Dec 12th - 11:00 pm
The leading Republican Candidate for New York Governor will be back on Carl Paladino’s turf next Wednesday. Rob Astorino will be a special guest of the Erie County Republican Committee at an annual Holiday Reception and fundraiser in Buffalo.
“He’s certainly a rising star in our party. He’s someone who I’ve urged strongly to take a look at this race for governor. I think he would make an excellent governor,” said Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Astorino, the current Westchester County Executive, has not officially declared his candidacy for governor but has long been rumored as the front-runner. This will be Astorino’s second visit to Western New York; he was in the area this past summer.
“This has kind of become where the race starts for Republican candidates statewide,” Langworthy said.
Governor Cuomo has certainly spent a lot of time focusing on Western New York, since Paladino swept the area in the 2010 Gubernatorial Election. Langworthy said Cuomo’s repeated visits to Western New York send a clear message.
“This governor isn’t here for his health. He’s here because he understands how critically important Western New York is to his overall opportunity to win re-election. I don’t believe he’s closed the sale with Western New Yorkers and Buffalonians despite his many attempts to spend our tax dollars on gimmicks that will win him favor with voters,” Langworthy said.
In 2010, Langworthy was one of the driving forces behind Paladino’s GOP Gubernatorial Primary win over Rick Lazio. Paladino has yet to embrace an Astorino candidacy and is still considering a run for governor on the Conservative Line.
“I believe Rob Astorino and Carl Paladino have a lot in common,” said Langworthy.
Paladino has said Astorino will not receive his support unless he calls for the removal of the current GOP leadership in both houses of the state legislature. Langworthy believes the two will be able to work out their differences.
“We’re only going to turn the corner when we can simplify New York’s Tax code and make this a more attractive place for businesses to go. And both Rob Astorino and Carl Paladino are champions of that cause. I believe in the weeks and months to come you’ll see the party come together and people work together to improve our chances to defeat this Governor,” Langworthy added.
When pressed about who he’d support if both Astorino and Paladino entered the race, Langworthy played it close to the vest: “I would not endorse a candidate who is not a declared candidate for the office.”
The Holiday Reception will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency. Tickets to the event cost $99 a person, $50 for committee members.
Dec 12th - 9:35 pm
For the first time in a long time, a budget plan passed the House with huge bipartisan support.
But three New York lawmakers were among the 94 members who voted “no”
Reps. Yvette Clarke, Louise Slaughter and Nydia Velazquez opposed the plan because it does not extend beefed up unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the year.
Slaughter, who is the ranking member on the Rules Committee, tried to get the extension added to the budget bill, but was blocked by Republicans.
“It is really appalling to me that we can fix anything here, but we can literally let children, veterans, people unable to work, the disabled, and the people who lost their jobs, that we can say to them, ‘it doesn’t matter here in the House of Representatives if you’re hungry, if you’re cold, if you’re going to lose the place that you live’” Slaughter said Thursday afternoon.
That sentiment was shared by Velazquez and Clarke.
“This is not the American way. We took care of the doctors, we took care of big farmers,” Velazquez said on the House floor. “At a time when the economy is still struggling in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, we should not be revoking needed economic assistance from job seekers while millions of Americans are fighting to get back to work.”
“Unfortunately, this proposed budget fails to fulfill our commitment to the millions of Americans who want to work, but cannot find a job,” Clarke said in a statement. “It is a cruel irony that, in the Holiday Season, millions of people will become ineligible for the unemployment benefits without which their families will become destitute, unable to afford even the basic necessities.”
House members are now at home for the holidays, which means they will not get around to unemployment insurance until January at the earliest. Without a benefits extension, unemployed New Yorkers will see their checks stop after 26 weeks instead of 63.
Dec 12th - 6:50 pm
In September, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed 2 out of 3 approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee New Jersey. Done without notification to local authorities, there has been suspicion that the closures were ordered by David Wildstein, an appointee of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, possibly as retribution to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich ( a Democrat ) for failing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.
First a little background. Wildstein went to high school in Livingston, NJ with Christie. For years he wrote a political insider column for Politickernj under the pseudonym “Wally Edge” ( Walter Edge was a Republican Governor of New Jersey who served two non-consecutive terms during World Wars I and II. I know very clever name, right? ) No one knew who Wally Edge was until he revealed himself as Wildstein in 2010, after Christie was 6 months into his first term. Yes, Wildstein had them all fooled even though he doled out inside information and scoops better than anybody. He also had a reputation as a bit of a trickster. In essence, he was New Jersey’s Roger Stone.
Last week Wildstein resigned from his position at the Port Authority where he served under Bill Baroni who is Christie’s top guy at the bi-state agency. Baroni was a former Republican Senator from the crucial suburban swing district of Hamilton County New Jersey. A seat it became increasingly clear he would have trouble retaining, which is why Baroni and the newly out-in-the-open Wildstein welcomed their new assignments from Christie at The Port Authority. Baroni is the front man, Wildtsein was the muscle.
Well, it turns out it WAS Wildstein who ordered the lane closures, according to Democratic sources in New Jersey. And Cuomo’s appointee Pat Foye is reportedly on the warpath to get to the bottom of it. John Wisniewski, the powerful Democratic chair of the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee ( Transportation Committees are considered very powerful in New Jersey because it’s a corridor state which is obsessed with moving people and products ) has already held two hearings on this matter. The first was in November when Baroni backed up Wildstein’s claim that the lane closures were part of a “traffic study.” It seems evident from Wildstein’s resignation that there was no traffic study. On Monday, the committee held a second hearing lasting 6 hours where Foye testified as much. ( New Jersey actually has committee hearings that are well publicized and open to the public for testimony, it’s a really novel concept that hasn’t landed in the great city of Albany as of yet ).
This morning Susan Arbetter asked Cuomo about the flap, and he said,
This is more of a New Jersey issue. The New Jersey legislature had a hearing or maybe a series of hearings on it, and I don’t know anything more than basically what has been in the newspapers. This is basically a New Jersey issue.
But shortly after the interview, The Wall Street Journal reported that actually, Christie and Cuomo spoke about this issue,
Cries for Baroni’s resignation have gotten louder, especially now that his testimony before the committee was contradicted ( although technically he was INVITED to speak and was not under oath ). Today, Wisniewski issued new subpoenas primarily for emails and other documents. The Port Authority has until December 19th to comply. The committee’s subpoena power only lasts until the New Legislature is sworn in in January, so you can bet they are going to push this issue for the remainder of the normally quiet month of December.
So where has the New York Legislature been on this? You mean, besides asleep??? Well, this week Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assemblymember Gabriela Rosa and NYC Council member Ydanis Rodriguez called for Baroni’s resignation as well. We’ll see if Cuomo does.
Dec 12th - 5:23 pm
The Cuomo and Obama administrations are at odds over New York’s multibillion dollar Medicaid waiver request.
Because of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s slow pace of appointments, the majority of the M.T.A.’s board now consists of members with expired terms who can be dismissed at any time.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Cuomo this week to complain about a Cuomo appointee’s handling of a growing controversy over traffic pattern changes on the George Washington Bridge.
Mayor Bloomberg pledged to “devote extensive resources of my own” to continue fitghting for gun control after he leaves office.
Hundreds of high-volume gun sellers are moving arms online without conducting proper background checks on purchasers, according to a probe conducted by Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher says more than 1,100 companies have inquired about setting up shop within tax-free zones on college campuses.
EJ McMahon deems Cuomo’s regional economic development grants “the sort of thing that Albany has been doling out piecemeal for decades now.”
Bill Hyers, who managed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s first successful congressional campaign and steered Bill de Blasio to victory in the New York City mayor’s race, has a new job.
Thanks for the shout-out/free advertising, Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.
“Why Wall Street Hearts Hillary.”
The state Board of Elections pushed back against criticism from the Moreland Commission – and DAs, specifically – of its campaign finance enforcement efforts (or lack thereof).
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. still lacks confidence in the Buffalo school district is capable of turning around it’s struggling schools.
A report revealed by Wikileaks found New York’s anti-fracking movement started with a series of ProPublica articles published in the TU in 2008.
De Blasio picked Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, who worked for three mayors - Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Bloomberg - as his deputy mayor of Health and Human Services.
Rochester and Syracuse will get $1 million each to help low-income residents improve the safety and energy efficieny of their homes, the AG’s office announced.
President Obama and VP Joe Biden do not exchange Christmas gifts.
The Long Island political winners and losers, according to George Martin.
Dec 12th - 4:19 pm
Dutchess County Comptroller Jim Coughlan formally entered the race for the 41st Senate district, a seat held by freshman Democratic Sen. Terry Gipson.
“Over the past four years as Comptroller, I have seen firsthand how Albany’s midnight laws and out of control state mandates are driving up taxes, killing jobs and undermining our quality of life. I’m running for Senate to ensure my family and yours can stay, work and thrive here in the Hudson Valley,” Coughlan said in a statement.
Republicans have eyed the district in mid-Hudson Valley ever since Gipson narrowly ousted Republican Sen. Stephen Saland last year.
Saland, one of four Republican lawmakers in the Senate to approve the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011, beat back a challenge for the Republican line from Neil DiCarlo.
But DiCarlo would go on to take the Conservative Party ballot spot from Saland, and was able to siphon enough votes away from the longtime incumbent for pave the way for Gipson to win.
At least four Republicans, including the 46-year-old Coughlan, are seeking the Republican nomination to take on Gipson, in what is expected to be one of the battleground races for control of the Senate next year.
Update: Worth noting that Gipson’s bailiwick has been pushing reform measures designed to restrict late-night voting, which Coughlan here is making an issue out of in his statement.
Dec 12th - 2:38 pm
As expected, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe on Thursday designated the fourth Tuesday in June as the date to hold Congressional primaries in New York.
The designation was done to comply with the federal MOVE Act, a measure that requires military and overseas voters have timely access to absentee ballots.
But the designation of the June primary by Sharpe only applies to elections on the federal level.
State lawmakers in 2012 were not able to come to an agreement on a primary date, and Sharpe designated the fourth Tuesday in June as the day to hold primaries for House races and the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
Democrats had pushed for a June date as well, while Republicans in the Senate backed an August primary that they say would have given them more time to collect petition signatures.
When taking into account the Republican presidential primary in April, the resulting impasse creating a third primary date for state and local races, which defaulted to Sept. 13 (state lawmakers could agree on moving the primary date from the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to the Thursday of that week).
Once again, Assembly Democrats are pushing a bill that would create a June primary for state races as well; it remains unclear if the measure will be approved by the Senate.
(h/t to Jimmy Vilekind at Capital for flagging this).
Dec 12th - 2:21 pm
A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled to much fanfare more than $715 million in economic development grants to 10 different regions of the state, Assembly lawmakers at a hearing raised issues with not having enough input in the process.
“Do you plan to include lawmakers more in the information stream? Because I have not seen that,” Democratic Queens Assemblyman Bill Scarborough asked Empire State Development Corp. President Ken Adams.
Of course, the traditional argument for “member items” — derided as pork-barrel spending for favored causes — is that individually elected legislators know their districts best, and where to spend the money that’s needed the most.
After the hearing, Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, said the concerns about being included more in doling out the regional economic development grants does stem from the lack of new member items for the last five years, a spigot that was first cut off by Gov. David Paterson.
“I think that’s part of it,” Schimminger said. “Member items, call them what you may, think of them what you may, nevertheless were a venue by which rank-and-file members could direct funding to projects. When you look through many of the projects that have been funded by regional councils — at least when I look through them — I see projects that would have been funded anyway by a member item or a delegation item process.”
He pointed to the funding for projects like upgrades to the polar bear habitat at the Buffalo Zoo as a grant that would likely have been attached with a lawmaker’s name to, but is not funneled through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
“What’s going on here is the process that once existed in previous administrations of legislative involvement and advocacy with agencies for funding for projects in their districts, even state legislative direct funding through the budget process is now changed, it’s different,” Schimminger said. “These regional councils created by order of the governor have become a universe unto themselves.”
Schimminger does sit on the western New York regional economic development council. Statewide, the councils include a member of the Senate and the Assembly that provide input.
Nevertheless, rank-and-file legislators are feeling left out.
“There is a concern by legislators that they’re not as fully integrated into the regional council process as they might be,” Schimminger said.
Indeed, lawmakers who once were able to present a novelty over-sized check to the district recipient of a member item are now issuing press releases touting the grant money coming from the regional councils.
Republican Assemblyman Mark Johns feted the $59.8 million for the Finger Lakes region, singling out projects such as an $80,000 marketing campaign for the Erie Canal trail and operational skills training at Coopervision, Inc. for $53,974.
“I am pleased to see these local projects receive nearly $334,000 from the Economic Development Council,” Johns said in a statement. “This funding will help create and retain jobs and improve the quality of life for residents in the 135th Assembly District.”
Democratic Sen. Terry Gipson similarly lauded projects going to Bard College and Dia Art Foundation.
“From day one of this process, my staff and I have been working to ensure that Dutchess and Putnam received serious consideration as an important economic driver in our region,” Gipson said. “I remain committed to advocating for smart investments focused on job creation and community development.”
In an interview after the hearing in Albany, Adams said lawmakers have a “formal role” in the grant selection process. And unlike the old member item system, the regional economic development grants are set up to be competitive.
At the same time, he said lawmakers remain “quite influential” forces on the regional councils.
“It’s a new system for distributing economic development resources all across the state and it’s really our responsibility at ESD to make sure members of the Legislature engage their constituents as much as possible and do that outreach at the local level,” Adams said.
At the same time, Adams said “more outreach” will be directed at lawmakers for the next round of competitive funding in 2014.
“We need to partner with them and we’ll do more outreach in the new year with them for round four next year,” he said.
Dec 12th - 1:49 pm
After rolling out his personal housing plans, NYC’s incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking a quick trip. He’s headed Friday to the White House for a meeting with President Obama.
Several other mayors and mayors-elect are expected to be there, too, including Lovely Warren, who is taking over the helm of Rochester. Per the White house the meeting is “to discuss the ways in which the Obama Administration can serve as an active partner on job creation and ensuring middle class families have a pathway to opportunity.”
Meanwhile, de Blasio is rounding out his team. As we first reported, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli will be deputy mayor for Health and Human Services. A longtime government official, Barrios-Paoli is Mayor Bloomberg’s Aging Commissioner, known for some innovative ideas — like starting a senior center geared towards those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered.
In 1997, she was famously ousted from the Giuliani administration for apparently criticizing his team too openly.
Dec 12th - 1:36 pm
As the fallout in New York over the Common Core implementation continues, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan on Thursday announced he was recommending in a report to the state Education Department plans to support legislation that would address “unnecessary/over-testing” of students.
Flanagan in a statement said the report will also recommend budget proposals to increase aid for professional development and accountability measures in that would address student testing as well as privacy concerns raised by the Education Data Portal.
“Regardless of where you live, all parents want the same thing for their children – a good education,” stated Senator Flanagan. “Our State’s most basic obligation is to make sure all students are given the best chance at success in school and life. Setting rigorous academic standards to ensure that all students are college and career ready should always be an important goal. However, it must balanced by a fair and even implementation of those new standards to allow our children to adjust and adapt appropriately. The recommendations contained within this report are a good first step in taken corrective action on the problems associated with implementing new state learning standards.”
The report comes after a series of public hearings on the Common Core implementation and after Education Commissioner John King received harsh critiques of how the new standards were being implemented at town-hall forums around the state.
The report, which was forwarded to state education officials, was received as a good “starting point” by the state teachers union NYSUT.
“Clearly, the voices of students, parents and educators are being heard,” said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi in a statement. “The rising anger and frustration in communities and schools resulting from a rushed and poor implementation plan, misguided timing and obsession with testing must now be addressed through significant policy changes, a stronger state investment and acknowledgement that the major course corrections that are necessary will take additional time. New York state must pause, approve a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences from testing, and put real energy into getting it right – for the sake of our students, educators and communities.”
Dec 12th - 1:13 pm
A $2 billion surplus is possible should the state stick to a 2 percent spending cap in the upcoming budget due to be approved by April 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a radio interview on Thursday.
Cuomo, who plans to push for a tax cut next year, has said in the past that there is an “essence of a surplus” in the upcoming budget.
But in an interview with WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo pegged that surplus for the first time at the estimated $2 billion figure.
A tax commission co-led by former Gov. George Pataki and ex-Comptroller Carl McCall recommended about $2 billion in cuts over the next several years, including a two-year property tax freeze.
“There will be about a two billion dollar surplus. If you don’t stick to the 2 percent, the surplus won’t exist,” Cuomo said.
The last three state budgets have stuck to a voluntary 2 percent cap on spending increases. The state Division of Budget projects a $1.74 billion deficit if planned spending increases take effect.
Cuomo also brushed off questions as to whether the extra money should be used to provide more funding for areas like education, which is sure to be pushed for by lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.
The governor insisted education spending — one of the costliest items the state pays for next to health care — will be increasing anyway.
“In that 2 percent you would probably have about a 4 percent increase in education funding,” Cuomo said. “Four percent in this environment is a lot of money. Nothing is going up 4 percent.”
He also pushed back against the criticism from the right and the left on the tax commission report, saying the issue is polarizing for interest groups who either want deeper cuts for businesses or increases in taxes on the wealthy.
“When you say taxes it is binary. You have people who always want to raise taxes, people who always want to lower taxes,” Cuomo said. “It’s Yankees or Boston Red Sox. You get strong opinions and they won’t change.”
He added, “We want to be smart and wise and prudent and we would be investing. We have also learned in this state that more money does not necessarily mean more help for everyone.”