Albany Beat — November column

Gov. Hopeful Goes to the Holy Land
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro returned from a six-day jaunt to Israel Tuesday after trying to promote tourism and drum up business relationships with the Israeli government and tech companies based in Israel.

Molinaro walks with U.N. Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative, David Roet. The two spoke about the progress being made to promote the rights of people with disabilities. Molinaro has a daughter on the autism spectrum and has been touring the state discussing the need to Th!nk Differently about such children.

“Trying to grow business in NYS and certainly outside the direct NYC metropolitan area requires a great deal of innovation,” Molinaro told The Jewish Press in a phone call standing outside the Western Wall just before Shabbos began. “This is a country and a people that not only have embraced innovation but have mastered it. The technology that they deploy in order to address water needs (He heard about their water desalination efforts to improve water quality.) and housing and construction, technology in health care is just so fascinating, so instructional that the visit is really proving to be very, very helpful and interesting. I think will be beneficial to Dutchess County businesses and to us moving forward.”

Molinaro said he was invited “to have Shabbat dinner at the Wall.” Sunday, he met with the Mayor of Jerusalem, the Ministers of Finance, Defense and Agriculture and spent some time visiting the Dead Sea.

For the record, Molinaro believes the US Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The trip focused on economic development and tourism and portions were organized in part by Empire State Development, Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business and the Jewish Federation of Dutchess County.

Molinaro on Gubernatorial Bid
Molinaro’s calculations goes beyond his county’s borders and figures into how this trip could be a part of his potential gubernatorial campaign strategy for next year, if he pulls the trigger and decides to run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 60, who says he will run for a third term. Molinaro, 42, is developing his campaign stump speech and gave us a preview.

“New York is still as expensive as it was before Election Day,” lamented Molinaro. “There are too many New Yorkers who are out of work or incomes too low, too many living in neighborhoods that are unsafe or schools that aren’t as exceptional as they ought to be. That still exists today as it did before Tuesday. Our state government is still too corrupt, too bloated, and as ineffective today as it was before Tuesday. All those things remain. The question is who can and how can we connect with enough New Yorkers to be competitive and that’s something we all have to think about and it is certainly something I am considering.

“Elections are not about candidates. Elections are about voters. New Yorkers understand that there is a great deal of problem solving that is necessary to make life more affordable, to make life better, and to improve our schools, to help those regardless of ability to succeed and prosper.”

Molinaro (in blue shirt), a devout Christian, prays at the Western Wall.

Political pundits often remark that in order to run for president or governor of New York you have to visit the countries of the four I’s – Israel, Italy, Ireland and India. Molinaro says now that he’s visited Israel, Ireland is next on his travel list. He says his last name will suffice and is taking a pass on visiting Italy and a trip to India might be under consideration.



Legislative Shuffle Underway
In the aftermath of Election Day results, eight members of the state Assembly are moving on to greener pastures – four are Republicans and four are Democrats. Due to the untimely passing of Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, Daniel Rosenthal will replace Simanowitz. Rosenthal, 26, a Kew Gardens resident, served as the district director for Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), a former Assemblyman. Al Taylor, the longtime chief of staff for Assemblyman Denny Farrell (D – Harlem) takes over the Assembly seat held by his former boss, who retired.

In the upper house, three state senators are moving on to greener pastures. George Latimer, 64, (D – Rye), won the county executive race in Westchester besting two-term incumbent Rob Astorino. The 50-year-old Astorino, a Mount Pleasant resident, ran a spirited campaign for governor in 2014 and was expected to make another run for the office next year. Astorino has since ruled out another run against the formidable Cuomo.

Ruben Diaz, Sr., (D – The Bronx), is moving on to the NYC Council where the pay is almost double than the amount a state lawmakers earns and the commute is much shorter.

Dan Squadron, (D – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn), moved on to work with entrepreneur Adam Pritzker and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University to launch Future Now, a national initiative to promote “policies focused on creating a better, healthier, fairer future.”

Squadron, 37, who is Jewish, is being succeeded by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D – East Side Manhattan). Harvey Epstein, 50, a resident of the East Village, is seeking to take Kavanagh’s seat.

Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer (D – Yonkers), a former chief counsel for the Senate Democrats is seeking to succeed Latimer in the upper house. Mayer, 65, is Jewish.

A special election for these seats will likely be called by the governor for either Tuesday, February 13 or Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Rubbing SALT into the Budget Wound
United States Senator Charles Schumer (D – Prospect Park, Brooklyn), the minority leader in the US Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D – Mt. Kisco, Westchester County) are screaming doom and gloom is on the horizon for New York if the state and local tax (SALT) deductions are eliminated in the federal budget being hammered out now in Washington. Cuomo and Schumer assert this amounts to double taxation. Republicans in Washington maintain the standard deduction will almost double offsetting any harm caused by the reduction of the SALT deduction. Schumer takes exception with that argument. “They also take away the personal exemption of $4,000 a person,” according to Schumer.

“The bill and compromise is still not good,” Schumer said. “Seventy-one percent of the deductions are taken away under this so-called compromise. It’s dramatically hurting New York, and just because we’re not hurting you quite as badly as we did before, it’s still dramatic hurt that every New Yorker who is affected, who pays a lot of property taxes, who pays a lot of income sales taxes, will be negatively affected.”

“It is an arrow pointed at the heart of New York,” decried Cuomo. “The state and local deductibility, even with this compromise, to suggest that the state economy can handle this or frankly, survive it, is ludicrous. It just confounds the numbers. Rushing (this bill through the Congress) before people even get a chance to understand the bill isn’t even going to serve their purpose because the next day we’ll start a repeal movement.”

Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.