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Labor turns to

Denis Hughes to keep the peace.

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VOL. 4, NO. 3

Merryl Tisch puts

her own money behind Regents assistance.

Page 15

Charlie Rangel talks Black History Month and New York’s stake in Washington.

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FEBRUARY 21, 2011

PRESCRIPTIONS FOR

New York’s race for a Medicaid cure


LABOR

Labor Intensive Denis Hughes tries to find common ground in a divided labor movement By Chris Bragg

andrew schwartz

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round New Year’s, the New York State AFL-CIO convened a tense meeting of about a dozen of the state’s most prominent labor leaders at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan. It was the labor umbrella organization’s first executive committee meeting since Gary LaBarbera, the president of the New York City Building Trades Council, had decided to join the business- and real-estate-backed Committee to Save New York. Representatives of the public-sector unions spent the meeting interrogating LaBarbera, demanding to know why he would add his name to the group that was formed as a buttress for Gov. Andrew Cuomo against the unions in this year’s budget fight, according to one labor leader in the room. LaBarbera assured them that he did not see joining the group as a move against the other unions. But he refused to abandon the Committee to Save New York. Anger on both sides has continued to simmer. “There isn’t any less tension now,” one labor leader who attended the meeting said. The gathering was one of several attempts to build a common agenda among labor groups organized by Denis Hughes, president of the state AFL-CIO, the 2.5 million-member umbrella labor organization that bridges public- and private-sector interests. For years, the AFL-CIO has held regular meetings of the state’s top labor leaders to hash out policy and political strategy. But the meetings have grown into something else in recent months: if labor is to unify around some sort of common agenda this session, first its representatives must get into the same room—and Hughes is seen as one of the few with enough clout to get the discussion going.

The AFL-CIO’s influence may rise as other labor groups’ are hampered. Hughes has also had to pick up some of the slack left by the New York City Central Labor Council, which has not held its once-regular pow-wows of the city’s labor officials for years, according to one prominent city labor source. And in recent months, things have worsened even more, with most of the staff resigning amid problems with Jack Ahern’s leadership and spending.

If labor is to unify around some sort of common agenda this session, first its representatives must get into the same room—and Hughes is seen as one of the few with enough clout to get the discussion going.

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Meanwhile, the Working Families Party, in recent years the state’s most aggressive and cohesive labor force, has had its wings clipped by its pledge to support Andrew Cuomo’s agenda made during EDITORIAL Editor: Edward-Isaac Dovere eidovere@nycapitolnews.com Managing Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com Reporters: Chris Bragg cbragg@nycapitolnews.com Laura Nahmias lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com Jon Lentz jlentz@nycapitolnews.com Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz Interns: Ismail Muhammed, Candace Wheeler

the election. AFL-CIO, whose influence had diminished somewhat with the rise of the WFP, now has a chance to rise to the forefront. That leaves Hughes the man in the middle, with the responsibility of balancing the demands of a wide array of public- and private-sector unions whose memberships feel they are increasingly under attack. Greg Floyd, president of the Teamsters Local 237 and a member of the AFLCIO executive committee, was one of many labor leaders who expressed hope that Hughes will be able to unite labor at this critical moment. “Denis Hughes is a voice of reason—he’s able to understand everyone’s point of view and bring them together,” Floyd said. Collaboration among labor has become increasingly difficult as the state’s building trades unions have been devastated by the collapse of the construction market. Employment for many locals has hovered at around 50 percent, raising major concerns for their members, while other unions are more insulated from the effects of the recession. There are still tensions between the ADVERTISING Associate Publishers: Jim Katocin, Seth Miller Advertising manager: Marty Strongin Senior Account Executives: Ceil Ainsworth, Monica Conde Marketing Director: Tom Kelly Marketing Coordinator: Stephanie Musso Executive Assistant of Sales: Jennie Valenti

New York City carpenters’ union and the United Federation of Teachers over nonunion housing built in the Bronx by the teachers’ union in 2007. And the fight between RWDSU and the Building Trades over the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx has been reignited—and exacerbated— by RWDSU threats to quash any future projects for developers who do business with Wal-Mart if it proceeds with plans to open in New York City. The state Building Trades Council blames public-sector unions who refused to make concessions on salaries for the lack of money for capital construction projects. In recent years, the AFL-CIO has pushed consensus issues such as IDA reform, increases in unemployment insurance benefits and the farm workers bill of rights—none of which is a priority for Cuomo, and all of which would likely only be pursued once the budget is finished. Ed Malloy, the president of the state Building Trades Council, who has attended recent meetings of the AFL-CIO executive committee, said that one area of more immediate consensus that seemed to be emerging between his member unions and the public-sector unions was a plan being pushed by Cuomo to dedicate state funds for public-private building partnerships. Though labor leaders are talking privately about the split between public- and private- sector labor, the AFL-CIO itself is not. Mario Cilento, Hughes’ chief of staff, dismissed the idea that there was any sort of acrimonious split in the labor movement—and declined to make Hughes available for comment because, he said, the premise was incorrect. “There’s always differences of opinion, but they just seem more pronounced in difficult economic times,” Cilento said. “I assume the same thing is happening with small businesses as opposed to large businesses in the Business Council. This happens every few years—it’s cyclical.” Cilento called talk that there was a split in the labor movement “hearsay.” Though he said a clear agenda had not been hashed out for the state’s labor movement this year, he expressed confidence that the AFL-CIO would get its members unified soon. “As an umbrella organization, we have meetings where everyone comes together,” Cilento said. “Private-sector unions come to understand what’s going on with public-sector unions, and vice-versa.” cbragg@nycapitolnews.com PRODUCTION Production Manager: Mark Stinson Art Director: Mitchell Hoffman Advertising Design: Heather Mulcahey Assistant Production Manager: Jessica A. Balaschak Web Design: Lesley Siegel Editorial (212) 894-5417 Fax (212) 268-2935

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Calorie information at your fingertips. America’s beverage companies are adding new labels to the front of every can, bottle and pack we produce—and displaying the total calories per container on beverages 20 ounces or smaller. We’re working together to provide calorie information right up front, so you can choose what’s right for you.

www.ClearOnCalories.org


MEDICAID REFORM PACKAGE

The First Cut Is The Deepest Mental health, home care, hospital re-admissions top the list of cuts to Medicaid BY LAURA NAHMIAS

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N AMBITIOUS PROPOSAL to consolidate New York’s mental-healthcare services into managed-care organizations is one of the most potentially polarizing changes proposed by the Medicaid Redesign Task Force as part of its effort to find $2.85 billion worth of cuts in the state budget. But even that massive cut will not produce much in the way of savings. The process of integrating behavioral health care, also known as a “carve in”— currently managed by distinct state offices such as the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services—is projected to save the state $15 million per year. Managed care has major detractors, including 1199 SEIU, although several states across the country have already put consolidation into practice. “There are some problems in Medicaid managed care, particularly in long-term care, that incentivize low wages,” said Kevin Finnegan, political director for 1199. The proposal is one of 49 plausible cuts the 27-member task force will consider. The list of proposals, which was released Feb. 14, is meticulously organized, detailing the amount of savings they will achieve, what laws, if any, will have to be changed to enact them, and the administrative hurdles of achieving them. “Everything is on the table,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson, following a recent task force meeting. Some of the proposals included in the list and their associated cost savings would have been unthinkable in better economic times. Ideas like eliminating payments for dentures (projected savings: $16 million per year) and limiting cov-

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erage for individuals who cannot feed themselves ($15 million per year), are essentially reductions in services. If those ideas were implemented, it would reverse the decades-old trend of expanding coverage in New York State. The state spends $8,450 per patient—nearly three times as much as the next largest state, California, which spends $3,168 per patient. That fact has been attributed to the state’s costly labor-union contracts, the high percentage of care received in hospitals rather than community health centers, and high prescription drug costs. Each idea will have detractors and supporters. Service and provider cuts lay bare the ideological divide—those claim the state will be balancing its budget on the backs of its poor, versus those who see the state’s gargantuan health care system as “a special interest

protection program,” as Gov. Andrew Cuomo titled it during his budget address. The Medicaid Redesign Team’s proposals each include an analysis of concerns

Task force members almost uniformly agree that it will be difficult—if not impossible—to restructure the state’s health care system within the time frame laid out for them. Even if it were to happen that quickly, the improvements in health that are meant to be the basis of the cost savings would not be apparent within the year. Which led to the most controversial slide of the most recent task force meeting, showing the stark reality of cuts. The Health Department illustrated how it could cut the budget by initially withholding Medicaid funding from hospitals that have high rates of preventable hospital admissions and re-admissions, a move that could save the state more than $50 million this year. The state ranks 50th out of states in its number of preventable re-admissions, said Greg Allen of the state Health Department. “This generates immediate financial plan savings,” Allen said. “But there are no silver bullets.” The hospital executives in the room winced. Unmentioned was the fact that preventable admissions and re-admissions are largely concentrated in New York City hospitals. Hospital officials say their high re-admission rates are linked to problems they cannot change on their own, such as high rates of homelessness, behavioral health problems and poverty in pockets of the city. Fewer primary-care providers in New York City accept Medicaid, so poorer patients show up at the emergency room door for asthma attacks, type II diabetes or for conditions they have already been treated for, often within days or weeks of their initial entry into the system. Senior centers, community health clinics and safety-net hospitals could also find themselves in the crosshairs. William Van Slyke, VP for communications at the Healthcare Association for New York, said those closings would be almost impossible to avoid if the governor’s demands are to be met. “Without passion or prejudice, I will tell you that anywhere near the magnitude of the cuts that have been proposed will generate hospital and nursing home closures,” he said. “There’s no way to avoid it.” lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com

“Without passion or prejudice, I will tell you that anywhere near the magnitude of the cuts that have been proposed will generate hospital and nursing home closures,” HANYS’s William Van Slyke said. “There’s no way to avoid it.” the proposal could raise and who will be impacted by it. Ideas such as a plan to reduce profit allocations for managed-care groups are accompanied by a warning: “It will be argued that a [1] percent profit allocation is inadequate,” and goes on to say “NYS Department of Health and consumer advocates will support this proposal, and [managed-care organizations] and corresponding associations will oppose.” One huge target appears to be the home health care industry, which has grown exponentially over the past two decades, and is often singled out by good-government groups as an example of over-utilization of Medicaid’s payment-per-service program. One of the proposed cuts ranked high on the list is an elimination of a category of personal-care services, including reimbursement for homecare aides to perform tasks like housecleaning and light cooking. The task force estimates the cut would save the state a total of $310 million each year. Cuts to home health care are one point on which Cuomo and the state’s largest health care union, SEIU 1199, seem to agree. Finnegan singled out the industry as one where efficiencies could be had. “Home care, on the home health-aide side, just doesn’t work well in a fee-for-service system, at least not for the payer,” Finnegan said.

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THE CAPITOL


MEDICAID REFORM PACKAGE

Slicing And Dicing

MEDICAID KEY PLAYERS: Richard Gottfried

Chair, Assembly Health Committee

BARRY SLOAN

Before—and after—the cuts come the politics

Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have pledged to work together on Medicaid reform. But political reality could complicate that. BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

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N THE WEEKS following the release of the budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was less than confident that his call for massive cuts to the state’s Medicaid program—almost $3 billion in total for this fiscal year—would actually happen, sources close to the governor’s office say. “This thing was always high-stakes for Andrew—it could come together or fall completely apart,” said one source. “On the second floor, they were starting to have their doubts.” But then Cuomo got the best Valentine’s Day gift a new governor could hope for: a Siena poll that showed 72 percent of voters in support of his budget, warts and all. Over 50 percent said they supported a $1 billion cut to Medicaid, while only 27 percent thought that cutting Medicaid would have disastrous consequences. The overall message was clear: the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers had endorsed their new governor’s budget decisions. And even more—77 percent of them—approved of the job he was doing. “They really found their sea legs,” the source said of the governor’s staff following the release of the poll. (A spokesperson for the governor called any suggestions of doubts over their Medicaid cuts “nonsense.”) There has been much talk about whether the task force created by Cuomo to overhaul and upgrade the state’s Med-

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icaid program has the fortitude, foresight or time to come up with the $2.85 billion worth of cuts the governor is demanding. Some lawmakers and members of the Redesign Task Force are increasingly skeptical, especially as the number of reform proposals grows larger and more complex, and as the March 1 deadline for their report inches closer. Lawmakers are already starting to gird themselves for the upcoming fight. Senate Republicans appear eager to begin hacking away at the Medicaid budget, while Assembly Democrats say they are less motivated to consider spending reductions without considering potential revenue raisers, like the millionaire’s tax. “The governor is really trying to do what he needs to do, and I think we need to give him a certain amount of leeway,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, a member of the Health Committee. “But on the other hand, I do think it’s a mistake not to include other options to balance the budget. I think it’s a mistake to not talk about keeping the millionaire’s tax.” Dinowitz said the Assembly majority conference had already begun to parse the Medicaid Redesign Task Force’s list of proposals to reduce spending, which was released Feb. 14. While polls show most New Yorkers support extending the millionaire’s tax, which is an income tax surcharge on New Yorkers earning more than $200,000 a year, Cuomo has said he is opposed. Legislators, who say they still lack many

specifics on the Medicaid cuts, were divided on whether the debate on the Assembly and Senate floors would be an ideological one, with arguments for and against cutting health care services for low-income populations in order to close a growing budget gap, or a parochial one, with individual lawmakers refusing to vote to approve cuts that could result in the closing of health clinics, senior centers and hospitals located in their own districts. Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, a Manhattan Democrat, said the governor’s personal popularity has greatly increased the possibility of more significant cuts to Medicaid than the state has seen in years. But that does not necessarily mean the cuts will be easier to get through the Legislature. “As the health care community has pointed out, they have been cut pretty much every time there was a budget shortfall,” Bing said. “I think the cry of the health care community does have some legitimacy.” Cuomo has said that if the Medicaid Redesign Task Force cannot come up with the level of cuts he has asked for, he will authorize Jason Helgerson, his Medicaid director, Nirav Shah, his health commissioner, and Robert Megna, his budget director, to formulate a plan to present to the Legislature. This would cut advocates and legislators out of the picture. Lawmakers are desperate to avoid that fate. “It really would be a new world if they ceded to Jason Helgerson or Dr. Shah, the

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Richard Gottfried takes notes on a small blue notepad, the size of his palm, during the Medicaid Redesign Task Force meeting. He waits, patiently, for a chance to speak. Gottfried, who has been in the Assembly since Richard Nixon was in the White House, has maintained an attitude of polite discouragement at the possibility that the state can make substantive cuts to Medicaid this fiscal year without damaging the state’s overall health care network. Any meaningful cuts would take years to show real results. Cuomo should raise taxes to help soften the blow he’s dealing to health care and education, he argues. And most importantly, Gottfried wants to make sure that he and other members of the task force are not left out of the equation. “I’m concerned,” Gottfried said, “that under the governor’s budget, the health commissioner will be empowered to implement these ideas on the morning of April 1.” Gottfried is arguing for raising revenue instead of just relying on cuts. “If you are determined to close a $9 billion budget gap entirely on the spending side without raising taxes on upper- or top-

bracket taxpayers, you have no choice but to do serious damage to health care and education,” he said. “While there are ways you can modify the Medicaid system that could save money, those proposals ... are not going to put much of a dent in the Medicaid budget for years to come.” Gottfried is also trying to call attention to how staff cuts at the Health Department might save money in the short term but potentially endanger future cost-savings that would come out of new innovations cooked up by the department staff. “While that does not require an army, it does require more people than they now have. I don’t have a lot of hope of winning that battle, but it is one of my major concerns.” —LN new health commissioner, the authority to make the cuts on their own,” said a source close to the Senate Republicans. “No one envisions that happening. And no one also envisions them getting anywhere near the amount that’s necessary.” Advocates stuck on the sidelines are holding out hope for compromise, warning that cuts will fall disproportionately on those most in need. “[Cuomo] has invited debate on what to cut, understanding that none of these cuts are palatable,” said James Knickman, president and CEO of the New York State Healthcare Foundation. “So I think we’ll see that play out. You’ll see different interest groups make their best case.” He added, “Maybe they can do some horse trading and find how to share this burden.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com FEBRUARY 21, 2011

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MEDICAID REFORM PACKAGE

Eligibility Of Eligibility Cuts Debated As State Seeks Savings BY JON LENTZ

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S THE MEDICAID Redesign Team sorts through dozens of ways to squeeze savings out of New York’s $53 billion health care program for lowincome adults, one potential source of savings is already off the table. Reducing eligibility, or changing the rules in such a way to throw some beneficiaries off the rolls, is barred under the federal health care reform law. In fact, by 2014, the law will actually increase the number of people eligible to be covered under Medicaid. But still, cost savings through eligibility cuts are being pursued. One proposal under consideration would end a loophole letting family members withhold financial support so that a patient can qualify for Medicaid services. An initial analysis for the Medicaid Redesign team found the change could save more than $28 million in the next bud-

get cycle, and double that in subsequent years. The Affordable Care Act, which is expected to expand health insurance to an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans nationwide, will cover about half of the new enrollees under Medicaid. The

By 2014, the law will actually increase the number of people eligible to be covered under Medicaid.

MEDICAID KEY PLAYERS: James Sheehan

Medicaid Inspector General The state’s Medicaid inspector general, James Sheehan, has stepped up efforts to prevent wasteful spending in the program and recoup misspent dollars. Sheehan’s attack on Medicaid fraud and abuse has been cited as a way to help meet some of the cost savings in the governor’s proposed budget. New York created the office in 2006, aiming to root out fraud, waste and abuse in its sprawling Medicaid program. Sheehan was named to head the new, independent office by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Previously, Sheehan served as an assistant U.S. attorney, focusing on health care fraud for over two decades. The inspector general and his team of 600 auditors, investigators and other staff members have been recognized as a national model in their efforts. In 2009, the inspector general saved the state $1.61 billion through cost-saving activities. In 2008, the amount saved was $1.66 billion. The figures do not make up a huge percentage of a Medicaid program with spending that exceeds $50 billion across the state. It’s more significant when compared with Cuomo’s assignment of finding about $2.85 billion in Medicaid savings in the new budget. —JL

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law prevents states from scaling back Medicaid eligibility levels through 2014, when many of its most important provisions go into effect. So far, the state says it is focused on reforming the way services are delivered, rather than trying to bump patients from the Medicaid rolls. “We’re not looking at eligibility, because the federal reform won’t allow you to change eligibility,” said James Hammond, a spokesperson for the New York Department of Health. “What we’re looking at is the way Medicaid services are offered and delivered, and changing the ways Medicaid is offered and delivered.” Allowing states to reduce the number of beneficiaries was antithetical to the purpose of the health care reform law, experts say. “I think the intent of the federal law is people not being dumped off the rolls to save money,” said Elizabeth Lynam, director of state studies at the Citizens Budget Commission. “To expand coverage while you’re throwing people off is counterintuitive.” States have also looked closely at the idea as they scramble to find savings to offset expiring stimulus funds and lower tax revenues. So far, though, only Arizona has requested a waiver to change its eligibility, which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius granted in mid-February. Arizona’s waiver paves the way for the state to drop coverage for 250,000 lowincome adults this fall. The impact of the decision on other states is unclear, but it may be limited, since it centered on a state demonstration project coming up for renewal. In an early February letter sent to U.S. governors, Sebelius said she was still re-

searching whether she could waive the requirement to maintain eligibility levels for beneficiaries included under more generous state rules that were beyond the federal minimum. New York’s eligibility levels are already broader than most other states in the country, and it is one of only five states to cover childless adults. It is the only state to subsidize coverage for children in families with incomes that are four times the federal poverty level. The state also provides coverage for working parents who earn up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. “I continue to review what authority, if any, I have to waive the maintenance of effort under current law,” Sebelius wrote in her letter. “However, states have substantial flexibility to design benefits, service delivery systems and payment strategies, without a waiver.” The Affordable Care Act does allow states to reduce eligibility for non-disabled, non-pregnant adults with incomes above 133 percent of the federal poverty line if the state has a budget deficit, she added. The fact that New York’s eligibility levels were frozen in early 2010 could also make it difficult for the state to remove patients who are getting benefits that they could afford on their own or through the help of their families, Lynam said. “With eligibility in long-term care, wherever you might need to close some loopholes and clean things up a bit, so that we’re really narrowing the benefits to just the poor, we can’t make those changes yet, or at least we’re more limited,” Lynam said. “We’d have to negotiate a little bit more to get those changes.” jlentz@nycapitolnews.com

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MEDICAID KEY PLAYERS: George Gresham President, 1199 S.E.I.U.

George Gresham may be the strongest advocate for health care workers, but so far the burly president of New York City’s largest union has steered clear of vocally advocating against Medicaid cuts. Instead, the powerful union leader, who supported Andrew Cuomo during the gubernatorial race, has been working to find a compromise as part of the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team. Gresham’s goal is to protect the more than a quarter of a million members of 1199 SEIU, the health care workers union he heads. He knows firsthand what the lives of the union’s members are like, having started out in health care by mopping floors in a New York hospital. And he knows what his union can do, having worked his way up from community organizer to every elected position in its leadership. One of Gresham’s priorities is home health care—an area Cuomo has already targeted for potential cost savings. When Gresham took the job in 2007, replacing the longtime leader Dennis Rivera, he said one of his goals was to protect home care workers, a job his mother had. “We will continue to advocate protecting quality health care for all New Yorkers,” Gresham said in a statement. “We hope to identify reforms in the home health care sector that we believe will achieve significant savings and make delivery of services more efficient.” The union has also issued warnings that Medicaid cuts could “decimate New York’s health care infrastructure, threaten access to care, and harm communities everywhere.” In the past, 1199 deployed advertising campaigns that prompted a string of governors to scale back cuts to health care spending. The same could happen if talks fail to yield any progress. —JL

The publication for and about New York State Government

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MEDICAID REFORM PACKAGE whistleblower in the GlaxoSmithKline case, said the New York attorney general’s office was now well-positioned to bring its own similarly sized cases. He cited another provision in Schneiderman’s bill that gives the attorney general’s office the broadest powers in the nation to pursue tax, consumer and wage fraud cases. “What this set of provisions does, I believe, is make New York State have the strongest set of state statutes in the country,” Getnick said. “All of these are big improvements on the federal False Claims Act.” cbragg@nycapitolnews.com

MEDICAID KEY PLAYERS: Jason Helgerson DANIEL BURNSTEIN

New York State Medicaid Director

Eric Schneiderman has taken over Medicaid fraud prosecutions from Andrew Cuomo with several new powers at his disposal at the attorney general’s office.

Calling Out The Frauds

The new AG now has broader powers to pursue Medicaid crimes. And he has himself to thank. BY CHRIS BRAGG

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N RECENT YEARS, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston has been the place to go for whistleblowers possessing insider information about Medicaid fraud. Tough federal statutes protecting whistleblowers, combined with aggressive federal prosecutors in Massachusetts, brought both big cases and a flood of cash from settlements and verdicts against Medicaid cheats. But Beantown may be getting some competition from the Big Apple, following the passage of legislation last year sponsored by thenState Sen. Eric Schneiderman. The new legislation not only caught state law up with the federal statutes, but surpassed them in several key respects. And now, as attorney general, Schneiderman will be able to reap the benefits of the bill he helped pass. The new law has positioned New York as a national destination for whistleblowers to bring more, higher-quality claims and the hefty payouts that often come with them, according to several experts in the Medicaid fraud-prosecution field. Schneiderman spokesman Danny Kanner said the new powers came at a particularly important moment, with the state facing a $10 billion deficit and billions of dollars of Medicaid cuts on the table.

“Leaders across the country have said this approach is the most effective way to expose hidden corruption and recover funds for taxpayers,” Kanner said in a statement. Over the past four years, under the leadership of Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general’s office brought in $500 million to the state in settlements, which went largely to the Department of Health to help defray Medicaid costs. Schneiderman’s law built on the fed-

Schneiderman’s law built on the federal False Claims Act in several ways, in an effort to make New York the best place in the country to bring such claims.

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eral False Claims Act in several ways, in an effort to make New York the best place in the country to bring such claims. For one, it allows the state to more easily go after subcontractors that overbill for Medicaid—for example, services contracted out by hospitals to third parties—which was seen as a major loophole in the state’s ability to crack down on fraud. The legislation goes beyond federal

guidelines by protecting whistleblowers not only from getting fired by their own companies for reporting fraud, but also protecting them from getting blacklisted by other health care providers. And the new statute will allow whistleblowers to file claims—and reap part of the resulting settlements—even if the information they provide is from a secondhand source, like a news report or a company newsletter. With state agencies facing 10 percent, across-the-board cuts—including the attorney general’s office—one advantage to recovering more funds from Medicaid fraud is that a portion of the settlements are used to fund the attorney general’s fraud unit, which Schneiderman is planning on expanding from 48 attorneys to 60. According to Kanner, the number of attorneys investigating claims has proven to have a proportional relationship to the amount of cases made. Last fall, the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline was forced to pay $750 million to settle federal civil and criminal charges after a company quality assurance manager (who got $96 million in the settlement) revealed that the company had sold defective drugs to Medicaid and other government payers. That case was brought in Massachusetts federal court by the U.S. Attorney. Neil V. Getnick, the attorney for the

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The blond, cheery 39-year-old wunderkind Andrew Cuomo said he “seduced” away from Wisconsin to New York for the Medicaid overhaul, knows he faces a daunting task in trimming New York’s health spending. While serving as director of the Wisconsin Rate Reform Project, Helgerson was lauded for his ability to cut that state’s Medicaid budget without resorting to across-the-board provider cuts, and for involving health industry leaders in the process. But New York State’s annual Medicaid expenditures are nearly nine times as large as Wisconsin’s, and he has roughly half the time he had there to perform the same process. The pattern he followed in Wisconsin— a proposal for reform from the governor’s office, followed by a team of panelists to identify the actual changes—is the same model he is following in New York. In Wisconsin, Helgerson had to slash $625 million, which he ultimately achieved over six months of meetings. The Wisconsin project achieved most of its savings by renegotiating contracts with HMOs, and the rest through initiatives such as eliminating coverage for certain medical procedures and withholding payments to hospitals with high rates of readmissions. He says he is optimistic about being able to apply the same lessons. “There’s nothing unexpectedly different about this process,” he said. “I’ve noticed a lot of uniformity in people’s view of what the problem is. I would have expected more regional variation.” Helgerson says he is realistic about the pain the cuts are likely to inflict. “As for what can’t be cut, we’ve said that everything’s on the table,” he said. “One goal would be to ensure the cuts don’t disproportionately affect the hospitals that serve the city’s poor. We want to protect vital safety-net institutions.” —LN FEBRUARY 21, 2011

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MEDICAID REFORM PACKAGE

Over-Medicaided

As tax revenue dwindles, counties come up with their own cuts BY JON LENTZ

versal health care program” that it has become in New York. “Anyone who is underinsured or unOUNTY EXECUTIVES FROM across the state, who for years have insured has been ‘Medicaid-ed,’” said watched as the federal-state health Brooks, a Republican. “The program has program eats up huge chunks of their grown so far beyond its means that it is property-tax revenues, are offering a few unsustainable and, let’s face it, it truly could bankrupt many counties in New ideas of their own. The counties have a lot at stake, since York, along with state government itself.” Brooks, who was appointed by the New York has long relied on them for much of the Medicaid’s administration Bush administration to the Federal Medand revenue. The program has propelled icaid Commission in 2005, argued that New York’s counties should be given more freedom to manage the spending of Medicaid dollars. For example, the current rules make it difficult to require patients to use cheaper generic prescription drugs instead of brand-name versions. A proposed change that would make it easier to fill prescriptions with generic drugs could help save the state at least $25 million a year, according to a state analysis completed in February. In Monroe County, however, the most effective solution has been a program to detect fraud, waste and abuse in the system, which has yielded millions of dollars in savings, according to Brooks. The pilot program, which is overErie County Executive Chris Collins and other local seen by the state’s Inspector government officials are brimming with ideas to reduce Medicaid General, saves more their burden of Medicaid costs. than $1.6 billion a year rising property taxes, which currently in 11 counties across the state. Last fall, Monroe County was recogaccount for nearly half of each county’s property tax levy on average—and in nized as the county that had recouped the most savings in the five-year-old program, some cases, all of it. But the counties may not get much, which yielded the county a $500 million since the task force is weighing hundreds share of funds recovered. Brooks said she of suggestions on a short deadline and would like to see the program expanded a separate mandate-relief task force is to other counties. Stephen Acquario, executive direclooking at other proposals that also call tor of the New York State Association of for more local control. Monroe County Executive Maggie Counties, also called for strengthening efBrooks said the program, which provides forts to fight abuse, saying that as much health care coverage for low-income as 10 percent of the $53 billion program is populations, should be run more like a estimated to go towards fraudulent payprivate insurance plan instead of the “uni- ments.

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Several anti-fraud proposals under consideration would save the state more than $26 million a year, if adopted. The idea is one of dozens of proposals Acquario’s group, which represents 57 counties in the state, submitted to Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Task Force, of which he is a member. County officials and local government staffers sent him hundreds of ideas to sift through, Acquario said. Other local government officials have forwarded their own proposals for Medicaid reform. In January, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said the state should place limits on profits from patients who rarely use the system. And Kathy Jimino, the Rensselaer County executive, suggested other ways the state could help improve efficiency. Medicaid recipients lose their eligibility and are removed from the program when they go to jail, Jimino said, and their care is fully covered by the county. However, without access to the state’s comprehensive database, county officials are often unaware of Medicaid recipients incarcerated outside the county, paying the Medicaid premiums even as another county covers the inmate’s health costs. Not content to wait for the various task forces to complete their work, other county officials have taken matters into their own hand. Chris Collins, the executive of Erie County, grabbed attention last month for promoting a plan to allow county governments to cut some of the medical services that are not required by federal law, such as dental care and eyeglasses. State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer is sponsoring an “opt-out” bill, which if enacted could save Erie County $80 million, or 40 percent of its annual budget. Other county executives agreed with Collins’ call for more local control, but several cautioned that they were not seeking to limit the treatments and services offered. Instead, they said there were plenty of ways to make the program cheaper and more efficient while maintaining the same levels of care. “The problem is that Medicaid is very poorly managed, and a lot of time we get accused of wanting to deny health care or cut health care,” said Tom Santulli, the executive of Chemung County. “I’m just the opposite.” Santulli said his county’s new medical home pilot program, which uses computer software to track health care visits, diagnoses and prescriptions in real time, targets spending by taking steps such as reducing multiple diagnostic tests for the

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MEDICAID KEY PLAYERS: Nirav Shah

Commissioner, New York State Department of Health Nirav Shah looked sleepy at an early February meeting of the Medicaid Redesign Task Force, despite the optimism suggested by his bright red tie spotted with white daisies. The governor’s 38-year-old Health Department commissioner has been working nonstop since his appointment in Decemeber on an overhaul of the state’s Medicaid spending, arguably the most important and most difficult of the cuts Andrew Cuomo is pushing to close the state’s $10 billion budget deficit. Shah, a Buffalo native who has done extensive research in systems-based health care and the use of data to improve health outcomes, is taking a different approach from his predecessor, Richard Daines, whose own Medicaid reform efforts often put him in opposition to the state’s powerful health care unions. “[Daines] was a person who served at one of the state’s lowest points, fiscally speaking,” said Stephen Acquario, a member of the Medicaid Redesign Task Force and the executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. “At least now there will be a predictable governor in there, so Dr. Shah will receive policy guidance instead of creating it.” The Medicaid revamp is something Cuomo knows he needs to get right. Shah said that he has been in conversations with the governor and his staff daily, in addition to all the feedback he has been getting at the taskforce’s public meetings. “What’s been very clear through all the messages we’ve heard ... is that we need to make sure we’re aware of all the unintended consequences,” Shah said. “We can’t ignore the current services and just shift costs to other parts of the system.” —LN

same problem or preventing costly visits to the emergency room for a simple cold or headache. The Medicaid clinic in Chemung County was relatively inexpensive to set up and its operations are funded by Medicaid, said Santulli, who hopes it will serve as a model in New York and even nationally. The medical home occupies an unused wing of the county’s human resources building, with room for some 4,000 Medicaid enrollees in total. “If you don’t have those kinds of programs out there, those individuals are going to land somewhere, they’re going to end up in an emergency room, and you’re going to pay more than you’re paying now,” Santulli said. “So you’ve got to be smart about this.” jlentz@nycapitolnews.com

THE CAPITOL


THE LIES: THE TRUTH: Police officers and firefighters receive a “Christmas bonus.”

It’s not a bonus. The fund was started in 1968 with contributions from police officers and firefighters. Since 1996, the city has contributed ZERO dollars to pay for this benefit.

Mike Bloomberg cares about police officers and firefighters.

Mike Bloomberg is stealing hard-earned money out of the pockets of police officers and firefighters, which they use to support their families.

The VSF is a burden to the city.

Police officers and firefighters bought and paid for this supplemental retirement benefit in contract negotiations by providing concessions and benefits to the city worth far more than $4 billion.

The variable supplement fund benefit was an unfunded mandate forced on the city by state legislation.

It is not an unfunded mandate. It was the product of legislation jointly requested by the city and the police and fire unions, and an agreement that has benefited the city to the tune of billions of dollars. Furthermore, it has been fully funded by the police officers’ and firefighters’ own money for almost two decades.

Other city services will need to be cut unless the city eliminates the variable supplement fund benefit.

Since the benefit has been self-funded for almost two decades, no city services need be sacrificed for the city to honor its agreement. If the city is looking for savings, it need only consider the billions of dollars it has wasted on projects like “CityTime” and its Public Safety Access Center (PSAC) 911 call-taker system.

New York City Police & Fire Public Safety Alliance www.nycpba.org NYC PBA 125 Broad Street, 11th Floor New York, NY 10004-2400 212.233.5531

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Patrick J. Lynch, President

www.ufanyc.org UFA 204 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 212.683.4832

Uniformed Firefighters Association Stephen J. Cassidy, President


MEDICAID REFORM PACKAGE

Unenviable Task

Cuomo’s Medicaid redesign task force struggles with public meetings, and each other BY LAURA NAHMIAS

MEDICAID KEY PLAYERS: Kemp Hannon State Senator

The current Senate Health Committee chair from Long Island has plenty of experience on health policy issues—and at least a few ideas to curb Medicaid spending. After being appointed by Majority Leader Dean Skelos to be one of two state senators on the Medicaid Redesign Team, Hannon pointed to Medicaid fraud as a problem potentially costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Hannon also called for delivering care more efficiently to “our seniors and those citizens who are most in need,” while making sure that “the protection of our taxpayers is a top priority.” Hannon says the state should think twice about expansions to Medicaid eligibility during tough fiscal climates and confront costs associated with medical malpractice. —JL

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FEBRUARY 21, 2011

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

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HE SECURITY GUARDS were rationing elevator space at the second-to-last public meeting of the Medicaid Redesign Task Force, and the situation was not much better on the 11th floor of Baruch College in Manhattan. The conference room was filled with dark suits and wheelchairbound patients. Lobbyists and health care industry advocates buzzed around the room. Participants who could not find seats hung close to the wall, or clambered onto the air conditioners at the back of the room, listening and taking notes. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo had had his way, the meetings likely would have been closed to the public. But a push from Assembly Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried to open the meetings led to this outpouring of democracy at the task force meetings. One by one, commenters stepped up to microphones and voiced their concerns to the panel. Some pleaded for sanity in the cutting process. Most asked for protection of the programs that benefited them the most. “Tax alcohol, and high-income individuals!” one man suggested, to mild applause. A local union leader asserted, “There’s

State Medicaid Director, Jason Helgerson, left, speaks with New York City residents after a task force meeting. money in this state, and it’s on Wall Street!” A few lawyers wondered why the task force had declined to translate its proceedings and notices into other languages. Community health center administrators pleaded for the funding their institutions rely on each year. An acting secretary took each anecdote and condensed it into a line of text in a spreadsheet, sometimes redoubling the effort to parse the relevance of the comments to the matter at hand. With several hours left to go in the task force meeting, the number of suggestions for just that day numbered in the hundreds. The group itself is a compendium of the state’s most powerful health care industry leaders, health union executives and interest groups, including George Gresham, president of SEIU 1199, former SEIU Healthcare Chair Dennis Rivera, representatives from the Legislature and private health care companies, hospital executives and heads of all the state agencies’ health departments. Cuomo said he wanted all voices at the table for his cuts, an outward show

of compromise. The members signed onto the task force in January, before the governor released his budget with the mandated $2.85 billion cut, a sum so astronomical it shocked the health care establishment. At a later task force meeting, Budget Director Robert Megna asked task force members to work together. “If the folks around the table here could actually achieve the cuts, that would not only solve next year’s problem with the budget, but it would solve problems over time,” Megna said. “As to why we cut from health care, I think of the cliché of the famous bank robber, who said when asked why he robbed banks: ‘That’s where the money was.’” The joke went over like a lead balloon. A week later, the task force met again, this time around conference tables at Hunter College. After two hours of presentations outlining the most promising suggestions for how to cut, the mood was heavy, and many of the panelists were slouching. Proposals such as preemptively withholding funding from hospitals with high

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rates of preventable readmissions, were very unpopular. Daniel Sisto, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State, called the principles underlying that suggestion “asinine.” Withholding of funds from those institutions would most heavily affect New York City’s hospitals, where preventable readmissions come largely from childhood asthmatics and the mentally ill population, hospital leaders said. “If we’re chasing a number, there’s got to be some principles underlining it,” Sisto said, warning against using datametrics for human problems without careful consideration. But the lack of organization in the existing system was precisely the problem cited by Steven Berger, former chairman for the commission that recommended hospital closings around the state several years ago. “No one has talked about the fact that we have massive overlap in organizations and institutions. … No one has talked about streamlining to create a system based on customer service,” he said. “Everyone’s dug in around their forts.” The shortcomings of the timeframe the task force has to make such massive decisions drew the conversation away from specific cuts toward an indictment of the very rationale behind the state’s provision of health care. “What really frustrates me is that we’re not just talking about Medicaid. It’s that we’re talking about the whole health care system,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a co-chair of the JFK, Jr. Institute for Work Education at the City University of New York. “I’m finding this conversation valuable but also frustrating, because it’s disjointed,” said Lara Kassel, a coordinator at Medicaid Matters. The meeting ended with no clear consensus on whether the group would be able to deliver on Cuomo’s demands. The task force will meet on Feb. 24 to choose which cuts they will eventually vote on, said Jason Helgerson, Cuomo’s Medicaid director by way of Wisconsin. He expects that meeting to go on for a while. “If we need to, we’ll have time set aside on the 25th,” he laughed, grimly. On March 1, the task force will vote on the suggestions to present to the governor. The task force is being told that the changes they propose could potentially eliminate the state’s structural deficit for the foreseeable future. But the likelihood of a compromise seemed slim to some task force members, who were visibly riled by the proposed cuts. “Mister budget director, this is intended to be constructive and not pretentious,” said Ken Raske of the Greater New York Hospital Association. “But we see it differently.” lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com

THE CAPITOL


Don’t erase our progress Here is where New York really ranks: (Sources: “Annual AP Report to the Nation,” The College Board, Feb. 10, 2010, and “Quality Counts,” Education Week, Jan. 13, 2011)

1st in the nation in closing the achievement gap in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math 2nd in the nation on a wide variety of multiple, rigorous measures of education quality 3rd in the nation in Advanced Placement test scores (2009) 4th in the nation in improving high school graduation rates (up 10 percent between 2000-2007) 4th in the nation for students enrolled in college or with a post-secondary degree *The “34th in the nation” statement has been traced back to an obscure 2007 Census statistic that contains a category called “total educational achievement.” That refers to the entire citizenry of New York state with high school diplomas. It lumps together present-day adults with their parents and even their grandparents, and does not measure performance by students in school today.

Richard C. Iannuzzi, President Andrew Pallotta, Executive Vice President Maria Neira, Vice President Kathleen M. Donahue, Vice President Lee Cutler, Secretary-Treasurer

Representing more than 600,000 professionals in education and health care. 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455 518-213-6000 • 800-342-9810 Affiliated with AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO www.nysut.org


Ways To Ways And Means D.C. delegation tries to keep Chris Lee’s old spot on most powerful committee By Jon Lentz

Ed Cox. “You’re going to find they’re very concerned about what’s done by the Ways and Means Committee,” Cox said of New Yorkers. With Lee’s resignation, Reed is the sec-

I

n Western New York, candidates are jockeying for a shot at Rep. Chris Lee’s suddenly open congressional seat, but there is a different kind of contest underway among the state’s Republican freshmen in Washington. Reps. Tom Reed and Nan Hayworth have expressed interest in filling Lee’s spot on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, said Rep. Peter King, the senior member of New York’s Republican delegation. “I told John [Boehner, the House speaker] that Tom was the first one in, but I gave him both names,” King said. “I told him I thought they’d both be qualified, and [about] the importance of New York, and he was very receptive.” The Ways and Means Committee, the oldest and the most powerful committee in the House, has traditionally had a New York Republican among its members. Lee’s predecessor in the House seat, Tom Reynolds, also served on it. The committee’s 37 members have a significant role in determining the country’s direction on taxation and trade, programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and unemployment benefits. With Lee’s abrupt departure in the wake of his shirtless scandal, the state is without a majority member on the committee. After

Freshman Reps. Tom Reed and Nan Hayworth are looking to take Chris Lee’s former spot on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee.

last year’s removal of Rep. Charlie Rangel from the chairmanship—thereby keeping him from being the ranking member following the GOP takeover of the House— New York’s hand has been weakened again. Only one other state Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, is on the committee. For the home of so much banking and accounting and most of the country’s higher-income residents not to have a voice on the chief tax-writing committee would be a problem, said state GOP chair

ond most senior New York Republican in the House, but only by a technicality of a few months. He won a special election held on the same day as the general in November, winning the seat left open by former Rep. Eric Massa, who, like Lee, also resigned amid a scandal. Reed said that Lee’s resignation is a blow to New York, and called on House Republicans to put a New Yorker in the Republican majority on the committee to give the state a role in issues ranging from tax codes to free trade agreements. The lack of seniority of the state’s Republican delegation should not be dispositive, he argued. “It’s important that New York be repre-

sented on that committee, and our voice is heard,” Reed said. There is no guarantee that a New Yorker will be appointed to the committee. In fact, the state has some factors working against it. The selection process favors seniority—Crowley, though first elected to Congress in 1998, did not even get his seat on the committee until 2007—and King, the state’s only senior Republican, said he is too focused on his chairmanship of the House Committee on Homeland Security to take the seat. Despite its large population, New York stands some chance of being overlooked in favor of other states with growing populations. The state is poised to lose two Congressional seats in redistricting. Other factors have New York Republicans feeling optimistic. In addition to New York’s status as a financial and banking center, the state’s chances may be bolstered by its large delegation and Republicans’ showing in last year's mid-terms. “We picked up more seats from the Democrats than any other state,” Cox said. “So I think they’re going to want to maintain New York State, given what New York means nationally.” Boehner’s office did not respond to requests for comment about the Ways & Means appointment. jlentz@nycapitolnews.com

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THE CAPITOL


Bleeding Disheartened Liberals

Between the Committee to Save New York and his budget, left-wing Democrats worry about Andrew Cuomo’s departure BY JON LENTZ

ests with millions of dollars of commercials,” O’Donnell said. “It’s like Dunkin’ Donuts buying commercials for Weight-Watchers.” Democrats also suggested that the “New York” the committee is out to save is simply its own businesses, which want lower taxes. “‘We think nursing homes should be shut’—are they going to say that?” asked Peter Abbate, Jr., an Assemblyman from Brooklyn. “Or are they going to say, ‘You’re being taxed too much, and business is being taxed too much, and we want your taxes reduced,’ and not say what the consequences are?” The legislators’ attacks have built on outcry from labor unions and advocacy groups. In mid-February, two advocacy groups for lowincome people accused the Committee to Save New York of missing a deadline to register as a lobbyist and failing to disclose that it is lobbying on behalf of the governor. “For someone who served in the Clinton administration, and actually did a lot of good in expanding access to housing for low-income Americans around the country, it’s surprising to see the aboutface we feel he’s made with this budget

“They’re trying to fight special interests with millions of dollars of commercials,” said Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell. “It’s like Dunkin’ Donuts buying commercials for Weight-Watchers.” progressive lawmakers say their priorities are misplaced. Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, a progressive Manhattan Democrat, said the special interests that make up the committee, such as the Real Estate Board of New York and the Business Council, are merely perpetuating Albany’s problems. “They’re trying to fight special inter-

THE CAPITOL

ANDR EW ROBE RTS

A

NDREW CUOMO IS extremely popular. Just not with many diehard members of his own party. “Although he talked about becoming the progressive capital, when it comes to fiscal policy, I do not believe he advanced a progressive vision for New York,” said Citizen Action president Karen Scharff at a late January meeting of the group’s members. “I am concerned that we may end up putting the priorities of the wealthiest ahead of the needs of all New Yorkers.” Scharff is not the only one. Even longtime Cuomo fans have been grumbling about what they see as a major shift in orientation, comparing the new governor’s rhetoric to his father’s, and even his own from his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, when he spoke of funding social welfare programs, even in tough economic times, as “a moral imperative.” But even those who are willing to speak up are reluctant to hit the new governor directly. Instead, they target the business-interest-backed Committee to Save New York and the program of cuts and resistance to high income taxes it backs. The group is seeking to raise $10 million to advocate for a balanced budget, a property-tax cap and mandate relief in order to spur economic growth. On its board are such high-profile names as financial guru Felix Rohatyn, former state comptroller H. Carl McCall, and Rob Speyer, co-CEO of Tishman Speyer. The committee says it plans to counter opposition to spending cuts from publicsector labor unions, which have spent millions of dollars on advertising in recent years and successfully reduced proposed cuts to health care spending. But

proposal, and with his rhetoric,” said Sean Barry, executive director of one of the groups, Voices of Community Activists and Leaders. “He sounds a lot more like the guy across the river in New Jersey than his father, or what most people would expect from a Democratic governor.” One counter-proposal that Democrats are rallying around is an extension of the millionaire’s tax on New Yorkers who earn more than $200,000, which they say would spread more equitably the burden of budget cuts. “I am very concerned that when we talk about how we’re going to restructure the budget, we’re not talking about a shared responsibility, and we’re not talking about sharing the pain,” said Gustavo Rivera, a freshman state senator from the Bronx who was the Working Families Party’s priority candidate last year. Bill Cunningham, a spokesperson for the Committee to Save New York, said that the coalition was simply adding to the debate, including its concern that a poor business climate was hurting jobs.

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Lawmakers opposed to the committee often support labor unions that raise money for television advertisements to sway public opinion, Cunningham said. “Some of the folks who have had a monopoly on putting their message out in the public in past years are complaining, and I think that reflected in the comments by the legislators,” he said. So far, the committee has released only one ad. With much of Cuomo’s budget still shrouded in mystery, the expected war between business and public-sector unions has not materialized. Abbate said he hopes a wasteful advertising showdown can be avoided, especially at a time when the state is trying to save money. “All the money that’s raised on both sides could be put together and the governor said 9,800 jobs he wants to get rid of?” Abbate said. “Maybe if they put in all that money it would only be 6,000 jobs lost.” For Assembly Member James Brennan, a liberal Brooklyn Democrat, the committee was less problematic than the policies it supports. “This business group is what it is, and they’re advocating the conservative platform,” Brennan said. “I think the governor’s viewpoints about the budget are mistaken. Hopefully he will recognize that his budget cuts are too severe.” jlentz@capitolnews.com FEBRUARY 21, 2011

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Cash Flow

Chancellor Merryl Tisch leads list of private donors funding Board of Regents’ Race to the Top research wing BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

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THE CAPITOL

Merryl Tisch, a member of one of New York’s wealthiest and most philanthropic families, is donating $1 million to the Regents Research Fund.

MARC ANDERSON

N HER PUSH for education reform, Merryl Tisch is putting her money where her mouth is. The Board of Regents chancellor is donating $1 million of her own money to the Regents Research Fund, a privately funded group created by the state as part of the Board of Regents to help the state implement the Race to the Top reforms over the next four years. “It’s a gift from me, not unlike the mayor,” Tisch said, referring to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s many philanthropic activities. Other private donors being corralled by the state to help it prepare for the infusion of $700 million in federal grant money include the Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and the National Association of Charter School Administrators. The State Education Department has been hit especially hard by budget cutbacks in recent years. Over the last three years, the agency has lost around 35 percent of its budget and 400 members of its staff, officials say. Tisch said the Regents Research Fund will help make up for that loss, paying for the building of new data and teacher evaluation systems that will lay the foundation for the implementation of the Race to the Top reform agenda. “They will be an invaluable resource right now to a state education department that is looking at massive retirements and an inability to hire,” Tisch said. “They will be the best leverage that you can get between public and private dollars.” Tisch used her platform as one of the state’s top education officials to become one of the most vocal proponents of raising the charter cap and the other Race to the Top application-mandated reforms adopted by the Legislature last year. But being part of one of New York’s wealthi-

est families has given her the ability to go beyond the rhetoric and use her personal means as a way of facilitating the improvement of the schools system she oversees as chancellor. And she has gone a long way toward doing that facilitating—Tisch is the single biggest donor.

“There is something unsavory about private foundations— accountable to no one—selecting a group that will make crucial public decisions, out of public view,” said Diane Ravitch, education historian. Though no impropriety has been suggested about Tisch’s involvement specifically, some education advocates have taken issue with the group, arguing that it is yet another encroachment of private interests into public education. “There is something unsavory about

private foundations—accountable to no one—selecting a group that will make crucial public decisions, out of public view,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian. “This is high-level privatization of public responsibility.” The Gates foundation, in particular, has come under fire from anti-charterschool forces who accuse the group of using its vast wealth to undermine public education. Tisch dismissed those criticisms as narrow-minded. “If you look at people with major foundations, many of whom I know, many of these foundations have broad foci,” she said. “To categorize a foundation as being only interested in this, that or the other thing is simply ridiculous.” She said the Regents Research Fund is designed to attract top-tier education “fellows” to guide the state in implementing Race to the Top-mandated reforms, such as a new teacher evaluation system, improved assessments and adopting a common core curriculum. Matthew Gross, executive director of the Regents Research Fund, said the group was on pace to raise $18 million, with $12 million for the hiring of fellows, described as “top-notch, highly experienced

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thinkers” who will do the leg work on the group’s research projects, and $6 million for systems. Gross, who began his career in Teach for America and served as VP of planning and development at PENCIL, a business-backed education reform group, said the fund has hired five fellows so far, and is expected to bring on several more. The fundraising is necessary because the Race to the Top program does not include cash for research and analysis, said John King, deputy commissioner at the State Education Department. “In our application, we really focused on funding the operational staff that we would need to implement and execute the Race to the Top agenda,” King said. “We weren’t able to add in this additional layer of research capacity.” Not everyone is viewing the effort with suspicion. Brian Butry, a communications coordinator at the New York State School Boards Association, said the Regents Research Fund was an innovative and creative way to get around debilitating budget cuts. “I don’t think the chancellor would pony up her own money if this wasn’t something she believed in and thought would work,” Butry said. ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com FEBRUARY 21, 2011

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ISSUE SPOTLIGHT:

ENERGY

Point/Counterpoint

Updating and modernizing New York’s overburdened energy grid will be a major focus of state officials in the coming months. That is, if the money to accomplish such a task exists. The Capitol asked Assembly Energy Committee chair Kevin Cahill and Senate Energy Committee chair George Maziarz to size up the issue and its various proposals to see how their answers stacked up against each other. Maziarz: The top issue, I would say, is the Article X siting law. … The second one, I would say, is the Power for Jobs legislation, which I’m hoping in the Senate we’re going to pass, more or less making the Power for Jobs program permanent, by giving the companies that are currently getting an allocation seven years of certainty for it. I’m absolutely certain it will result in more investment and more jobs in New York.

Cahill: The top issue that we’re dealing with immediately is making our economic-development low-cost power programs permanent. So the Power for Jobs program—making it permanent. That would be the first, most important one. Also, making improvements to that program: making it more energy-efficient, and broadening it so that it can reach more parts of New York State, and making it more accountable than the current program. Also, making improvements to Green Jobs, Green New York. … The next phase will be to create on-bill financing, so that there’s a means by which consumers can participate in the program without going into traditional debt. … Another is Solar Renewable Energy Credits—SRECs—and those will allow us to keep up with other states, and in fact go ahead of other states in advancing solar energy technology in New York. Maziarz: I think, clearly, the movement

George Maziarz

of power—power has to go from its generation source to where it is most needed. I think that closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River would be an absolutely tremendous mistake. It would result in much higher energy costs, particularly in downstate New York. The power is irreplaceable. You cannot replace the power it’s generating there through wind turbines or solar or anything else. Two thousand megawatts is just not something you’re going to replace with windmills. So I think the ability to move power from its source of generation to where it is most needed is a challenge. It’s particularly a challenge in the eastern part of New York and the Hudson Valley.

Cahill: There are tremendous challenges for the energy grid. Number one, we have to ensure that we have adequate transmission facilities going into the 21st century. We’re 10 years into it, and already there have been two opposing assessments of how we are going to fare with energy. But those assessments were premised upon activity in the economy. As the economy picks up, we will have more pressure on us to assure adequate transmission of energy, particularly into the metropolitan New York area. So one of the challenges we face is making sure we have an adequate supply for the future. Another challenge is that that transmission system be secure. And another is that it meets the 21st century needs for how electricity will likely be generated in the 21st century. Maziaraz: We have to see what the executive wants to do, see what the Assembly wants to do. That’s been another, kind of an age-old problem. But I think, again, with certainty in the executive branch, with stability in the executive branch, I think the Senate will be able to hold hearings—possibly come up with some legislation or some incentives for companies that

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FEBRUARY 21, 2011

are in the transmission business. The other point I would make is—I think this is something very important—is that I met with Senator [Patty] Ritchie, up in the North Country, and she has the same concerns that I have in the western New York region: keeping more of the hydropower that’s produced in western New York and in the St. Lawrence Region by the New York Power Authority in those regions, to benefit job creation in upstate New York. I have some very serious concerns about the operation of the New York Power Authority, and our committee is going to be holding hearings on the procedures and policies of the Power Authority.

Cahill: We’ve proposed legislation on all of these topics. Two years ago, we were successful in getting through—and last year the governor advanced it—a comprehensive and dynamic energy planning process for New York State. So we have the means by which we can develop an energy plan. And we are virtually one of the only states in the union that has one. That gives us a great advantage for making decisions and setting priorities for things like transmission, and things like solar renewable energy, or making a determination of when and where we ought to be investing in the grid.

Maziarz: I get along very well with Assemblyman Cahill, I have a lot of respect for him, we meet on a regular basis, and I’m going to continue that. And that has not always been the policy in the past— sometimes the two energy chairs didn’t get along very well.

Cahill: [Maziarz and I] served as cochairs on disabilities issues many years ago, and more recently we’ve served as chairs of our respective energy committees, and we’ve gotten some very significant legislation through as a team. We are certainly in regular contact with one another. I think the nice part about the energy world is that in many respects it transcends political boundaries. What might divide us on other issues—taxation, social policy—more often than not, we find ourselves united when it comes to energy policy.

Kevin Cahill

Maziarz: I support the governor’s budget, and I think state agencies like NYSERDA and the Public Service Commission are going to have to do more with less, like everyone is.

Cahill: The administration of programs, however, has suffered somewhat. The Department of Public Service is down one-third of their staff, and we are going to find out if that’s impacting reliability, which seems to be suffering somewhat more recently than it has in the past. NYSERDA has been subject to across-the-board cuts, not as severe as other agencies, and in a conversation the other day at a budget hearing on energy, the president of NYSERDA, Frank Murray, indicated that he felt that he had adequate staff to do what they are doing now and also to absorb new responsibilities that the governor is assigning him in the area of consumer protection. That is probably the greatest place where we’re seeing some serious weakness in need of being addressed.

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NEW YORKERS... There is a lot at stake this year. New York State needs to make Energy Transformation a

New York’s Energy Costs are among highest in the United States. New York needs to invest in:  More and better transmission capacity  More electrical generation capacity with an emphasis on clean energy sources  Expanded energy conservation efforts

NEW YORK STATE must make Energy Transformation a

this legislative session.

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ISSUE SPOTLIGHT:

ENERGY

Sound-bites Ashok Gupta Program director, National Resources Defense Council New York must implement policies to demonstrate its commitment to clean energy and send the right signals to the marketplace to encourage clean-energy industry investment in New York’s economy. The state should adopt a policy to pursue all cost-effective energy efficiency; ensure effective implementation of energy efficiency and renewable goals; move forward immediately with energy efficiency financing programs, such as loan-loss reserve funds, to provide needed credit enhancement for retrofitting building systems; and implement policies that foster a robust solar energy industry, including a strategy to achieve the installation of 5,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic generation by 2025.

Jerry Kremer Chair, New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance

Energy to Recharge the Empire State By Ronald Hicks

The mission of the Rockland Economic Development Corporation (REDC) is to retain, expand and attract business that will stimulate job opportunities, diversify the economy and improve our qualityof-life. Our well-educated and skilled workforce, proximity in the Tri-State area and extensive community assets make Rockland a top choice as a place to live, raise a family, and do business. Yet, our State’s tough economic climate intensifies the challenges facing Rockland County. As a border community working to counter New Jersey’s revitalized efforts to lure business from our towns and villages, issues such as energy cost and supply remain critical to retaining and attracting good-paying jobs in Rockland County, the region and the state.

We must keep clean sources of power and add to them. The solutions: enact a fuel-neutral power-plant siting law to stimulate new proposals; ensure Indian Point’s continued operation with its nearzero emissions. New York should look to expand the amount of geothermal and hydropower it uses. Despite compelling economic and technological advantages, these renewables are often stepchildren to wind and solar.

New York State has the third-highest energy costs in the nation— more than 60 percent above the national average. Additionally, New York has allowed eight years to pass without putting in place a viable, fuel-neutral power plant siting law to spur the development of additional power sources. It is no surprise that both the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) have instituted peak load reduction programs in effort to help reduce the potential of brownouts or blackouts on high consumption days.

Andrew Rudnick President and CEO, Buffalo-Niagara Partnership

Governor Cuomo understands the unique economic challenges we face across our great state. Against tremendous pressure, he is standing up for jobs and holding the line on taxes. His administration has also taken a sharp approach to growing our economy and attracting new business.

All things “green, clean and renewable” are in vogue (for good reason), but how can we make those energy alternatives cost-effective? And what about the infrastructure needed to transmit those energy sources? The nation’s first pieces of the grid were built in our state by Thomas Edison himself. Some say he could return today and find that not much has changed. New York needs to look at energy infrastructure needs in concert with energy prices and value. Only then can we hope to yield a reliable grid that increases the productivity of businesses, keeps long-run costs down and meets the challenges posed by alternative energy.

David Bomke Executive director, New York Energy Consumers Council Laws and regulations should encourage much better alignment between individual energy consumption and individual costs. Master-metered offices and apartment houses should be encouraged to sub-meter individual tenant spaces, report real-time consumption information and allocate energy costs accordingly. State laws should be amended to permit residential consumers to benefit from responding to real-time market signals. New York City requires restaurants to tell consumers the caloric content of their meals, but neither hotels nor restaurants are required to advise consumers of the energy and carbon impact of their lodging or their meals.

One example of the Governor’s commitment is the proposed “Recharge New York” program, which will provide 910 Megawatts (MW) of low-cost, clean hydroelectric power to create and retain jobs across our state. But we can’t stop there. We must ensure that all business and residents have access to reliable, affordable power, and we must ensure that New York‘s existing power capacity remains on-line and operational. With grid-expert NYISO forecasting the loss of 1,000 MW of power in Southeastern New York, maintaining all sources of reliable electricity is a must. To grow our economy, put New Yorkers back to work and attract the jobs of tomorrow, we must implement a business-friendly energy strategy.

Ronald Hicks is President and CEO of the Rockland Economic Development Corporation (REDC). He is a board member of Hudson Valley Economic Development and a member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance. S P E C I A L

S P O N S O R E D

S E C T I O N

Mike Balduzzi Chief operating officer, Entergy Nuclear It is critical that we keep in place clean, safe and reliable power sources—like Indian Point—that are needed in order to ensure a reliable electricity supply at a reasonable cost, and meet New York’s clean-air goals. The state has done a pretty good job over the years guiding New York toward a diverse mix of the traditional power-generation sources, like nuclear, natural gas and hydro, but a focus on developing an efficient and streamlined permitting process will be necessary if we are going to remain one of the lowest-per-capita greenhouse-gas-emitting states in the country and still ensure a reliable electricity supply. The reason we have this distinction is in large part due to the six nuclear and large hydro plants that operate throughout the state.

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New York AREA’s membership includes some of the state’s most vital business, labor and community organizations including the New York State AFL-CIO, Business Council of New York State, Partnership for New York City, New York Building Congress, National Federation of Independent Business and many more. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G

FEBRUARY 21, 2011

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Bruce J. Lindenbaum, President Frank and Lindy Plumbing and Heating, Inc. Peekskill, New York

WESTCHESTER BUSINESS DEPENDS ON OUR POSITIVE ENERGY Should a Westchester business owner feel positive about nuclear energy and the Indian Point Energy Center? Bruce Lindenbaum sure does. “Our customers count on our plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems. And we count on Indian Point to power up those systems. Indian Point’s lower-cost and reliable energy is the lifeblood of our business throughout the region.” Westchester businesses thrive on our positive energy. Up to 35 percent of our power downstate comes from Indian Point. Find out more about why Indian Point is Right For New York, at www.rightfornewyork.com

Indian Point Energy Center

WE’RE RIGHT FOR NEW YORK


ISSUE SPOTLIGHT: Clean-Tech Job Growth Seen As Solution For State’s Economic Development Mess

ENERGY

BY JOHANNA BARR Jobs related to either renewable energy or energy efficiency currently employ an estimated 160,000 people statewide, and experts say that number has the potential to increase dramatically. “I think people are very optimistic that cleantech and clean-energy jobs are really where the economy is going to move,” said Constantine Kontokosta, director of the Center for the Sustainable Built Environment at NYU. Kontokosta believes the emphasis from the Obama administration, and in New York through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Power NY plan, will increase these jobs and initiatives. The renewable-energy sector employs workers in solar power, wind power and renewable fuels. Energy-efficiency jobs, meanwhile, involve the retrofitting and weatherization of preexisting buildings. Homes and offices are weatherized, air leaks are sealed, lighting is upgraded, and heating and cooling systems are replaced— all steps that significantly decrease energy usage and its associated costs. Kontokosta said that opportunities for growth exist in both areas. “There has been a pretty substantial push to increase the amount of power we get from wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. I think you’re probably going to see a lot more job opportunities in those areas as prices come down and more people become aware of the op-

portunities,” he said. “On the energy-efficiency side, there’s a tremendous opportunity to use the energy-efficiency retrofit market to create new manufacturing and installation jobs.” Dayle Zatlin, a spokesperson for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said she also expected growth in both areas. However, she singled out energy efficiency as a field with a lot of potential, citing the Green Jobs, Green New York Program as particularly promising. The program offers energyefficiency audits and incentivizes retrofits, creating jobs for local contractors in the process. “It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “You can get your house looked at by an expert and assessed for energy savings, and then receive incentives to help you afford to make those changes. You can save up to 40 percent on your energy bill by going through this process, and jobs will be created for the people who do the audits and improvement work.” Zatlin said that NYSERDA currently supports 55 accredited clean-energy-efficiency and renewable-energy training sites across the state to meet the industry’s need for skilled workers. Over 60 more programs are currently in development. “We wouldn’t have all these training programs unless we felt there was a lot of opportunity,” Zatlin said. “NYSERDA is very optimistic, and we definitely expect this industry to grow.” Direct letters to the editors to editor@nycapitolnews.com.

Stay informed

A Sustainable New York Requires Conservation and Power By Dennis Ippolito

New York State is still trying to pull itself out of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Just this past December the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.2 percent. Additionally, 2010 saw certain segments of our building trades facing 50 percent unemployment - an unconscionable figure. Escaping our current economic quagmire requires a new, sustainable state energy policy that focuses on both conservation and generation. This is important for economic growth, job creation and environmental protection. Part of any energy plan must be a clear focus on sustainability, which addresses both economic and environmental standards. It is a little known fact that seventy-nine percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by office buildings and housing. Unfortunately, insulating mechanical systems in commercial and residential buildings is often overlooked. Insulation is a simple step that not only protects the environment but also saves energy and money. Recent advances in software calculators can determine how much money will be saved on a specific project, allowing you to target the most efficient means of achieving your return on investment. Insulation properly installed at power plants, office buildings, hospital complexes and large universities would conserve energy and reduce the burden on New York City’s power plants, ultimately leading to power that can be diverted to new power-hungry projects and businesses. Conservation is only one part of a growth-oriented, jobsproducing energy policy. An energy plan must also include a clear focus on protecting existing baseload generation while promoting an array of diverse energy resources such as hydroelectric plants and wind farms upstate, the new NRG facility planned for Astoria, and Indian Point, which continues to provide the state’s most populous region with reliable, economical and environmentally friendly power. Encouraging investments in sustainable, cost-effective energy conservation tools such as mechanical insulation, maintaining critical baseload energy resources, and supporting a new generation of power resources through passage of a power plant siting law are three critical steps to enhance New York’s economic and environmental future. Dennis Ippolito is the Business Manager for the International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators Local 12, covering the downstate region from Montauk Point to New York City. He is a member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance.

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The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State.

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FEBRUARY 21, 2011

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Perspectives

Stay tuned For our upcoMing iSSue SpotlightS

Budget Preview New York Pensions Education

april

Racing, Wagering & Gambling Environment Sections will feature insight and observations from key state officials, quoting leading voices across the industry, and influential and informative editorial coverage.

For advertising opportunities, call 646-422-1623. FEBRUARY 21, 2011

‘A Very Broad View’ – What’s Actually In The Cuomo Budget At the risk of losing the legions of new readers of this column, it’s time to look at the details of the new Cuomo Budget. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And so far, the governor hasn’t. The macro analysis is out there: cut spending, no revenue increases vs. share the pain, and extend the millionaire’s tax. Writ large, the Cuomo budget means $1.8 billion less for public schools, $2.85 billion less for hospitals and nursing homes, and many more cuts. But budgets are constitutionally required to have the details via “appropriations” that spell out what happens to each dollar. The Cuomo Budget doesn’t do that for health care, education, higher education and state agencies. This is a tactical decision to limit the opposition that arises when specific cuts are disclosed, and even the Senate Republicans are squirming. The Constitution “requires submission of a ‘complete plan of expenditure,’” they said, mustering unusual tact. “This budget submission takes a very broad view of the words ‘complete plan of expenditure.’ Without specifics, analysis cannot reveal whether cuts are applied fairly.” And that’s from the governor’s budgetcutting friends. This isn’t an academic exercise. How much does your school district lose? No data. Will your neighborhood hospital have to close? No data. Will the parks close? No data. Take park closings. Last year, Gov. Paterson proposed closing parks. Everyone ran for cover in the ensuing firestorm. This year, Gov. Cuomo, remembering the firestorm, said early on that he was ruling out park closures early, and the opposition was damped down. But there’s a required cut to the Parks Department of $12.1 million. Can that be done without park closings? No data. That uncertainty permeates the cut list. The cuts that are specified are an interesting lot. Reduced-cost drugs for the elderly (the EPIC Program)? 20 percent cut. Early testing of disabled kids (the Early Intervention Program)? 10 percent cut. Help for divorced women re-entering the workforce after years as housewives (the Displaced Homemaker program)? Eliminated. Tuition Assistance? 20 percent cut. Funding for NYC homeless? Eliminated. Help for disabled kids who want to be adopted (the Adoption Subsidy Program)? 10 percent cut. Libraries? 10 percent cut. Parochial schools? 8 percent cut. And doz-

ens more. There are some who escaped the ax and a few who did well. Charter schools? No cut. Upstate transit authorities? $2.1 million increase. Bond underwriters? $2.1 billion increase in state-supported debt. Corporate incentives (the Excelsior Program)? 100 percent increase, $1.25 billion over 10 ten years—$125 million this year alone. The governor made hard choices. Some were right, some were wrong. But these go beyond reductions in fat—they cut into muscle. That is what happens when slogans intersect with the reality of people’s lives. Let’s not pretend this is painless or the right thing to do. Sure, necessity does dictate. But so should values like compassion and shared sacrifice. The governor’s revenue decisions are also interesting. Tax revenues to the state are actually up from the last full-year measurement by about $4 billion as the economy edges toward recovery. And he proposes almost $1 billion in one-shot revenues that will not be available next year. (The MTA and the Power Authority alone are to transfer $300 million in cash to the State’s General Fund). So, to balance this year’s budget and get past the $9 billion hole, we have $4 billion in increased tax and fee revenue, $1 billion in one-shots, and the rest in spending reductions. The first target for those concerned about the economic and human toll of the Cuomo proposal will be the millionaire’s tax. If extended as is, it will provide $1.2 billion to cushion the damage to middle-class and working families. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and their business allies say no. Polls show the public likes it. Who knows? The Legislature must require the governor to furnish the specific cuts and spending as the Constitution requires. Without that, there will be a permanent shift to governors governing in the dark. And as the Senate so nicely puts it, “without specifics, analysis cannot reveal whether cuts are applied fairly.” And fairness still is at least one tradition worth preserving in this brave new world of cut, cut, cut. These aren’t bloodless lines in a bulky, dull tome. These are political decisions that affect real people in their daily lives. After that, is compromise possible? And if not, who will take responsibility for closing down government on April 1? Politics is an art, not a science. Budgets paint the picture of who we are as a society. For now, that canvas is blank.

How much does your school district lose? No data. Will your neighborhood hospital have to close? No data.

March

22

By Richard Brodsky

www.nycapitolnews.com

C

THE CAPITOL


th

h

The Fighter Blue Jay

C

The Capitol: This month is Black History Month. How far has the civil right movement come and what needs to be addressed in the future? Charlie Rangel: The question is, do we have, as a country, the real principles of justice for all people, no matter what country, or are we still pursuing the old-world theory that England and those other countries have an obligation to bring leadership to all parts of the world, even if that means dominating them politically and physically? We have seen that in order to negotiate either for our national wealth or national security, that we have allowed ourselves to go into partnership with people whose beliefs are diametrically opposed to everything that’s in our Constitution. … It’s true in ways that only history can tell—in South Africa, which side was the United States on? We had substantial financial investments through American multinationals, and I feel so proud that I was able, as part of the Ways and Means Committee, to deny tax benefits to those companies. I never felt more proud when Mandela said that brought down Apartheid. That just shows our tradition. … I guess I’m trying to say that no matter what injustices are in the world, or in our communities, when you strip people of their dignity, strip them of their self-respect, deny them the opportunity to share in the rewards of their country’s wealth, deny them the opportunity to get jobs and raise their family, whether you are a slave in the cotton belt or a poor working person in Egypt, within us is this desire to be free. TC: This year in Washington, Albany and New York, labor is being hit by the budget crisis. What do you make of that? CR: It’s amazing when we think of the trillions of dollars we’re able to find to shore up the financial institutions, the trillions of dollars we’re willing to spend, as well as the lives of Americans, to protect our oil interests, and when the economy explodes, instead of going to where the crisis actually started, that we go to the people who are the victims of the very same crisis. This country’s survival depends on us being educating, living not dying, being productive. Yet in Washington they’re talking about Medicaid, Medicare and education cuts. The plight of Americans being improved when the country was under the direction of landowners and tycoons and businesspeople, it was only the unions that were prepared to fight for equity and freedom—in order not to become rich, but to enjoy part of the wealth that they helped to accumulate, in terms of the labor that they contributed to make America what it is today. … Workers and public servants are not responsible for this crisis, and going af-

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THE CAPITOL

TC: Have you acclimated to being in the minority? CR: It’s been politically painful. Economically, it’s going to cause a slowdown in economic growth. But having said that, we do have a majority in the Senate, and we do have the President of the United States as a part of our party. Even though I’m not optimistic about cooperation with House Republican leadership, they can do limited damage because they’ll never get the two-third majority to override the President’s veto. But in terms of slowing us down, in terms of providing health care, investments in technology and infrastructure, instead of cutting education, they will cause us to lower expectations in terms of the President’s goals. So they will be a problem, but it certainly is one that we can overcome. … But I’m convinced that in the next election, with the slightest improvement with the economy, the same districts we lost by 1 or 2 percentages, we will regain. andrew schwartz

harlie Rangel stunned the political world recently by filing papers to run for re-election in 2012. The 80-year-old had just come off a bruising year. After a circus-like primary (that he won in a landslide) and an embarrassing censure by his colleagues in the House, Rangel seemed likely to choose retirement over another term in Congress. Instead, he seems eager to keep fighting, and keep arguing the finer points of his censure, as well as the need for the civil rights movement—and the likelihood that Republicans will lose the majority. What follows is an edited transcript.

TC: To shift focus—Congressman Chris Lee ran into a problem of his own and resigned. Was that the right thing to do? CR: I would say that it appears as though an intelligent adult has done a very stupid and childish thing.

ter them would have more of a serious economic impact on them and their families and their ability to purchase goods and services than there ever would be in terms of reducing the deficit. If they did cut back their pensions, it would be like a grain of sand on the beach. TC: How have you been doing since the censure? Have you had time to reflect on it? CR: I had absolutely no political power to change it. I felt quite comfortable as they found that there was no question of self-enrichment or corruption. So those things are really what scandals and punishment are all about. The idea that they changed the rules several times in my case... To say that we had to end the case in less than two weeks because the Congress was ending. That my lawyer, in violation of the code of ethics, withdrew without the permission of the tribunal. That there were no witnesses called. That the prosecutor said I was not guilty of corruption, but that I was overly aggressive on behalf of the students at City College, even though there was no intent. That my filing of disclosure was not accurate, and the taxes, even though they were paid to the Dominican Republic, but the difference between the person keeping my books there, and the person keeping my books in Washington. What I’m saying is, anyone who sees the newspaper allegations, and then reads the Congressional allegations, there’s no comparison. As a matter of fact, the whole idea of the apartments was almost dismissed out of hand once they said that no laws were broken. As far as CCNY, eight of the eleven counts just dealt with me sending out letters to CCNY. So I have been disappointed—I have a job to do for my constituents. They overwhelmed me with support and confidence, as people have throughout the country. Even though I wish it never happened, it was a tremendous boost to me, how people who are not involved in politics could really see and feel the unfairness of the process.

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TC: Is Steve Israel up for the job? CR: Well, he’s an extraordinarily talented person, but just like football coaches, it’s the result that makes the difference, not whether or not you are considered to have the ability to do it. And many times, no matter who is in charge of the DCCC, they couldn’t change the economics facts that caused us to lose the election. TC: You filed paperwork to run for another term. Do you really intend to run in two years? CR: I’ve been so committed to my legislative agenda and the creation of jobs, and the reapportionment lines, that I haven’t dealt with myself as much as I have dealt with local Democrats and the White House, to see what the game plan’s going to be. As you know, New York State is going to lose two seats, so I have to make sure one of them isn’t going to be the one that was created for Adam Clayton Powell, in which I succeeded him. TC: Everyone will be running in new districts, with the state losing two seats ahead of the new election. But do you think there’s any chance that Ed Koch’s mission of getting an independent redistricting commission will come to fruition at the state level? CR: I don’t know about the politics in our State Legislature. They’ve had so many other major political problems, I don’t know how much they’re focused on the Koch recommendations. And people would want the lines drawn by whomever they trust. So, it’s not clear to me if the legislators, who are concerned with their own self-interests, are concerned with the commonality of the constituency to see that they’re not cut into square boxes. That’s not what the Constitution requires. It depends on who has the pencil.  —Andrew J. Hawkins ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com february 21, 2011

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Every day, in every community in this state, AFSCME members deliver the essential services that make New York happen. From New York City to Buffalo, Mineola to Massena, from Poughkeepsie to Jamestown; in Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Albany and all points in-between, AFSCME members provide the vital services that keep New York running and safe. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMT’s and sanitation workers. For us, public service is not just a job, it’s a calling. At times we are right out front, and at other times we are behind the scenes. Wherever we are, we’re proud to take on the responsibility of helping to keep this state and this country strong. While we work for justice in the workplace, we advocate for prosperity and opportunity for all of America’s working families. We not only stand for fairness at the bargaining table – we fight for fairness at the ballot box and in the halls of government. AFSCME supports A Better New York For ALL. That means making budget choices that we can be proud of. AFSCME Opposes cutting taxes for wealthy New Yorkers. Letting the income tax surcharge for the rich in New York expire would cost our State $5 billion in lost revenue. When so much is at risk, now is not the time to give the wealthiest 3% in our state a $5 billion tax cut. AFSCME Opposes a State Budget that destroys jobs rather than creates jobs. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers will lose jobs under Governor Cuomo’s proposals.

Your AFSCME Leaders . . . Gerald (Jerry) W. McEntee, International President Lee A. Saunders, International Secretary-Treasurer  Bill Travis, President, AFSCME Council 35 Anthony Gingello, Executive Director and President, AFSCME Council 66 Lillian Roberts, Executive Director, District Council 37 James Lyman, Executive Director, AFSCME Council 82 Danny Donohue, President, CSEA Raglan George, Jr, Executive Director, District Council 1707

February 21, 2011 Issue of The Capitol  

The February 21, 2011 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and...