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Vermont governor questions Cuomo's tax plans

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- As New York spends millions promoting on television airwaves Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to offer tax-free incentives to businesses that locate on or near colleges in New York, the governor of Vermont is poking at the idea as politically motivated that backloads the costs onto future generations.

The Vermont television news report about Gov. Peter Shumlin's criticism of the Cuomo plan mirrors the words of some conservative critics in New York who question a program that offers tax breaks to new companies but leaves out existing companies. The only difference: Shumlin is, like Cuomo, a Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

The question, according to the Burlington Free Press, has been put to Shumlin by a local town board member, who said Vermont had to compete with "a pretty tempting offer'' from its neighbor to the east.

"Let's not envy the things we can't afford,'' the paper quoted the Vermont governor as saying.

Cuomo's office had no comment today on the criticism.

SoS update: Cuomo asks lawmakers for new ethics reform measures

By Tom Precious

Albany -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo just ended his State of the State address, a 69-minute speech that was part stump and part policy promotion.

Near the end, he sought to downplay the fight he has had with lawmakers over his formation of a special investigatory panel that has been trying to dig into the personal finances of many legislators. He said the public has lost confidence in Albany because of the scandals involving legislators.

"It reflects poorly on all of us,'' Cuomo said as his PowerPoint presentation showed headlines of various legislative scandals, including the sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak.

Cuomo again called for a package of bills, including public financing of campaigns and new disclosures about outside income of lawmakers. "I do believe in the Legislature. ... I do believe in government. ... And I don't want to see it limited, and government is limited by the lack of trust. The more trust, the more capacity,'' he said.

SoS update: Cuomo wants new DWI, texting restrictions

By Tom Precious

Albany -- Repeat drunk drivers will permanently lose their licenses if they are convicted of drunk driving three times. "Three strikes ... and you are off the road, period,'' Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo called for drivers to lose their licenses for five years if they get two DWI convictions in three years. He said there are now 47,000 licensed drivers in New York with three or more drunk-driving convictions. "It's absurd,'' he said.

Cuomo said teens have higher fatality rates texting while driving than drinking while driving. He proposed an automatic loss of license for one year for any teen convicted of texting while driving. "Let them learn this lesson. They are our sons and our daughters and let's save lives,'' he told lawmakers.


Cuomo touts new Buffalo Billion investment

By Tom Precious

Albany -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a new genome research facility in Buffalo "will create an entirely new industry for Western New York.''

The center, which administration officials say will see a $100 million state investment, envisions collaboration between the University at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and a new genome research group based in Manhattan.

"The Buffalo Billion is working,'' Cuomo told lawmakers.


Cuomo calls for continued focus on upstate

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking lawmakers to continue to give special attention to upstate areas that have been economically battered for decades. "The state, besides the Capital District, in many ways forgot the rest of upstate New York,'' Cuomo said.
He is calling for a new genome research center in Buffalo, additional tourism opportunities in upstate and cutting to zero percent the corporate income tax on upstate manufacturers. "Why? Because you can't beat zero,'' Cuomo said.

Early State of State remarks a campaign stump speech

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is wasting no time delivering a re-election speech, spending the first part of his State of the State speech going through what he believes are the accomplishments during his three years in office.
"New York was literaly a joke on late night tv,'' Cuomo said of the period before he became governor.
Despite some nasty run-ins with lawmakers over the past several months, Cuomo is also giving lawmakers something all governors include in their annual addresses: love.
"In three years, my friends, you have reversed decades of decline,'' he told them in a packed convention center near the Capitol.
About 20 minutes into the speech, the governor began outlining his 2014 fiscal and policy wish-list.

Veteran lawmaker wants pot law, not Cuomo's regulatory approach

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s reversal on a plan to permit use of marijuana for certain illnesses is being welcomed by state lawmakers, but a longtime proponent of the drug’s use for medicinal purposes says the governor’s regulatory idea does not go far enough.

Cuomo indicated today he wants no part of the Legislature adopting a law to permit marijuana’s use for what he believes should only be selective ailments in fewer than a dozen hospitals. His idea is tapping into a never-used 1980 New York medical marijuana law that gives his administration authority to design and implement who gets access to the drug and for what illnesses.

But Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the Assembly’s health committee chairman, said that while Cuomo’s idea is “an important interim step,’’ there needs to be a more comprehensive examination of the issue to ensure the drug can be used by more patients than envisioned by lawmakers 34 years ago.

“Science is well beyond where we were in 1980 … There are many patients who could benefit from medical marijuana who cannot be helped under the 1980 law, such as children with severe epilepsy,’’ said Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat.

He noted other states regulate the type of cannabis strains and strengths depending on the patient with access to the drug.

But Cuomo indicated today that he wants no part of the Legislature dictating a medical marijuana law to him. “It’s not the Legislature telling me what I have to do. And that gives me great comfort, because if it goes bad, we can correct or improve all within our own control,’’ Cuomo told reporters.

The governor also said he is opposed to legalization of the drug, such as in Colorado, or decriminalization of its possession as he pushed for last year. The Cuomo plan, without further specifics, includes permitting the drug to be dispensed at 20 hospitals statewide and for only certain conditions, such as cancer.

A not-so-Happy Birthday card from GOP to Cuomo

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- On the night of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's big annual Happy Birthday fundraiser, which his campaign throws for him in Manhattan, comes this birthday wish, of sorts, from the state Republican Party:

 What are your plans on this special night, New York?

For just $50,000 for a top-shelf ticket, you can hang out with Andrew Cuomo as he's personally serenaded by pop icon Billy Joel. That's right, the same governor who's demanding welfare for politicians via publicly financed campaigns and is trying to cap contributions to political organizations is selling tickets to his birthday party for as much as $50,000 -- or just a little less than New Yorkers' median income.

How about that. Can't make it? Neither can we. But fortunately, our NYGOP spies were able to get ahold of Billy Joel's set list for tonight's shindig. Check it out:

"You May Be Right," as sung by Andrew Cuomo to Republicans about lowering taxes;

"In the Middle of the Night," or, How Andrew Cuomo Passed the SAFE Act;

"Pressure (from the Governor's Office)," or, Why the Moreland Commission Won't Subpoena Major Democrat Donors;

"Movin' Out (Andrew's Song)," or, Why New York's Businesses Keep Leaving for Lower-Tax States;

"The Longest Time," or, The Story of the Fracking Decision;

"We Love You Just the Way You Are," as sung by the Assembly Democrat caucus to Shelly Silver;

"Upstate Girl," featuring the Growing Chorus of Upstaters Who Disapprove of Andrew Cuomo;

"I Go to Extremes (But Only After MSNBC Attacks me for Working with Republicans)," as sung by Andrew Cuomo;

"Summer, Rainbow Falls (The Great Adirondack White-Water Rafting Challenge)," as sung by Andrew Cuomo; and

"Scenes from a Yogurt Summit" "New York Washington State of Mind," as sung by Andrew Cuomo.


Pro-casino group spent $4.2 million to boost amendment

By Tom Precious

ALBANY –- A group of gambling and union interests spent $4.2 million in a one-month period to push through a constitutional amendment authorizing up to seven new casinos in New York, new disclosure reports out this afternoon show.

New York Jobs Now, run out of the Business Council of New York state offices in Albany with advice from the Cuomo administration, spent $1.7 million in the final couple weeks before the Nov. 5 election on a television ad campaign aimed heavily at downstate voters.

The referendum passed 57 percent to 43 percent. Major donors included $750,000 from Genting New York, the Malaysian-based gambling company that runs a casino at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, and $270,000 from a harness track/casino in Yonkers. Caesars Entertainment gave $100,000, and Bally Gaming donated $25,000. Unions also were major bankrollers of New York Jobs Now, which received $270,000 from a hotel workers’ union and $250,000 from a New York City-based teachers union.

Besides a last-minute round of television advertising, New York Jobs Now spent $595,000 on polling, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars on mailings and radio ads. It ended its casino expansion bid with $4,197 in the bank as of today’s final post-election filing with the state Board of Elections. In the 27-day post election report filed today, the group reported raising $2.1 million and spending $3.85 million. In its previous filing 11 days before the election, the group had reported raising $2 million and spending $361,000.

New polls show Cuomo leading potential GOP rivals

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Rob who?

If New York’s gubernatorial election was held today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo would beat Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino 56 percent to 25 percent, as 84 percent of registered voters say they don’t know enough about Astorino to form an opinion of him, a new poll finds.

Quinnipiac University also found improvements in Cuomo’s overall job approval rating, which had fallen in the first half of the year. It now stands at 62 percent favorable to 25 percent unfavorable in the poll released this morning.

Another poll, released Monday and which Cuomo administration officials forwarded to reporters to make sure they saw, put Cuomo even further ahead in a hypothetical match-up against undeclared Republicans. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist poll, Cuomo would beat Astorino 65 percent to 23 percent. He would defeat other potential challengers if the election was held today, including Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, by about the same margin, the poll found.

Cuomo, who was in Rochester for a fundraiser Monday night following a campaign money gathering event in Buffalo last week, leads Astorino in every breakout group except among Republicans in the Quinnipiac poll. Among upstate voters, Cuomo is ahead 45 percent to 34 percent. Astorino, who has not decided whether he will challenge Cuomo next year, has been touted by GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who was with Astorino last week during a trip to Arizona to meet GOP governors, donors and party officials at the Republican Governor’s Association meeting.

By a margin of 59 percent to 31 percent, poll respondents said they believe Cuomo deserves to be re-elected. The Quinnipiac poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist poll found Cuomo’s job performance rating has slipped from 54 percent in April to 52 percent today. Upstate voters gave him a 47 percent positive job approval rating, while 56 percent of New York City voters rated his performance positively.

That poll also found Cuomo would beat New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie among New York voters in a hypothetical 2016 presidential race by 51 percent to 44 percent. And yet a third poll – released last week by Siena College – found Christie beating Cuomo 47 percent to 42 percent among New York voters. Cuomo has insisted he is not running for president while Christie has not stated his intentions.

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |