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New York Lawmakers Unsure About Special Session

ALBANY (WSKG) - New York’s leaders are continuing to struggle with actions in Congress on the federal budget and tax overhaul that could adversely affect the state’s finances. Governor Cuomo has said it’s possible he’ll call a special session to address potential gaps in the state budget, that could total several billion dollars. But he says the uncertainty over what will happen in Washington on health care funding and on major tax changes is making it hard to plan. “To come back and have a special session, we need certainty as to what is going to happen,” Cuomo said. “The possibilities are devastating”.

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Debunking Some Social Media Myths About New York’s November Ballot

ALBANY (WSKG) - There’s some misinformation on social media regarding a key ballot item in next month’s elections on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention. New Yorkers have a choice of voting yes or no on three proposition questions on the November ballot. A posting that has gone viral on social media is spreading some misinformation to voters. It warns against what it says is a “sneaky and underhanded” rule regarding the question on Proposition One- whether New York should hold a Constitutional Convention. “Please be aware”, the post begins, that “if you leave the question blank, it's an AUTOMATIC YES, so please vote NO”.

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Clean Indoor Air Act Closes “Dangerous Loophole”, says Cuomo

ALBANY (WSKG) - New Yorkers who use e-cigarettes will have to comply with the same limits on smoking in public that apply to regular cigarettes, now that Governor Cuomo has signed a bill into law. But anti- smoking advocates say more needs to be done to combat the rising use of the nicotine product.  Cuomo says the new law closes a “dangerous loophole” in the state’s clean Indoor Air Act, which limits cigarette smoking in public places. Those same restrictions will now apply to smokeless e-cigarettes. They will no longer be permitted in public places including bars, restaurants and work places. E-cigarettes were not widely available when the Clean Indoor Act was first enacted in 2003.

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SUNY Chancellor Promises Continued Monitoring Of Charter Schools

The Chancellor of the State University of New York is defending a SUNY board committee’s decision to lower some requirements for teachers at some charter schools.  Dr. Kristina Johnson, who began her job as Chancellor in September, says SUNY will continue to hold the 185 charter schools that it regulates to high standards. But she does not disagree with a Board of Trustee committee’s decision to allow charter schools to develop their own certification plans for teachers. The charter schools would be able to require fewer qualifications than is mandated by charter schools certified by the state education department, in some case requiring as little as 40 hours of active classroom time in order to be certified. Dr. Johnson says the schools, like all charter schools under SUNY  will continue to be monitored. “We’ve shut down 19 schools that didn’t meet those standards, so, we’ll see how this goes forward,” Johnson said , in a wide ranging interview interview with public radio and television.

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New York’s Top Two Democrats Team Up Against Federal Tax Changes

ALBANY (WSKG) -  The state’s governor and senior senator teamed up to urge New York’s Congressional delegation to oppose a provision in the federal tax overhaul plan that they say could be harmful to the state’s taxpayers and New York’s economy. Speaking outside a suburban home in Albany County, Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo called the federal plan to get rid of the state and local tax deductions “double taxation”. Schumer says middle class New Yorkers will pay more money in taxes each year if the proposal is approved. They cite a study from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, which finds the GOP plan would cause 23 percent of New York taxpayers making $65,900 to $111,100 to see an average tax increase of $460,  and 42 percent of taxpayers making between $111,100 and $240,900 to see an average tax increase of $1,960 next year. “That’s a lot of money out of the pockets of middle class and upper middle call New Yorker’s,” Schumer said.

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Cuomo Condemns Federal Tax Overhaul As VEEP Visits Western New York

ALBANY (WSKG) - Governor Cuomo joined other New York Democrats in condemning the federal tax overhaul plan in the wake of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Western New York.   Cuomo, also speaking in Buffalo where the VP was  attending a fundraiser for Representative Chris Collins, said a provision in the tax overhaul to eliminate deductibility for state and local taxes would deliver a “death blow” to New York. He says it would result in “double taxation” and be a windfall for other states at New York’s expense. “It’s Washington’s attempt to cut taxes in other parts of the country by using New York as a piggy bank,” said Cuomo “And that is something we cannot allow to happen.” Cuomo says the proposal hits New York hard because the state has “some of the highest property taxes” in the nation. The governor’s remarks come as the conservative group the Tax Foundation, ranked New York  number two for the worst business climate in the country, behind only New Jersey.

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`Tough Decisions’ Ahead For New York’s State Budget

ALBANY (WSKG) - The state’s Comptroller is siding with Governor Cuomo over concerns that federal health care cuts will damage New York’s budget, but he says the governor’s budget experts should have saved more money in rainy day funds.  Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says Cuomo is right to draw attention to over a billion dollars in potential health care cuts to the state, now that Congress and President Trump have postponed acting on a new federal budget. Congress failed to renew funding for the Disproportionate Share Hospital fund, which will impact public hospitals that serve the uninsured. It also did not renew the Child Health Plus program, which provides health care for around 330,000 children in the state. “I think the governor is right to sound the alarm,” said DiNapoli. “We have a tremendous amount of risk to our budget and our financial standing if action is not taken at the federal level.”  Both Cuomo and DiNapoli say the state is also facing a $4 billion dollar budget gap next year.  The Comptroller predicts that the state will “have to make some tough budget decisions”.

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State Starts Tax Free Savings Accounts For Disabled New Yorkers

ALBANY (WSKG) - The State Comptroller has announced that New York joins 28 other states in offering a program that will help people disabled children save money for their future.  The program is modeled on the college savings program, which is also operated by the Comptroller’s office. It allows an account to be set up in the name of any New Yorker diagnosed with a disability before the age of 26. Friends and relatives can contribute up to $14,000 a year for a total of $100,000 and the money can be used tax free to help pay for the disabled person’s education, housing, transportation and other expenses.   State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the program is even more important now, with uncertainty over what President Trump and Congress may do to repeal or change the Affordable Care Act. “There’s so much anxiety because of the uncertainty at the federal level,” DiNapoli said, “Especially for those who depend on support from government.” The Comptroller says he hopes the program can help allay some of those fears.

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SUNY Committee Adopts Controversial Charter School Teaching Requirements

ALBANY (WSKG) - Some of the state’s top-ranking education officials are condemning a vote by a State University of New York committee that would weaken regulations for teachers at some charter schools.  The controversial proposal approved by the SUNY Charter Schools Committee is slightly different than an earlier one. Now, instead of requiring as little as 30 hours of classroom experience in order to be eligible to teach in a charter school, 40 hours are required, as part of a total of 160 hours of classroom related instruction. State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa condemned the vote, saying they “strongly disapprove” of the committee’s actions.  The two say the change “lowers standards and will allow inexperienced and unqualified individuals to teach those children that are most in need -- students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities.” Charter schools have argued that there’s a shortage of teachers and that it’s hard to hire enough instructors under the more stringent qualification required by the State Education Department. New York State United Teachers union President Andy Pallotta said in a statement that the weakened requirements “sell out the state’s most vulnerable children to score political points.” Northeast Charter Schools Network New York Director Andrea Rogers said in a statement that “the trustees made the right decision” and it offers more “flexibility” for charter schools who opt to design their own teaching requirements.

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A Ballot Proposition To Strip Some Convicted Lawmakers Of Their Pensions Has A Time Limit.

New Yorkers have the power on Nov. 7 to decide whether some state officials convicted of a felony should be stripped of their pensions. But the proposal would not apply to two former legislative leaders and several former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who are accused of corruption. The ballot proposition before voters on Election Day would allow a judge to determine whether a state official convicted of crimes like bribery or bid-rigging should lose all or part of their pension. But there is one important limitation.