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Cuomo: State will sue to block federal tax overhaul

ALBANY — New York state will take Washington to court to challenge the new Republican tax overhaul, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, calling the new law an unconstitutional assault on states' rights and New York in particular.

The lawsuit is one of several ways Cuomo, a potential 2020 presidential contender, is positioning New York to lead the opposition to President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans. He's also calling for the state to push back on federal attempts to curb environmental protections, immigration and health care spending.

"Our federal government is working to roll back so much of what we have done," he said in his annual state of the state address to lawmakers in Albany. "We cannot, we must not let those things happen."

The new tax law caps a deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, a move that will increase federal tax liabilities for many homeowners in high-tax states like New York. Cuomo says the change could increase tax liabilities for some New Yorkers by as much as 25 percent, potentially prompting an exodus to cheaper states and making the state less competitive economically.

While many top Republicans in New York object to the provision too, Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan was skeptical about Cuomo's plans for a lawsuit.

"I don't see a legal basis," he told reporters, adding that Cuomo is too focused on policies coming out of Washington instead of improving the state's own business climate.

While Democrats in other states have mentioned potential legal action, New York would be the first state to take such aggressive action, potentially elevating Cuomo's statute as a leading progressive voice against Trump.

"This is a smart and important move by the governor and his administration," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has often feuded with Cuomo. De Blasio said some 600,000 New York City residents will see their taxes go up an average of $5,000 a year under the changes.

Cuomo also announced plans to sue opioid manufacturers for allegedly violating rules on the monitoring and reporting of suspicious drug shipments. He said any money obtained from the legal action would go toward efforts to fight the scourge of addiction.

"They pumped these pills into society and they created addictions," Cuomo said. "Like the tobacco industry they killed thousands... We will make them pay."

New York faces a $4 billion deficit and must also absorb $2 billion in recent federal health care cuts. Perhaps as a result, this year's agenda from Cuomo is relatively light on expensive, ambitious programs. Instead, the governor proposed several measures prompted by recent news, including a new, uniform sexual harassment policy for state and local governments.

Cuomo is also calling for new disclosure rules for online political ads and investments in water quality and renewable energy. Another proposal would allow voters to cast a ballot up to 12 days before election day.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the voting changes sought by Cuomo would "make the ballot more accessible to busy New Yorkers, so that work, school, and daily commitments aren't barriers to participation."

Many of the governor's new proposals are aimed squarely at Washington, and a federal government that he says is seeking to set back progress in New York when it comes to the economy, equality, health care and the environment. Cuomo cited recent accomplishments such as a higher minimum wage, free college tuition and paid family leave as an alternative to the policies emerging on the national level.

Cuomo mentioned Trump by name only once, while discussing how diversity has benefited New York. Cuomo noted that the flag in the Oval Office bears the words "e pluribus unum" or "out of many, one."

"To find the way forward, the president only needs to turn around," he said.

Lawmakers began their 2018 session earlier in the day Wednesday. In addition to Cuomo's ideas, they're expected to consider several other high profile measures, including bills to authorize physician-assisted suicide.

Cuomo says he's also looking at changes to the state tax code in response to the federal overhaul. Details won't be released until he unveils his state budget proposal later this month.



After listening to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for 90 minutes Wednesday, members of Cayuga County's state legislative delegation questioned the governor's agenda for the 2018 session.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican who may challenge Cuomo for governor this year, blasted the State of the State presentation as a "political speech." While Cuomo outlined several proposals for the 2018 session, he also railed against the federal tax plan and the impact it will have on the state's economy.

DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, found Cuomo's remarks to be hypocritical.

"When the governor stated that this terrible federal tax reform is going to cause people to leave the state of New York someone ought to give him the hint that they are already leaving the state of New York," DeFrancisco said in a phone interview. He was referring to Census Bureau estimates that show more than 1 million people have left New York for other states since 2010.

A concern for lawmakers this year is the multi-billion dollar budget deficit. The gap is an estimated $4.4 billion and there are differing views on how the deficit should be addressed. Boosting revenue is one approach, but Republicans believe spending cuts are necessary.

With Cuomo proposing so many initiatives that will require significant state investments, some lawmakers wonder how it will be paid for while erasing the budget deficit.

Assemblyman Bob Oaks predicted a difficult budget season for the state.

"We want a budget that, I think, needs to be put together cautiously," he said.

One idea floated by Oaks, R-Macedon, is greater transparency for economic development initiatives. Cuomo has launched several economic development programs since taking office in 2011, including the regional economic development councils and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed an eighth round of the regional council awards, a $750 million investment, and a third round of the $100 million downtown revitalization grant program.

Before the speech, Assemblyman Gary Finch panned the governor's agenda for failing to address "what's really wrong with New York state — corporate giveaways and rigged development programs work very well for wealthy donors but always fail the middle class."

State Sen. Jim Seward had a similar view on economic development — he believes the programs should be reviewed — but shied away from harsh criticism of the governor.

Some of Seward's priorities for the 2018 session align with Cuomo's agenda. The governor wants to combat sexual harassment and strengthen the state's response to the opioid epidemic. Seward agrees that those proposals are needed.

But he also stressed the need to ensure New York is a good place for businesses and families.

"The governor has laid out an ambitious and expensive plan but we cannot lose sight of the bottom line," Seward, R-Milford, said. "A permanent property tax cap and cuts to energy taxes need to come first before we start doling out money for new, untested pursuits. And I repeat, new taxes are not the answer."

The State of the State marks the kickoff of the state legislative session. But the real work will begin in a couple weeks when Cuomo delivers his 2018-19 budget address. Once he unveils his executive budget, the state Legislature will begin to develop its own proposals.

Cuomo and lawmakers hope to finalize the new state budget before April 1, which is the beginning of the next fiscal year.

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Auburn native featured on reality show

Two of Todd Lattimore's passions came together when the Auburn native and Broadway performer was recently featured on the reality TV show "Flea Market Flip."

Lattimore was featured with his husband of 13 years, Brian Merrill. Together, they own the new antique shop Found in Providence, Rhode Island, where they also sell MacKenzie-Childs items.

As purveyors of the secondhand market, the two made ideal contestants on "Flea Market Flip," Lattimore said. The show, which is hosted by "Good Morning America" co-anchor Lara Spencer, asks two teams to buy three items at one flea market, transform them and then sell them at another flea market in New York City. The team that makes the greater profit on the items wins.

Lattimore said he and Merrill filmed "Flea Market Flip" over the course of three 12-hour days this summer. First, they bought their items at a market in Brimfield, Massachusetts. The show assigned them themes for each: "A Leg to Stand On" (a table with a unique base), "East Meets Modern" (an item with Asian and modern influences) and "Yardage" (something with an abundance of material).

The second day, Lattimore and Merrill upcycled their purchases in the Bridgeport, Connecticut area. The third and final day of filming took place at the LIC Flea & Food market in Queens.

The episode, "Battle of the Burlap," has already aired once on the Great American Country channel, but it will reair there at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7. (Channel 660 [HD], 160 [SD] on Verizon Fios.) Since the Great American Country channel belongs to the same family as HGTV, Lattimore said, it should eventually air there, as well.

Appearing on the show was a "perfect combination" for Lattimore, he said. The Auburn native, and son of Peggy and Cayuga County Legislator Tim Lattimore, has performed on Broadway ("42nd Street," "La Cage aux Folles") and the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse ("A Chorus Line," "Anything Goes"). Currently, he performs regularly under a drag persona in Providence.

Found is the second shop opened by Lattimore and Merrill, a creative director at T.J. Maxx. Lattimore believes their team name on "Flea Market Flip" says it all about them: "Function and Fabulous." 

"We're just creative people," he said, "so we love the show."

Auburn City Council will vote to advance Genesee Street paving project

The Auburn City Council will consider two resolutions Thursday relating to a Genesee Street paving project.

The first resolution authorizes the city to advance the project by paying 100 percent of the costs upfront. The total project budget is nearly $4.7 million, according to the council resolution, and the city will be reimbursed for a majority of the costs from both federal and state funds. The city's total contribution to the project will be $339,257 once reimbursed. 

The second resolution awards the project's construction contract to F. Rizzo Construction for $4,148,679. 

According to a May update from Jeff Reina of C&S Companies — the engineering firm hired to design the project  — construction for the project was scheduled to begin in September 2017. That, however, did not happen. Reina said Wednesday that a new anticipated start date is scheduled for spring 2018. He predicts the project will be completed by the end of September. 

Reina said construction was delayed because "it wasn't the right time."

"If you bid a project in the summer, contractors are busy and you wont get the best price," he said. "We decided to wait and bid in fall for spring construction."

The project scope includes repaving Genesee Street from Bluefield Road to North and South streets, as well as repairing manhole covers, select water and sewer systems, adding bike lanes to a portion of the road and updating crosswalks and pedestrian signals.

Parking along Genesee Street will also have to change in order to comply with New York State Department of Transportation regulations since the project is receiving funding from the state. City officials can either choose to replace the current, front-angle parking with back-angle or parallel parking.

According to Reina's May presentation, 35 spaces would be lost if the city chooses parallel parking. Reina also said back-angle parking is safer than front-angled parking. The council has not yet made a decision about the parking.

"This is going to be a continued topic of discussion as we get closer to the project," he said. 

Reina noted that there will be several other construction projects going on in the city at the same time as the Genesee Street project, including the Owasco River trail and the Equal Rights Cultural Heritage Center. 

"I think coordination is going to be very important with all the projects going on," he said. "There's going to be disruption. Hopefully people can be sympathetic and understanding. The city is going through a transformation, which is awesome. That takes time and we'll get through the season as best we can."