Delgado backs Medicare buy-in proposal

Rep. Antonio Delgado has become the prime House sponsor of a bill first introduced in 2017 that would allow people under 65 to buy Medicare coverage – the “public option” for health insurance that was dropped from the Affordable Care Act before Democrats passed it in 2010.

Delgado, the Rhinebeck Democrat who unseated Republican John Faso in New York’s 19th District in November, re-introduced the Medicare-X Choice Act this month. The bill would add Medicare to the menu of private health plans Americans can purchase through state insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“As the wealthiest country in the world, there is simply no excuse for us to be the only developed country left without universal health care,” Delgado said in a floor speech about the bill. “There are a lot of different ways to achieve universal health care, and I believe that a public option is the best way for us to get there.”

Proponents tout the “public option” bill as a moderate alternative to the “Medicare for All” vision other Democrats have embraced, which would eliminate private health plans and create a single, government-sponsored insurance system for all Americans. Neither Delgado nor Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney from the 18th District are among the 108 House co-sponsors of the “Medicare for All” bill.

Access to Medicare through state exchanges would be phased in, starting in 2021 in rural areas with one or no private plans available on their exchanges. It would be made available everywhere on the individual market in 2024 and opened to small businesses in 2025. The Medicare provider network would be expanded to include pediatricians and children’s hospitals. Medicare-X premiums would be kept separate from the trust fund that serves regular Medicare recipients.

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Maloney says Mueller report shows unethical conduct by Trump

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said Thursday that his initial take on the newly released special counsel’s report before fully digesting it was that it clearly showed that President Trump’s “conduct has been improper, unethical, and unpatriotic.”

“Those findings are no reason to celebrate,” the Cold Spring Democrat said in a statement.

Maloney, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that aside from the questions Robert Mueller’s report raised about the president’s behavior, it proved “we’ve been attacked by the Russian government” through its covert efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“Any doubt about Russia’s actions has now been erased and dictators like Vladimir Putin need to pay a price for attacking America,” Maloney said. “We should expect our president to show strength. I take my role as a member of the House Intelligence Committee seriously. It’s on us to take a good hard look at all the information – the unredacted report, findings, and underlying evidence – and act now to ensure our democracy is protected from threats.”

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Cuomo expands scholarship opportunity for military families

Gov. Andrew Cuomo bypassed a partisan clash in the Legislature by ordering this week that the state expand eligibility for an existing scholarship program that allows the families of military service members who are killed or disabled in combat or combat training to attend any SUNY or CUNY college for free.

Assembly Republicans had lambasted their chamber’s ruling Democrats the previous week for tabling a long-stalled bill that would broaden the MERIT program to apply to families of service members who die while on duty under any circumstances. Democrats, in turn, ripped Republicans for falsely implying the Assembly had blocked a new scholarship for Gold Star families, when the proposal was actually an expansion of a 16-year-old program that New York created at the outset of the Iraq war.

The ensuing media coverage and political jousting worked its way up to the White House, prompting President Trump to tweet: “In New York State, Democrats blocked a Bill expanding College Tuition for Gold Star families after approving aid for illegal immigrants. No wonder so many people are leaving N.Y. Very Sad!”

Cuomo stepped past that fray by simply expanding the program eligibility through administrative action, rather than legislation. He said on Wednesday that he had instructed the Higher Education Services Corporation to interpret MERIT scholarship eligibility more broadly.

“Military service is more than just the active military member,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I believe the entire family is in service, and we will honor that sacrifice and respect that service not just in words, not just with symbols, but with deeds. That is why New York is taking immediate action to extend benefits to all those lost or disabled while on active duty, period.”

“I am pleased to see that our nation’s fallen heroes and their families will finally be awarded the benefits they deserve after Assembly Democrats allowed this bill to languish in committee for more than a decade,” Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark, said in a press release. “It shouldn’t have taken a national media firestorm that included pressure from President Trump for us to finally get this done.”

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Farley announces $200K in donations, pledges

Republican Chele Chiavacci Farley announced Monday that she has collected more than $200,000 in campaign donations and pledged donations since launching her 2020 campaign for New York’s 18th Congressional District seat last week.

Farley opened her account after the first-quarter reporting period and won’t report her campaign finances until July, after the second quarter ends. Her campaign touted her first week of fundraising by saying it had set a record pace for the 18th District.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Cold Spring Democrat and fourth-term congressman Farley plans to challenge, reported raising $218,000 in the first quarter and having $137,000 on hand after expenses as of March 31. Maloney is a prodigious fundraiser, but he diverted much of his warchest to his race for attorney general last year and did only modest fundraising afterward to fend off a challenger in his congressional re-election race.

Farley, a private-equity executive from Manhattan, waged an uphill campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand last year and lost by 34 points. She has since rented a house in Tuxedo Park and registered as an Orange County voter, prior to announcing her congressional run.

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Maloney, Delgado pan EPA decision on Hudson cleanup

Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Antonio Delgado both denounced a decision announced Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency on the removal of toxic PCBs from the river that bisects each of their congressional districts.

The EPA issued a “Certification of Completion of the Remedial Action” to General Electric, which dumped the chemicals into the Hudson from two of its factories decades ago and spent six years removing PCB-laden muck from the river bottom from 2009 to 2015. State officials and environmental groups argue the work isn’t done, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James immediately announced the state will sue the EPA to challenge its decision.

“The EPA has failed New York,” Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat, said in a statement. “Their refusal to hold GE accountable is completely unacceptable and a dereliction of duty. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for GE’s subpar cleanup job. GE must continue their work until the Hudson River is safe for humans, wildlife, and continued economic development along the river.”

“The Hudson River is a national treasure, a vital resource for nearby communities, and a driver of our local economy,” Delgado, a Rhinebeck Democrat whose district includes Sullivan and Ulster counties, said in a separate statement. “I support the efforts of New York State to challenge this determination and will continue to fight to ensure that GE is held accountable for a complete clean up of the river.”

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Assembly GOP knocks Dems for blocking Gold Star scholarship bill (updated x2)

(Note: this post has been revised to reflect the fact that the bill would expand eligibility for an existing scholarship program, not create a new scholarship, as the press releases from all three Republicans implied.)

Assembly Republicans teed off on their chamber’s ruling party this week after a committee tabled a recurring bill that would expand eligibility for a state scholarship that enables the children of any New Yorker who is killed in military combat to attend any state college for free.

“We will never be able to do enough to thank the brave men and women of our armed forces, and military families, for their service,” Assemblyman Brian Miller, a New Hartford Republican who represents seven towns in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, said in a statement on Thursday. “At the very least, this state should help ensure that children who have lost a parent due to military service have every opportunity to pursue their education.”

The bill, first introduced in the Assembly in 2006 but never brought to a vote in that chamber, would expand eligibility for the MERIT program by allowing children whose parents are killed or suffer a severe, permanent disability while on duty anywhere – including during training in the U.S. – to receive scholarships covering tuition, room and board at any SUNY or CUNY college. (The program applies now only to the children of service members who are killed or disabled while “in a combat theater or a combat zone of operations.”) The Senate passed the bill each of the last three years. No estimate of how much it would cost the state was available.

(Update: Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, a Newburgh Democrat, correctly points out that the current program already encompasses certain training-related deaths or injuries as well: those that happen “during military training operations in preparation for duty in a combat theater or combat zone of operations.” He blasted Assembly Republicans for spreading the false notion that Democrats had stopped scholarships for Gold Star children. “I think the biggest disservice here is they’re making it sound like there’s no existing program.”)

Miller and the other two Republican assemblymen representing pieces of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties – Karl Brabenec and Colin Schmitt – each issued press releases supporting the bill and denouncing Democrats after the Higher Education Committee voted 15-11 on Tuesday to hold the legislation.

They said the committee chairwoman, Deborah Glick of Manhattan, objected that the proposal would create a new “entitlement” and should be taken up as part of the budget, which already was enacted on April 1. Republicans contrasted that reasoning with the state budgeting $27 million for the children of illegal immigrants to apply for tuition aid, a long-standing Democratic proposal that was approved earlier this year.

“When it comes to illegal aliens and those who have broken our nation’s laws, Assembly Democrats have no problem backing up the Brinks truck, but when we offer help to military families, they turn their backs,” said Brabenec, R-Deerpark.

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Farley is latest Hudson Valley newcomer to launch bid for Congress

Chele Chiavacci Farley’s move to Tuxedo Park from Manhattan before announcing her run for the 18th Congressional District this week makes her the latest Hudson Valley congressional candidate whose residency choices happened to coincide with political opportunities.

Rep. Antonio Delgado, the Democratic freshman representing the neighboring 19th District, moved to Rhinebeck from Montclair, N.J. in January 2017 and promptly launched his campaign for Congress. Four years earlier, fellow Democrat Sean Eldridge had bought a $2 million mansion in Ulster County and waged his own bid for the same seat, which ended with his getting trounced by then-Rep. Chris Gibson.

And Maloney, the Cold Spring Democrat whom Farley is seeking to dislodge, was, like her, living in Manhattan before he launched his first congressional campaign in 2012, although he had long owned a weekend home in Sullivan County – just outside the 18th District – before then. He bought a small house in Cold Spring for the campaign and moved to a bigger one nearby after winning his race against one-term Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth.

Hayworth, a Westchester County resident, had accused Maloney of having no roots in the district, just as his Democratic primary opponents did earlier, but he prevailed in both races nonetheless. (“I’m a full-time resident of Cold Spring,” Maloney told the Record before the primary. “This is my home, and I’m committed to it.”) Former Rep. John Faso, the one-term Republican and Kinderhook resident whom Delgado unseated, made similar carpetbagging charges against his challenger, also to no avail. Delgado did have upstate roots, though, having grown up in Schenectady.

Farley, who has lived in Manhattan for the last 26 years, registered as an Orange County voter in February, listing as her address a 6,230-square-foot house in the posh gated community of Tuxedo Park that was built in 1898 and priced for sale at $1.3 million in October, according to real estate listings. Farley said in an interview on Tuesday that she rented the house and has an option to buy it this summer.

“It is a house that is over 100 years old, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to fall apart first,” she said.

Asked if she now lives full-time in Tuxedo Park or if she also lives in Manhattan, Farley answered: “Well, my permanent residence is Tuxedo.”

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Skoufis says he would have voted against Cuomo’s raise

State Sen. James Skoufis, who stepped out of the Senate chamber before his colleagues voted on a giant raise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo on April 1, clarified in a statement on Tuesday that he would have opposed the pay increase if he had been present for the roll call.

“Of course I would’ve voted no,” the Woodbury Democrat said. “I left the chamber in protest, refusing to take part in what can only be described as a joke, if only it wasn’t so serious.”

Skoufis previously had said that he left to use the bathroom after an overnight voting session on the budget, but had declined to say if he supported or opposed the pay increase. He and Sen. Jen Metzger, a fellow Democratic freshman who represents an adjacent district and works closely with Skoufis, both left their seats before the 36-24 vote approving the raise.

The resolution hiked Cuomo’s $179,000 salary to $200,000 for this year, $225,000 for 2020 and $250,000 for 2021. It also granted three consecutive raises to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. The same appointed panel that recommended those amounts also awarded state lawmakers three years of increases, the first in Albany for elected officials in 20 years.

Almost every Republican legislator in both chambers voted against the Democratic governor’s $71,000 combined raise, as did a small number of Democrats, including Assembly members Aileen Gunther of Forestburgh and Kevin Cahill of Kingston. Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson of Newburgh was the only lawmaker out of 10 representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties that voted in favor of the pay increase.

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Ryan, Hayes set to compete in two Ulster county executive elections

The matchup for two elections for Ulster County executive was set this week with Democrat Pat Ryan and Conservative Jack Hayes filing petitions for the November general election and no other candidates joining the race to force primaries.

Ryan and Hayes already had been nominated by Ulster’s Democratic and Republican committees to run in an April 30 special election to be county executive through the end of this year to complete Mike Hein’s unexpired term. Hein departed in February after 10 years as county executive to take a job as commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Ryan, runner-up in last year’s seven-way Democratic primary for the 19th Congressional District seat, was also the party’s endorsed candidate to run for a full term as county executive, but faced a possible June 25 primary against former Woodstock Supervisor Jeff Moran. Moran said on Facebook on Thursday that he was unable to collect the 750 petition signatures he needed by the 5 p.m. deadline that day.

Hayes, a former Gardiner supervisor and county legislator, is an enrolled Conservative and chairman of the county’s Conservative Party, but has been backed by the county Republicans and will run on both the GOP and Conservative ballot lines (Ryan has three lines: Democratic, Working Families and Independence). No registered Republicans petitioned to compete with Hayes to seek a four-year term as county executive, setting the stage for a pair of Ryan-Hayes elections on April 30 and Nov. 5.

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New Windsor rivals set for rematch after 14 years

The only two men to run one of Orange County’s largest towns for the last 32 years are set to square off again this year, for the first time since George Green unseated George Meyers as New Windsor supervisor in 2005.

Both Georges filed Republican petitions for supervisor this week, setting the stage for a June 25 primary if both of their petitions survive any challenges. Meyers, who succeeded Green as supervisor in 1994 and held the office for 12 years, also has been endorsed by Democrats to run on their ballot line, ensuring him a major-party line in the Nov. 5 general election and a second contest with Green if Green wins the GOP primary.

Green was first elected supervisor in 1987 and served for six years, and then was an Orange County legislator until he returned to town office by defeating Meyers in 2005.

Five other June 25 primaries for mayor or town supervisor are brewing in Orange County if the petitions filed this week stand up.

Brian Maher, a former Walden mayor and aide to Sen. Bill Larkin, plans to challenge first-term Montgomery Supervisor Rodney Winchell in a Republican primary. Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, in office for just a year, faces a Democratic primary against Ali Muhammad. Cornwall Supervisor Richard Randazzo is being challenged in a Democratic primary by town Councilman Michael Summerfield. Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield and Joseph Betro will compete in a Republican primary. And Republicans Geoffrey Stafford and David Zubikowski are vying to become the next Greenville supervisor.

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