Cuomo’s naughty-and-nice list
The leader of Suffolk County's Democrats is on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s naughty list these days after helping Republican Phil Boyle win re-election to the State Senate. That became clear to Democrats at the Nassau County Democrats holiday dinner on Monday.
Not only did Cuomo call Nassau’s Democratic leader Jay Jacobs the “best county chair in the state” and a “brilliant strategist,” he also credited him with the party's stunning upsets in State Senate races.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and her Suffolk counterpart, Steve Bellone, also got shoutouts. Rich Schaffer’s acknowledgement at Monday’s event pretty much came during a throat clearing.
Schaffer dismissed on Wednesday any notion that he is in disfavor. “The Gov spoke of Jay at his committee event the same way he speaks of me at our Suffolk events,” he wrote in an email to The Point.
But others insist there is a chill and that’s why Schaffer wants his own eyes and ears in Albany for the upcoming legislative session, especially since the new Senate Democratic leadership won’t give him the time of day. He can’t get any inside info from Bellone with whom he remains locked in a Hatfield-and-McCoy feud. Without Cuomo, Schaffer has few allies in the state Capitol.
But Schaffer controls the Democratic majority on the Suffolk legislature and they seem ready to use funds from their operating budget to make him happy. Not all Democrats are along for the ride, however, so Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory is considering awarding a lobbying contract for just under $25,000, which frees the majority from having to take any vote on the matter.
It’s all politics and it’s all personal.
Legalizing pot can be taxing
With Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s call Monday to legalize recreational marijuana in New York, a lot of focus will be on how the state ought to tax the business.
It’s complicated, and New York does not want to get it wrong, as it appears some legal-weed states may have by taxing in a way that could hamper revenue collections as broad legalization has led prices to plummet.
During full marijuana prohibition, wholesale prices on weed sometimes hit $5,000 a pound. But legal plants and their products, even treasured ones like roses, tomatoes, premium tobacco and olive oil, are cheaper than illegal plants. Some experts say the price of wholesale marijuana, which according to industry analyst cannabisbenchmarks.com fell from $2,200 per pound in 2015 to just over $1,000 today, could eventually hit $50 a pound.
How do you tax a product long-term when its price may nosedive and revenue generation is a justification to allow its sale? It can be done. Alaska imposed a flat $50 per pound tax on cultivators, rather than levying a percentage of sales. And California gets both, charging growers $9.25 per ounce of flower and $2.75 per ounce of leaves while also levying a 15 percent sales tax on retail customers.
But Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state’s only significant levies on pot are sales taxes, set by percentage. As states allow more shops to open and continue to see marijuana tourism money pour in from other states, revenue from pot is mostly increasing. But warning signs of the effect of reduced prices on revenue are starting to blink, and last year Colorado raised its retail tax on pot products from 10 percent to 15 percent to keep the money flowing.
Mary, is that you?
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SOS at the Northport VA
Last January, the homeless shelter for veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center had to repair a heating system stressed by extremely cold temperatures.
But that closure caused Beacon House, or Building 11, to lose its certificate of occupancy, a grandfathered status that let it operate outside of current building standards. Before veterans can again stay in the facility, Beacon House needs asbestos abatement and extensive electrical work.This causes veterans great difficulty in accessing the medical and mental health care services offered at Northport, treatments of ailments that are often an underlying cause of their homelessness in the first place.
Some veterans who had stayed on the campus now face journeys across the Island instead of across the Northport campus.
So how much longer will it be closed? According to Rep. Lee Zeldin, if everything happens in the federal system as it’s supposed to, at least six to eight months more.
“We have reached out to find out if there is any possible way to expedite that, any way to push the system to make it go faster, and we have not even gotten an answer about whether such a path exists,” a frustrated Zeldin told The Point Monday.
Zeldin says he’s also pushing for the VA to take on more transportation responsibilities to bring displaced veterans to Northport, and to continue offering such service even after Beacon House reopens because, “It’s not nearly large enough to house all the homeless veterans who need access to the VA.”