Jerry Kremer and Anthony Figliola

On January 22, Jerry Kremer and Anthony Figliola of Empire Government Strategies (ESG) spoke at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting to discuss “Insights on Our Times.” 

Mr. Kremer discussed how the New York budget is completely dependent on federal assistance from Washington. According to Governor Cuomo, New York currently has a $12 billion deficit. However, the U.S. Senate majority leader is a New York native, which should help the state obtain more financial resources that will help close the budget gap. 

He also noted that New York State, especially New York City, was hit harder by the pandemic than other parts of the U.S. Over 250,000 residents fled New York last year due to both COVID and the state’s confiscatory tax structure. Many landlords have been forced to lower rent prices and precluded evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent.  

Mr. Figliola added that the COVID-19 pandemic placed an extreme financial strain on the state government at a cost of $9 billion and growing. For example, a new $5,000 return-to-work tax credit was given to small businesses and restaurants for each new employee they hired. The credit alone cost the state $50 million. 

Mr. Kremer explained that the state government has proposed a new budget that will help to counteract the financial crisis. Some of the examples include the legalization of marijuana for recreational use which is expected to produce $50 million in revenue. Online sports betting would certainly raise revenue, they said, but, due to some limitations, it is unclear how much money it would bring in. The state recently imposed a new tax on vacation homes, and on vacation rentals. An increase in income tax is also being proposed, but the amount is still unknown. 

Mr. Kremer also mentioned the proposed budget also includes spending $306 billion on infrastructure, $190 billion on transportation, $33 billion on economic development, and $100 million on downtown revitalization, as well as a two-year extension on the autonomous vehicle testing program. 

When asked about renewable energy sources, Mr. Kremer and Mr. Figliola said that the Governor is committed to using natural resources to run the state’s energy grid. This includes wind power and natural gas. 

Mr. Figliola also explained possible changes in healthcare standards in New York. The government plans to increase spending for telehealth visits, which, he said, are lowering the number of emergency room visits from 911 calls in New York. He also noted that Medicaid and Medicare systems are not efficiently run and place a huge financial burden on local governments.

MLK Birthday Remembrance

The long vision is what eventually prevails. We celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. for what he achieved in his lifetime, and more importantly what he saw as the future.
 “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land”
The road has been rocky and there have been numerous setbacks along the way but there has been progress and there will be more progress in the future and more setbacks. The human condition is fragile, but in many ways resilient.
As a nation we suffered the pain and death of more than 600,000 of our people in the civil war. We then saw the assassination of a beloved president. Then there were the many sins of the reconstruction period, and a litany of other travesties directed toward the individual and the state. We survived all that. We will again.
Now we are suffering under the weight of an insurrectionist. A man who has lied to the American people constantly. A man who would rather see this nation torn asunder than to relinquish the trappings of power. But giving up the power that he holds will certainly happen.
Will the journey back to being the country we all love be short? I don’t think so, but I liken it to the wounded soldier when he comes back to a new normal. I’m thinking of Senator John McCain when he said he would never volunteer to go through the pain that he had suffered as a prisoner of war, but I know that, that experience made me a better man than I might otherwise have been. (not an exact quote).
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who knew the danger that he faced every day. One of Doctor King’s brave disciples was John Lewis. Mr. Lewis was called the conscience of the Congress. These are the real heroes of this world and because they exist in every generation, our country will survive. “The road gets rougher, it’s lonelier and it’s tougher” (a line from an old Frank Sinatra song)
Because of the bravery of Reverend King and the many good examples of humanity we have, celebrate this day with gratitude.

Ernie Fazio

NY Senator James Gaughran Recap & Video

On January 8, New York State Senator James Gaughran spoke for LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in his district and the financial struggles that the state is facing in the wake of the coronavirus.

Senator Gaughran is one of 43 Democrats elected to the state Senate. Although the Democrats have a 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans, he said he looks forward to working across the aisle with GOP state senators if it means resolving outstanding issues and bringing necessary funding back to his district.

This recent budget had a $15 billion shortfall. With the pandemic closing down businesses and putting people put of work, the budget contained no tax increases; however, there were no middle-class tax cuts, either. The senator said that this budget, more or less, mirrored the one from the previous fiscal year.

“We can’t tax our way out of this problem,” Senator Gaughran said. “If we do, we’ll make the economy even worse that it is right now.”

He discussed the possibility of the governor’s proposal to legalize online sports gambling, which is expected to bring in the state an estimates $300-$400 million a year. “It will keep the money out of New Jersey and the offshore companies,” he said. The state currently holds three casino licenses in downstate New York; Senator Gaughran said that, if the state decides to sell two of them, that would bring in $1 billion in revenue right away. His only concern is that there may be an increase in residents facing gambling problems.

Senator Gaughran also talked about the proposed expansion of Jake’s 58 to add more video lottery terminals. He has proposed legislation to allow for that, but he said he is waiting for what Suffolk OTB decides, whether to allow expansion of Jake’s 58 or build a new casino in Medford. He added that they are looking to form a Gambling Commission to decide what should happen. 

Another one of the governor’s proposals is to legalize recreational marijuana. Senator Gaughran said the two problems with this are that the state won’t see positive cash flow for two years and there might be people who will drive under the influence.

When discussing the vaccine distribution, Senator Gaughran said he was “very frustrated with the rollout” because there was no guidance from the federal government on how the vaccines were to be distributed. There was also uncertainty at the state level as to when and how much of the vaccines will be distributed here on Long Island.

It wasn’t until soon thereafter that the guidelines for the rollout began in phases. Phase 1A included nursing home residents and patients in hospitals. For Phase 1B, the vaccine went to first responders, EMTs, public safety officers, public transit workers, teachers and people ages 75 and older. Phase 1C consisted of the rest of the essential workers who were not listed in the other phases, people ages 65 and older and people younger than 65 who have chronic illnesses.

Another topic was how the pandemic affected the commercial real estate market. He has seen the storefronts and office buildings empty and retail establishments and restaurants closing down. He said the state needs to look at mixed use for these empty buildings. “There’s been a slew of tax certiorari cases filed because these places are half-empty,” he said.

The topic then turned to the safety of Long Island’s drinking water. Some LIMBA members were concerned about levels of 1,4 dioxane in the water. “There’s no other place for our drinking water to come from, other than our aquifers,” Senator Gaughran said. As for the high water rates, the senator said there are too many governmental and private entities overseeing the Island’s water; he would rather see one single agency be in charge.

When the LIPA settlement was brought up, Senator Gaughran said one of the outcomes is determining how the Town of Huntington and the Northport School District — both of whom were litigants in the case — and its residents will be able to pay the amount. The senator said he will be working on obtaining resources for the school district, but that may be difficult because of the $15 billion shortfall in the state budget.

Senator Gaughran also spoke about proposed infrastructure projects, including the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line and adding another station on the line. He said he will push the LIRR to expand the electrification of trains out to Port Jefferson line electrified, “even if it’s done in phases.” He also said there are talks to bring a train station into the Brookhaven National Lab.