New York State finally passed a budget. We’ll delve into the big new program–the Excelsior Scholarship–and more going on around the state.
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Under the new Excelsior Scholarship, enacted as part of the state budget, SUNY and CUNY students whose families earn less than $100,000 will receive free tuition. But, of course, it’s not just free money. The many restrictions mean that the Excelsior Scholarship will be much less generous and won’t help as many students as Governor Cuomo says.
From Across New York
Last week, Democratic State Senator George Latimer announced he will challenge the Republican incumbent, Rob Astorino, in November. Beyond the impact for Westchester, this election will affect the 2018 Governor’s race as well as Democrats’ attempts to take back the State Senate.
The New York State budget was a week late this year, largely because the “three men in the room” couldn’t agree. Virtually all major decisions are made by consensus with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Republican Senate leader John Flanagan, and Democratic Assembly speaker Carl Heastie, with the Republican-aligned Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein sometimes included.
No need to worry about transparency and public debate, the three or four men in the room can get together and reach agreements that are then ratified into law. This system of making laws behind closed door may result in greater corruption; the most recent Senate leader and Assembly speaker were both sentenced to prison last year for taking bribes.
Speaking of corruption, one more politician is in trouble. A week and a half ago, feds arrested Edward Ambrosino, Hempstead Councilman and lawyer for County Executive Ed Mangano, for tax evasion. Mangano is also awaiting trial for corruption, though he may still run for re-election.
Most politicians know that their words are scrutinized and so try to be straightforward. But what are we to think when a politician announces he is running for office (in this case, Brooklyn District Attorney) while running away from his record?
New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile has served three terms in the City Council and so cannot run for re-election. Since he needs a new job, Gentile is now running for Brooklyn District Attorney and that’s where the trouble starts.
• What’s happening with New York City’s transit system? The long and short of it, as the Village Voice explains, is lack of money. The MTA needs billions to connect the LIRR to Grand Central and repair the subways. New Jersey Transit and Amtrak also need a new tunnel under the Hudson River. Without that funding, we’re going to continue to see more and more breakdowns and delays.
• It’s good to be (related to) the King. Last week, we noted that it pays to be close to the Democratic Party leader for Queens, Congressman Joe Crowley. Now, the Observer reports that judges have appointed Margaret and Bernadette Crowley (cousins of Joe) to some well-paid jobs in the court system. Of course, Joe Crowley has a lot of power in electing the judges who appointed his cousins. Wonder what they talk about at their family gatherings.
• Cuomo aide Joe Percoco is going to trial for corruption and victims are angry. NY1 reported on the protests last week outside his court appearance. Crowds came down from Orange County, angry about the construction of a natural gas power plant there. They believe the plant was only permitted because of bribery. Expect this to be a bigger issue in the future.
• Where are New York City’s oldest buildings? Curbed mapped out the 20 oldest buildings, including the Morris Jumel Mansion where Aaron Burr lived for a time. The map is a treat for anyone who loves New York history.
• Good news for immigrants. A judge ruled against two Republican politicians who sued to force New York City to keep personal records from IDNYC applicants. New York City wanted to discard the records to prevent the Trump administration from identifying undocumented immigrants with the New York City ID.
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