Secretary to Gov Cuomo on SOS, Medicaid $$ and MRT

January 8, 2020

Earlier today, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa was a guest on NY1’s Inside City Hall with Errol Louis, where she discussed the Governor’s State of the State address and agenda for New York State.  Scroll down to see highlighted areas where Ms. DeRosa discussed Medicaid $$ and creation of another MRT:


Errol Louis: Joining me now from Albany to talk more about all of this is the most senior aide in the Cuomo Administration. Melissa DeRosa serves as Secretary to the Governor. Welcome back to the program. Very good to see you.

Melissa DeRosa: Thanks for having me, Errol.

Errol Louis: Let me start with the Environmental Bond Act. It’s been a couple of decades since New York did one of these. What is your understanding of what the proceeds would be used for and how those bonds would be repaid.

Melissa DeRosa: Sure, so Errol, if I can actually take a big step back. Today the Governor laid out his vision for the state for the next year going into 2020. And we are doing this at a time when New York is not operating in a vacuum, right? We have a presidential election that is going on. We have a Democratic Party that is struggling to define who we are and what it means to be a progressive. And you saw the Governor lay out today what he believes progressive government is, both in terms of what people should expect from it, and what people who call themselves progressive should be doing to define it, and that is delivering real results for real people. It is something the Governor has been doing methodically for the last nine years and we are going to see him doing going into his tenth year. We have to be dreamers and doers and that is what the Governor was saying today, and that is exactly what we are setting out to do again this year.

At the same time, we are dealing with this culture of hate, this cancer that is spreading across the country. Not just what we saw in Monsey, not just what we saw in the horrific incidents in Brooklyn and across New York City, but what we saw in Jersey City, what we saw in Pittsburgh, what we saw in California. And he talked about New York’s need to step up and play a role as a national leader once again as the country is looking for light in the darkness. And that is what you saw the Governor talk about today.

In that vein, one of the largest things that is confronting not just New Yorkers and Americans, but the globe and the world as a whole is the climate crisis. You’ve seen an abdication of any level of responsibility from the federal level when the President of the United States pulled out of the Paris Accords. So you saw the Governor put the environment front and center in his speech. On the $3 billion Bond Act, you are right. I think it has been since probably 2005 when we did the Transportation Bond Act which was a very critically important at that time. And I think this is equally if not more important this time, is he is going to put forward a $3 billion dollar Bond Act for voters to decide if we are able to issue that and take on this crisis.

You have the systems across the state. Mother Nature actually in her natural beauty put together a system where water naturally filtrated itself, where air quality, where water quality improved upon itself. But because of mankind, because of chemicals we put into the air and the water, and because we went unchecked for so long those systems have been disrupted. It’s investing back into those natural systems and restoring them to where they were originally, and also helping us transition to an economy that is moving off of reliance on fossil fuels and oil, and into the green energy economy.

Errol Louis: So the obvious question then is, if we are going to borrow $3 billion, who will pay it back and by what method would that be determined?

Melissa DeRosa: The state will pay it back and we will do it over a period of time, but it is the right investment. It was the right investment in 2005 when we invested in our infrastructure and invested in subways and electric buses, and it is absolutely the right investment to make now. You’ll hear the Governor talk more about that in his budget address in the coming weeks and he will be going out and making that case to the public.

Errol Louis: I know also in the budget address he’ll be more detailed about the $6 billion deficit that was mentioned today, although one of the things that the Governor did touch upon was that some of this came from the State picking up the local cost of increases in healthcare costs consistently over a number of years. Are we going to see a fight now between the Governor’s office and the localities including New York City over whether or not the State can or should continue to pick up those costs?

Melissa DeRosa: No Errol, what the Governor is saying is that nine years ago when we came in and we inherited a Medicaid crisis, one of the things that we did, the State did rightly, was that we took over all of the growth from Medicaid from the localities, so any growth above where it currently was in 2010, the State picked up the tab. We did this in large part because we also asked local governments to enact the first-ever property tax cap because property taxes across the state were crushing homeowners. This is not something we have in New York City, but everywhere else across the State.

What we’ve seen in the last several months and which you’ll be hearing more about in the budget in a couple of weeks is that when the State took over the growth in Medicaid costs and held the local governments’ harness but allowed the local governments to continue administering the Medicaid program, there was a loss of control in terms of how the money was being spent, when it was being spent, why it was being spent, and that has created structural issues that now have to be addressed.

We are not going to do this in a vacuum. We have a very successful Medicaid redesign team that we put into place nine years ago. We’re going to replicate that model this year. We’re going to get all the stakeholders around the table. No one wants to do anything to undermine the great progress we’ve made in healthcare.

As the Governor himself said today, New York State has 95 percent of our people are covered. We have very high quality of coverage. Medicaid covers a lot of different services. New York has taken full advantage of the Medicaid program so we don’t want to do anything to undermine any of those things but there is without a doubt waste, fraud and abuse within the system and there are different things structurally that can need and should happen now in order to get us back on the right financial footing. This is something we’ve dealt with before. It’s something we’re going to deal with again and we look forward to having that discussion in the coming weeks when we roll out the budget.

Errol Louis: I’m sure you’re going to get a lot of questions about this: it was striking that the Governor didn’t spend much time talking about bail reform which is a hot-button issue for a lot of legislators, for editorial boards and so forth. What will his position be about how and by what method the law should be changed if indeed it needs a change?

Melissa DeRosa: So I think the conversation about bail reform needs a little bit of levity and a little bit of sanity. We in this state have a bail system that for too long was unjust. If you could afford to pay bail, then you could get out while you were awaiting trial. If you could not afford bail you sat in Rikers and that is not fair. That is not the way the justice system should be run. So the Governor and the leaders and the Legislature last year made tremendous gains in the fight for fairness and justice in enacting historic bail reform. Now just as a reminder to all of your viewers this system went into place on January 1. It has literally been implemented for eight days. You’ve got various media outlets I think who are driving a particular agenda. You have various politicians and political constituencies who are driving a particular agenda, fear mongering and completely distorting the conversation for their own gain or for their own reasons. At the same time, I think it is wholly legitimate, and the Governor has said this, that we look at the law, we have to make sure that public safety comes first, we look at the law, we look what it is that we enacted and ask ourselves and ask our partners in the Legislature, are there ways to improve upon that? And that is a discussion that we are going to be having. And I think it is something that everyone feels very passionate about. The Speaker feels very passionately on this topic. We are going to sit with them and have these conversations. We’ve actually already started them in earnest. But so yes, that will be a conversation that’s going to happen later this year.

Errol Louis: In our last minute, I don’t want you to go without mentioning something that in this 300-odd-page list of different priorities, one that didn’t get attention but I think everybody can relate to is enhanced penalties for these span callers, these robocallers who waste a lot of my time – a great idea. Are we patterning this on something other states have done or is this going to be abrand new effort by New York?

Melissa DeRosa: This is going to be a first-in-the-nation, Errol, and I couldn’t agree with you more. When we actually sat around putting together the State of the State and listing our top priorities, it sounds sort of silly when you’re talking about doing other things like raising free college tuition from $125,000 to $150,000, paid sick leave, or all the great things we’re doing on infrastructure, high-speed rail, MTA. But robocalls are something that drive people crazy. We all live in a cellphone world now where everyone is on their cellphones and it has gotten out of control and the Governor has made clear that it is going to stop and it’s going to stop this year.

Errol Louis: Okay, thanks so much for this very cursory look at a very complicated project and we’ll talk again closer to the budget agreement. Melissa DeRosa, thanks for joining us.

Melissa DeRosa: Thanks, Errol.