A game of charades
The state budget rhetoric ratcheted up this week, but the spotlight wasn’t on Albany.
It was on Nassau County.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, emerged Thursday night with a statement that called the State Senate’s one-house budget “wholly incredible” and said the situation “makes the reality of an on-time, responsible government budget virtually impossible.”
The specific budget item that Mujica highlighted is the Senate’s plan to provide Nassau County with $200 million in tax relief for those who would see their taxes increase under the county’s reassessment effort. The plan, which county officials didn’t even know about in advance, would spread those state funds over seven years -- and would require the county to opt-in, and contribute $70 million of its collected sales taxes toward the effort.
“It is another obvious political charade,” Mujica said. “It is like the $3 billion New York was supposedly giving to Amazon. It never existed. There is no funding for Nassau’s tax assessment …”
Mujica’s comments drew the ire of spokesmen for the Democrats from both the Senate and the Assembly. Assembly Democrats’ spokesman Mike Whyland tweeted only “Someone needs attention,” while Senate Democrats’ spokesman Mike Murphy said, “Sounds like this statement was written in fantasyland.” (Murphy was referencing a previous gubernatorial dig, since Cuomo adviser Melissa DeRosa had used the term to describe the legislature’s one-house budgets.)
“The Democratic Senate understands the need for real tax relief for Long Island and in particular Nassau,” Murphy told The Point Friday. “There is a path forward on all of these crucial initiatives and if we all work together, Long Island will be better served.”
But it may not be that simple. While it may seem like Whyland and Murphy are unified, at least in their take on the governor, there’s no indication that the Assembly would ever support the Senate’s tax relief plan for Nassau.
Fantasyland? Perhaps. It certainly seems like elected officials will need some pixie dust to get to a final budget over the next two weeks.
Randi F. Marshall
De Blasio’s roadshow
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’s still not ruling out a run for president, is fresh off a “Morning Joe” appearance Friday and set to wander key primary state New Hampshire this weekend.
Some city politics observers like to roll eyes about “De Blasio 2020,” given the crowded field and de Blasio’s past stumbles when angling for the national spotlight.
But he seems to be going through all the right motions in New Hampshire, according to a prominent and longtime Granite State Democrat.
The mayor put together a “very respectable schedule,” says Terry Shumaker, who was the state co-chair for Bill Clinton’s campaign and an ambassador to Trinidad.
De Blasio will drop in on a Manchester happy hour with the Young Democrats of New Hampshire, which Shumaker calls an emerging force. And on Sunday, de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, will participate in a roundtable on the opioid epidemic in Claremont, an old mill city that is not one of the wealthier parts of the state.
Shumaker says this was one of Bill Clinton’s favorite places in New Hampshire, where the Arkansas governor finished a strong surprise second in 1992, launching him toward the nomination.
Clinton won the county surrounding Claremont in that year’s primary and general. Yet the Clinton magic didn’t work there in 2016. Vermont neighbor Sen. Bernie Sanders more than doubled Hillary Clinton’s primary total in the county, and then Donald Trump edged her out there in the general election -- perhaps indicating that some disaffected voters had drifted from the Democratic core.
De Blasio’s campaign says he’s visiting Claremont as it’s where McCray’s mother was born and raised. But if the mayor’s focus on income inequality and executive experience is to have any resonance, it should be in a place like Claremont.
Will he manage to excite crowds like a Beto or Bernie, or get the local respect of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren?
Will the inquisitive New Hampshire citizens grill him on New York City Housing Authority scandals or ongoing struggles to bring homeless shelter levels down from 60,000 people?
The state is happy to host those who want to try its launchpad primary, says Shumaker: “De Blasio is more than welcome in New Hampshire.”
Everyone wants their say
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A lesson about education spending
The big kahuna of issues in this year’s state budget fight, as it is every year, is school aid.
So it is instructive to take a trip back in time to March 13, 1962, when Newsday’s editorial board weighed in on a proposal to create an interdepartmental commission to regulate school spending by the state.
The board was alarmed that state spending on education “has reached such vast proportions.” The total: $870 million.
It seems quaint now. That is less than the increase proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his 2019-20 budget — $956 million, which, if adopted (and the State Legislature always hikes it further), would bring state school spending to $27.7 billion.
Fun fact: That $870 million in 1962 equates to $7.3 billion in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index. State school aid has ballooned nearly four times that amount.
The editorial board in 1962 said state school aid “has become the tail wagging the dog. Thus if the proposed new commission can manage to regain legislative control of such spending, this is all to the good.”
We all know how that worked out. And now the tail seems too big for anyone to wag.
The luck of the Irish
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, here’s a little New York/Long Island wordplay game in keeping with the holiday theme. Email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. This political party’s candidate for governor of New York finished third in the last four gubernatorial elections.
2. This supermodel and Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl-turned-wealthy entrepreneur rang the New York Stock Exchange closing bell in 2009 and its opening bell last August.
3. This actress played Eve Kendall, a mysterious blonde who meets Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill on the 20th Century Limited out of Grand Central Terminal in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”
4. This is the middle name of New York politicos Maloney and Moynihan, and the first name of Newsday’s owner.
5. This is being made by a Holbrook man using yeast from glass bottles salvaged from an 1886 shipwreck off Fire Island.
6. In Broadway’s “Hello, Dolly!”, Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey and Bette Midler sang about wanting to feel their hearts come alive again before this passes by.
7. This flower is featured in the emblem of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, founded in St. James Church in New York City in 1836.
8. This pub in NYC’s Financial District was part of a chain of Irish pubs that once numbered more than 30.