Cuomo, legislative leaders authorize HV casino, public corruption rules, help for cash-strapped government
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders struck deals Tuesday night authorizing a Hudson Valley casino and three others, according to a senior administrative official.
The broad-ranging deal also would simplify prosecuting public corruption and create a state board to help cash-strapped local governments, issues that have resounded throughout the Hudson Valley in recent months.
The casino agreement will authorize four Las Vegas-style resort casinos in the Southern Tier near Binghamton, the Hudson Valley and the Albany area with a fourth possibly planned for the Catskills. The agreement includes a proposal for a large video slot machine center on the Suffolk and Nassau counties line. The official said the center, with 2,000 machines, if approved in further talks, would be operated by the off-track betting agencies of each county.
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Details were to be released Wednesday; no further details were available on the Hudson Valley plans late Tuesday.
The governor and legislative leaders are also agreeing to some elements of Cuomo's bill to combat corruption in Albany, the official said. Cuomo had sought greater enforcement powers for local district attorneys and bills tailored to government corruption, such as bribery of a public official, which would make prosecutions easier.
In April, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph A. Desmaret were arrested along with four New York City politicians. Charged with a slew of public corruption crimes, including bribery and wire fraud, they have since been indicted and all have pleaded not guilty.
HELP FOR CASH-STRAPPED GOVERNMENTS
The agreement also would create a state Financial Restructuring Board to advise local governments on how to cut expenses and streamline services. The deal includes an alternative binding arbitration process to resolve labor disputes.
The 10-member board of municipal finance experts will provide a step before a state takeover of local government finances through what are called financial control boards. Financial control boards have extraordinary legal power to change labor contracts and take other drastic action. Local governments, especially upstate, have suffered for decades with declining populations and tax bases while the cost of public workforce pensions, labor contracts and health care coverage has risen sharply.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli identified two dozen communities, including the Town of Ramapo, he designated as fiscally stressed statewide.
Ramapo is one of six New York communities -- and the only one in Hudson Valley -- that are under "significant stress" as a result of cash flow problems, mounting debt and chronic budget shortfalls, DiNapoli said. The town was given a 70.8 percent stress rating, second-highest only to Monroe County, which received an 82.1 percent score.
"The challenges facing local governments have reached a critical point, and these fiscal stress scores should serve as a wakeup call," DiNapoli said.
Peter A. Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors, said the measure is long overdue. He said the measure will help municipalities by requiring arbitrators to consider a local government's ability to pay large settlements in labor disputes.
The agreement also will allow separate votes on a women's rights package including an abortion proposal that appeared to have been blocked in the Senate, according to a senior administration official.
Additionally, the official told The Associated Press there is a deal for Cuomo's tax-free zones to attract employers tied to universities that will extend beyond upstate to New York City and Long Island. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deals won't be announced until Wednesday.
The agreement was being printed in bills overnight Tuesday for public review on Wednesday. Votes by the Legislature are expected Thursday and Friday.
Legislative leaders had declined to comment on the deals Tuesday night.
Legislators, however, had said the Long Island center remained a contested item Tuesday night.
The deal with legislative leaders will mean Cuomo's abortion proposal will get the vote a coalition of women wanted. Cuomo, a Democrat, and the coalition had refused to break off the abortion piece even though it threatened the other nine items that focused on combatting workplace discrimination, domestic violence and prostitution. The 10 bills will get votes, which could result in passage of all of the measures including one to assure pay equity for women.
The abortion proposal would bring a 1970 state law into line with a more expansive 1973 federal law, allowing late-term abortions if a woman's health is danger. The current state law sets a higher bar, allowing the risky abortions after six months of pregnancy only if the woman's life is in danger.
The deal struck Tuesday night also includes legislative leader approval of Cuomo's proposal to offer tax-free zones to employers and their employees for 10 years if they set up shop on or near a college campus, a move that is expected to boost New York's growing high-technology sector.
The deal with legislators expands Cuomo's idea of reviving the moribund upstate economy by providing the program to campuses in New York City and on Long Island, the official said.
In a deal publicly announced by Cuomo and legislative leaders Tuesday, New York's financially ailing upstate cities will get help to avoid insolvency.