Liz Benjamin

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Here and Now (Updated)

Thanks to messages of necessity issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for two bills, the Senate and Assembly both passed the $138 billion 2014-15 budget before the midnight deadline, which means New York has its fourth on-time budget in a row.

UPDATE: Cuomo will sign the budget at Red Room press conference at 9:15 a.m.

According to Cuomo, the state hasn’t delivered four on-time budgets under the same gubernatorial and legislative leadership in more than forty years – not since the days of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Assembly Speaker Perry Duryea, and Majority Leader Earl Brydges.

In a joint statement issued with the Senate co-leaders and Assembly speaker – the first of the end-of-budget whirlwind – Cuomo lauded the budget deal for maintaining the “fiscal discipline” that has characterized his tenure in office, and said it includes a “framework that will allow us to build a new New York.”

Of course, it is Cuomo’s fiscal discipline that so upsets the left, which was not at all happy with the finished product this year – not only because it didn’t include a robust public campaign finance system, but also due to tax cuts liberal advocates say will mostly help the wealthy.

The Senate is not going to return to Albany until April 23, even though it’s scheduled to remain at the Capitol through Wednesday. According to Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who spoke to me on CapTon last night, his house is planning to stick to its April schedule.

Happening today:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Albany to watch the budget pass, and presumably is still here. But he has so far issued no public schedule for today.

At 6:45 a.m., GOP gubernatorial candidate/Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will be a guest on Fox & Friends, Fox News Channel.

At 8:30 a.m., Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye details the authority’s capital plan at a New York Building Congress forum, Midtown Hilton, 1335 Ave. of the Americas, Manhattan.

Also at 8:30 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito distributes flyers about paid sick leave regulations, 116th Street and 3rd Avenue 6 train station, Manhattan.

Also at 8:30 a.m., the Long Island Association will host developer Bruce Ratner at its Melville HQ for a discussion with the region’s top business leaders on his redevelopment plans for the Nassau Coliseum, 300 Broadhollow Rd., Melville.

At 10:30 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on Fred Dicker: Live From the State Capitol, Talk 1300.

At 11 a.m., Astorino will be a guest on The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter, WCNY Radio.

Also at 11 a.m., New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) and State Legislators Against Illegal Guns (SLAIG) will hold a press conference to tout the SAFE Act and discuss additional efforts for gun control, Million Dollar Staircase, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., gun-rights activists rally against the SAFE Act, West Capitol Park, Albany.

Also at 11:30 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio tapes television interviews, Governor’s Room, City Hall.

At 1:30 p.m., Astorino will attend and address the Stand Up For Your Rights Rally. Also attending: Donald Trump and Carl Paladino.

At 1:45 p.m., de Blasio hosts a radio roundtable, Committee of the Whole room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 2:15 p.m., de Blasio hosts a City Hall media bureau chiefs roundtable, Committee of the Whole room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., de Blasio’s pre-taped interview with Errol Louis airs on “Inside City Hall,” NY1 Time Warner Cable News.

At 7:30 p.m., Astorino will attend and deliver remarks at the Queens County Conservative Committee Dinner, Roma View Caterers, 160-05 Cross Bay Blvd., Howard Beach.


The budget designates roughly $380 million to members of 1199 S.E.I.U. – one of the state’s most powerful unions, which has close ties to Cuomo – to help subsidize a salary increase for home health care workers.

Tom Precious: “The final spending plan is a classic election year grab bag of spending boosts and tax breaks, providing financial benefits for everyone from farmers and thoroughbred jockeys to bank holding companies, Medicaid health care providers and the estates of wealthy dead people.”

Good government watchdogs are disappointed Cuomo traded the life of the Moreland Commission for some – but not all – of the ethics and campaign finance reforms he sought from the Legislature.

Bill Hammond: “(T)he investigative commission gave Cuomo immense leverage to get what he wanted — and he gave it up for a half-a-loaf ethics deal that allows candidates, including himself, to go on exploiting a shameful fund-raising system.”

After largely failing to deliver on public campaign finance in the budget, Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein is now planning to make a post-budget push for a broader program.

A Cuomo administration source told the TU that the comptroller-only public finance pilot was based on DiNapoli’s own plan, introduced in 2007 and passed by the Assembly in 2011. DiNapoli opposes this new plan.

Markos Moulitsas: “Makes you wonder what the comptroller did to piss of Cuomo, as this appears to be a surgical strike intended to punish the guy.”

More >


Tenants PAC is prepared to back Oliver Koppell against IDC Leader Jeff Klein in a primary if the former councilman opts to run.

Moreland Commission co-chair/Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick says people “erroneously thought we were super cops,” urges anyone with tips to contact local prosecutors.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is a self-professed Red Sox Fan, was loudly booed before he threw out the first pitch at Citi Field’s Opening Day.

De Blasio appered unperturbed by the boos, saying: “I’m a sports fan and I think sports fans have a right to express themselves any way they want.”

On the eve of another anti-SAFE Act rally, the gun rights advocates are sniping at one another.

CNN has tapped POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman to serve as a political analyst, bolstering its political coverage ahead of the 2014 elections.

MetLife was hit with the largest New York fine against an insurer – $50 million – to settle allegations that its international operations sold insurance in the state to multinational companies without proper licensing.

Click here to see the RFAs approved by the Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board that will be required of casino operators and developers seeking a license.

New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness puts a new twist on Cuomo’s property tax “freeze.”

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams quietly introduced a bill requiring businesses with 10 or more employees working at least six months each to provide paid vacation days.

Coming off the heels of a colder-than-normal March, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center is poised to stay open deep into April and perhaps even May.

OGS RoAnn Destito confirmed she gave Homeland Security Commissioner Jerry Hauer a special “verbal” waiver to carry a handgun in state offices only as recently as January.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City has raised $333,243 for victims of the East Harlem gas explosion.

The state budget deal includes a tax credit for touring stage productions that hold their technical rehearsals in New York.

The state last year allocated $27.7 million for the implementation of a database and technology to support the SAFE Act, and $7 million has already been spent.

Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six.

The influential healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU has endorsed Lori Boozer in  the race to replace disgraced former Assemblyman William Boyland.

After blowing up last week at the DN’s Ken Lovett, Assembly Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper said she wants reporters confined to chairs at the front of the chamber.

Cuomo To Skip Nassau Dems’ Dinner Tonight

The legislative budget debate, which is expected to drag on into the night, is preventing Gov. Andrew Cuomo from attending a Democratic dinner in Nassau County where he was scheuled to co-headline a tribute to retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said he received a call from Cuomo aide Joe Percoco a little over an hour ago with the bad news. But Jacobs also received a heads up last night that the way things were shaping up at the Capitol, it was possible Cuomo would need to stay in Albany to make sure the budget vote went smoothly.

Jacobs and Cuomo have been at odds lately, thanks to the chairman’s call for the governor and his GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, to reject the Independence Party’s endorsement in hopes of starving it out of existence.

Astorino, who was unlikely to receive the party’s nod anyway, quickly heeded Jacobs’ call. But Cuomo has hedged, preferring instead to let Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano blast Jacobs at an unrelated Red Room press conference.

During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Jacobs, a former state Democratic Party chairman, insisted his difference of opinion with Cuomo on the Independence Party has nothing to do with the governor’s decision to skip tonight’s dinner.

“We knew going in when we picked this date that there was a distinct possibility that the governor would not be able to attend because budget wrangling would be going on in Albany,” Jacobs said. “And as I understand it, there is a lot of budget wrangling going on in Albany.”

Jacobs said Pelosi is still scheduled to attend the event, as are a number of McCarthy’s congressional colleagues, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Latimer: Astorino’s Kids Are ‘Political Props’

Sen. George Latimer, a Westchester County Democrat, has been deployed to respond to County Executive/GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s announcement this morning that he and his wife have decided to have his kids opt out of the upcoming Common Core exams to protest the controversial curriculum.

In a statement, Latimer, who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee, accused Astorino of sinking to a “new low” by “using his children as political props to make points that are pure fiction.”

“Mr. Astorino’s latest venture into the absurd includes blaming Bill Gates for the creation of Common Core standards and Governor Cuomo for implementing them,” Latimer continued. “We need to set the record straight.”

“Governor Cuomo has been a strong voice for parents and students in opposing the flawed implementation of common core. On this very day, the state is passing laws he proposed which eliminate all testing for kindergarten through second grade and negate common core test scores for all students.”

“This is the kind of strong leadership we need – not the type of attacks and stunts that puts political posturing ahead of public policy. Governor Cuomo deserves our thanks for his substantive vision and forceful leadership.”

Astorino has been hammering on the Common Core for some time, calling it yet another unfunded mandate handed down to local governments (in this case, the school districts) by the state. He has also said he would eradicate it completely if he’s elected governor in November.

The slam on Astorino for using his kids as “political props” seems unfair. It’s not as if he’s the first elected official to highlight family members to make a point during a political campaign. Actually, it’s a time-honored tradition to involve one’s children and spouse to demonstrate familial ties to the voters. In this case, the Astorinos are joining many other New York parents in opting their kids out of what they consider onerous and unfair testing.

McCain To Headline Zeldin Fundraiser

US Sen. John McCain will headline a fundraiser in support of state Sen. Lee Zeldin’s congressional run on April 22 in New York City.

Tickets to the event is being held at a private residence on E. 70th Street in Manhattan (which happens to be the building where Christopher Cox, son of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, is listed. Ed Cox and his wife, Tricia, are listed as hosts). Tickets start at $1,000 and run as high as $5,200.

McCain, a senior senator from Arizona and the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, endorsed Zeldin last October, saying his “service in the military, as a federal prosecutor and in state government demonstrate his deep commitment to advancing causes greater than his own self-interest.”

Zeldin is seeking the GOP nod to challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in November. He is being challenged for the GOP line by George Demos.

MoveOn Pressures Gibson, Grimm With Minimum Wage Poll

MoveOn today released a series of PPP polls of 13 “vulnerable” GOP House districts – including two in New York – that show a majority of voters in each support the idea of raising the federal minimum wage, which has been a top priority of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats.

The NY-19 poll, which appears below, shows 60 percent of Rep. Chris Gibson’s constituents support raising the hourly wage at the federal level from $7.25 to $10.10, while 36 percent are opposed and 4 don’t have a position.

Fourty-four percent said they would be less likely to vote for Gibson if he voted against raising the wage, while 27 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for him and 26 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference.

Gibson is facing a challenge from Democrat Sean Eldridge this fall. MoveOn members plan to demonstrate outside Gibson’s Cooperstown offices at noon tomorrow to demand he support an increase in the minimum wage also to deliver petition signatures from constituents.

Similar actions are scheduled outside the offices of every House member whose district was polled, including Gibson’s Republican colleague, Rep. Michael Grimm, in NY-11. Grimm is facing a challenge this fall from former Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia.

NY 19 Minimum Wage Polling Results by MoveOn_org

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

Both houses of the Legislature are scheduled to start voting on budget bills today, and it’s likely to be a late night/early morning. The constitutional budget deadline is midnight.

Cuomo might not be around to see the final budget bills get passed. He’s scheduled to co-headline the Nassau County Democratic Party’s spring dinner at 6 p.m. along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Crest Hollow Country Club, 8325 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury.

Another deadline: It’s the last day to enroll for coverage as required by the Affordable Care Act. More information here.

At 9:15 a.m., the Assembly Ways and Means Committee considers budget bills, Room 342, Capitol, Albany.

At 10 a.m., New York officials will unveil a commemorative item at a new Dunkin’ Donuts, 1st floor, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Joe Crowley holds press conference to announce legislation requiring a state to create strategies to address pedestrian safety in high-risk areas, 80th Street and Northern Boulevard, Queens.

At 11 a.m., Westchester County Executive/GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will make a “significant announcement” about education on his YouTube channel.

At noon, the Senate is in session.

At 1:06 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio throws the ceremonial first pitch at Opening Day, Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Queens. (This will be preceded by an 11:45 a.m. Q-and-A with reporters).

At 2:45 p.m., Rep. Charles Rangel and others attend a public briefing highlighting the Free File tax program at Frederick Douglass Academy, 2581 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., the New York Gaming Facility Location Board holds public meeting, Empire State Development Corporation, 37th floor conference room, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., Pelosi will hold a press availability following a roundtable discussion with leading local advocates for comprehensive immigration reform, hosted by SEIU Local 32BJ, 25 West 18th St., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Astorino attends Fordham University’s 13th annual Founder’s Award Dinner, Waldorf-Astoria, Manhattan.

Also at 6:30 p.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attend an East Harlem Building Collapse Relief Effort Fundraiser, Gran Piatto D’Oro Restaurant, 1429 5th Ave., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Grace Meng hosts Jewish and Korean-American Intercultural Dialogue forum, Queensborough Community College at the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, 222-05 56th Ave., Queens.


“This was the perfect election year budget. Everybody won,” said Larry Levy, executive dean at Hofstra University’s Center for Suburban Studies. “And the full bill doesn’t come due for years.”

Will all of the 2014-15 budget be passed on time? Given the fact that several bills wont’ be sufficiently aged for voting until after midnight, that’s an open question.

The NYT opines: “There are enough flaws in this deal that legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should take the time to get it right.”

Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the soon-to-be-defunct Moreland Commission, said that while outstanding subpoenas about lawmakers’ outside income will be nullified, the commission has evidence that it will be forwarding along to various prosecutors.

The budget deal requires AG Eric Schneiderman to cede control of cash obtained from settlements to the governor and legislature.

The results of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first state budget negotiation were mixed, with a victory on funding pre-k – though not the way he had proposed – and a significant setback in exercising dominion over charter schools.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Members of the Assembly and Senate will be back at the Capitol and behind closed doors tonight, conferencing the budget deal that was apparently reached some time Friday and made public yesterday.

Neither the Assembly nor the Senate is planning any votes today. The bills introduced before midnight Friday won’t be sufficiently aged for voting on until tomorrow.

The controversial education bill and a health and mental hygiene bill were introduced after midnight Friday, which means Gov. Andrew Cuomo will either have to issue a message of necessity to see them voted on before midnight tomorrow, or let those portions of the budget be slightly late.

This was one of the strangest budget deals I’ve seen in more than a decade of covering Albany. There was no joint press release. No Red Room dog-and-pony show. Just a conference call with reporters on which Cuomo reviewed what he considered the high points of the agreement.

One of the four men in the room – IDC Leader Jeff Klein – was even insisting that a key portion of the budget remains under negotiation, even though it was introduced along with the rest of the agreement.

Klein was referring to creation of a very limited public campaign finance system just for the state comptroller’s office – something Cuomo seems to consider a settled matter, given the Senate Republicans’ opposition to the entire idea of underwriting campaigns with tax dollars.

The left and good government organizations aren’t happy with the comptroller-only option. Neither, interestingly, is Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has been pushing for his office to be a pilot project for public financing for some time – just not like this.

The good government organizations also aren’t happy about Cuomo’s plan to dissolve the corruption-busting Moreland Commission in exchange for some reforms in the budget deal – beefing up enforcement at the state Board of Elections, strengthening district attorneys’ ability to prosecute bad behavior by elected officials.

In response, there has been a string of supportive statements from DAs who are members of Moreland, saying how important the reforms agreed to in the budget are. Here’s an example from DA Thomas Zugibe, of Rockland County:

“I am disappointed that we will not realize the recommended change from transactional immunity to use immunity when conducting Grand Jury investigations into public corruption.”

“However, the overall agreement reached by the Governor and legislature is a major step forward in the effort to clean up Albany by making state government more transparent, cleaning up our election system and establishing tougher consequences and enforcement tools to go after corrupt politicians.”

“I applaud the Governor for pushing these important reforms forward.”

In other budget news…

More >


A few headlines to peruse while we await a final budget deal…

“At about noon Friday, the Speaker was in his full Silver-poker-face mode.”

According to a statement from Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, the Flower City will receive in the budget $6 million in unrestricted aid for the first time since 2008. (No link).

Upstate and Long Island lawmakers are pushing for $100 million (not $40 million) in pre-K aid for districts outside the five boroughs.

Lawmakers say the budget deal will include about $300,000 to reopen the State Street main entrance of the LOB – the nine-story building that houses lawmakers.

The state budget will include $40 million to help local governments fix the many potholes that are left after a rough winter across New York.

Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly is joining ABC News as a consultant.

Max Young, the press secretary for Sen. Chuck Schumer, is leaving that post to work for a Rockefeller Foundation initiative.

Philip Eure, the head of Washington, D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, has been appointed the first inspector general of the NYPD.

Tesla Motors Inc. struck an agreement with Cuomo and the state’s car dealers that lets it keep five existing company-owned stores in New York as long as it doesn’t open more direct sale outlets here.

Sen. Joe Addabbo met recently with Cuomo to make the case for bringing back member items.

The New York Times has a new editor. More here.

Following the federal government’s lead, the New York health exchange has eased a Monday enrollment deadline for insurance coverage.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick will get national attention this Sunday when he appears on NBC’s Meet the Press.

David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has resigned from the bistate agency, Gov. Chris Christie announced today.

Two women who accuse ex-Assemblyman Vito Lopez of sexually harassing them on the job have refiled their lawsuit after a judge tossed it out earlier this month.

Next week, Democrats in Washington will have the option of voting for a “D.C. Ready for Hillary” slate of candidates running for party-leadership positions.

Paul Singer, a top Republican fund-raiser, gave more than $360,000 to the Coalition for Equal Opportunity in Education, which supports the push for an education investment tax credit.

The Buffalo Bills will hold a “celebration and remembrance” for late owner Ralph Wilson from 1-4 p.m. on April 5 in the team’s field house.

The state Attorney General’s office is trying to dismiss a pair of lawsuits that seek to force a decision on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York.

Several of Sen. Tony Avella’s staffers received plum pay raises after defected from the regular Democrats to join the IDC.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind is offering a “free shredding opportunity” for residents who want to get rid of “sensitive documents.”

The state Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board will put out requests for applications Monday for four privately owned casinos in three regions of the state.

AQE, NY Communities For Change Target Avella

AQE and NY Communities for Change are taking advantage in this (hopefully brief) break in the budget action to target the IDC’s newest member, Queens Democratic Sen. Tony Avella, accusing him of “selling out” on charter school co-locations.

Email blasts from the two liberal organizations note that Avella used to be an outspoken opponent of charters – and co-location in particular – and yet voted “yes” on the Senate one-house budget that education advocates say pushes more of the controversial co-locations and hikes state aid to charters at the expense of traditional public schools.

This is a disaster, but it would not be on the table if Senator Avella had not voted for it when the Republican led coalition included this plan in their budget bill,” AQE’s email, signed by its advocacy director Zakiyah Ansari. “Now, Avella has to step up and stop it from happening.”

“…Negotiations are intense, and the State Assembly leadership is fighting hard, but they need our help,” the email continues. “It is difficult when the charter school lobbyists have spent more than $5 million on a TV and radio advertising campaign. These same lobbyist are funneling campaign money into the Senate leadership coalition that Senator Avella has joined.”

Both emails encourage their recipients to email Avella and express their disappointment. New York Communities for Change is also robocalling in Avella’s district. According to AQE’s Billy Easton, some 500 emails have already been sent to Avella’s office since these blasts were sent less than an hour ago.

When the Senate one-house budget was passed, Avella said he had not changed his mind about either charter schools or co-locations, but wanted to vote “yes” because he believed the plan would result in more money for NYC schools overall.

“I am voting for this resolution because of the more than half a billion dollars in new funding it asks our state to deliver to non-charter New York City publics schools,” Avella said at the time. “Any legislator stubborn enough to turn down that type of windfall for New York City students and teachers is forgetting about the families who elected them here in the first place.”