Despite Surplus, Megna Calls For Flat Spending At Agencies

Even though the state is running a multi-billion dollar surplus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top budget aide is calling on state agency chiefs to submit spending proposals that assume zero growth next year.

Megna writes in the letter that because of the one-shot nature of the cash infusion (the state is receiving the money from financial settlements with major banks), the spending can’t be used for recurring expenses.

“We expect that the current fiscal year will end with a record surplus due to four years of responsible fiscal management and a series of unbudgeted financial settlements reached with banks and insurance companies,” Megna wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by the Times Union’s Capitol Confidential blog. “These one-time revenues cannot be responsibly used for recurring expenses. The Executive is developing options for using the surplus prudently in ways that will improve the State’s financial standing and not increase expectations for future State spending.”

The state over the last four years has adopted budgets that do not increase spending year over year by more than 2 percent, a voluntary cap that Cuomo wants to keep.

Megna, in the letter, credited the prudent fiscal planning with the state’s credit rating upgrades.

“The progress we’ve made prompted all three major credit rating agencies to upgrade New York, and now each have the State one notch from their highest ratings,” he wrote.

Budgets from agency chiefs are due Oct. 21.

Cuomo has indicated that he will propose using the surplus on infrastructure upgrades, education and direct it toward helping local governments share services in order to reduce property taxes.

Extras

Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, is resigning in the wake of several security breaches, according to administration officials.

The New York Times plans to eliminate about 100 newsroom jobs, as well as a smaller number of positions from its editorial and business operations.

A close family friend of Rob Astorino is being paid $93,000 by Westchester County to help oversee the country executive’s security.

An NPR reporter doing a profile of NY-21 GOP candidate Elise Stefanik couldn’t find anyone in the candidate’s adopted town of Willsboro who knew her.

James Kemmerer, the Democrat challenging Brooklyn GOP Sen. Marty Golden, owes nearly $4,000 in past-due taxes, according to state records.

PEF President Susan Kent is not happy with the Times Union.

But Republican candidate Joe Dillon is out with an ad targeting Democratic Sen. George Latimer, a former assemblyman seeking a second term in November.

Sen. Ted O’Brien is blasting his GOP foe Richard Funke for skipping out on their first forum scheduled today in Irondequoit.

“It can seem, at times, like the Cuomo administration is doing battle with itself as it seeks to move New York State toward reliance on cleaner sources of energy.”

Kings County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio will appear on “The Good Wife” this Sunday.

Onondaga County Comptroller and state comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci reached a milestone in the first-ever attempt for a candidate to qualify for a match of public dollars. But he still has a long way to go.

Eastman Kodak Co. is cutting roughly 70 Rochester-area positions in its largest layoffs since it ended its Chapter 11 bankruptcy 12 months ago.

Kristin Davis, the former madam and candidate for governor and NYC comptroller, was sentenced to two years in jail after she pleaded guilty to illegally distributing prescription pills.

John Boehner is “confident” he’ll remain the top officer of 114th Congress, even though anti-Boehner sentiment is on the rise in the House.

Hillary Clinton is handily beating Gov. Chris Christie in his home state of New Jersey, according to a new Q poll.

Clinton hung out with Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins today.

New York’s maximum unemployment-benefits payment is rising to $420 a week, from $405, the first increase in 14 years. But we still lag behind New Jersey and Connecticut.

Budget Director Bob Megna has told state agencies that once again, budget surplus or not, they should adhere to a Zero Growth spending plan.

Former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn pointed to the daughters of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and AG Eric Schneiderman when asked to explain why 11 of the 17 candidates running on the new Women’s Equality Party line are men.

Cuomo announced the launch of the I LOVE NEW YORK Bus, a new year-round tourism initiative that offers transportation from New York City to destinations across the state.

Texas’ highest criminal court upheld a lower court’s ruling overturning former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s 2010 conviction for money laundering.

Nearly three months after Syracuse.com requested copies of concert contracts from the NYS Fair under the Freedom of Information Law, the state has yet to release them.

Last Night and What’s Ahead

Rob Astorino is pulling out the big guns, or maybe some of the only guns he has left, while one GOP lawmaker is asking his comrades to lend the Westchester County Executive a hand. Meanwhile, the future is in question for the state’s multi-billion dollar surplus and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Here’s highlights from last night and a look ahead to what’s coming up.

WATCH (NO LOG-IN REQUIRED):

WATCH:

Full Show – 10.01.14

Republican Round-up: Steve McLaughlin Interview

Surplus for Schools: NYSASBO’s Michael Borges Interview

The Insiders

Haber Qualifies For Women’s Equality Party Line

Democratic Senate candidate Adam Haber has qualified for the ballot line created to promote the Women’s Equality Agenda, his campaign on Wednesday announced.

Haber’s placement on the ballot line, known as the Women’s Equality Party, comes as Democratic Senate candidates and incumbents failed to qualify through the state’s petitioning process.

Several Democrats running in key races, including Sens. Ted O’Brien and Cecilia Tkaczyk, had the bulk of their petition signatures rejected.

“I am proud to have secured the Women’s Equality Party nomination because women’s equality is one of the most important issues in this election, and I believe I am the clear choice for proponents of women’s rights,” said Adam Haber. “I support the Women’s Equality Act and my opponent does not because of his extreme views on a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. I am proud to be on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line this November and I will be proud to be a leader in the fight for women’s equality in Albany.”

Haber faces Republican Sen. Jack Martins, a Nassau County lawmaker running in a battleground district that could decide control of the state Senate next year.

Martins has pointed to his support to aspects of the women’s agenda, including pay equity, but opposes a provision that is aimed at the codification of the Roe v. Wade decision in state law.

Both Martins and Haber have traded criticisms that the other is holding up passage of the women’s agenda in Albany.

Cuomo: Make 30 Percent Of Contracts MWBE

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants 30 percent of state contracts to be directed to certified minority and women-owned business, he announced at an event in Albany on Thursday.

Cuomo, addressing a MWBE Forum at a theater across the street from the Capitol, said the targets were needed, in part, because discrimination still exists in the workplace and in housing.

“It is illegal, my friends. We have to have the same strength in enforcing those laws as we do the criminal justice laws and the anti-drug laws,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo had initially set the state’s MWBE contract target at 20 percent, a goal reached last year.

“We have exceeded the goal of 20 percent and we have hit 25 percent of all contractors are MWBE contractors. That is $2 billion — the highest amount in the United States of America,” Cuomo said.

The state has about $8 billion in contractural spending.

Conservative Party Backs Redistricting Amendment

The state Conservative Party is supporting the amendment that would change the redistricting process for state legislative and congressional districts.

In a memorandum released on Wednesday, the party points to a number of features in the amendment that are aimed at making the process a fairer one, including prohibitions against drawing districts favoring a political party and blocking the Legislature from altering the redrawn map once it is submitted for a vote.

Still, the redistricting amendment is causing some controversy this election season.

Some good-government groups say the proposal does not go far enough in removing the process out of lawmakers’ hands, who in the past have been able to draw legislative boundaries with an eye toward protecting their majorities.

In particular, Common Cause has taken issue with the initial description of the process being “independent” in the ballot language before voters, considering lawmakers can appoint members to the redistricting commission.

The “independent” description was later removed from the ballot proposal.

Still, other good-government organizations like Citizens Union say the amendment represents the best possible safeguard against legislative meddling in the process.

The next round of redistricting is slated for 2022, based on the 2020 census.

Scarborough Raked In Per Diems Since 2009

Assemblyman Bill Scarborough, the Queens Democrat who now faces state and federal corruption charges stemming from misuse of campaign-finance funds and per diems, has consistently ranked among top earners when it comes to taxpayer-funded reimbursements.

According to the state comptroller’s office, Scarborough has received $196,929 in per diem funds from 2009 through 2014.

He received the second-highest amount of reimbursements in 2009 and 2010 and ranked first in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

This year, in which he has received $18,544, he is ranked 12th among his colleagues in the Senate and Assembly.

Federal prosecutors charge Scarborough filed for per diem money that he was not entitled to, either claiming he was in Albany when he wasn’t, or that he was in the Capitol for a shorter amount of time than claimed.

Scarborough is accused of receiving at least $40,000 in reimbursement cash that he should not have gotten.

Cuomo And Astorino Spar On Housing Settlement

Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized his Republican rival’s handling of a complicated federal housing settlement in Westchester County for not complying with a mandate from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Astorino’s campaign, in turn, called on Cuomo to apologize to Westchester families for not disagreeing with the federal assessment that zoning laws in the county are discriminatory.

The battle stems from Astorino’s opposition to a 2009 settlement reached with HUD before he took office as county executive. Astorino points to the agreement doing away with local control when it comes to land use, leading to $20 million in grants being withheld by the federal government.

“You look at the data and you look at the statistics I used to bring these cases as HUD secretary,” Cuuomo told reporters in Albany. “There’s a science to it, and they are saying that when you look at the numbers and the statistics, that Westchester County is violating the fair housing law. I believe today they took $5 million again for violating the Fair Housing Act, which is very, very serious.”

When the governor was pressed on whether he believes zoning laws in his community, New Castle, Westchester County, are discriminatory, Cuomo said he didn’t dispute the assessment made by HUD.

“I have no reason to disagree with the federal findings,” he said.

Astorino, in a statement, blasted Cuomo for making a “false and inflammatory charge” on the housing dispute.

“How dare Andrew Cuomo disparage Westchester families with a blatantly false and inflammatory charge like that,” Astorino said. “Andrew Cuomo owes the families of Westchester an immediate apology.”

Still, it’s likely the Cuomo campaign will keep up the criticism of Astorino over the housing issue.

The fight was the source of an early attack ad in May from the state Democratic Committee.

Earlier this afternoon, Democratic state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Mount Vernon held a news conference with reporters at the Capitol over the housing issue.

In Federal Indictment Scarborough Accused Of Misusing Reimbursement Money

The same day he was indicted on state-level charges of grand larceny and making false statements, Assemblyman Bill Scarborough on Wednesday was also indicted on federal charges of abusing reimbursement money.

Federal prosecutors allege Scarborough, a Queens Democrat, submitted 174 fraudulent per diem reimbursements between 2009 and the end of 2012.

According to the indictment, Scarborough received $40,000 more than legally entitled to during the three-year period, claiming that he was in Albany when he wasn’t or padding his time at the Capitol.

Records show Scarborough received $28,438 in reimbursements last year.

Scarborough’s offices in Albany and Queens were raided in March by the FBI. At the time, Scarborough denied any wrongdoing and acknowledged investigators were looking into his travel reimbursement.

The lawmaker was also indicted this morning on 23 counts of grand larceny and false statements stemming from misuse of his campaign finance account.

He becomes the third sitting state lawmaker to face federal charges. In the Senate, Sens. John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, are both under federal indictment.

241609796 Filed Indictment by Nick Reisman

Cuomo Says He’s Reaching Out To ‘Rockefeller Republicans’

As his campaign released a new TV ad featuring an endorsement from, literally, a Rockefeller Republican, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday he plans to reach out to moderates in the GOP.

“I’m reaching out to Democrats, but I’m going to campaign the way I govern,” Cuomo said. “I’m also reaching out to moderate Republicans because my politics, my governing philosophy was fiscally responsible and socially progressive. That is what the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers are.”

Cuomo has worked well with Republicans in Albany over the last four years, winning measures on socially liberal provisions such as same-sex marriage and gun control, while being able to limit spending and create a cap on local property tax increases.

“When it comes to fiscal issues, you look at the way we’ve managed this state, we managed it a way that any Republican would be proud,” he said.

The governor, meanwhile, has sought to inoculate himself against charges Democrats spend and tax too much.

“That is 70 percent of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “So, Mr. Rockefeller’s support as a Republican is very important to me.”

Rockefeller has also been a generous campaign contributor for Cuomo, and has attended “Republicans For Cuomo” events.

And he pointedly took a swipe at Republican candidate Rob Astorino’s own record in Westchester County.

“Westchester was downgraded,” Cuomo said. “We were upgraded.”

He batted away questions about Astorino’s proposal for across-the-board tax cuts made today before a business group in New York City.

“That’s what we’ve done,” Cuomo said during a back-and-forth with a reporter when asked about the Astorino proposal. “Every New Yorker is paying a lower tax rate than the day I took office that’s called an across-the-board tax cut.”

Cuomo’s tax code changes in 2011 came as a surcharge on certain high-income earners was due to expire at the end of the year.

Rather than continue the current rates, Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to changes that provided for high-income earners to not return to pre-2009 levels, essentially giving them a smaller tax cut than they were in line to receive had the state not acted.

The move helped cut into a budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. Cuomo’s office has previously referred to these changes as a tax increase.

His efforts to bring Republicans on board with his campaign comes after Cuomo faced a Democratic primary challenge from Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor who criticized the governor’s economic policies as favoring the rich.

Teachout, combined with comedian and activist Randy Credico, received about 40 percent of the vote in the primary.

Since the primary, Cuomo has sought to shore up his support among the business community, appearing in person at the state Business Council’s annual meeting to tout his record on property taxes and the state budget.

Still, Cuomo faces questions over his support from the labor-aligned Working Families Party. In May, Cuomo agreed to backing their agenda, including a faster phase-in of the state’s minimum wage, when receiving their endorsement.

Cuomo said Republicans can still vote for him on the Democratic line or the Women’s Equality Party line if they’re uncomfortable with the WFP.