This Week in New York State Government
Governor Cuomo Announces More than 9,400 Hired Through Work for Success Program
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that more than 9,400 formerly incarcerated individuals have been hired through the Work for Success program since its implementation in February 2012.
It costs taxpayers $25,000 per year on average to house someone in a prison. By providing training and employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated, the likelihood of recidivism decreases, which decreases the burden on New York taxpayers as well.
Piloted on February 17, 2012, Work for Success was conceived as a jobs initiative aimed at reducing the high unemployment rate among the thousands of New Yorkers returning home from prison. Setting a national precedent, the Governor’s office brought together the New York State Departments of Labor and Corrections and Community Supervision, and collaborated with other state agencies, policy makers, and practitioners. This group worked together to develop the best possible strategy for finding employment for the formerly incarcerated population, which faces special challenges in the workforce.
Today, individuals leaving state prisons are assessed to identify those who have a low risk of recidivism and those who have a greater risk. Lower risk individuals go to one of New York’s 101 Career Centers, where they see an employment counselor. The State Labor Department now has trained “Offender Employment Specialists” in all of their full-time locations. These staff members are versed in the unique challenges that this population faces. Formerly incarcerated individuals who are identified as being at a high risk of recidivism are provided with more intensive services through one of Work for Success’ nonprofit partners that serve this population full time.
Governor Cuomo Announces Innovation Venture Capital Funding Awarded to Support and Attract New Businesses in Upstate New York
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $5 million has been awarded to three Upstate investment firms to spur new business and create jobs in communities across Upstate New York. The funding, part of the Governor’s $50 million Innovation Venture Capital Fund program, will be matched by at least $5 million in private sector investment capital to enable new businesses to work with colleges and universities to accelerate the research and development and marketing of their technologies. Investment firms in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse will strategically invest the funds.
The three Upstate firms that will invest the funds are Excell Partners, LLC in Rochester, SCP Buffalo Incubator/Z80 Labs LLC in Buffalo, and CenterState CEO’s Grants for Growth in Syracuse. Investment of funds by each firm will be leveraged with matching private sector investment capital at a ratio of at least 1:1. Recipients of the venture funding will receive pre-seed stage investments of up to $100,000.
Governor Cuomo Announces Launch of $40 Million NY Prize Microgrid Competition
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the launch of the state’s $40 million energy competition, NY Prize, which is now accepting proposals for microgrids that meet energy and resiliency needs of local communities. The prize money for the winning designs will be used to build microgrids across New York State to reduce customer costs and promote clean energy.
Microgrids are local energy networks that are able to separate from the larger electric grid during extreme weather events or emergencies, and provide power to the grid when needed. Building these systems in regions prone to storm outages helps reactions to extreme weather by increasing power resiliency and reliability and improving energy efficiency. Microgrid technology can combine solar, wind, hydro or combined heat and power systems for local power generation and as such, plays an important role in the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan. Alongside the Governor’s energy plan, microgrids expand customer choice, ensure reliability and preserve the environment.
Governor Cuomo Announces AirTrain JFK Reaches Record High Ridership of 6.4 Million in 2014
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that in 2014 AirTrain JFK hit its 10th consecutive annual ridership record, reaching approximately 6.5 million riders – a nearly 250 percent increase since the airport’s rail link to and from the MTA’s Jamaica and Howard Beach stations made its first full-year debut in 2004.
Total paid ridership on AirTrain JFK in 2014 was 6,487,118, a sharp 8 percent jump from 2013 totals alone. Additionally, more than 10 million passengers and airport employees used the service to travel between airline terminals, parking lots, hotel shuttle areas and rental car facilities. AirTrain JFK began service in late 2003, and in 2004 totaled 2,623,791 paid riders.
Governor Cuomo Announces NY DMV Website Named One of America’s Best
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website is the second-best DMV website in the country, according to rankings by DMV.com, a portal for driver and motor vehicle information. The State DMV site gained the ranking due to its design, ease of use, and scope of available services online.
New York’s DMV website (www.DMV.ny.gov) underwent a complete redesign in February 2014, giving customers the ability to order replacement driver licenses, renew registrations on mobile devices, make online reservations for DMV visits, and easily conduct 35 types of transactions online.
Governor Cuomo Announces Record Support for Affordable Housing in New York
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State supported a record 9,363 affordable housing units in 2014. The Governor also announced $7.3 million in funding for the construction and rehabilitation of 19 affordable homeownership developments that represent more than 500 homes across the state. These milestones include units produced by the Governor’s $1 billion House NY commitment, which is on track to finance more than 14,300 affordable housing units by 2018.
The State awarded or leveraged more than $7 billion of public and private investment in affordable housing in 2014. An additional $486 million is committed in the 2015-16 budget.
Since 2011, New York has:
- Created 13,458 units.
- Preserved 13,326 units.
- Returned more than 37,000 units to rent regulation.
To build on this success, the $7.3 million in funding announced will be used to support the construction or rehabilitation of more than 500 homes across New York. Local governments and not-for-profits that demonstrated specific affordable housing needs within their communities were eligible to apply through the Affordable Housing Corporation; prospective homeowners can apply for the funding to those organizations.
Governor Cuomo Announces Confirmations of Leslie E. Stein and Eugene M. Fahey to Court of Appeals
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Leslie E. Stein and Eugene M. Fahey have been confirmed to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals – the highest court in the State.
Judge Stein has served as a justice or judge on New York’s courts for the last 17 years. Prior to the confirmation, Judge Stein, an Albany County resident, most recently served as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division (Third Department) of the New York State Supreme Court, a position she held since 2008. She was a judge on the trial bench of the New York State Supreme Court, during which she served as Presiding Judge of the Rensselaer County Integrated Domestic Part. She became Albany City Court Judge in 1997 and served as Acting Albany County Family Court Judge in 2001. Before becoming a judge, she worked in private practice from 1983 to 1996, specializing in matrimonial and family law.
Judge Fahey’s confirmation follows 20 years of service as a New York State justice or judge. A lifelong resident of Buffalo, he most recently served as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division (Fourth Judicial Department) of the New York State Supreme Court, a position he held since 2006. He was elected to the State Supreme Court in 1996 and re-elected in 2010. He also served as a Buffalo City Court Judge from 1994 to 1996. Before serving as a judge, Judge Fahey was a trial lawyer in private practice, specializing in negligence defense and appeals. He also served on the Buffalo Common Council before and after attending law school – from 1978 to 1983 and again from 1988 to 1994, becoming Council Member at Large during both terms.
Governor Cuomo, Congresswoman Lowey Announce Plans to Make $5 Million Federal Community Development Investments Available
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Congresswoman Nita Lowey announced that local governments and non-profits in Westchester County will resume receiving affordable housing, community development and emergency shelter grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a result of their efforts, approximately $5 million in HUD funding will soon benefit local communities in Westchester.
HUD reallocated grants from three programs that should have gone to a consortium of Westchester local governments and non-profits because the County was ineligible to receive funding as a result of its non-compliance with a legal settlement. The consortium disbanded at the end of 2014. Under the Governor and Congresswoman’s plan, communities that had previously been in the consortium will now be able to competitively apply to the State for funds, and approximately $5 million will be directed to projects in Westchester in 2015.
Governor Cuomo Announces Outlines Tax Exemption Proposal for Wine, Beer, Cider and Spirits Industries
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined new tax exemptions proposed in the 2015-16 Executive Budget that will further the rapid growth of the wine, beer, cider and spirits industries. These proposals include tax exemptions at tastings offered by the beer, cider and spirits industries, which are similar to exemptions already enjoyed by the wine industry, as well as the further expansion of tax exemptions for wineries at tasting events.
Current law provides an exemption on the “Use Tax” for wine tastings, which applies to products that are produced for sale but end up being used for promotional and marketing purposes. The proposal in the 2015-16 Executive Budget expands this exemption to include tastings provided by the beer, cider and spirits industries, which will allow hundreds more craft beverage producers to better market their products and reinvest in their businesses.
Governor Cuomo Outlines Star Program Reforms to Protect Taxpayers
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined new reforms in his 2015-16 Executive Budget designed to crack down on delinquent taxpayers and abuses of the STAR program. These steps include the outright suspension of those who owe more than $4,500 in back taxes from the STAR program, as well as empowering the state Department of Taxation and Finance to recover improperly granted STAR benefits.
“These reforms will ensure that STAR benefits will no longer be used to subsidize bad behavior and that they are received by only those property taxpayers who are entitled to them.” Governor Cuomo said. “They build upon this administration’s efforts to increase the accuracy and fairness of the program and ensure this tax relief goes to those who need it the most.”
The STAR program provides relief from school property taxes. It includes the Basic STAR exemption for homeowners with incomes under $500,000, and the Enhanced STAR exemption for seniors with income of $83,300 or less.
Governor Cuomo Announces Additional Measures to Crack Down on Tax Scofflaws Included in Budget
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined new reforms in the Executive Budget to further crack down on tax scofflaws and recover revenue rightly owed to the State. These reforms include lowering the threshold to suspend a debtor’s driver’s license from $10,000 to $5,000.
The current law was advanced by the Governor in 2013. Since going into effect in July 2013, more than $125 million has been collected for nearly 14,000 delinquent taxpayers who satisfied their debts in order to have their driving privileges reinstated.
Lowering the threshold would affect an additional 11,000 delinquent taxpayers. As a result, an additional $9 million in revenue will be collected in FY 2015-16 and $3 million annually thereafter.
Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Skelos Announce Joint Legislative Budget Schedule
Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, Senate Finance Chair John A. DeFrancisco, and Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr. announced an agreement on a joint legislative budget schedule that sets deadlines for the adoption of a fifth consecutive on-time state budget.
The agreed-to legislative budget schedule for 2015 is as follows:
February 26 (on or before)
Senate & Assembly Economic / Revenue Reports Released
Joint Revenue Forecasting Conference
March 1 (on or before)
Revenue Consensus Report
Senate & Assembly Budget Actions
Joint Senate & Assembly Budget Conference Committees Commence
Final Report of the Joint Conference Committee
Joint Legislative Budget Bills Taken Up by Senate & Assembly
Speaker Heastie Announces Budget Staff Appointments
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced has appointed:
Blake G. Washington – Secretary to the Ways and Means Committee
Washington began his career with the Ways and Means Committee as a legislative budget analyst. He also served as a senior and principal budget analyst until being appointed director of Budget Studies. Prior to joining the Assembly staff, he served as a probation officer in Sullivan County. He earned a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from the State University at Albany.
Philip Fields – Director of Budget Studies
Fields most recently served as deputy fiscal director for the Assembly. Prior to that, he served as senior transportation analyst for the Ways and Means Committee, senior analyst for the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, and analyst for the Real Property Taxation Committee. Fields is the deputy chair of the Schenectady County Legislature. He currently chairs the County Rules Committee as well as the County Ways and Means Committee. He earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Economics from the State University at Albany.
Speaker Heastie Reconvenes Child Care Workgroup
Noting that access to affordable, quality child care remains one of the largest obstacles to self-sufficiency for New York’s working families, Speaker Carl Heastie announced that he is reconvening the Assembly Child Care Workgroup.
The Workgroup was first convened in 2013 to look at challenges working families, and in particular women, face in obtaining the child care they need. When a parent loses or cannot afford child care, they are more likely to leave the workplace to care for their children or resort to less than adequate child care. Women who have stable child care are more likely to maintain employment and achieve self-sufficiency. The lack of affordable, accessible, stable and safe child care as well as paid family leave are major obstacles to women in the workforce, the effects of which impact not only women but children, families, businesses and the overall economy. According to the National Institutes of Health, every dollar spent on early education for children from low income families generates $4 to $11 in economic benefits over the child’s lifetime.
Attorney General Schneiderman Introduces Payroll Card Act To Create Clear Rules And Protect Workers From Unfair Fees And Coercion
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman introduced legislation regulating the use of payroll cards to increase protections for workers, clarify ambiguities in the law, and ensure that payroll cards offer a convenient and beneficial method for workers to access their pay. The Attorney General’s Payroll Card Act, which was sent to the Legislature yesterday, requires clear disclosure of payroll card fees, and restricts certain fees. The legislation was first proposed last year, following recommendations made in a report released by the Attorney General’s Labor Bureau.
A payroll card is a prepaid debit card used by employers to pay wages to employees, typically as an alternative to direct deposit or a paper check. Each payday, a cardholder employee’s wages are deposited electronically into an account at a bank selected by the employer or by the payroll card vendor. The employee can obtain access to the funds in the account by using the payroll card. Similar to a bank-issued debit card, the payroll card can be used to withdraw funds from an ATM, make point-of-sale purchases, and electronically transfer funds, among other functions.
Attorney General Schneiderman Announces London Mayor Johnson And D.A. Gascón Welcome Dramatic, Global Drop In Smartphone Thefts Following Introduction Of Kill Switch
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, London Mayor Boris Johnson and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón released new crime data showing that smartphone thefts and robberies have declined dramatically in New York City, London and San Francisco since the wireless industry began to implement ‘kill switches’ on their devices. A.G. Schneiderman, Mayor Johnson and D.A. Gascón co-chair the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative, an international partnership of law-enforcement agencies, elected officials and consumer advocates that was formed in June of 2013 to find solutions to the violent crime wave of smartphone thefts. The S.O.S. Initiative called on the smartphone industry to adopt kill switch technology as a theft deterrent. The crime data released demonstrates that the strategy of putting pressure on private industry to implement existing technology that removes incentives to steal a smartphone is working to reduce crime and protect wireless consumers. Mayor Johnson is in New York City for the announcement.
Attorney General Schneiderman Announces More Than 100 Lives Saved By Community Overdose Prevention (COP) Program
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that the Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, which provides funding to equip state and local law-enforcement officers with naloxone, a highly effective antidote for opioid overdoses, has saved more than 100 lives in less than a year. The progress and success of the COP program is detailed in a report released by the Attorney General’s office.
The COP program is supported by $5 million of joint federal-state criminal and civil forfeiture money. Police departments or appropriate county or city agencies submit receipts to the Attorney General’s office and are reimbursed in full. To date, the COP program has approved $1.8 million to supply law enforcement departments across the state with naloxone kits and train them in their use. More than 200 law enforcement agencies have applied to the COP program, which has disbursed more than 27,000 kits in less than a year. Since the COP program’s inception, naloxone has been used to reverse overdoses in Staten Island, Buffalo, New Castle, Attica, Oneida, Onondaga County, Madison County, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and elsewhere.
Senate Majority Calls for Ending the GEA School Budget Cuts this Year
At a press conference in Albany, the New York State Senate Majority outlined their plan to abolish the notorious Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and its devastating impact on state funding to public schools. The Senate Republican Conference is proposing to return $1 billion to schools across the state by accelerating the complete elimination of the GEA in the 2015-16 state budget.
Senate Majority Leader and Coalition Co-Leader Dean G. Skelos said, “The Senate Republican Conference has been fighting to roll-back the damage caused by Senate and Assembly Democrats since they created the GEA. In the last few years, we successfully chipped away at the GEA’s impact by restoring funding to public schools, and this year, we are making it a priority to fully eliminate the $1 billion in anticipated GEA cuts from the budget.”