Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders reached agreement early today to build four casinos in upstate and add tax-free zones near college campuses. But a women’s equality agenda that includes strengthening abortion rights remained unsettled.
The late-night deal were struck at about midnight and came just minutes before a deadline to have bills available for a vote Friday.
The deals left undone some of Cuomo’s agenda, particularly anti-corruption measures and public financing of campaigns. Cuomo is also pushing a 10-point women’s agenda that would codify abortion rights into state law, but the Legislature hasn’t agreed to approve his plan.
In a statement, Cuomo called on the Legislature to vote on all 10 points of his women’s plan, which also includes measures related to human trafficking and sexual harassment in the workplace.
“I stand proudly in solidarity with the members of the 850 women’s advocacy groups, and call on the leadership and members of both houses to introduce and pass all 10 points of the Women’s Equality Act before the end of this legislative session,” Cuomo said. “Each and every one of these issues is vitally important to the future of women in our state, and New Yorkers deserve to know where their elected representatives stand on all of them.”
Still, Cuomo appears to be getting at least some of what he wanted. He has pushed to allow four upstate casinos as part of long-term plan to add seven privately owned casinos in New York. The agreement would add two major video-lottery facilities on Long Island and require the new casinos to pay a higher tax rate — putting them closer to the rates paid by the state’s nine racinos.
Cuomo’s top economic-development initiative is to allow high-tech companies to locate near or on college campuses and pay no property or income taxes for 10 years. Lawmakers and Cuomo agreed late Tuesday to his proposal, which is aimed at improving the upstate economy.
The sides also agreed earlier Tuesday to a bill to create a panel to help distressed municipalities and tighten restrictions on binding arbitration disputes between municipalities and unions.
The casino bill was printed minutes before midnight and would allow four casinos in three regions of the state: the Catskills, Southern Tier and Albany area, according to the Cuomo administration. The Catskills is expected to receive two casinos, though the entire plan would need approval from the public at the ballot box in November.
The state’s nine racinos have been lobbying Cuomo and legislative leaders to improve the deal so it would limit the impact on their operations. Initially, the private casinos were to pay 25 percent of their revenue to the state; the final deal includes a tax rate between 37 percent and 41 percent. The racinos pay on average 67 percent.
The new casinos would have to pay about 10 percent of their revenue to the counties that are in gaming exclusivity zones controlled by Indian tribes in western, central and northern New York.
The legislative session was scheduled to end Thursday, but has been extended to Friday.
The Democratic-led Assembly also rejected plans to legalize mixed-martial arts in New York, making it the only state in the nation to continue a ban on the sport.
A bill introduced by state lawmakers Tuesday would provide additional aid to the racinos in western New York because of the agreement with the Senecas. It would also give the Finger Lakes and Batavia Downs racinos additional tax revenue if the Senecas build a casino in the Rochester area.
The Senate GOP signaled late Tuesday that it would take up nine points of Cuomo’s women’s plan — but not the abortion provision, which would cement federal abortion rights into state law.
In a statement, Senate Republicans spokeswoman Kelly Cummings said the conference’s position hasn’t changed. Skelos has vowed to block the abortion measure since January.
“We expect to pass 9 of the 10 elements of the Governor’s women’s equality agenda, however, we continue to oppose bringing the abortion provision to the floor,” Cummings said.
Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the Assembly planned to vote on the women’s agenda in one package, not 10 separate bills.