Lanza Says He Wants A ‘Fair’ Congestion Plan That Doesn’t Punish Staten Island

Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza is concerned a proposed congestion pricing plan for New York City would punish Staten Island residents, saying Wednesday in an interview it’s “insulting and ridiculous” to charge drivers coming into Manhattan to work.

“If we’re going to address the traffic and do a congestion pricing scheme, it’s got to be fair and not punish the people from the outer boroughs,” Lanza said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a broad brush outline on Tuesday in his budget address for a congestion pricing plan that would likely place a fee in “zones” around New York City and not add more to bridge tolls. Cuomo is reviving the congestion pricing idea as a way to bolster mass transit in New York City and the ailing subway system as well as reduce traffic.

More details are expected this week from a commission set up to study the issue.

Lanza, however, supports the opposite of equalizing tolls on bridges around the city, which he is a fairer solution.

“I’ll support anything that’s fair, but what I’m hearing in terms of proposals across the aisle is not fair,” Lanza said. “Any scheme that punishes the people of Staten Island who commute into Manhattan to work to add cost to that is something I reject and will fight against.”

Flanagan Says Klein Probe Not Within Senate’s Purview

An investigation into the allegation facing Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein does not fall within the jurisdiction of the state Senate, Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan said in a statement Thursday.

“At this point, this is an allegation in which no formal complaint was ever made. While it may be within the scope of other entities, an investigation into this matter is not within the jurisdiction of the Senate,” Flanagan said in a statement.

Klein, who has been a coalition with Senate Republicans, is accused of forcibly kissing a then-staffer outside of a bar in Albany in 2015. Klein has denied the incident took place, telling reporters on Wednesday he would welcome an investigation into the matter.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have both called for independent investigations into the allegation.

The Senate Ethics Committee includes several members of Klein’s IDC bloc, including Sens. David Valesky, Diane Savino and David Carlucci. All IDC members have publicly backed Klein after the on-the-record allegation by the former staffer, Erica Vladimer, was reported.

The allegation also comes as Klein and mainline Senate Democrats have agreed to a unity deal meant to give the party a working majority in the state Senate after two vacancies in the chamber are filled by special election this spring.

Flanagan in his statement complimented Klein and said harassment claims need to be taken seriously.

“I know Senator Klein to be a good and decent person who treats others with respect,” Flangan said. “We take every allegation of sexual harassment seriously and will continue to encourage everyone to come forward. In the meantime, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the policies and procedures in place are best serving our members and our staff, and fostering a safe workplace.”

Schorr Launches Bid For SD-37

Former Yonkers Inspector General Dan Schorr on Thursday announced his bid for the 37th Senate district in Westchester County, a seat that is at the center of a fight over control for the chamber.

Schorr, a Republican, would be vying for the nomination against attorney Sarmad Khojasteh. Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer on Tuesday clinched her party’s nomination for the seat vacated this month by Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

“I’m running for the state senate to take on the rampant corruption in Albany and the fiscal mismanagement that has produced a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and the highest taxes in the nation,” Schorr said.

“My background both in the private sector and as a sex crimes prosecutor and inspector general makes me uniquely qualified to deliver on the real reforms we desperately need in Albany. It’s time to stop electing the same career politicians hoping for a different result.”

In addition to his work as the inspector general of Yonkers, Schorr has served as a Westchester County assistant district attorney.

He is currently a managing director at Kroll.

Faso Says Top Of GOP Ticket ‘Definitely A Problem’

Republican Rep. John Faso acknowledged on Wednesday in a radio interview Republicans need to field a strong top of the ticket to run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo later this year, saying it is “definitely a problem” that the field is comparatively weak.

For now, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and ex-Erie County Executive Joel Giambra are the only declared candidates in the race. Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco is also considering whether to run. They have little name recognition and will almost certainly be vastly outspent by Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

“This is definitely a problem,” he told Fred Dicker on “Focus On The State Capitol.”

Faso knows what he’s talking about. In 2006, the then-former minority leader ran an unsuccessful bid for governor against the odds-on favorite, Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“I raised about $5 million and got crushed. Spitzer spent $37 million,” Faso said in the interview. “One of the reasons I ran was he was temperamentally unsuited to be governor, but if you don’t have the money, it’s very difficult to be heard.”

But at the same time, Faso said he’s not concerned about the impact of running down ballot this year and the impact of a potentially weak candidate running for governor. Faso is running for a second term in a Hudson Valley congressional district that Democrats are once again targeting this year as a battleground seat.

“I’m really not that concerned about that issue right now,” Faso said. “People around the 19th congressional district and around the state are smart enough to make their own choices.”

He added he wants a strong Republican nominee to run for governor, but is also counting on voters to potentially cross party lines this fall and back him.

“It’s vitally important, but I’m less important about its prospects or impact on a candidate for Congress like me,” he said.

GOP Advocacy Group Releases Digital Ads After Tax Law Approved

From the Morning Memo:

Two of the House Republicans in New York who backed the December tax legislation in Congress are receiving support from a GOP-aligned advocacy group that is spending millions to trumpet the plan.

The two digital ads from the American Action Network are part of a $1.5 million campaign for the next two weeks backing the law. The ads in New York will be aimed at the districts of Reps. Claudia Tenney and John Katko.

Both lawmakers are considered two of the more vulnerable lawmakers for Republicans this year in upstate New York.

“All across the country hardworking Americans are feeling the effects of pro-growth tax reform as companies announce bonuses and wage increases,” said Corry Bliss, AAN Executive Director. “Real results for real workers means that for a typical family of four this new tax code will provide a tax cut upward of $2,000. AAN is committed to spreading the winning message of pro-growth tax reform in the months ahead.”

All told, the group is spending $10 million on a broader effort to boost the plan and lawmakers who supported it.

An example of one of the ads can be viewed here.

The ads come as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he will push for workarounds to the law’s capping of state and local tax deductions at $10,000 — a move he has said is crippling to the state’s taxpayers.

One proposal may be to replace the state’s personal income tax with a payroll tax. Cuomo may also seek changes to charitable deductions; a similar move is underway in California.

Flanagan Sours On Payroll Tax

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday signaled his conference was opposed to the adoption of a statewide payroll tax, a move Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week suggested was a potential way of working around the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions contained in the federal tax law.

“I don’t like the payroll tax at all,” Flanagan said at a news conference unveiling his conference’s 2018 tax cut proposals. “I haven’t met one of my colleagues who likes the payroll tax.”

Flanagan and the Senate GOP unveiled a package of tax cuts that would reduce energy and utility taxes and strengthen property tax rebates for older homeowners. It’s not clear how Flanagan intends to pay for these cuts amid a $4 billion deficit.

At the same time, Flanagan is renewing calls to cap property taxes

“We actually believe the more you create jobs, the more it alleviates those concerns,” Flanagan said. “I think we can pay for these by doing things the right way.”

Cuomo is expected to unveil his own budget proposal by the end of the month that could include more details on his plan to restructure the state’s tax code. Currently the state receives most of its revenue from the personal income tax. Cuomo has suggested the state would shift to a payroll tax structure in response to a federal tax law that he has decried as unfairly impacting high tax states like New York.

The budget contours in the new legislative session are tricky. Lawmakers, including Flanagan, are insisting money for schools and health care — the two most expensive items in the state’s spending plan.

Flanagan, also, was optimistic more revenue would come in from the state’s financial sector and boost revenue.

“We’re going to continue to make investments in education and health care and I’m almost confident that Wall Street doing as well as it is,” he said, “we’re going to see enhanced revenues in the state of New York.”

DeFran: No Panic Over Finding A GOP Nominee

Sen. John DeFrancisco insisted Monday there was no panic over finding a Republican to run for governor this year against incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo and that there is “plenty of time” to find the right nominee.

Republican efforts to recruit a candidate took a blow in recent days after businessman Harry Wilson declined to run, as did Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

At the moment, the only declared Republicans in the race are Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and ex-Erie County Executive Joel Giambra.

Republican committee leaders met in Albany at the Fort Orange Club to discuss the slate of candidates to runs this fall. Republican Chairman Ed Cox emerged to tell reporters Monday that GOP leaders have decided to forgo a primary and back a single candidate.

But the trouble in finding a competitive candidate has unnerved some Republicans, who publicly insist Cuomo is vulnerable, given upcoming corruption trials this year, including one involving his former close aide, Joe Percoco.

“I don’t think there’s a panic,” DeFrancisco said. “I’d be foolish to say if there was a panic if I’m one of the people placing my name out there for consideration. It’s no secret that people were thinking Harry Wilson was going to carry on and be the candidate.”

DeFrancisco said he is still deciding whether to run, weighing fundraising and competition.

A lawmaker from Syracuse, DeFrancisco has sparred publicly with the governor and came up short in the leadership battle for majority leader against Long Island Sen. John Flanagan.

“There’s plenty of time to get something together and get a good candidate together,” he said. “Based on what’s happening, I believe the state of New York is looking for new leadership.”

GOP Chair Seeks Pataki-esque Gubernatorial Candidate

From the Morning Memo:

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox is putting a priority on competence over charisma when it comes to selecting a candidate to take on Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this fall.

When I suggested during a CapTon interview earlier this week that the Republicans need to fine someone outside the box to run – someone like a brash, rich, former real estate developer-turned-reality TV star who beat the odds and made it to the White House – Cox replied:

“You really want me to have a disaster as a candidate, don’t you? I want to have someone who everyone will say: this guy can be governor…somebody who knows how government works. I don’t want splash. I want substance. I want a substantive governor, who, along with a majority in the state Senate, who can take this state in the direction it needs to go.”

Recall that Cox wasn’t exactly a full throated Donald Trump supporter back in the day, and definitely wasn’t part of the push led by Western New York GOP elected officials to get Trump to run for governor.

And Cox saw his party get burned by made-as-hell Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, who won an upset GOP primary victory to land the line against then-AG Cuomo in 2010. Paladino lost big in the general election, though he performed well in his home region of WNY, which led Cuomo to lavish attention on the area – particularly Buffalo – for years to come.

When I suggested Cuomo is going to spend big money trying to tie his Republican opponent to the unpopular president, Cox retorted: “It’s not going to work. It’s going to be about him. People will understand.”

The chairman suggested Cuomo is going to be “haunted by the ghost of Christie past,” invoking the former Republican governor of New Jersey who was implicated – but never charged – in the infamous Bridgegate scandal. Christie’s aides took the fall for that mess, and he paid a political price, seeing his presidential aspirations go down the tubes.

Cuomo will have a similar experience once the Buffalo Billion corruption trials – particularly that of his longtime former aide, Joe Percoco – get underway, Cox predicted.

Cox is continuing to insist that the GOP has time to coalesce around a candidate, even though the governor is sitting on a massive campaign was chest – we’ll find out exactly how big of a haul he has managed to amass later this month.

And, the chairman – as many underdog Republicans have before him – likes to remind everyone that a little-known state senator named Pataki came out of nowhere back in 1994 and defeated the liberal lion, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in a major upset victory.

Just like that race was a referendum on Cuomo-the-elder – an ABC, or “anybody but Cuomo” situation that developed when the then-incumbent decided to seek a fourth term – Cox insists that this fall will be more about the current occupant of the executive mansion that whoever the GOP selects to challenge him.

“When you’ve been governor for two terms, when your party has been in the governorship for three terms, it’s a question of your record, it’s a referendum of you,” the chairman said.

“What we need to put up is someone like George Pataki. Who people have to look and say: Yeah he could be governor, now let’s look at what the governor has done. Hey! We need to replace this guy. He’s not doing a good job for the people of this state.”

After losing the GOP’s top contender, Harry Wilson, Cox specifically mentioned Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who went on not 24 hours later to announce he’s no longer considering a run; Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco; and – with a little prodding – Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

He didn’t name former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, a Democrat-turned-Republican who is trying to sell party leaders on this moderate brand of politics, and formally announced his campaign yesterday.

Paladino Still Considering Run for Governor But No Decision Imminent

From the Morning Memo:

As New York Republicans try to figure out who exactly will represent them in challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo this year, one notable name has seemingly fallen on the back-burner. The party’s 2010 candidate Carl Paladino said he is actually still considering a campaign but no decision is imminent.

Paladino’s statement comes as two of the front-runners for the nomination both withdrew their name from consideration this week. First it was Westchester County businessman Harry Wilson, who said he preferred to commit his time to his family rather than a bid and perhaps a busy first year in office.

Thursday, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro bowed out of the race. He said it was not the right time to seek the governorship.

Paladino said he understood both the decisions blaming the state party leadership – a regular target of his since 2010 when they initially endorsed Rick Lazio instead of him.

“The Republican state party is in shambles,” he said. “They have no financial or other resource ability. the Albany swamp Republican legislators and many county chairs are all RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in Cuomo’s pocket. That’s what Wilson and Molinaro finally figured out. Without support, it would be an effort in futility.”

So far, two GOP candidates have officially announced their campaigns: Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who despite his reputation as a moderate, said he and Paladino are long-time friends.

The state party leaders are meeting in Albany next week to start sorting out the statewide ticket.

Molinaro Bows Out Of Race For Governor

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro on Thursday bowed out of the race for governor, making him the latest Republican to decline a race against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

“After much discussion, contemplation, and prayer, I have made the decision that at this time I will not be a Republican candidate for Governor,” Molinaro said. “While I believe that State government can be a servant of the people when run well and with integrity, it’s just not the right time for me to seek the governorship.”

Molinaro’s statement comes three days after businessman Harry Wilson also announced he would not enter the race for the Republican nomination.

The decision is yet another blow to the Republican field for governor. Two candidates have declared: Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and ex-Erie County Executive Joel Giambra. State Sen. John DeFrancisco is publicly mulling whether to run as well.

In a statement, Molinaro said he would back the eventual nominee of the party.

“I will focus on the important work we are accomplishing in Dutchess County, continue traveling the state advocating for those with disabilities, and my wife Corinne and I will continue raising our young family,” Molinaro said. “I will be an ardent supporter of the Republican nominee for Governor, promoting the strong ideas and values that throughout my career in public service have proven to work.”