Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! Here’s an inside peek into the unseemly fin de session in Albany as “the big ugly” is underway.
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Nassau tax bills get partisan
Laura Curran is trying to snatch victory in Albany from the jaws of defeat in Mineola.
Despite Monday’s refusal of the Nassau County Legislature’s Republican majority to support a home-rule message in favor of the county executive’s key tax assessment fix, county lobbyists Tuesday still pushed for a state law that would give the Nassau Interim Finance Authority flexibility to borrow $400 million. The funds would go to help clear a backlog of property refunds.
While Albany legislators like to see a measure of support from the local government, a home-rule message is not legally required in this case, according to county officials. However, some GOP state senators are reluctant to rebuff their local brethren. The bill has more support in the Assembly, and the county hopes that NIFA borrowing will be added to the grab bag that Speaker Carl Heastie brings to the table. In the horse trading that goes on in the last few days of the aptly named “big ugly,” will Republicans drop opposition to the borrowing authorization in exchange for a goody they want, or will it just fall off the table? And does Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tip the scale in favor of a fellow Democrat?
Curran’s other bill to allow a fix to Nassau’s assessment mess would give officials more flexibility to pay commercial refunds out of a dedicated fund. It is much more likely to pass in both chambers because Nassau’s powerful tax certiorari bar supports the measure. That’s the same reason the county legislators unanimously approved it Monday.
The wrinkle, and there always is one when Assemb. Earlene Hooper is in the room, is a third Nassau assessment bill that would protect homeowners who failed to challenge their assessments. Hooper, deputy speaker of the Assembly, is aggressively pushing it because it would greatly benefit residents in her district. However, it doesn’t have a prayer in the State Senate, especially after the tax cert bar unleashed clients to lobby against it.
The question is whether Hooper will allow the other two assessment measures into the Assembly’s version of the big ugly if the tax-exemption bill she is personally carrying falls by the wayside.
Guv the builder, again
Among all of the possible legislation that could emerge victorious in the next 24 hours, there’s really one piece in particular that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants, sources told The Point.
It would allow New York to use public land, including park land, for an AirTrain link to LaGuardia Airport.
The bill, introduced by Democrat Assemb. Jeffrion Aubry, who represents the area near LaGuardia, would allow the state to create a path for the AirTrain that would be further from Queens residents’ homes, thereby minimizing the noise and other impacts — and, potentially, bringing more local residents on board with the project.
The bill’s language details land that could be used, and outlines the potential path an AirTrain would take, noting that it would run along Grand Central Parkway and the edge of the Citi Field parking lot, then next to the elevated 7 train. It would terminate near the subway rail yards at Willets Point.
The bill passed the Assembly this week, and Cuomo has told the State Senate this is his big get for the session. Is it a bargaining chip? The Point is told no, the governor is whipping up enough support for it in the Senate on its own.
Randi F. Marshall
LIPA glide path still in motion
Mixed up in the frenetic days of the legislative session in Albany, desperate measures are being explored to deal with the LIPA tax assessment problem.
This involves the Long Island Power Authority’s attempt to reduce excessive taxes on four old, little-used power plants — taxes paid by all ratepayers but benefiting primarily the Port Jefferson, Island Park, Northport-East Northport and North Shore school districts. Reducing LIPA’s tax burden either by a settlement or a looming court case would drive up taxes for homeowners in those districts.
The State Senate passed a so-called glide-path bill Tuesday afternoon that would allow municipalities and school districts that agree to settle with LIPA or that lose court cases to tap into a state mitigation fund to cushion the loss of tax revenue. After all, the community most opposed to any settlement is in the district of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
The bill appropriates no money — that would have to be done next year — and its fate is doubtful in the Assembly. But even if it did pass there, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is not likely to sign it, in part because LIPA, a state authority, cannot accept a glide path of more than seven years because that’s the length of its existing power-purchasing agreements. Flanagan’s bill calls for such funding to be spread over a 15-year period.
The least likely solution being bandied about is one from Huntington Town Councilman Eugene Cook to have the town take over the Northport plant by eminent domain and become its operator; the economics alone make that nearly impossible.
In a letter last month to Cuomo, Cook appealed to him as a “family man,” and in terms of losing the court case wrote that, “Much like your father you have to understand that this would destroy our community.” His proposals don’t have much merit, but it probably didn’t help that in a letter last week to LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone, Cook referred to the current governor as Mario Cuomo.
Michael Dobie and Rita Ciolli
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been knee-deep in border politics this week, culminating for now with his Tuesday afternoon announcement that the state intends to sue over the federal government’s policy of separating many immigrant families.
On Monday, he announced the state would not deploy the National Guard to the Southern border because “we will not be complicit in a political agenda that governs by fear and division.” There was not, however, a current request for New York to send National Guard support to the border, according to Cuomo’s office. The state’s National Guard deployed a UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopter at the border from 2012 to 2016, including rotating crews flying missions in support of U.S. Border Patrol. The missions ended in March 2016.
By Tuesday, though, there were new ways for Cuomo to register his displeasure with President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Cuomo issued a letter to Vice President Mike Pence upon Pence’s visit to New York, imploring him to consider “the words of Emma Lazarus mounted on a plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.”
And in a 2:30 p.m. telephone news conference, Cuomo went further with his plan to sue the federal government for a policy he called “inhumane” and “un-American.” The suit isn’t filed yet — Cuomo said it would be within two weeks and the venue is still unclear — but it’s already taking over the spotlight from that National Guard statement.