Matt Ryan/WMHT

Broadband push in New York

The Cuomo Administration hopes to fix New York’s communication problem by giving everyone in the state high-speed internet access through a new program called Connect New York. Its goal is to make sure residents in the underserved urban and rural parts of the state can access the internet at 25Mbps and eventually expand that to 100Mbps by providing state matching grants to broadband service providers. But is reaching some of New York’s most underserved regions as easy as logging on? How high...
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Matt Ryan/WMHT

Severe weather forum preview

New York State knows a little something about severe weather. Since Governor Cuomo took office, The Empire State has dealt with devastating storms in nearly every corner. In 2011, Tropical Storms Irene and Lee battered a large swath of upstate, the next year Superstorm Sandy punished New York City and Long Island and just last November a freak lake-effect blizzard pummeled Buffalo suburbs.
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The recently completed state budget was the first real test of the new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s leadership, who became the leader of that house in early February.  

By the time the state budget was voted on, Heastie, the 47 year old accountant and former budget analyst from the Bronx, elected to the Assembly in 2000, had  been in his new job for less than two months.

Heastie was elected Speaker on February 3rd after the long time Speaker, Sheldon Silver, resigned. Silver was arrested and charged with running a multi million dollar corruption scheme. 

Governor Cuomo and the state legislature approved some significant changes to the state’s education system and how teachers are evaluated going forward. But, before all that can be implemented, the new system faces a big test, literally, later this month.

The new state budget includes big changes for teacher performance reviews, which will be redesigned by schools and the state education department to rely more heavily on standardized tests.

The new state budget includes an ethics package, that includes more disclosure of the law clients of Senators and Assemblymembers who work for private law firms.

But government reformers say it doesn’t go far enough.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says there are some gaping loopholes in the disclosure law.

State lawmakers have not yet finished the budget, but they are already getting blowback from a provision that would give a tax break to owners of luxury yachts.

The budget includes a sales tax break for purchases of boats worth more than $230,000, as well as for private airplanes. That angers Ron Deutsch, of Fiscal Policy Institute, a union backed think tank that backs Governor Cuomo’s plan to give a property tax break for middle and working class homeowners who pay too much of their income on taxes.

Governor Cuomo began the budget season with an ambitious agenda than included a wide array of items that he tied to the budget, including raising the minimum wage, the Dream Act, and reforming the state’s grand jury process. In the end, the governor was forced to retrench on nearly every measure.

Cuomo spent a week in January rolling out his ambitious budget agenda, which contained plans for a new criminal justice system for teens who commit serious crimes, and a major upstate economic development program.  

Even before the final details of the education changes in the budget are revealed, teachers’ unions are already claiming partial victory in their war of words with Governor Cuomo.

Matt Ryan / WMHT

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a framework agreement for a budget deal late Sunday night and hope to begin passing bills today to meet the midnight Tuesday deadline.

There are still some details to be worked out, including the specific amounts of school aid to each district in the state from a $1.5 billion dollar increase, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the deal is mostly complete.

“There’s still some open items and language to be discussed,” Heastie said. “ But we believe we have a framework of a deal.”

State lawmakers planned to hold some meetings throughout the weekend as they put the finishing touches on the state budget.

Senate Republicans are trying to modify Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require full disclosure of law clients in legislators’ outside business.

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who works part time at a private law firm, says he expects to agree on a “robust” new disclosure law, but concedes that it may only apply to new law clients, not existing business arrangements.

Photo: Matt Ryan / WMHT

The state Assembly, Senate and Governor Cuomo continue to work on sticking points in the state budget, as yet another item has now been dropped from the spending plan, raising the state’s minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged hopeful from a closed door meeting with Republican Senators. The Senate and Governor Cuomo have been at odds over ethics reform, including requiring financial disclosure of Senators’ law clients in their outside jobs as private attorneys.

The leader of the State Senate says raising the minimum wage is now out of the state budget, setting up a potential  conflict with the state assembly as the budget deadline draws near.

Add the minimum wage to a growing list of items that have been dropped from the state budget.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who’s been against Governor Cuomo’s proposal to further increase the minimum wage to $11.50 downstate and $10.50 upstate, says, the proposal won’t be part of the final state spending plan. 

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