Archive for the ‘Kathy Hochul’ category

Gov. Hochul’s budget giveaways – By George J. Marlin

May 17, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, May 16, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

When Kathy Hochul was sworn in as governor in August 2021, she told New Yorkers that she would govern differently than Cuomo.

And so she has….

Unlike Cuomo, who fought tooth and nail with state legislators, Hochul has rolled over to their demands in order to get $600 million for the new Buffalo Bills stadium.

To secure that funding, she resurrected—what Cuomo had buried—pork spending for legislators known as “members items.”

On top of that, Hochul has kept alive Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development programs that replaced “members items” and served as Cuomo’s personal pork barrel spending for local projects that have often been dubious in nature or were rewards to supporters in the form of capital grants or tax credits.

Ed McMahon, of The Empire Center for Public Policy, has noted that the more than $12 billion committed to RED projects in recent years “is in classic terms almost Marxist. This is the state owning the means of production. It’s corporate welfare on steroids.”

Many corporations that received grants failed or the payback promised never materialized. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion,” for example, which included the Solar City factory, employed only about 20% of the 3,000 jobs projected.

Another flop, the Central New York film, hub cost taxpayers $90 million.

And let’s not forget that several of Cuomo’s economic development shenanigans led to the conviction in 2018 of two of his political cronies, Joe Percoco and Alain Kaloyeros.

Which brings me back to Gov. Hochul. Did she learn anything from the Cuomo-era regional spending boondoggles?

Apparently not.

To get a budget passed, “…she managed to make everybody happy on something,” Kathryn S. Wilde, president of the Partnership for New York City, told The New York Times.

The deputy senate majority leader, Democrat Michael Gianaris (whom I’m guessing is getting his share of pork for his district), likened Hochul to Cuomo “in terms of looking out for corporate interests and her ideological positioning.”

The state comptroller’s analysis of the 2022-2023 budget pointed out that “several new discretionary lump sum capital appropriations were added, with little detail regarding intended purposes…” In other words, political swag. These appropriations include:

• $800 million for “the New York State Regional Economic and Community Assistance Program”—also known as corporate welfare.

• $385 million for the Community Resilience Sustainability and Technology Program to support “projects intended to improve the quality of life of the residents of the state … through investment in facilities which support arts, cultural, athletic, housing, childcare, education, parks and recreational … tourism, community development … and other civic activities.” These are pork grants that state legislators could dole out to 501(c)(3)s, and community groups in their home district.

• $350 million for the Long Island Investment Fund to support “manufacturing, agriculture, business parks, community anchor facilities … and main street revitalizations.”

This is more corporate welfare with few strings attached.

• $185 million for the Local Community Assistance Program to “support community development or redevelopment, revitalization, economic development, economic sustainability … and local infrastructure improvement or enhancement.” Even more corporate welfare.

Here’s a tiny sampling from a “members items” list compiled by Newsday’s Albany reporter Michael Gormley:

• $5 million for a Rochester soccer stadium.

• $108 million to redevelop the Bronx Kingsbridge Amory.

• $8 million for a parking garage in Rochester.

• $20 million for Syracuse University’s basketball team Carrier Dome.

• $8.5 million for a Syracuse “Landmark Theatre.”

• $1 million for Old Fort Niagara.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars of such pork barrel projects.

Blair Horner, the executive director of the N.Y. Public Interest Research Group, stated that these funds “are used to bolster the image of elected officials in an effort to curry favor with voters.”

“Big lump sums,” like the $350 million coming to Long Island, Blair added, “limit public accountability and have been abused in the past.”

Yes, several legislators have gone to jail for abusing these grants by taking care of friends, relatives and donors.

Giving away the store may help Hochul get over the finish line in November, but it will not help taxpayers who will be stuck paying the tab for Albany’s unsatiable spending appetite.

Gov. Hochul’s Disastrous Budget – By George J. Marlin

May 3, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, May 2, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In January, Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a bloated $217 billion state budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year that the comptroller’s office indicated contained various budget gimmicks, including “billions of dollars allocated to broadly defined purposes with little or no specificity.”

Hochul’s budget is to be balanced using billions in Federal COVID relief dollars that will not be replenished. Hence, her reckless spending will create serious fiscal problems in the post-election years and will put the state on the road to financial insolvency.

While Hochul’s original proposal took care of most special interest groups (i.e., teacher unions), it wasn’t enough for Democratic legislators who have an insatiable appetite for political swag.

As a result, the New York Post bellowed, “Albany returned to the bad old stinky ways of passing a budget.”

The budget was negotiated in secret with the infamous “three people in the room”—the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.

Due to political bickering, the budget was not passed on time. It was eventually approved in the middle of the night a week after the new fiscal year began on April 1.

And the final product, laden with political fat and questionable non-budget items, pushes spending to a record-breaking $220 billion; 18 percent higher than in 2020. (The Empire Center for Public Policy reports the state will be spending $6,987 per second.)

Hochul surrendered to the far left on most items to secure money for the biggest financial boondoggle in recent history: the Buffalo Bills stadium deal.

Six hundred million dollars of state funds have been allocated to subsidize the building of a new stadium in Erie County, which is coincidentally where Gov. Hochul resides.

This is an irresponsible expense to buy off voters in Western New York and will be the poster child for corporate welfare for years to come.

Contrary to claims, it is not an investment that enhances the local economy.

An analysis published by the Cato Institute reported “the presence of pro sport teams in 37 metropolitan areas in our sample had no measurably positive impact on the overall growth of real per capita income in those areas.”

Baltimore’s Camden Yards, for example, has generated about $3 million a year in economic benefits but cost Maryland state taxpayers $14 million annually in debt service payments.

The fact that sports facilities have proved to be a poor investment explains why wealthy team owners are not willing to fork over their own money to build them.

“Publicly funded stadiums are, at best, an inefficient investment of taxpayers’ dollars for the meager benefits produced,” said the National Taxpayers Union in a 2007 study. “At worst, [they’re] massive payments to rich team owners and players at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.”

On another front, Hochul caved into the health care union and will spend $7.7 billion for pay raises to the home-health industry.

Also, the budget extends to 2029  the $500 million annual subsidy to film production studios.

And the Empire Center reports state public employee unions received an incredible election year gift: “There is a partial rollback of successful, decade-old public employee pension reforms that saved taxpayers about a billion dollars a year…. [T]he budget reduces vesting periods from 10 years to five and cuts contribution rates in some cases.”

As for Hochul’s bail law changes, they are merely marginal—good for political commercials but not for the public.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams was very disappointed that judges were granted only a little more discretion when setting bail. “I think we have a lot more to do,” he said.

New York City’s PBA president, Pat Lynch, complained the revisions are “political window dressing that won’t do much to change the reality on the streets.”

The Detective Endowment Association leader declared: “No mandatory for gun possession, which the DEA supports, means more shootings. Judges must be allowed to consider prior convictions and recidivism.”

Hochul’s Democratic primary opponent, Congressman Tom Suozzi, summed up the election year giveaway budget thusly: “Instead of using this opportunity to lower taxes, reduce crime and make New York more affordable, Kathy Hochul showed her inexperience by botching the budget process and saddling New Yorkers with billions more in spending, including the biggest tax giveaway in NFL history to build a new Bills stadium.”

Aptly put.

Hochul stumbles on crime and corruption – By George J. Marlin

April 19, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, April 18, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In his masterpiece, “The Wasteland,” Nobel Laureate T.S. Eliot forewarned “April is the cruelest month.” And so it has been for Gov. Hochul.

First, there was the governor’s rather lame reaction to the April 12 shooting horror on the N train in which a man wounded 29 with a 9mm semi-automatic gun.

At a press conference with the city’s top cops and FBI agents, she said, “This morning New Yorkers left their homes en route to a normal day. That sense of tranquility and normalness was disrupted, brutally disrupted, by an individual so cold-hearted and depraved of heart, that they had no caring about the individuals that they assaulted as they simply went about their daily lives.”

Not a caring person? Good Lord! You think the governor at such a moment would call the mass shooter for what he is—a vicious evil monster.

If nothing else, it proves Hochul has a political tin ear.

Events surrounding the resignation of her lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, on the same day as the shooting incident provides additional evidence to prove my point.

Benjamin was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking part in a bribery scheme. He is accused of “falsifying campaign donations forms, misleading city authorities and giving false information as part of a background check to become lieutenant governor” in 2021.

Benjamin agreed to accept the lieutenant governor appointment even though he had received a federal subpoena.

Concealing that fact from the governor and the state troopers was just plain old dumb.

But for the governor not to catch wind that an investigation was afoot and to say as recently as April 7 that she had the “utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor” indicates to me just how isolated she is in the governor’s mansion.

Anyone who has spent time in Albany knows that the primary activity in the halls of the capital is gossiping.

So, I find it hard to believe that there weren’t any murmurings about Benjamin’s troubles. Particularly when there were already published reports in The City that Benjamin’s failed campaign for New York City comptroller had “benefitted from suspicious donations as well as ethical concerns about his use of campaign funds for a wedding celebration and car expenses.”

Hochul’s statement announcing Benjamin’s resignation was also lame. Instead of denouncing Benjamin as a scoundrel for deceiving her, she meekly said: “While the legal process plays out, it’s clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve a lieutenant governor…. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”

That statement doesn’t increase my confidence in the Hochul administration.

Hochul’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Congressman Tom Suozzi, succinctly described the governor’s precarious situation: “Kathy Hochul’s poor judgment and lack of executive experience are on full display with her handpicked running mate. Why did she pick someone who not only had [an] impending ethics complaint but also a vocal supporter of defunding the police?”

To add to Hochul’s woes, the lieutenant governor she runs with in the general election might be a political foe.

Because it’s too late to replace Benjamin on the primary ballot, the winner may be the radical leftist Ana Maria Archila, who is aligned with Hochul’s primary opponent Jumaane Williams.

The last time a Democratic candidate got stuck with a lieutenant governor not of their choosing was in 1982 when Mario Cuomo was saddled with Ed Koch’s running mate, Westchester County Executive Alfred DelBello.

But Mario Cuomo never forgot a slight, and for DelBello to have supported his opponent was unforgivable.

To make life miserable for DelBello, Cuomo slashed his staff in half and kept him on a short leash.

When DelBello publicly complained that Cuomo ignored his advice, the governor told The New York Times, “He obviously chose Koch over me. He had to adjust to his own delusional expectations.”

DelBello resigned his post out of disgust in December 1984.

I doubt Hochul, if elected to a full-term in November, would have the tenacity to pull a “Cuomo” on an unwanted lieutenant governor who may work against her and oppose her policies.

Finally, there was another April cruelty that will soon haunt Gov/ Hochul and every taxpayer: the disastrous, reckless $220 billion state budget she signed into law.

But more on that mess in my next column.

Can Cuomo beat Gov. Hochul in November? – By George J. Marlin

April 5, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, April 4, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

Lately, there has been plenty of nervous chatter in Democratic circles that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo will seek a political comeback.

Political wags tell me that Cuomo may attempt to resurrect the defunct New York State Liberal Party and nominate himself as its candidate for governor.

For the under-50 folks unfamiliar with the Liberal Party, here’s a little background: Founded in 1944 by leftists who abandoned the Communist-dominated American Labor Party, the Liberal Party provided the margin of victory for many like-minded Democrats and Republicans. Democrats endorsed included Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, and Robert F. Kennedy. Republicans were Jacob Javits, John Lindsay, and Rudy Giuliani.

Ironically, the Liberal Party went out of business in 2002 when its gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Cuomo, failed to receive the 50,000 votes required by law to maintain its ballot line.

Cuomo may have convinced himself that by running on the Liberal Party line he could win in a four-way race because sexual harassment criminal investigations into his behavior have been dropped by five district attorneys due to a lack of evidence.

Theoretically, that outcome is possible if the following were to occur: First, the Working Families Party candidate Jumaane Williams would have to receive at least 5 percent of the vote. Next, support for the Republican-Conservative candidate Lee Zeldin could not exceed his base, which is about 30 percent.

That would leave 65 percent of the remaining electorate for Gov. Kathy Hochul and Cuomo to tussle over.

If Cuomo’s traditional supporters—minorities, center-left Democrats and Independents—were to stick with him, he could get the 33% needed statewide to win.

Then again, such a plan could easily backfire and put Zeldin over the top. Yes, if enough centrists, particularly in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley area, say a pox upon the houses of Hochul and Cuomo and support Zeldin, he could pull off a surprise victory with a 33% plurality.

Frankly, I believe a Cuomo comeback is unlikely.

In my judgment, his coverup of nursing home COVID-related deaths will destroy his chances.

An audit released in March by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Cuomo’s COVID performance explains why Cuomo has much to fear. DiNapoli reported that “the public was misled by the highest level of state government and given a distorted version of reality that suppressed facts when they deserved the truth.”

Cuomo’s Department of Health:

  • Understated the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19 by at least 4,100 and at times during the pandemic by more than 50 percent.
  • Was slow to respond to a federal directive to conduct surveys of nursing homes for infection control problems, surveying just 20 percent of facilities between March 23 and May 30, 2020, compared with over 90 percent for some other states.
  • Imposed impediments on the audit, including delaying requested data, limiting auditors’ contract with program staff, not addressing auditors’ questions during meetings and not providing supporting documentation.

The audit also revealed that the Department of Health was delinquent in performing its duties. Instead of being dedicated to promoting public health, it “conformed its presentation to the executive’s narrative”, (i.e., the former governor and members of his staff) “often presenting data in a matter that misled the public.”

Andrew Cuomo’s management of the reporting of COVID-nursing home deaths throughout the crisis “lacked transparency, and was at times, inaccurate, inconsistent, incomplete, and/or not amenable to analysis,” the audit said.

DiNapoli’s report concluded that consistent with Cuomo’s governing style, his DOH was “plagued by a threatening environment, closed ranks and lack[ed] commitment to openness—at the expense of the public’s trust.”

That’s quite an indictment!

If Cuomo jumps into the governor’s race, I am certain his opponents, and the families and friends of the more than 15,000 New Yorkers who died in nursing homes from COVID-19, will brandish the devastating DiNapoli report.

And that would sound the death knell for Cuomo’s restoration hopes.

Gov. Hochul’s budget embraces tax and spend – By George J. Marlin

March 12, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, March 7, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

In the spring of 2021, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a record-breaking $212 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began on April 1.

Spending all of the $12.2 billion, one-shot federal COVID revenue was not enough revenue to balance his budget. To meet that end, Cuomo deferred $3.5 billion in Medicaid payments into the next fiscal year and raised taxes.

New York’s highest earners now pay a 10.9 percent state income tax. In addition, a 1 percent surtax was added to the state’s capital gains tax. Estate taxes jumped from 16 percent to 20 percent on estates valued over $10 million. The corporate franchise tax went from 6.5 percent to 7.25 percent.

Cuomo’s budget, which increased by a staggering 10 percent in 2021, was twice the expense budget of Florida, which has 3 million more people than the Empire State.

In 2021 and early 2020, additional revenues continued to flow into the state’s coffer. There were more federal pandemic dollars, and thanks to an expanding economy, significantly more tax revenue.

“Initially,” state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli noted in his recent analysis of the state’s fiscal year, “tax collections were expected to increase only 10.6%; however, year to date collections have increased 31.2 percent.”

This was all good news for Gov. Kathy Hochul as she prepared an election year budget that appeases big government radicals in her party and state and municipal employees.

Hochul recommended more spending even though there are ominous signs that the economy may slow down this year, and inflation is hitting levels New Yorkers have not witnessed since the early 1980s.

The bloated budget Hochul presented to the state Legislature not only spends the excess revenues but includes another $5 billion in capital funding from President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Hence, total spending is projected to increase to $217 billion. And that’s before insatiable legislators begin negotiating for more swag for their favorite interest groups.

It should come as no surprise that the biggest spending increase is school aid. To placate teacher unions, the Executive Budget proposes $31.2 billion in aid, up 7.1 percent from the previous fiscal year.

There is the proposal to move forward with the final phase-in of the so-called “middle class” tax cuts, but that’s a pittance—about $162 million in relief.

While the Hochul administration is boasting that her budget increases reserves in various “rainy day” funds, totals will still be relatively low. Reserves, projected to be $6.1 billion, are far below the permissible maximum level of $19.4 billion.

And Hochul’s proposed reserve numbers are a bit deceptive. The state comptroller’s report states that the increase “disproportionately utilizes informal, unrestricted reserves by leaving resources in the General Fund with the administrative designation ‘reserve for economic uncertainties.’”

Those funds are very fungible. They “could be obligated and spent at any time at the Department of Budget’s discretion, for any appropriate purpose,” the report says.

How convenient.

Furthermore, the comptroller notes, these “informal reserves have no obligation of being replenished. Accordingly, such funds do not have the same stabilizing value as formal, statutorily restricted revenues.”

Then there’s the lack of budgetary transparency and accountability. Like her predecessor’s budgets, Hochul’s financial plan “identifies billions of dollars allocated to broadly define purposes with no specificity.” In other words, billions in appropriations could be easily misused.

Another Cuomo budget gimmick Hochul is adopting: the comptroller’s oversight authority to pre-review contracts for Medicare managed care contracts and competitive bidding requirements are slated to be eliminated.

Thanks to the influx of windfall revenues, Hochul had an opportunity to repeal last year’s income tax increases and to truly replenish the state’ depleted reserve funds.

Instead, Hochul chose to continue Cuomo’s tax-and-spend policies. This may get her past the election in November, but come 2023, when the “free” money from Washington runs dry and the economy tanks, there will be dire consequences for New York taxpayers who will be the ones stuck paying the tab for Hochul’s largesse with even higher taxes.