Assembly approves tax extenders, Mario Cuomo Bridge deal

ALBANY - The state Assembly voted early Thursday to extend more than $1.8 billion in local taxes, alter a Lake Ontario flood-relief package and name the new Tappan Zee Bridge for former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The Democrat-led chamber voted around 1 a.m. to approve the 72-page bill, which was designed to resolve series of outstanding issues at the center of a stalemate with the Republican-led Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. It now heads to the Senate, where the Republican majority is expected to discuss the multi-topic bill in a closed-door conference midday Thursday.

The Assembly vote came after Andrew Cuomo summoned the Legislature back to Albany a week after ending its annual session to take up a measure extending mayoral control of the New York City school system, which is set to expire Friday.

But a daylong series of closed-door meetings between Cuomo and legislative leaders produced the lengthy bill, which the Assembly approved early Thursday after the Senate had adjourned.


The bill would extend for three years dozens of soon-to-expire sales-tax rates charged by more than 50 counties, which are required to get the Legislature's permission to charge more than 3 percent.


It would also extend mayoral control of the New York City schools for two years, while bringing $90 million in Lake Ontario flood-relief grants down to $55 million after Cuomo's office suggested it may veto a version approved by the Legislature.

But the measure that provoked debate during the Assembly vote was one that would name the new, $4 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo, the current governor's late father and a former three-term governor himself.


Andrew Cuomo had urged lawmakers to name the still-under-construction Hudson River span after his father, along with a park after a retiring Assembly Democrat and a highway and Purple Heart museum after a long-serving Republican senator.


The Senate approved the measure in a standalone bill on June 21, in the waning hours of what was supposed to be the final day of the Legislature's annual session. The Assembly approved the measure as part of the larger bill Thursday.


The two houses will have to pass the same bill for the naming to take effect, which could happen if the Senate takes up the omnibus bill later Thursday.


"I'm proud that this bridge will bear his name," said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County. "He deserves to be recognized for his extraordinary service to this state."
The bridge is currently named after former Gov. Malcolm Wilson, who was raised in Yonkers and represented the area in the Assembly for two decades.


Two Assembly Republicans spoke out against stripping Wilson's name, with Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin of Rensselaer County accusing the younger Cuomo of trying to feed his own ego.


"I certainly hope the Mario isn't in 2-point font and Cuomo is in 1,000-point on the signs," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said he and some other opponents of renaming the bridge were "stuck" and forced to vote in favor of the bill, however, since the local tax extenders were tied in.


The bill passed by an unofficial vote of 115-15.

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