Now that the coronavirus numbers are continuing to trend downward with fewer than 270 coronavirus deaths in July, Governor Andrew Cuomo is focusing his latest battles with the federal government for not providing New York with enough state aid to function properly and with local governments who are being lax in compliance and enforcement measures to quell drinking outside (in violation of the open container law) – and everything else from an uptick in violence to partying in the streets at the tony Hamptons in Suffolk County.
One battle centers around the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which allows taxpayers of high-tax states to deduct local tax payments on their federal tax returns.
The Queens-born Democrat says he will hold New York elected officials in Washington accountable whether they are Democrats or Republicans.
“If the House members don’t stand firm, if our two senators, (Charles) Schumer and (Kirsten) Gillibrand, don’t stand firm, you’re going to see New Yorkers paying a higher subway and Long Island Railroad fare,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “This (federal stimulus) bill will have a practical, dramatic effect on all New Yorkers. I want New Yorkers to know the consequences because I want our federal representatives held accountable.”
Gillibrand says she is still optimistic because she supports the House bill passed by the Democratic majority.
“I support $1 trillion in state and local funding. That would be $500 billion alone for states, which will be able to meet the needs of New York and all the governors across the country. That’s what was passed in the House,” Gillibrand said Monday in response to a question asked by The Jewish Press.
“The problem is Mitch McConnell. He’s been unwilling to allow debate on any amount of state and local funding. He has yet to release his plan. He’s supposed to release but it doesn’t look like state and local monies are in there. I think he wants to use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations, but it is the highest priority for me to get state and local money.
“We also tried to include the SALT language to get rid of the very harmful tax framework that President Trump passed into law that took away our state and local deductions. At the end of the day Mitch McConnell will not support state and local money. It makes it that much more urgent to defeat him at the ballot box and flip the U.S. Senate. Every state has seen plummeting revenues and so no matter where you live the resources available for these front line workers are urgently needed. I’m optimistic there will be some room for negotiations and I hope through advocacy we can make sure that the things that are most needed are included.”
Cuomo appears to be frustrated and angry that he is being heard but not listened to. Cuomo went as far as to call Senate Republicans hypocrites for saying one thing and doing something else.
“This Washington legislation, what the House passes, what Senator Schumer passes, this is going to determine people’s property taxes. If they repeal SALT, as they should, as they did in the House bill, your property taxes effectively will be lower. If they don’t, they will raise your property taxes,” Cuomo said. “If they don’t provide state aid, your school aid will be roughly 20% less of what it was. That could also affect your property taxes. That will be determined by the state aid level in this federal bill. For the Senate not to provide state aid is totally hypocritical to their professed goal to help the economy, create jobs. Every economist says if you do not provide state and local aid, you will hurt the economy.”
Gillibrand says if unemployment insurance is not reinstituted with an additional flat weekly payments, many families will be hurt. There is a battle waging whether American citizens should receive a flat amount or a percentages of wages. Gillibrand says the percentage concept does not go far enough.
“The House passed a bill to do unemployment insurance plus the $600 additional amount to help families stave off poverty and homelessness and hunger. Mitch (McConnell) wants only 70% of wages and nothing else. We don’t know what he will put forward but that will be heavily negotiated,” Gillibrand said. (The 70% model) “is just not going to be enough for a low wage worker to survive. If you do 70% of the minimum wage you’re talking about subpoverty wages. You might not be able to afford your rent or your mortgage. You might not be able to afford enough food for the whole month. People who are on minimum wage today often don’t have enough money for rent and food. So if you’re doing 70% of that you’re really cutting to the bone and services that are being cut statewide aren’t going to be there for them.”
Cuomo says local governments need to do a better job with compliance and enforcement measures. Walking through Monsey Sunday, this reporter saw many Jews not in compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing. Two places, Rockland Kosher Supermarket and Glauber’s Bakery, were two prime examples where people were violating the law.
Rockland Kosher had a recording on a continuous loop urging shoppers to wear their masks. When this reporter approached some shoppers not wearing masks they all pointed to their pockets as if to show the mask was in their pocket.
At Glauber’s Bakery, one patron noted that everyone in Monsey feels they had the virus already and are immune. The patron was buying baked goods for a bris that afternoon. He said his 96-year-old grandfather was attending because the nonagenarian told his grandson he survived World War II and he will survive this.
There is a sense of protection from what is known as herd immunity, while law enforcement and county health officials were not seen throughout the area.
Back in Albany, Cuomo admitted Tuesday mistakes have been made by the state beyond the controversy surrounding nursing homes because time was of the essence and not on their side.
“We did a lot of things here that we were not fully ready to do if we’re being honest. We went to remote learning in schools. We weren’t fully ready to do that and it was imperfect but we had to,” Cuomo said. “Telemedicine. We had to stop people from walking into doctors’ offices and hospitals. We were not ready to make the transition. We were not ready to make a full transition to mail-in ballots but we had to.
“The good news is you ran the exercise and you saw what worked and you saw what didn’t work and now we’re going back and seeing what improvements we can make. There are reforms that are more practical in nature, right? The devil is in the details and we’ve seen a lot of those details create issues.”