Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Earlier this month state lawmakers approved, and the governor signed, a $153 billion spending plan a week past the mandated deadline.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D – Yonkers, Westchester County) unleashed a barrage of attacks about the budget not being progressive enough for her taste. She also lashed out that the budget failed to codify the state health exchange into law and implement a single-payer insurance plan.


“A progressive budget would have passed strong ethics reform to restore New Yorkers’ trust in government,” Stewart-Cousins said in her closing remarks on the Senate floor…. While there are good things in this budget there are too many half measures and too many things completely left out. The budget for sure may show some progress but let’s be clear it is not progressive.”

When Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R – Smithtown, Suffolk County) offered his closing remarks you would think he was talking about a different budget than what Stewart-Cousins ultimately voted in favor of.

Flanagan offered what he saw as positives – “workers comp, Uber, college affordability, chances to relieve property taxes at the local level, clean water, rejecting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees,” he said of measures approved in the budget. “We rejected the Amazon tax and we rejected all those excessive fees at DMV.”

Meanwhile, Jewish advocacy groups declared victories in the budget document. The victories included $289 million in nonpublic school funding, including $40 million toward improving security for at-risk nonpublic schools, community centers, and day care facilities; $210 million for state mandated services; $7 million for immunization; and the creation of a new $5 million reimbursement program for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction funding.

Not included in the budget was the tuition tax credit. The observant Jewish community is calling on state lawmakers to allow parents the right to choose where to educate their children. It is estimated the yeshivas are saving the state school systems nearly $8 billion by providing students with a private Jewish education.

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Here’s a follow-up to a story reported in this column in June of last year about the big cheese who is now in the big house.

Lawrence Rosenbaum, 65, of Albany was sentenced for embezzling in excess of $1.2 million from 35 people who invested in a chalav Yisrael/halal cheese factory operation that never materialized.

Originally Rosenbaum was charged by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with a 27-count indictment that could have meant 25 years for the insurance salesman. A plea bargain agreement reduced those charges to three counts – grand larceny in the second degree, a securities fraud scheme, and repeated failure to file personal income tax returns – netting Rosenbaum, who was never convicted of a previous crime, only 3 0 9 years in state prison.

Even though there was a significantly reduced sentence as part of the plea bargain, prosecutors took one more shot at Rosenbaum’s reputation during the sentencing proceeding.

“These were individuals this defendant had befriended through his synagogue and life insurance practice dating back to the 1980s,” said Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Clark of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. “He abused their trust, conned them out of hard-earned money that would have gone to heirs, grandchildren, school expenses and the like. What he has done to those victims was simply appalling.”

During his sentencing, acting Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough quoted a pre-sentence investigation report that stated Rosenbaum caused “sustained deception, manipulation, and fraud.”

Before handing down the final determination, three letters of condemnation were read in court from those Rosenbaum defrauded. Rosenbaum had four letters submitted for his file praising him and asking the judge for leniency.

“All of your positive attributes are obliterated, are obscured, forever by your criminal acts in this regard and within your religious and business community you will forever be known as a con man and as a flimflam artist,” McDonough lectured Rosenbaum. “This is what your legacy is going to be, your terrible financial crimes against your friends, fellow congregants at your synagogue and against your longtime customers.”

“I regret my actions,” Rosenbaum told McDonough. “I’m taking full responsibility for my actions in my plea. I’m sorry for the hurt and harm I have caused others. I hope I will have the opportunity, someday, to be a productive member of the community.”

Rosenbaum is currently being housed in the maximum security state prison in Fishkill, Dutchess County.


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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.