New York Governor Proposes Free Tuition Plan At State Colleges

New York Governor Proposes Free Tuition Plan At State Colleges

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed free tuition at the state’s public colleges for students from low- and middle-income families on Tuesday, seizing on an idea that became a rallying cry for many Democrats in last year’s presidential election.

Under Cuomo’s plan, which he called the first of its kind in the nation, the state would cover tuition for any student from a family earning less than $125,000 a year by 2019, a means-tested benchmark that coincided with one proposed by Hillary Clinton in her failed presidential bid.

“College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success,” the Democratic governor said as he announced the plan, which requires approval by the state’s legislature. Cuomo is widely seen as a potential future presidential candidate.

About 70 percent of jobs in the state now required a college education, he said. He described graduating with thousands of dollars of debt as “like a starting a race with an anchor tied to your leg.”

The cost of higher education and the burden of student debt emerged as a major issue in the race between Clinton and Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2016.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont and a Brooklyn native, joined Cuomo for the announcement at the LaGuardia Community College in the New York City borough of Queens, and he repurposed familiar talking points from his campaign.

“The Democrats and Republicans and independents understand that technology has changed, the global economy has changed,” he said to a crowd of Queens students who had been chanting his name minutes earlier. He said a college degree was virtually mandatory in a way that a high-school diploma had been in previous decades.

From the start of his presidential campaign in 2015, Sanders promised to make tuition free for everyone who attends state colleges. The promise helped draw huge crowds of young people to his campaign rallies and pressured Clinton, who was promising in less sweeping terms only to reduce student debt, from the left.

After Clinton had all but secured the party’s nomination last summer, she announced a means-tested variant of the Sanders plan last July in what was seen in part as a gesture toward bringing the party’s more liberal, left-leaning flank back into the fold.

For undergraduate students who hail from New York, tuition for a bachelor’s degree costs $6,470 per year at the State University of New York’s colleges, and $6,330 per year at the City University of New York’s four-year colleges. Other expenses such as room and board, which can cost up to $12,590 at SUNY colleges, would not be covered under the plan.

Cuomo said his proposed Excelsior Scholarship would cost about $163 million a year, although he did not specify how the state would cover this cost. He said it would potentially benefit some 940,000 families with college-age children in the state.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Andrew Hay)

IMAGE: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s New York presidential primary night rally in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif 

America Should Have Seen Trump Coming

America Should Have Seen Trump Coming

ALGONAC, Mich. (Reuters) – Back in April, there were already early signs in this quiet Michigan town of the rural American discontent that helped propel Donald Trump to election victory, even if it was underestimated by the Washington establishment, pollsters and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

On a return visit after Tuesday’s election, Reuters found that many of Algonac’s 4,000 residents were jubilant that Trump had captured the White House, although there were also echoes of what some people said seven months ago: that he is an uncertain, high-stakes gamble.

But the bare fact of his success drew only shrugs: Who else did city folks really expect would win?

Reuters first visited this town on a bend of the St. Clair River in April after results from the Republican and Democratic parties’ primary elections suggested it might be a hotbed of the dissatisfaction with the status quo that would become a dominant force by November.

It was a town in a county in a state that all disproportionately turned out in the primaries for the unexpected outsider candidates: the Republican Trump, a rich real-estate developer and television star who had never held political office; and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who had emerged as Clinton’s closest rival for the Democratic Party nomination.

Trump went on to win his party’s nomination, while Sanders was beaten by Clinton.

Even though they came at the problem from very different perspectives, both men had fired up a town that was in a sour mood, striking a chord with their talk of a rigged economic system and their loud disgust at the decline of American manufacturing.

Algonac leans Republican, and, on both visits, it took no time at all to find Trump fans, and only a little longer to find Sanders fans. But it took days of asking around to find someone with a warm word for Clinton. On Tuesday, the vote in Algonac was 68 percent for Trump, 27 percent for Clinton.


Residents of Algonac can easily list the relatives and neighbors who have struggled with the painful decline of manufacturing or who were forced to move after auto factories with well paid union jobs an hour away in the Detroit area shut down or moved abroad.

Older residents recall decades back when Algonac was still a proud self-sufficient manufacturing hub, employing scores of locals at the Chris-Craft factory, which turned out photogenic wooden boats that remain prized by wealthy collectors.

Pete Beauregard has turned the factory into a harbor club where the town’s summer visitors stow their boats.

“The rural area is going to want to be heard,” he said, delighting in Trump’s victory.

Up the road, Jay DeBoyer was in a dive bar he had worked in as a younger man, drinking an afternoon glass of water and dressed in a suit he had worn to deliver St. Clair County’s final elections results to the courthouse in his role as county clerk.

“The center of the country is what put Donald Trump in office,” he said.

“If the economy’s okay, they shut their mouths and go to work,” he said, describing the sort of people who live in places like Algonac, where 97 percent of residents are white.

“But if you start to smack them, when you start telling the guys working in a coal mine in West Virginia, ‘For the good of the country, we’re going to put you out of a job, for the good of cleaner air we’re going to put you out of a job,’ then you start to create a constituency of people that fall into a category of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'”


Mentioning Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, tended to draw scorn among Algonac residents in April, even among some Democrats who said they viewed her as untrustworthy.

Her election loss and emotional concession speech this week appeared not to soften this, with some expressing their ill-feeling in crude terms.

“Trump That Bitch,” reads a tall wooden sign alongside the main road into town, evoking a familiar anti-Clinton slogan among Trump fans.

Seeing it being photographed, Paul Paulus, 73, wandered out from the building where he was regreasing old tractors to boast he had built it entirely himself.

Some of his neighbors, particularly women, had told Reuters on both visits that, even if they disliked Clinton, they despaired at the insults and coarse language that Trump and his fans had reveled in. Paulus described his victory over such qualms.

“They had tried to get the township to take it down,” he said, smiling at the memory of the fight as he looked up at his sign. “But the township said it’s not coming down as ‘bitch’ is not a bad word. It’s a female dog.”

Jan Evans, a devout 64-year-old Christian who runs a store making slogan t-shirts for the local schools’ sports teams, said she thought there were better ways to talk about people. But she sympathized with the sort of anxiety that moved people to support Trump.

She recently learned that her monthly health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a healthcare law that Trump has said he will repeal and replace, would go from $120 to $357. But she worried that Trump’s victory would not help, either; she did not know what his healthcare plans were as he has not given details.

She said that when she voted, she filled out down-ballot lines for local and state elections and left the presidential vote until the end to give her more time to think.

“Neither one really deserved it,” she said of Clinton and Trump. Her pen hovered for quite a while, but she declined to say where on the ballot it landed.

“Everybody, they’re a little bit frightened, they’re hopeful, they know we need change,” she said of Trump’s victory. “But this is the change?”

(Editing by Jason Szep and Frances Kerry)

IMAGE: A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign at a Trump campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Hillary Clinton Enlists Former Foe Bernie Sanders In Rally For Youth Votes

Hillary Clinton Enlists Former Foe Bernie Sanders In Rally For Youth Votes

By Jonathan Allen

DURHAM, N.H. (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shared a stage with former rival Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday to appeal for youth votes in the Nov. 8 election as opinion polls show a close race with Republican Donald Trump.

Clinton told an audience at the University of New Hampshire that she would make college affordable if she wins the White House, the kind of promise that won Sanders many young supporters during the Democratic nominating contest. “We should and we will make public colleges tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000 a year,” Clinton said. She vowed to help those who already have student debt to refinance.

Clinton’s campaign is worried that some polls show voters under the age of 30 might not turn out in great numbers at polling stations in November, potentially giving an advantage to Trump.

Members of the crowd on Wednesday waved signs that read: “I will vote.”

Recent opinion polls have shown the race tightening between Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, and Trump, a New York real estate magnate.

A majority of Americans say Clinton won Monday night’s presidential debate, but her performance does not appear to have boosted support among likely voters, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll released on Wednesday.

The online poll found that 56 percent of American adults felt Clinton did a better job, compared with 26 percent who believed the Republican did better.

Even so, Clinton’s performance seemed to have little impact on her support. The poll showed 42 percent supported her, while 38 percent backed Trump.

Trump, often described as racist by Clinton, tried to turn the tables at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

He pointed to the Democrat’s remark that “implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just the police,” when asked at the debate whether she believed police are implicitly biased against black people.

“She accuses the entire country, including all of law enforcement, of ‘implicit bias,’ essentially suggesting that everyone, including our police, are basically racist and prejudiced,” Trump said.

Clinton’s event with Sanders took place on a university campus, but it was not open to students without an invitation, according to attendees, many of whom were middle-aged and said they were members of local Democratic organizations or invited by the campaign.

Clinton praised Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who was her opponent in the hard-fought struggle for the Democratic nomination earlier this year.

“He is one of the most passionate champions for equality and justice that I have ever seen and someone that I am looking forward to working with,” Clinton said of Sanders, who introduced her on Wednesday.

Although Sanders lost to Clinton, he consistently drew younger voters to his side with promises to take on Wall Street, make college less expensive and close the income gap.

He called on young people in New Hampshire, a swing state in the presidential election, to get behind Clinton.

“Get your uncles, your aunts, get your friends to vote for Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Clinton’s campaign said it hoped to get Sanders to make more appearances on Clinton’s behalf before the election.

(Additional reporting by Chris Kahn in New York and Steve Holland in Iowa; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Rigby)

IMAGE: U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about college affordability during a campaign event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, United States September 28, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Clinton Says She Relied On State Staff For Classification Decisions

Clinton Says She Relied On State Staff For Classification Decisions

Hillary Clinton disputed a scathing assessment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that she was “extremely careless” with classified government secrets, saying on Friday she relied on the judgment of her subordinates at the U.S. State Department.

After maintaining for more than a year that she did not send or receive classified information through her unauthorized private email system, she acknowledged in a string of interviews on Friday she may have at least unwittingly done so, three days after the FBI concluded this happened at least 110 times.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said she “certainly did not believe” that she was handling classified information on her email system at the time, but emphasized that she followed the lead of her subordinates on whether information was classified.

“I did not have a basis for second-guessing their conclusion,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN, saying she had the “highest regard” for her former colleagues.

“These are experienced diplomats, they have expertise in handling classified material,” she said in a separate interview with PBS Newshour. “They were not careless and the material that they sent, they did not believe that was classified.”

Clinton, who was the department’s most senior classifying authority during her four-year tenure at its helm, did not address the FBI’s conclusion that she herself sent information on topics classified as ‘top secret’, the highest level, through a private server she kept in her basement.

“I have said, and I repeated, that it was a mistake to use personal email and I regret that,” she said in another interview with ABC.

It is a crime to mishandle classified information, and while FBI Director James Comey said on Tuesday there was evidence Clinton or her aides may have broken these laws, there was not enough evidence of criminal intent for a prosecution.

In an unusual 15-minute announcement explaining the FBI’s findings, Comey ended up dismaying both Republicans and Democrats.

While Clinton‘s Republican opponents have fumed at the decision not to file criminal charges, Clinton and her staff have disputed some of Comey’s criticisms that undermine her argument that she has better judgment than Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

Comey called her and her staff “extremely careless” and said that any “reasonable” government employee should have recognized that such information should not be aired in emails. Her server was so poorly secured the FBI could not eliminate the possibility it had not been hacked by the country’s enemies, Comey said.

Asked if she agreed that she was “extremely careless”, Clinton told CNN she was not, adding that Comey had “clarified” his remarks. It was unclear what clarification Clinton meant.

In lengthier comments before lawmakers on Thursday, Comey again spoke of Clinton‘s and her staff’s carelessness and “real sloppiness”, adding that it seemed she was not “particularly sophisticated with respect to classified information.”


(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage for a campaign speech outside the shuttered Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey July 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Hillary Clinton, In Push For Black Support, Promises To Tackle Racial Disparities

Hillary Clinton, In Push For Black Support, Promises To Tackle Racial Disparities

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton courted the critical black vote on Tuesday as she met with civil rights leaders in New York and promised in a speech to tackle “very real barriers” confronting African-Americans.

Clinton is seeking to maintain her lead among black voters over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her rival for the Democratic nomination for the Nov. 8 election to succeed Democrat Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president.

The Clinton campaign said last week: “It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Democrat to win the nomination without strong levels of support among African-American and Hispanic voters.”

Clinton’s status as the Democratic front-runner was jolted this month when the former secretary of state beat Sanders by less than a percentage point in Iowa’s caucuses and lost to him by more than 20 points in the New Hampshire primary. More than 90 percent of people in those states are white.

Clinton met for more than two hours on Tuesday with a half-dozen civil rights leaders at the New York headquarters of the National Urban League.

“I thought that the secretary demonstrated an ease and familiarity with many of the issues we discussed this morning,” National Urban League President Marc Morial said afterward.

The Rev. Al Sharpton joked with Clinton in the corridors afterward, suggesting to reporters he had told her which candidate he would endorse.

“My lips are sealed!” Clinton, who did not take any media questions, replied with a smile.

At a news conference later, Sharpton said Clinton was “candid and open,” but he added he had yet to decide who to support and that no candidate should take the support of black voters for granted. “We are not a monolithic people,” he said.

Clinton’s campaign team has argued that Sanders’ growing support among Democrats will likely falter as voting for a party nominee moves to more racially diverse states in the coming weeks.

Both Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have traditionally had solid support from blacks, a key component of the Democratic electorate.

Opinion polls show Clinton with a strong lead over Sanders in South Carolina, where blacks are likely to make up more than half the voters in the state’s Democratic primary on Feb. 27.

Sanders has said Clinton’s polling lead among blacks is partly a result of her being more famous than he is. He believes many non-white voters will be drawn to his message of fighting economic inequality as they get to know him.

He is scheduled to meet with civil rights leaders in Washington on Thursday.

Speech in Harlem

Later on Tuesday, Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York, gave a speech in the historically black New York City neighborhood of Harlem on breaking down the barriers that black families face. She was joined onstage before her remarks by New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Eric Holder, the first black U.S. attorney general.

“There are still very real barriers holding back African-Americans from fully participating in our economy and our society,” Clinton said, citing disparities between blacks and whites in earnings, health and criminal sentencing.

She said that if elected, she would spend $2 billion to encourage public school districts with a high number of troubled students to hire social workers and other experts to help young people before they get entangled in the criminal justice system.

Sanders, who frequently decries the country’s high incarceration rate, also met with Sharpton earlier this month, and was endorsed by Benjamin Jealous, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who said he could not support Clinton in part because of her support of the death penalty.

Clinton was endorsed last week by the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee, which said Clinton had a long history of working on issues that affect black Americans.


(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)

Photo: Hillary Clinton is introduced by U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) (L) as she is applauded by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (back L) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (back R) for her address at the The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in the Harlem section of New York City, February 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

Rand Paul Eyes April Presidential Campaign Launch

Rand Paul Eyes April Presidential Campaign Launch

By Jonathan Allen, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is looking to announce his presidential bid the second week of April — if he decides to run — a person familiar with his plans said Tuesday.

The first-term Republican, who burst onto the political scene in the Tea Party election of 2010, is widely seen as a serious contender for his party’s nomination in 2016. His libertarian views — on issues ranging from foreign aid to criminal sentencing rules to monetary policy — provide a contrast with some of the other top-tier contenders in the GOP.

The senator has also been quick and relentless in attacking the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The early April timeline would allow Paul to raise money for almost three full months before his first fundraising report would be due to the Federal Election Commission in mid-July.

The New York Times reported Tuesday night that he has circled April 7 as a preferred announcement date.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Obama Rallying Democrats To Fight For Spending Boost In Budget

Obama Rallying Democrats To Fight For Spending Boost In Budget

By Jonathan Allen, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will rally Democrats for a budget battle with Republicans by proposing a major spending boost for both domestic programs and the military.

With his fiscal 2016 spending blueprint set for release Feb. 2, Obama will address a meeting of House Democrats on Thursday in Philadelphia to supply details and an argument to carry into a fight to reverse the across-the-board budget limits known as sequestration.

The budget will “show how we can invest in his vision for middle class economics,” the White House said in a statement released Thursday.

Obama is proposing as much as $68 billion in additional discretionary spending above the level set in the 2011 law that triggered sequestration, split between defense and domestic priorities, according to people familiar with the document. That’s an almost 7 percent increase over discretionary-spending levels prescribed by sequestration.

The White House previously outlined tax increases and new funding Obama plans to seek in a budget that amounts to a political agenda for Democrats.

None of that will sit well with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, where many lawmakers want to make deeper cuts to the spending within a federal budget of almost $4 trillion.

“Previous budgets submitted by the president have purported to reverse the bipartisan spending limits through tax increases that the Congress — even under Democrats — could never accept,” Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in an e-mail.

Obama’s budget submission is the opening bid in a nine-month battle over the federal government’s bottom line for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Republicans in Congress will then try to write their own version, a task made difficult by divisions within the party over how to allocate federal funds.

The general direction of Obama’s plan will come as no surprise to Republicans or Democrats. His budget director, Shaun Donovan, said in October that Obama would write a spending plan that obliterates sequestration.

“Relieving sequester in 2016 and beyond is critical to long-term growth and investment,” Donovan said.

Along with spending above the sequestration limits, his budget will call for a funding reduction of about 20 percent for the Overseas Contingency Operations account that has funded American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Democrats have long contended that if they can put enough pressure on the Pentagon’s budget, Republicans will eventually agree to boost domestic spending in exchange for more funding for the military.

Obama’s budget would offset the new spending with a mix of increased revenue and cuts elsewhere, the White House said. Obama previously proposed raising $320 billion in taxes over a decade, mostly on top earners, and using most of the proceeds for new tax breaks for two-earner couples, child care and education.

“Fully paid for with cuts to inefficient spending programs and closing tax loopholes to make sure everyone pays their fair share, the president’s budget will be able to make critical investments in the things we need to grow,” the White House said.

House Democrats are in Philadelphia for their annual retreat. Earlier this week, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi successfully lobbied Obama to drop one of his proposals, which would have eliminated a tax break for earnings from college savings accounts known as 529s.

Photo: President Barack Obama speaks at the Anschutz Sports Pavilion on the campus of the University of Kansas on Thursday Jan. 22, 2015 in Lawrence, Kan. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)