Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:
The Leader Herald on public protest in Cuba
Former President Barack Obama seemed to believe that treating Cuba's totalitarian regime as if it were not an enemy of liberty would encourage the country's leaders to live up to our chief executive's hopes.
That did not happen. News of a breakthrough in allowing Cubans at least some freedom makes it plain the island's communist leaders remain committed to Castro-style rule.
On Sunday, a small group of Cubans marched down a main street in the capital, Havana, protesting cruelty — to animals.
What was startling about the protest was that the regime's approval of it was unusual, to say the least. Any demonstration of unhappiness with the government in Cuba has been outlawed for more than half a century.
As The Associated Press noted, repression is so severe that when a biologist protested illegal logging and other environmental concerns, he was sentenced to a year in prison for "disrespecting a forest ranger."
So permitting any sort of public protest is highly unusual. But the one on Sunday was on behalf of animals and not directly against the government.
Only when the regime allows Cubans to demand more rights for human beings will there be reason to think change is on its way in Havana.
The Niagara-Gazette on pay raises for state politicians
Raise your hand if you got a 40 percent raise this year.
Raise both hands if you ever received a 40 percent pay hike in your entire life.
How many struggling New York business owners, homeowners and residents could raise even one hand? Few, if any.
Around here, it seems it's best to work in government if you ever want your pay to increase well beyond anything resembling what the rest of us consider to be normal standards.
In case you missed it, in a 92-46 vote early Monday, members of the state legislature agreed to raise Gov. Andrew Cuomo's salary to $250,000 by 2021. Approval of the measure means Cuomo's current salary, $200,000, will jump up to $225,000 next year and $250,000 in 2021.
Once finalized, the pay hike will result in Cuomo being the highest paid governor in the country, topping California's Gov. Gavin Newsom whose current salary is $202,000 per year.
In addition to a raise for Cuomo, a majority of state lawmakers agreed to give Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul a raise, from $190,000 currently to $220,000 in 2021.
Both hefty and wholly inappropriate raises follow the December vote in which a state committee, consisting entirely of government-appointed political types, called for an increase in salaries for state lawmakers from $79,500 to $130,000 over a three-year period.
Did we miss something? Weren't these the same people who spent the past few weeks lamenting the lack of state funding for priority items like education and infrastructure?
How is it that, right at the tail end of the budgetary process, they managed to find the money to pad their own salaries?
We don't buy the argument that they work hard. Forget the idea that they've somehow "earned" it.
New York State legislators are part-time employees and the bulk of their time is spent, you guessed it, cutting ribbons, holding press conferences about mostly nonsense and working on getting re-elected.
Those of us who pay the taxes and pick up the tab for New York's largess should be on the telephone right now to the governor's office, the lieutenant governor's office and the district offices of our state representatives.
We should be telling them that we didn't get a 40 percent raise this year and we don't appreciate them hiking their own salaries at our expense, for what amounts to no good reason.
At this point, it might be good to start thinking about organizing for the next state election cycle, with an eye on identifying viable candidates to challenge Cuomo, Hochul and any and all legislators who agreed to support this nonsense.
Or maybe, as some of us have for far too many years now, we'll just stay silent and let the powers-that-be in Albany take more of our money while we contemplate how to pay the mortgage, feed the family and send the kids to college on a salary that grows oh-so modestly if at all.
The Jamestown Post-Journal on wage legislation
It was good to see that the state Legislature did not approve of a prevailing wage expansion as part of the state budget.
The issue flew under the radar for many during budget deliberations, would require contractors to pay the local prevailing wage on any construction project that receives state money as well as some construction work performed under private contract, such as projects supported by state bonds or grants, public entities or third parties acting on behalf of a governmental entity or projects receiving certain loans, tax credits or other public subsidies.
In addition to the additional wage required, use of the prevailing wage requires projects to use antiquated job descriptions that private companies are not required to use, and each of those separate jobs comes with a different wage schedule. Plus, the prevailing wage impacts benefits. A 2017 report by the Empire Center for Public Policy stated that such an expansion in the use of the prevailing wage could increase the cost for public construction projects by as much as 25 percent, something that would be particularly troubling for a place like Chautauqua County, where the state tends to play a major role in development projects through programs like the Regional Economic Development Council or the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Expanding the prevailing wage might have meant more time raising money to build the National Comedy Center or delays on projects like building sewers around Chautauqua Lake.
Rather than being something to help workers, expanding use of the prevailing wage could very likely make some development projects too expensive to undertake. As it is, Western New York is reliant on state grants to redevelop itself. Removing that money to avoid a new costly state mandate would just further hinder local development efforts. It certainly doesn't send the message to developers — both those inside New York state and those the state is trying to attract — that New York state is open for business.
The prevailing wage legislation was included in both the Assembly and Senate budgets before being dropped from the final state budget when Assembly and Senate leaders finalized the budget with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Hopefully, that's a sign that Cuomo, Assembly leader Carl Heastie and Senate leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins came to their senses about just how much the prevailing wage legislation could hurt the state. Ideally, they'll leave the prevailing expansion in the trash bin where it belongs for the rest of the legislative session.
The New York Daily News on U.S. support for Saudi coalition forces in Yemen
Forty-six years after the passage of the War Powers Act, Congress is at long last exercising its legal authority, in fact its responsibility, to insist a president withdraw U.S. support for a horrific foreign conflict.
The House and Senate are right to slog through the muck and make a basic moral statement that America must not be a party to the brutal Saudi military campaign in Yemen, which has killed more than 5,000 civilians, with millions at risk of starvation.
Last August, Saudi coalition forces destroyed a school bus, killing 40 children and 11 others, using a U.S. bomb. In addition to arms, America has provided training, logistics and intelligence support.
If President Trump issues his second veto as expected, he will as never before take ownership for worsening a bloody Middle Eastern civil war. And he will make further mockery of his campaign pledge to sidestep unnecessary foreign entanglements.
We do not pretend the lines in the sand between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-supported Yemeni government can be cleanly drawn. Neither party is saintly. But we don't have to pick sides.
Direct U.S aid to the Saudi coalition, which began under the Obama presidency, has ratcheted up under Trump. Administration officials claim U.S. support helps minimize civilian casualties. They also say backing away would leave the field to Iran.
Those arguments are unpersuasive. A terrible conflict is raging. American authority would be far better spent calming, not fueling, hostilities.
The New York Post on Benjamin Netanyahu winning a fifth term as president
In winning a record fifth term Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a uniquely personal triumph.
With corruption scandals and a likely indictment dogging him, Netanyahu waged an intense campaign blitz that overwhelmed his opponents by stressing a hard-line national security policy.
Though Netanyahu's Likud party ran about even with its chief opposition, a centrist faction led by three former army chiefs of staff, it won more seats in the Knesset than it has ever held under his leadership.
More important, smaller right-wing and religious parties won enough seats to allow him to form a coalition with a comfortable majority.
Even voters who'd grown tired or leery of Netanyahu opted to give him yet another term, rather than trust an opponent untested in political office.
With peace and security dominating the race, Netanyahu had a formidable record on which to run: isolation of the Palestinian Authority, containment of the Hamas threat in Gaza and growing alliances, once unthinkable, with Arab states.
He also had a powerful and none-too-subtle ally in President Trump, who has taken great pains to strengthen the US-Israeli relationship that had become frayed under President Barack Obama.
On Bibi's watch, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US Embassy there, withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, endorsed Israeli control of the Golan Heights and officially designated Tehran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group.
All that no doubt weighed heavily with Israeli voters as Netanyahu took great pains himself to stress the close personal bond he has formed with the president.
And Trump was quick to declare that his upcoming Middle East peace plan has "a better chance now that Bibi has won." We'll see — Netanyahu sure owes Trump big-time.
He may yet find himself overwhelmed by ongoing legal troubles, but, for now, Netanyahu has won the mandate he was seeking.