News from the Associated Press - March 21. 2014

Associated Press
March 21, 2014

Cuomo pushes tax freeze as budget deadline nears

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touting his property tax freeze as a priority in budget negotiations but is getting resistance from lawmakers opposing his plan.

Cuomo says lawmakers are feeling pressure to oppose the two-year property tax freeze that connects rebates for homeowners to local governments cutting expenses and sharing services.

Also Thursday, the Senate and Assembly announced they plan to add another $500 million to the governor's budget proposal, with almost half going to education.
Cuomo says spending is "the enemy of lowering taxes. So my priority is to push for a tax cut."

Leaders meetings are ongoing as the April 1 deadline for the $140 billion fiscal spending plan comes closer.


Education issues prominent in NY budget talks

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The budget being negotiated in Albany will establish not only how much state aid school districts will receive, but it also could affect the age many kids start going to school, when they begin standardized tests and even influence whether they go to public or private school.

Education issues are prominent this budget season in Albany. This includes the pre-kindergarten debate prompted by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and a tax credit advocated this week by Cardinal Timothy Dolan that could boost Catholic school attendance.

The budget due April 1 from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature also could contain provisions affecting charter schools and the new Common Core standards.
Cuomo proposed spending $21.9 billion for education. The Legislature says Thursday they aim to add $240 million more.


Protesters clog hall outside Gov. Cuomo's office

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A thick crowd of chanting, cheering demonstrators has gathered outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's offices in the state Capitol, announcing at least a temporary resurgence of Albany's Occupy movement and attracting a dozen state troopers who began trying to clear the hallway and arrested several protesters.

The doors leading to the governor's offices remained closed, but more than 100 demonstrators filled the hallway and stairways Thursday. They called for better education funding, a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and an end to tax breaks for the rich.

Among their chants is: "Hey governor 1 percent, who do you represent?"

It was a common chant when protesters set up an encampment for weeks in a park across from the Capitol until police removed them in December 2011.


NY settles with insurer over mental health claims

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's attorney general says an insurer covering more than 500,000 people has agreed to reform its handling of behavioral health claims, cover residential treatment and charge its lower primary care co-payment for outpatient mental health and addiction treatment.

The attorney general's Health Care Bureau says since 2011, an MVP Health Care subcontractor issued 40 percent more coverage denials for behavioral health cases than it die for medical cases.

Under the settlement, MVP members in the Hudson Valley, greater Albany area and central New York can resubmit denied claims for independent review, which authorities say could result in more than $6 million in payments.

New York's mental health parity law requires coverage at least equal to that for other health conditions.

MVP says it's established processes for resubmitting certain claims.


NY investigates allegations of race horse abuse

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Gaming Commission says it's investigating allegations of abuse and mistreatment of race horses by Racing Hall of Fame-nominated trainer Steve Asmussen and his top assistant, Scott Blasi.

Robert Williams, acting executive director of the commission, says Thursday that the investigation was initiated after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provided video evidence from an undercover investigation of Asmussen and some of his associates.

PETA says its investigator worked for Asmussen at Churchill Downs and the Saratoga Race Course and documented overuse of pain-masking drugs used to push horses beyond the point of physical exhaustion.

Asmussen ranks second among trainers in career racing victories, with more than 6,700.

There was no answer Thursday at his office in Arlington, Texas.


Information from NY public authorities on website

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's comptroller has added financial information from more than 500 state and local public authorities on a website launched in 2008 to make government information publicly available.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the authorities, responsible for billions of dollars of taxpayer assets and money, often do business outside of public view.

In December, the comptroller's office added state payment data to the website that includes about 10,000 new payments daily, listing the agency submitting the request, the amount and recipient.

About six million payments are available for searching.

It also details revenue, spending, debt and property tax cap information for 3,100 local governments, going back as far as 1999.

Nearly 50,000 state contracts and amendments can also be searched, along with major spending categories for state agencies.

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