blair horner

Blair Horner: The 2014 Legislative Wrap Up

Jun 30, 2014

Now that the 2014 legislative session is finished, the question is what got done?  During this session, high profile bills got passed – such as a new law allowing, in select circumstances, the medicinal use of marijuana.  Over the past four years, the budget was completed in time for the beginning of the new fiscal year, a streak unheard of in modern New York State history.

Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

Government reform groups are beginning their push early to convince voters to reject an amendment on redistricting on the state’s November ballot. They say it’s a sham that does not offer the changes that it promises.

Blair Horner: A Look Ahead To November

Jun 23, 2014

Now that the lackluster 2014 legislative session is in the books, New York’s elected officials turn their attention to November.  The statewide offices of governor, comptroller, and attorney general are all up.  All 213 legislative seats and 27 Congressional House of Representatives are up for a vote.

Lawmakers are set to wrap up the scheduled end of the 2014 legislative session. Typically, this week is “show time” for lawmakers–hundreds of bills are likely to be approved, many more will fail.

Blair Horner: The End Of The Legislative Session

Jun 9, 2014

With two weeks to go until the scheduled end of the 2014 legislative session, how’s it looking? Despite the fact that the governor and state lawmakers will face the voters this November, increasingly the session looks like it will end with a whimper, not a bang.

There are even rumors that lawmakers will throw in the towel and just wrap things up this week instead of next week as scheduled.

Even though there has been a lot of public debate on important issues, it appears that lawmakers will hit the campaign trail without resolving them. 

Blair Horner: A Top Education Priority

May 19, 2014

The nation’s success hinges on the skills and knowledge of its people.   Over the past century, the United States had advanced to the world’s leading nation – in terms of technology, finance, and in the broad accessibility to education.  But in order to maintain its advantages in entrepreneurship, technological prowess and civic engagement, the nation must continue to invest in its future generations. 

Blair Horner: The First To Choose Public Financing

May 12, 2014

Last week brought “good news and bad news” on the reform front.

 As Albany begins its post-budget agenda, it is remarkable how little the governor and state lawmakers discuss environmental issues.  There are the occasional news releases – lip service really – about green initiatives, but little about policies that seek to reduce the pollution.

Blair Horner: Voting In New York

Apr 28, 2014

The US Census published a report on voting in America last week that was the usual – the nation’s voters don’t go to the polls as often as they should and in some parts of the country, like New York, and for some age groups – mainly young voters – the turnout has been dreadful.

Blair Horner: Health Inequality Grows

Apr 21, 2014

A recent report by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) took a close look at how companies weigh some of the non-driving related factors when they provide price quotes to consumers.  What NYPIRG found was startling.  All else being equal, for three of the top five insurers in New York, a low wage worker with a high school degree could pay anywhere from 19%-41% more than a college educated professional for the exact same coverage.

Blair Horner: Once Again, Feds Have To Fix Albany

Apr 14, 2014

Once again, New Yorkers have had to hope that federal prosecutors can clean up Albany.  When Governor Cuomo unceremoniously pulled the plug on the Moreland Act Commission Investigating Public Corruption as part of a deal with legislative leaders in exchange for weak ethics reforms, even the most optimistic New Yorkers were left depressed.

Blair Horner: A Milestone In Helping The Uninsured

Apr 7, 2014

The nation hit a milestone last week:  the deadline for signing up for coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.  Despite an unbelievable torrent of mistakes, criticisms, deceptive ads, and outright lies (remember the claims of so-called “death panels”?), enrollment in newly-created health marketplaces hit an estimated 7 million enrollees – the goal set by the Administration last June.

Once the state's political leaders got past the congratulatory "atta-boys" and backslapping on their most recent effort to reform Albany, the public was left to dig through the details of the legislative agreement.

Karen DeWitt

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says a test public campaign finance plan that would apply only to his office is “seriously flawed,” and might even be unworkable.

Blair Horner: The Final Push On The Budget

Mar 24, 2014

Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are coming down the homestretch in the budget negotiations for the fiscal year starting April 1st.  The budget negotiations have, so far, been typical in some ways and highly contentious in others.

This week, the nation focuses on America’s commitment to government openness during “Sunshine Week.”  “Sunshine Week” makes it clear that it is important to maintain an open government, in order to ensure the proper relationship between public officials and the citizens they are pledged to serve.

Blair Horner: A Budget Issue Worth Fighting For

Mar 3, 2014

There is a lot in New York State’s budget that is important. Children need schooling, the poor and the sick need to be taken care of, the roads and bridges need repair, the public needs to be protected, and the courts need to administer justice.

Blair Horner: The Governor's Historic Opportunity

Feb 24, 2014

Lawmakers return to the Capitol this week to tackle the big issue of the session: approving a state budget.  As part of that $140 billion plus decision, lawmakers will be forced to also debate a key issue: reforming the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws.

Blair Horner: Big Tobacco Rises From The Ashes Again

Feb 17, 2014

It wasn’t long ago when it seemed that the tobacco lobby’s stranglehold over New York policymaking was finally broken.  In addition to federal court decisions, state actions were being taken.  During the years of the Pataki Administration, the state raised its tobacco tax, enacted one of the nation’s most sweeping restrictions on smoking in public places and in work environments. The Spitzer Administration bolstered funding for the state’s tobacco control efforts, helping it rise to the 5th most well-resourced program in the nation.  In the Paterson Administration, New York raised its tobacco tax rate to the highest in the nation.

The governor’s budget is based on a huge promise – that he will keep the budget growth to less than 2%.  The governor presents this number as a simple feat, keep to the rate of inflation and he can use some of the revenues for a tax cut.

One of the state’s most important public priorities is ensuring that New Yorkers have access to affordable and high quality medical care as well as providing health services to those who are poor or needy.  Tens of billions of dollars are spent to meet those demands and this week the governor’s health budget proposal was the subject of a legislative public hearing.

During the 2012 election, far too many Americans voters had to stand in long lines for hours in order to cast their ballot.  Voters who were stuck waiting were all too frequently lower-income and non-white.  The President promised to act, in order to ensure that such a disgraceful situation would never happen again.

Blair Horner: The Budget Battle Begins

Jan 20, 2014

The New York State budget fight begins this week with the governor offering his budget plan.  The governor’s budget will be massive – probably $135 billion of spending.  Over 95 percent of it will become law without much fuss.

Last week, Governor Cuomo delivered his fourth State of the State address.  In it, he followed the typical State of the State game-plan for incumbent governors: he delivered his priorities for the 2014 legislative session, spending much of the time describing past accomplishments and bolstering an image for the election campaign.

Blair Horner: The Opening Of The 2014 Session

Jan 6, 2014

This week, Governor Cuomo unveils his plans for the 2014 legislative session.  The State of the State allows the executive a unique opportunity to command public attention and to mobilize support for his proposals.  Typically, a State of the State address in the first year of any Administration focuses on the need for changes and reforms.  As the governor over time comes to represent the status quo, his or her rhetoric changes and the State of the State becomes a vehicle to extol the achievements of the Administration and to build on the image the governor is trying to project.

Blair Horner: Obamacare Gets Implemented

Dec 30, 2013

The beginning of 2014 heralds the full implementation of the federal health care reform law – the Affordable Care Act.  For most New Yorkers, the new law will have no noticeable impact.  For the 2 plus million New Yorkers who lack health insurance or who pay for it themselves, the new law offers dramatic changes.

Blair Horner: The Price Of Election Year Tax Cuts

Dec 16, 2013

Last week, a gubernatorial commission released its $2 billion tax cut plan for New York State.  The commission’s plan provides for a 2-year property tax freeze, a cut in the tax rate on corporations to 6.5 percent and a reduction in tax on manufacturers to 2.5 percent.

Today, Blair Horner of NYPIRG discusses the findings of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission. 

Blair Horner: The Fight Over Obamacare Continues

Nov 18, 2013

Last week the national buzz was about the latest crisis in the rollout of Obamacare.  As part of the President’s advocacy of his health care plan, the promise was made that Americans could keep their health insurance plan if they wanted it.

This Election Day voters will have an opportunity to amend the New York State constitution.  When you get to the polling place, in addition to voting for candidates, you will have the opportunity to vote on six proposed changes to the state constitution.  If you want to get the text of the actual amendments, you can access the language by going to the state Board of Elections website at