News from the Associated Press - February 27, 2014

Associated Press
February 27, 2014

NY senator from NYC switches to ruling coalition

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A state Senator from Queens is joining the group of breakaway Democrats that share control of the Senate, dealing a blow to the traditional Democrats in the minority of that house.

An aide says Wednesday that Sen. Tony Avella will become the fifth member of the Independent Democratic Conference. Aide Anna Aulova says the switch is effective immediately.

The IDC rules the state Senate in a coalition with Republicans. Avella's switch effectively gives the coalition 35 votes in the 63-seat chamber, and it makes it harder for traditional Democrats to gain control of the Senate in elections this November.

A spokesman for Senate Democrats says that it's "unfortunate that progressive policies continue to be stymied because of divisions created by Senators who choose to empower Republicans."


Schumer: Oil train safety plan inadequate for NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Sen. Charles Schumer says voluntary standards agreed to by federal regulators and the rail industry for oil shipping should be amended to phase out unsafe tanker cars and reduce train speed in populated areas.

The New York Democrat says Wednesday that the agreement announced by the federal Department of Transportation and Association of American Railroads doesn't go far enough to protect upstate communities.Trains pull hundreds of tankers of highly volatile crude oil from North Dakota cross New York daily in a virtual moving pipeline to East Coast refineries.

The agreement announced last week proposes numerous voluntary safety measures but doesn't bar companies from continuing to use cars known as DOT-111s that are at risk of rupture in a crash.


NY Gov launches property tax cut campaign

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to drum up support for his proposals to cut property taxes for residents in municipalities that meet spending targets he set.

The so-called "No Excuses" campaign announced Wednesday includes a new website, statements by some officials in support and links for contacting individual state legislators.

Cuomo proposes a two-year freeze on property taxes if local governments stay within a 2 percent tax-cap the first year and develop a consolidation plan with other local governments in the second year.

The Cuomo administration projects the program will cost $1 billion and save 2.8 million homeowners an average of $354 on their property taxes.

A coalition of groups came out against the plan Monday, saying it amounts to a tax break to the wealthiest homeowners at the expense of the needy.


NY charity report: Telemarketers still get most

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Attorney General's Charities Bureau reports that telemarketers kept on average 62 cents of every dollar they raised in New York in 2012, leaving 38 cents for the charities themselves.

The bureau report shows for-profit telemarketers operating in the state kept more than $154 million out of $249 million that was intended to help those in need.

Following a similar report last year, the Attorney General's Office says it subpoenaed records and launched investigations and shut down three charities and one fundraiser.

In 459 of the 589 campaigns in the report, the charities retained less than half the funds raised.


New Yorkers filing tax returns electronically

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York state officials say 97 percent of tax returns received so far this year have been electronically filed.

Tax officials said Wednesday that 3.1 million returns have been received this year. So-called e-filing can cut the wait time for a refund from 8 to 12 weeks down to about three weeks.

The state Department of Taxation and Finance this year has issued $1 billion in refunds to more than 1.1 million taxpayers. The average refund so far is $906.

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