Klein Sees Bipartisan Hope For Minimum Wage Increase

kleinwhitehouseIndependent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who traveled to the White House this week to meet with President Obama and a host of state lawmakers from around the country, said he is hopeful for a bipartisan agreement on the minimum wage as well as paid family leave.

Klein was at the White House for the conference of state legislators along with Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat.

“I’m very optimistic that we can get these things done,” he said after the conference on Wednesday. “We can do it in a bipartisan fashion like increasing the minimum wage, like making sure we have paid family leave. These things are extremely important.”

Klein and the five-member IDC played a key role when state lawmakers last agreed on a minimum wage increase. At the time, the IDC and the Senate Republicans shared power in a majority coalition when none of the conferences had a clear numeric advantage in the chamber. More >

Two IDC Proposals In Senate One-House Budget

The Republican-led Senate’s one-house budget resolution will include two jobs programs first proposed by the Independent Democratic Conference, according to a source familiar with the agreement.

The resolution will include both the Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund and the Community Jobs Program.

Both are proposals unveiled by the IDC and its leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein.

Including the programs in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution is more than a nod for IDC Leader Jeff Klein, who held the power of Senate co-president for two years and had veto power over which bills came to the floor for a vote.

After Republicans won a full majority in the Senate last year, Klein was stripped of much of that power.

But Klein is being kept close by the GOP conference, with rules being passed this year that require his breakaway faction to be consulted on issues facing the Senate. Klein is also included in the closed-door leaders meetings negotiating the state budget.

The Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund is aimed at creating 97,000 jobs. It would help fund long-term infrastructure and transit projects as well as help upgrade water and sewer system in need of repair.

Under that plan, the state could invest in projects for multiple years given that it seeks to maximize the amount of financeable infrastructure. Loans for the program range from $250,000 and $750 million.

Projects that would be eligible for funding under that loan fund include the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement and those projects under the direction of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Community Jobs Program, meanwhile, is aimed at creating 41,700 jobs and would require a one-time $1.5 billion allocation. Grants range from $50,000 to $10 million. The program would seek to bring those into the workforce who have had trouble finding jobs.

Those receiving grants under the program would have to demonstrate how they plan to hire long-term, unemployed people who are on public assistance or those entering the workforce for the first time.

In 2013, as Senate co-president, Klein was able to secure language in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution that wedged the door open to a minimum wage increase that was eventually approved.

Klein Releases New Deal-Inspired Jobs Plan

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Thursday released a jobs plan that he says is modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program.

The jobs package proposes using $5 billion in financial settlement funds for infrastructure projects with the creation of the Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund and the Community Jobs Program.

The creation of those funds is expecting to create 97,000 jobs and 40,000 jobs respectively.

“A New Deal for New York will help revitalize our crumbling infrastructure while providing a hand up for thousands of New Yorkers who want nothing more than the opportunity to work, save, and provide for their families,” Klein said in a statement. “This plan takes a page out of the Roosevelt era that helped lift millions of Americans out of the shadows during the Great Depression and modernizes it to meet the challenges of a 21st century workforce. We have the sufficient resources and labor at our disposal and I am confident this plan will have a positive ripple effect throughout our state for many years to come.”

Potential projects for funding under the programs include the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge as well construction in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Upstate Transit Authorities, local governments, state agencies and other public authorities.

Local water and sewer districts could also apply for upgrades to their system within the fund.

The $1.5 billion Community Jobs Program would provide job training opportunities while investing in projects like helping rebuild parks, libraries and other small-business development projects.

The IDC, Not Dead Yet

From the Morning Memo:

The Independent Democratic Conference may not wield the same influence they did in the 2013-14 legislative session, but they are not totally in the political wilderness.

On Thursday, the IDC made sure to trumpet their new committee chairs, which come despite Republicans holding a 33-seat majority.

The IDC will hold the gavel on the Banks, Ethics and Social Services committees in the Senate.

But in a little-noticed move, the IDC exerted his numbers in a tangible way this week.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the Senate approved the education tax credit, which provides a credit for those who make donations that help schools.

Republicans were down two members that day: Sens. Tom Libous and Bill Larkin, both listed as excused.

As such, the IDC, with its five members, would be providing the needed votes to pass the bill.

Ultimately, the situation turned a little hypothetical, considering Democrats in the mainline conference voted yes on the measure as well, which ultimately passed 44 to 16.

Still, when it comes to more contentious votes down the road in the session, the GOP will likely continue to need the IDC’s bloc of votes.

Senate-IDC Deal Floated With An Eye To 2016

A new power-sharing arrangement in the state Senate is being discussed that would last through the 2016 election cycle, giving Republicans a cushion against potential Democratic gains in a presidential election year.

The agreement, according to a source familiar with the discussions, would allow Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein to remain co-president of the chamber and include a handshake agreement that the coalition lasts through the 2016 elections.

The deal would allow Klein to retain the power to decide which bills come to the floor for a vote in the Senate and maintain his role in the state budget negotiations.

It has been widely speculated – and even publicly discussed by some current and former Senate GOP members – that Klein would have to give up some power now that the Republicans have won a clear 32-seat majority (plus the addition of Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder).

But under this deal being floated, in exchange for allowing Klein to retain most or all of the power he currently enjoys, the Senate Republicans would gain the insurance of having the five-member IDC to fall back on two years from now, when a presidential election is expected to cause an uptick in Democratic turnout and potentially put the GOP back into a numerical minority.

A source stressed the talks remain fluid and that the final details of a new coalition agreement are yet to be hammered down.

A spokeswoman for Klein declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos.

Earlier this week, Skelos said after a closed-door meeting with the Republican conference at the Capitol there is a willingness among his members to continue the coalition with the IDC in some form.

“There was a consensus that we would like to keep the coalition going and I will be having discussions with Senator Klein on how we move forward,” he said.

The proposal has its pitfalls for both sides.

Liberals would no doubt once again seek to oust Klein and his members in party primaries – especially given the stakes of the coalition potentially continuing through the next election cycle – even as Democrats eye Hillary Clinton’s likely run for president delivering down-ballot gains for them.

The Republicans would have to trust Klein to keep his end of the bargain should they suffer losses in the next election that puts them in the minority.

Klein in June agreed to form a new power-sharing coalition with mainline Democrats, but that deal was contingent on the party gaining enough seats to form a majority in the Senate.

Klein has insisted that agreement only went into effect when and if the regular Democrats managed to win enough seats to control the chamber, which they failed to do on Election Day.

Under this new arrangement, mainline Democrats would have to either use their resources to primary the IDC (primary challenges to Klein and IDC Sen. Tony Avella of Queens both failed this year) or win enough seats to make the the breakaway conference irrelevant.

Klein’s chance of retaining power would allow him to once again be a Democratic voice in policy making, meaning he would have to deliver some tangible results in order to stave off opposition on the left.

After being elevated to the Senate co-presidency in the last two-year cycle, Klein was able to have the state’s minimum wage increased over a phased-in period.

Nevertheless, Klein has come under criticism from liberals and other advocacy organizations for the Senate’s failure to pass measures aimed at strengthening abortion rights, the DREAM Act and the full public financing of political campaigns.

Klein has countered that the votes aren’t there in the chamber for either bills to pass, even with the IDC’s support.

Republicans would have to convince their reluctant supporters on the right that they are playing a long game by again empowering a group of Democrats in chamber in what amounts to an insurance policy against falling back into the minority.

More Labor Groups Back IDC

As the Independent Democratic Conference considers a new strategic alliance with the Senate Republicans in the coming legislative session, more labor groups are backing the five-member breakaway conference.

Last week, the IDC and its leader, Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, received the backing of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Klein and IDC were also backed by the Correction Officers Benevolent Association of the City of New York and the UFA.

Today, Klein and the IDC have received the backing of TWU Local 100, which represents transport workers.

“Since their creation in 2010, Senator Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference have been key supporters of the legislative objectives of the working men and women of Transport Workers Union Local 100,” said TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen. “As stakeholders in making sure that the New York State Senate is a functioning legislative body for the upcoming session, I stand behind Senator Klein’s efforts to make sure that the Independent Democratic Conference continues to provide results for Transit Workers and all the people of this state. The IDC brings a sensible, Democratic voice to governing New York State and TWU Local 100 embraces a renewed bipartisan coalition that would allow the concerns of the TWU to be addressed in a meaningful way.”

Klein told NY1 in Puerto Rico earlier this month that he hopes to continue some form of an association with the Senate Republicans, who won an outright majority on Election Day.

Klein and IDC allowed Republicans to retain power in the chamber over the last two years by forming a majority coalition in the Senate that elevated Klein to the role of co-president of the Senate.

The mover angered liberal advocate groups who pledged to run primary challenges to the IDC. Those efforts for the most part fizzled after Klein and Senate Democrats said they would form a new coalition after Election Day.

Those plans were scuttled, however, after Senate Republicans gained enough seats to form their own majority without the five-member conference.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos is not expected to give Klein the co-presidency of the chamber, but could keep Klein and his conference close, especially should any of his members leave in the middle of the legislative session.

Klein on IDC Coaliton: “I Hope That Continues”

From NY1’s Zack Fink, currently in San Juan, Puerto Rico covering the Somos el Futuro Conference

In an exclusive interview with Time Warner Cable News, Thursday, IDC Leader Jeff Klein said he’s hoping to continue the faction’s coalition with Republicans in the state senate, despite the outcome of Tuesday’s election. This comes as Republicans take a definitive majority in the state senate, regardless of any support the IDC may or may not end up providing to their caucus.

“I’ve had a great working relationship with Senator Skelos. I hope that continues. And I hope he agrees with me. That a coalition government was not only good over the last couple of years, but is something that works really, really well in the months and years ahead.”

Klein has been a pivotal player in Albany since the Independent Democratic Conference was formed in 2011. There are currently five Democrats sitting with the IDC, which may soon be expanded to six if Klein is able to convince newly elected State Senator Jesse Hamilton to join his ranks.

Republican Leader Dean Skelos said earlier this week in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom that he hasn’t made a decision to keep an agreement with the IDC yet, but says he’ll be meeting with Klein in the coming days to discuss their future.

That’s a complicated future after Klein has been met with criticism over spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-elect Senator Mark Grisanti, who lost his primary to Republican Kevin Stocker in September. Grisanti continued to run on the Independence Party line but ultimately lost that race to Democrat Marc Panepinto by less than 4 thousand votes. Klein blames that loss on the role of independent expenditures.

“Resources were not an issue. This was pretty even. You had the real estate industry. You had the charter school folks. But then you had the labor unions on the other end helping the Democrats. The amount of money spent in these independent expenditures was obscene.”

Panepinto was a wild card upstate compared to the three freshman democrats who lost their seats in the senate to Republican challengers. Some have suggested Governor Cuomo didn’t do enough to help members of his own party upstate, but Cuomo said in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom Thursday that his support, or lack thereof, had nothing to do with it.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they are finger pointing. I don’t think it was about that as I said. I think it was about a national phenomenon. We didn’t have any state energy that was driving anything.”

Without a majority in the state senate, progressive legislation will have fewer opportunities to make it to the governor’s desk, including bills like the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and the abortion plank to the Women’s Equality Agenda.

IDC Lawmakers Blast Teachout’s Debate With Astorino

Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t participate in this morning’s radio debate between his Democratic rival Zephyr Teachout and Republican opponent, Rob Astorino.

But that didn’t stop Cuomo’s surrogates today from criticizing Teachout’s participation in the forum on WNYC, suggesting that the event served only to raise Astorino’s profile and give a “platform” to his opinions.

Earlier, it was former Gov. David Paterson taking this line.

And this afternoon, two members of the Independent Democratic Conference — which broke away from the mainline conference and formed a majority coalition with Senate Republicans that essentially kept the GOP in power despite their numerical minority — took turns knocking Teachout for helping Astorino gain some exposure.

First, IDC Leader Jeff Klein — who faces a primary challenge of his own next week — knocked the debate.

“Why would any progressive Democrat give right-wing Republican Rob Astorino platform to broadcast his anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-worker views? This sad gimmick is backfiring because New Yorkers know a publicity stunt when they see one. If Zephyr Teachout actually cares about Democrats, she should stop doing debates that elevate an extreme conservative.”

Then, IDC Sen. Diane Savino issued a similar-sounding statement.

“Other than seeking another shameless media opportunity, what is the point of giving a platform for Republican Rob Astorino’s extreme agenda? More airtime for an anti-choice, anti-worker, anti-gay Republican is not what progressive New Yorkers are looking for.”

To be fair, the IDC has said it is dropping its coalition with the Senate Republicans after Election Day and forming a new coalition with the mainline conference.

And for institutional Democrats, the statements today are trying to make the point that Teachout shouldn’t be giving a Republican any oxygen, even if it helps her in the short term. Today also wasn’t the first time Teachout held an event with Astorino: The two appeared in a joint news conference to knock Cuomo’s record on ethics reform.

The coalition, though, still remains a sore point for many liberals who blame the IDC-GOP alliance for blocking or watering down a host of long-sought measures and Cuomo not forcefully pushing for a Democratic-controlled Senate.

In May, Cuomo announced he backed a full takeover of the Senate as he received the endorsement from the Working Families Party.

IDC PAC Mails For Kennedy Opponent

A mailer circulating in the 63rd Senate District paid for by the Independent Democratic Conference’s political action committee touts Democratic candidate Betty Jean Grant’s primary campaign against Sen. Tim Kennedy.

The mailer highlights this month’s endorsement of Grant by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, including a photo of the two shaking hands.

“Betty Jean Grant is the Senate I need in Albany,” the mailer quotes Poloncarz as saying.

The mailer isn’t the only sign of involvement for the IDC in western New York.

Campaign filings show the IDC’s PAC has contributed $25,000 to the Erie County Democratic housekeeping account.

The mailer comes after the five-member IDC and the mainline conference agreed to form a new coalition in the state Senate after Election Day, essentially ending the leadership pact between the breakaway Democrats and the Senate Republicans.

As a result, Democrats publicly said they would yank support from primary challengers, including Oliver Koppell, a former city councilman and attorney general, who faces IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

Similarly, Klein pulled support for Fernando Cabrera, who is challenging Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

Still, a number of proxy battles between the IDC and mainline conference continued on.

Sen. Liz Krueger contributed $3,500 to Koppell’s effort in July, as part of her continuation of support for him in that race.

Grant has not said whether she plans to join the IDC if she is elected to the state Senate.

The Grant-Kennedy primary has created a split in the Democratic party in Erie County and, as Capital reported this morning, the incumbent has the crucial backing the statewide teachers union in the race.

Klein Touts NYSUT Endorsement

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Friday touted his endorsement from the New York State United Teachers union.

“I’m honored to have the endorsement of NYSUT, whose membership works hard each and every day on everything from shaping young minds in our public schools to educating adults in our colleges and universities. I’m committed to being a voice for our educators in Albany,” Klein said in a statement released this afternoon.

Klein faces former city Councilman Oliver Koppell in a Democratic primary next month.

NYSUT announced its slate of endorsements in the Legislature this week, but declined to endorse in the race for governor.

“Those who earn endorsements are friends of public education and labor,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said. “Over the last two years, they earned our support by advocating effectively for our public schools, colleges and healthcare institutions; listening intently to the concerns and aspirations of our members, and voting consistently the right way.”