State are working hard to ensure that farmers have the resources they need to support their workforce and while meeting their food production goals,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said in a statement. — Shawn Ness
LEARNING LOSS & MENTAL HEALTH: Across the state, 50 school districts are slated to receive $100 million in grants to combat learning loss and expand access to mental health care.
The funding for the state’s Learning Loss from COVID School Program will go to 15 districts and BOCES programs to implement and research evidence-based practices for recovery learning losses. In addition, 40 districts and BOCES programs will receive funding under a mental health grant.
“This funding will help our teachers and school staff pinpoint where students have fallen behind and provide students with the crucial resources needed to support their mental health, especially after the pandemic,” Hochul said in a statement. — Katelyn Cordero
— Four NY Representatives stalled a House vote on the SALT tax. Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Andrew Garbarino and Mike Lawler. (POLITICO)
— 13 people have died at the hands of Rochester police since the 2020 killing of Daniel Prude. (Democrat & Chronicle)
— The Congressional Leadership Fund is spending another $2.6 million on Mazi Pilip’s ad war against her opponent, former Rep. Tom Suozzi. (POLITICO)
– “Andrew Cuomo is not the world’s most sympathetic person, but he deserves basic due process. Right?” (Times Union)