News from the Associated Press - January 27, 2014

Associated Press
January 27, 2014

NYC mayor in Albany to seek tax hike for pre-K

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will address state lawmakers whose support is crucial for his proposed tax hike on wealthy city residents to pay for universal prekindergarten.

De Blasio is headlining a group of mayors and local officials headed to Albany on Monday to address a legislative hearing on the state budget.

De Blasio is adamant he needs the tax hike on wealthy city residents to pay for pre-K, putting him at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo supports universal pre-K but doesn't want to raise taxes. He says the programs can be supported with existing money in the budget.

Among the other mayors scheduled to testify are Byron Brown of Buffalo, Stephanie Miner of Syracuse, Kathy Sheehan of Albany and Lovely Warren of Rochester.


Feds urge more talks on NY Medicaid application

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York has revised its request for a $10 billion Medicaid adjustment, which would allow using that money to pay for related health care programs, after federal officials concluded capital investment and some other programs are ineligible.

The application was first filed 18 months ago, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state health commissioner to publicly blame the delay for threatening financially distressed New York hospitals.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says they've begun drafting "a potential agreement" based on New York's revisions, but there are "outstanding issues."

She says the so-called Medicaid waiver shouldn't "determine the future path for particular New York hospitals."

New York wants to spend most of the money over five years for alternative care and transitional subsidies for hospitals losing patients.


Schumer seeks fed support to battle heroin in NY

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants the federal government to designate a Hudson Valley county as a high-intensity drug-trafficking area so it can attain more resources to battle what law enforcement officials say is a major increase in heroin use.

The New York Democrat will be in Poughkeepsie Monday morning to launch what he says will be a two-pronged plan to help Dutchess County officials tackle a recent uptick in heroin use and related criminal activity.

Schumer says he wants the county to receive the special designation from President's Office of National Drug Control Policy so Poughkeepsie-area law enforcement agencies can qualify for additional resources.

He'll also seek the establishment of a statewide, comprehensive database that local officials can access and use to determine trends and patterns of drug-related crimes in the region.


Pa. eyeing keno and possibly online gambling

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - With top Pennsylvania state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett seeking ways to plug a projected budget deficit, they are considering expanding lottery gambling and, possibly, legalizing online gambling.

The Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony Wednesday that focuses partly on adding keno to the Pennsylvania Lottery's game lineup.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County says there hasn't been much controversy about introducing keno, but that debate is more likely to center on where the game's proceeds should go.

In the meantime, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is studying the potential effect of online gambling on Pennsylvania's casinos and state tax collections. A report is due back May 1.

Only three states now allow online gambling: Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.


Conservative groups, unions battle over pay in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A bill is drawing a network of conservative groups and labor unions into a clash over how millions in union dues payments are collected from Pennsylvania public-sector workers.

With Republicans tasked with defending their control of state government in an election year, the bill's passage could weaken the ability of labor unions to marshal campaign cash.

House and Senate bills would bar the state, school districts and other government employers from deducting union dues and union political action committee contributions from the paychecks of unionized workers.

By preventing unions from negotiating that benefit into labor contracts, it would effectively make the unions collect the money themselves.

Democrats are opposed. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett says he'd sign it, while top House and Senate Republicans aren't committing to a vote.

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