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NYSNYS NEWS: With break for daughter's graduation, Cuomo announces end-of-session deal on taxes, NYC issues.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: With break for daughter's graduation, Cuomo announces end-of-session deal on taxes, NYC issues.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (June 23) Ė Gov. Andrew Cuomo had to rush off to attend his youngest daughter's high school graduation in Westchester Tuesday, but paused long enough to announce a tentative deal to close out the 2015 legislative session.

"Iím excited," Cuomo told reporters. "This is a very robust agreement, it is a comprehensive agreement, it includes continued education reforms, it cuts taxes and it is an unprecedented package that protects tenants." But, he added, "the details will wait until the leaders speak to their respective conferences."

The deal announced at a hastily scheduled press conference with legislative leaders include a $1.3 billion property tax rebate for home owners, extending rent control and mayoral control of schools in New York City, and providing a new $250 million fund benefiting private and parochial school students. It also appears to preserve the property tax cap, one of his signature achievements, but without making it permanent, one of his goals for the year.

Lawmakers expected to vote Wednesday on the bills, which were being revised as Cuomo spoke. Lawmakers have had nothing to say on what is in the final agreements, and Cuomo himself avoided appearing in public for more than a week before emerging Tuesday. As he spoke, rent law protesters held a loud protest a few steps away from his press conference, which was held behind locked doors guarded by State Troopers.

Cuomo said he couldn't reach deals on a few other outstanding issues, including ending the practice of prosecuting 16 and 17 year olds as adults and creating a tax break for donors to private and parochial schools. The tax break was opposed by the teachers unions, a potent political force in Albany.

The governor's 17 year old daughter Michaela Kennedy Cuomo was graduating from high school in ceremonies that began at 5 p.m. Tuesday in her Westchester home town, where she lives with Cuomo's ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy. The couple, who divorced in 2005 after 15 years of marriage, also have twin daughters already in college.

Cuomo spoke Tuesday with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie sitting to his right and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to his left, the first time they three had appeared together in public. Both Heastie and Flanagan took over as leaders following the FBI arrests of their predecessors, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, on corruption charges.

Cuomo referred to the scandals in his remarks.

"I donít think you can find another year in the stateís history where you saw the number of changes and the major changes that were made during the legislative year, the change in leadership, etc.," Cuomo said. "It was almost unimaginable to have this kind of change in this period of time. You wound up with two new leaders Ė both brought in at the seventh inning, if you will, who were handed the ball and were told to pitch.

"It is a significant transition to become a leader of a conference rather than a member of a conference and the vultures were circling. Sometimes we have an unhealthy appetite for bad news, and there was all sorts of speculation about how this would work or not work, and Albany was descending into dysfunction and chaos. Iím glad to report that the exact opposite has happened. Both leaders stepped up and performed."

Reaction to news of a tentative deal broke down along predictable lines.

"I am heartened by the promising news out of Albany, that the Governor, and the leadership of the State Senate and the State Assembly, have reached an agreement that will enable the payment of $250 million in unreimbursed mandated services to Catholic and other religious and non-public schools around New York State," said Catholic Cardinal Timothy Doland. "This money, which has been owed for several years, is sorely needed by our schools, many of whom have been struggling to remain open."

"Tenants will be more vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords who will try to harass them out of their homes," the group Communities for Change said of the deal to extend New York City rent laws without any major changes. "This so-called deal exposes Cuomo as a liar and a landlord-friendly politician. This will galvanize millions of working class and tenants who will not forget this slap in the face when the next gubernatorial elections rolls around in 2018."

Business Council President Heather Briccetti said her group was pleased the property tax cap was kept alive. Teacher and public employee unions have objected to the cap, saying it deprives schools and governments of needed revenue.

But, Briccetti said, "the cap has worked, having saved New York residents and businesses more than $7.6 billion since its enactment, and its taxpayer protections need to be preserved."

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