Governor Cuomo Accused of ‘Overreaching’ Power Grab

February 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm (Albany, Andrew Cuomo, Assembly, Brooklyn, Budget, Capital, Democrats, Governor Cuomo, Inspector General, James F. Brennan, New York, President Obama, Richard L. Brodsky)

Governor Cuomo seems to be following the path blazed by his colleague in the White House, riding a wave of popularity that he incorrectly perceives as a mandate to consolidate more power in his own hands.  And even Democrats are wary of these dangerous actions…

Via the New York Times:

In his proposed budget for next year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has inserted language that would allow him to move money between state agencies without legislative approval.
He has included a clause that would allow him to give out some contracts without the customary review of the state comptroller. And he added another provision that some budget experts fear could expand his authority to borrow money for construction projects.
Riding high after a string of successes during his first year in office, Mr. Cuomo is now taking an expansive, and expanding, view of the role of governor, in the name of reining in the state’s sprawling bureaucracy.
But even some of Mr. Cuomo’s fellow Democrats are raising questions about what they view as a power grab. And suddenly a staple of civics class — the notion of checks and balances between different branches of government — is the talk of the Capitol.

One fellow Democrat calls it an overreach:

“I think many of us, including myself, feel that there is overreaching proceeding down the path by our new governor, and that it is ultimately not healthy for there to be excessive power in the executive branch, even though he’s popular,” said Assemblyman James F. Brennan, a Democrat of Brooklyn.

This of course comes on the heels of another power grab yielded by the Governor, in which the entire New York State Inspector General’s Office was granted the authority to snoop into the tax returns of not only the state employee workforce, but anyone they deem to be relevant to an investigation.  At the time, this level of investigative power was being labeled ‘unprecedented’, something even the State Attorney General has not been granted.

Cuomo brushed off any questions regarding this consolidation of powers in the executive branch as “basic competence”.  But another Democrat Assemblyman claims it will undo years of efforts to improve government accountability.

Richard L. Brodsky, a former Democratic assemblyman who wrote legislation to improve accountability of the state’s public authorities, said the provision would undo safeguards that lawmakers had put in place with some difficulty.
“It goes to the heart of the reform efforts that took six years, three governors and two attorneys general to get done, and it’s extremely important,” Mr. Brodsky said.

Read the rest…

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NY Tax Commissioner Grants Broad Authority to Look at Your Taxes

February 6, 2012 at 10:13 am (Commissioner, Ellen Biben, Inspector General, New York, Returns, Steven Teitelbaum, Tax Department, Taxes, Thomas Mattox)

The entire New York State Inspector General’s Office has now been granted the authority to snoop into the tax returns of not only the state employee workforce, but anyone they deem to be relevant to an investigation.  This level of investigative power is unprecedented, and is something even the State Attorney General has not been granted.

Let me reiterate…  The entire staff of the IG’s Office can now look into your taxes in New York State.  If you’re a state employee, look around your office right now.  Now imagine, there are similar levels of riffraff in the IG office that can now view yor returns.

Here’s something else to ponder – think of all the tax cheats in the current administration.  They know these people owe back taxes – and they do nothing.  Contrast that with New York, where secretaries now have the power to investigate tax filings.

From the Times Union:

Under a unique arrangement, the entire staff of the state Inspector General’s Office quietly gained a powerful crime-fighting tool last month -— the ability to look at tax returns of state employees and, potentially, any other filers whose confidential data is considered “relevant” to an investigation.The added muscle — something district attorneys and the attorney general cannot flex — was granted two weeks ago in a deal between Inspector General Ellen Biben, who’s about to become the state’s ethics commission executive director, and Tax Commissioner Thomas Mattox. At least one tax law professional says it is illegal.

The Commissioner appointed each employee specifically by name – from the Inspector General on down to the secretaries.

Legality is a question, and some lawmakers were quick to voice their concerns.

There is no legislative authority for this data exchange. Several legislative officials and lawmakers did not know anything about the memo of understanding, and some expressed surprise or concern.

A former chief counsel to the Tax Department explains:

Steven Teitelbaum, former chief counsel to the tax department from 1995 to 1999, said the IG is getting unusual powers under a deal that is not lawful. He said the tax commissioner can only make tax department employees deputy tax commissioners. “He’s authorized fishing expeditions,” Teitelbaum said. “He’s given people the authority to look at anyone’s tax return” if the IG “thinks somebody is or may have been cheating.” Prosecutors are not supposed to obtain the data unless the tax commissioner makes a referral to them, he said.

What do you think?

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