Tag Archives: New York State

Hashtag ‘Summer of Hell’

As part of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo’s forward-looking $100 billion infrastructure plan, the most ambitious in the nation, Long Island will have the nation’s largest off-shore windfarm. Yet Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped because of the #SummerofHell © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Considering all that Governor Andrew Cuomo has been doing to update, upgrade, modernize New York’s infrastructure – including the Long Island Rail Road, a $32 billion rebuilding project for LaGuardia Airport, JF Kennedy Airport, the Gateway Tunnel and the Tappan Zee Bridge –  it is shocking, really, to hear Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped in recent weeks, largely because of the very problems he is working to fix: the MTA and LIRR. There is massive work going on this summer and people are inconvenienced; Cuomo even declared a state of emergency for New York City subways. But at least he is doing something.

Part of the reason you get the uptick in disapproval is the way pollsters ask questions. I can certainly understand commuters’ distress at the disruptions this summer – some caused precisely because the system is so old and failing and needs to be replaced and some because they are working to replace the system – but quite another to blame Cuomo, rather than appreciate that at least, after decades of governors kicking cans down a road, is doing something about it – in fact, New York State is undertaking the most ambitious infrastructure project in the nation. And it goes along with a transition – as much as possible – to climate sustainability and clean, renewable energy.

But, in contrast to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who nixed the Hudson tunnel when he came to office as a slap-in-the-face to President Obama (and now the Trump Administration is likely to defund the Gateway project) and shut down the George Washington Bridge for 4 days to spite a Democratic mayor (and still was overwhelmingly reelected), Cuomo has implemented an ambitious infrastructure plan, on par with the bold visionary transformation of Governor DeWitt Clinton (Erie Canal), Governor Theodore Roosevelt (Barge Canal), and Governor Franklin Roosevelt (St. Lawrence Seaway). Indeed, New York is undergoing a $100 billion building program, the largest infrastructure revitalization programs in the nation.

This week, after 70 years of stagnation, Cuomo announced “historic” $5.6 billion transformation of the Long Island Rail Road – 100 transformative LIRR capital projects including the Main Line Third Track, Double Track, Jamaica Station Reconstruction, 39 renovated Long Island Rail Road stations, including Great Neck and Port Washington, plus the new Penn-Farley Complex and $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall. Additionally, East Side Access project will create the first direct LIRR service to the east side and increase capacity.

“With the complete transformation of the Long Island Railroad, New York is recapturing the bold ambition that made our infrastructure the envy of the nation and building for the future. The LIRR is the backbone of the region’s economy, and the strength and resiliency of Long Island requires bold, transformative investments to bolster our transportation network,” Governor Cuomo said. “From the previously unthinkable Third Track and Second Track projects to state-of-the-art technology and signal upgrades, we are daring to imagine better and delivering for the people of New York once again.”

And Cuomo has accepted the state’s responsibility in fixing the MTA, pledging support for the MTA NYC Subway Action Plan.

“The MTA is in crisis and hard-working New Yorkers deserve better. The plan outlined by Chairman Lhota is substantive and realistic. “I am fully committed to making it a reality. I accept the 50/50 split of funds, and the state will do its part. Government is about making a positive difference in people’s lives. As a lifelong New Yorker, I know how essential the subway service is to people’s day to day lives. I am all about getting results. Now is not the time for pointing fingers, but for moving forward – together as New Yorkers.”

Cuomo also stated, “Last week, we had a successful resolution to expand the Long Island Rail Road after 50 years of delay. Today Chairman Lhota laid out a comprehensive plan to transform the New York City transit system. Tomorrow, I will go to Washington to meet with Secretary Chao to discuss what may be the most important transportation project in the region – the Gateway Tunnel. The Gateway Tunnel is critical for rail traffic entering New York and the entire Northeast. It is essential that this project, which has been delayed for years, goes forward. I will also brief the New York Delegation on the situation.”

The state is also fortifying an additional 12 bridges (including $16.5 million to rehabilitate Long Island bridges) and replacing and upgrading 13 electric power substations.

The Port Authority is in the midst of a $32 billion, 10-year capital plan to redevelop LaGuardia and JF Kennedy airports and construct a LaGuardia AirTran.

There is also $112.2 million in funding for 81 projects that support bicycle and pedestrian enhancements and improve air quality across New York, including $2.2 million for Long Island projects in Brookhaven, Glen Cove and Amityville, and $200 million allocated to create the 750-mile long Empire State Trail Network.

It’s not just the transportation infrastructure, but the power system (not to mention initiatives to incentivize clean, renewable energy systems to replace fossil fuel, including electric car power stations along the thruway and offshore windpower, and expanding solar power) – in order to meet the Clean Energy Standard mandating 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation Board of Directors approved nearly $60 million in grants and interest-free and low-cost loans to support vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state.

Yet, despite all that is going on, Cuomo’s approval ratings have slumped.

It’s really disheartening – it is why politicians rarely take bold initiatives, but rather pander or play to an image rather than getting things done. Most people have such a superficial, hollow understanding of what is going on – it’s why Republicans were able to perpetuate such hatred for Obama throughout his administration, stoking discontent rather than people appreciating the actual improvements in their lives – foreclosures stopped, job losses  stemmed, bankruptcies slowed. Instead, massive construction was underway thanks to infrastructure spending; teachers, police and firefighters kept their jobs, General Motors didn’t fold, paid apprenticeships expanded. But did Americans’ praise Obama? Absolutely not. Republicans kept up the fiction that Obama did not create “a single job,” that Obamacare and climate actions were “job-killing”, despite record number of months of consecutive job increases and unemployment rates falling to a level effectively called “full employment”. even through the 2012 reelection campaign. Trump was able to convince white working class people they were “forgotten” and only Trump could save them.

In the same vein, Republicans were able to stoked hatred for Obamacare before it was implemented, and even after  people were actually loving KYnect, Kentucky’s Obamacare health exchange. It’s one thing to hold a governor or mayor or president to task for ignoring problems or undertaking policies that exacerbate them. And it’s why the Russia/Trump propaganda campaign could be so effective. Sheeple.

#SummerofHell  is more than about discomfort or discontentment about commuting. It goes to the heart of why politicians are unwilling to be bold, how easily it is to rabble-rouse a crowd. It is why those “forgotten” white working class were so easily incited in hatred and anger against Obama, to fail to appreciate that their situations were in fact improving (people weren’t losing jobs or homes or retirement savings, they had access to health care) and connived into following Trump, easily the most corrupt, inept, self-serving ignoramus to hold such power (“Leader of the Free World”) in the history of the world, including Nero.

And you know how people always say that candidates need a positive vision? Well the Trumpers have offered nothing but the bleakest dystopia, winning support by engendering fear and insecurity, notably based on fabrications on such vital issues as climate change, immigration, health care, trade, national security. Even now, Trump says he would rather Obamacare fail (which means that millions would lose healthcare and tens of thousands would die unnecessarily each year) rather than Republicans fail to replace it.

In answer the question, “How did we get here?”, Michael Hadjiargyrou of Centerport wrote to the New York Times, “The answer is simple: a politically apathetic and historically uninformed citizenry, blindly led by a populist salesman, who pulled the lever in his favor. Until a majority of Americans pay closer attention to politics, we are doomed to these kind of outcomes.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Many Cheers But One Big Jeer for NYS Governor Cuomo: Local Control

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo takes aim at local control and public schools © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo takes aim at local control and public schools © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

There is much to cheer in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address, one of which he delivered at SUNY Farmingdale on Long Island. His agenda for infrastructure, mass transportation improvements, water quality, affirming women’s reproductive rights,  support for immigrants and refugees, free tuition at public colleges for those who qualify, and how he couples the need for aggressive climate action with vigorous sustainable economic development, giving his blessing leading to LIPA’s landmark decision for a 90 megawatt off-shore windfarm to supply the East End, the first utility-scale project in America and making Long Island a leader in a new American industry, put Cuomo in line another New York Governor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which FDR brought to the White House as the New Deal (and it is clear Cuomo is jockeying for an eventual run for president).

The one jeer? His renewed assault on local control, which he casts as the culprit for unceasingly high property taxes, which is a not-really-veiled attack on public education.

Each year, Cuomo has used a different mechanism to make the property tax cap – which limits the amount a municipality can raise through property taxes to 2% or the CPI, whichever is less – an offer that can’t be refused. This year, Cuomo has unveiled a “groundbreaking” proposal which mandates the county executive “to develop localized plans that find real, recurring property tax savings by coordinating and eliminating duplicative services and proposing coordinated services to enhance purchasing power, such as jointly purchasing and coordinating use of expensive transportation or emergency equipment. Taxpayers will then vote on these cost-saving plans in a referendum in the November 2017 general election.” If the referendum fails, well then, the plan would need to be reworked and resubmitted in November 2018. (Notably, New York City is exempted.)

But the argument begins with a flawed argument that we spend 2.5 times on property taxes than state income taxes. Doesn’t that spending differential reflect how much we pay for the services we actually receive locally? Plowing snow. Repairing roads. Treating sewage. Picking up garbage. Delivering water. Maintaining police, fire and emergency services. Keeping street lights on. And yes, public education.

Though people like to charge that Long Island pays the highest property taxes in the country, that isn’t true. Nor do New Yorkers pay the highest taxes in the nation, When all taxes are tallied –real estate, income, sales taxes and fees, New York comes in 6th (behind Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Rhode Island).  Nor are the taxes out of line to the incomes earned and home values. But most importantly, for the quality of municipal services including public schools, we want in our community.

Question for Cuomo: before you forcibly consolidate local governments, how much money would be saved by the exercise and how would consolidation actually work? North Hempstead already promotes intermunicipal cooperation; the school districts already participate in joint purchasing and shared services (BOCES) wherever practicable. Indeed, Great Neck public schools now earn a tidy sum in revenue from other districts for tuition paid into programs such as SEAL (rather than paying out $1 million in tuition). If there is waste and duplication, voters can show their ire at the ballot box or make their better-government suggestions known at public meetings.

But the real target of Cuomo’s assault on local governments and property taxes is public education, since 60-65% of the property tax bill goes to fund schools.

Talk about wasteful duplication. If he were so concerned, Cuomo wouldn’t be pushing for a second tier public school system – for-profit charter schools – without the same financial or academic accountability or subject to the same state mandates, to divert money from public schools.

Indeed, Long Islanders wouldn’t pay so much in property taxes if we weren’t so shortchanged in state aid for our public schools – though Long Island has 17% of NY’s student population, we only receive 12% of  state aid. It is a lot more obvious when you compare the percentage of school budgets funded by state aid: New York City, where property taxes are low and just about everybody gets some sort of tax holiday, gets 50% of its school budget paid by the state; in comparison less than 5% of Great Neck’s school budget comes from the state. Also, new enterprises, like Avalon Bay residential development, are getting a PILOT by Nassau County’s IDA, reducing the taxes they contribute to the school district as well as Village of Great Neck; the difference is made up by homeowners.

Governor Cuomo has made property taxes, and particularly school taxes, the enemy, falsely claiming that the taxes inhibit growth. But the services that are funded through property taxes contribute to economic growth and activity (an educated workforce, lighted roadways) as well as quality of life.

“Economic theory expects people to consider taxes when deciding where to live, but most studies show taxes only tangentially influence these decisions,” explains Stephanie Hunter McMahon, professor of law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, in a WalletHub report. “Taxes are, therefore, more influential for what they do or do not provide rather than the rate itself…these taxes are really payments for the goods and services state and local governments provide to the taxpayer and other members of the community.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin