AP Calls NY-26 For Hochul

…Developing.

Gas-Tax Holiday Running On Empty In Assembly

The Senate approved a revised version of the suspension of the gasoline sales tax during the major summer holidays, but its fate in the Democratic-controlled Assembly remains uncertain.

A Democratic amendment proposed by Sen. Jose Peralta aimed at curtailing price-gouging at the pump was shotdown.

The measure, which eliminates the trio of sales taxes that add up to 33 cents, passed the Senate this afternoon 48-14, leading its Assembly sponsor, Jim Tedisco, to call on his chamber to do the same:

“Now that the Senate has passed the Summer Gas Tax Holiday, it should be on the Assembly’s to do list before the legislature breaks for the Memorial Day holiday. Unfortunately, when it comes to giving New York motorists a break and helping out our small businesses during the three busiest summer travel weekends, the Assembly is full of baloney while taxpayers are running on empty,” Tedisco said in a statement.

Both Tedisco and the Senate sponsor Greg Ball say the measure was revised so it wouldn’t impact the bridge and highway fund — long a point of contention for gas-tax holiday. Instead, it creates a rebate program for gasoline stations.

Extras

The NY-26 race won’t be certified tonight, no matter what the results, thanks to a court order obtained by Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

Corwin said in a statement: “We have anticipated a very close election from the start, and the action taken today is standard procedure and very typical in close campaigns. Our campaign’s goal is to ensure that every legal vote cast is properly counted accurately and fairly.” (No link).

Corwin’s campaign attorney is former AG Dennis Vacco. (No link).

Turnout in the district has been higher than normal.

…But it’s unclear which of the candidates that helps and/or hurts.

Jane Corwin canceled an afternoon stop at an East Amherst fire station, which means her 9 a.m. voting was her lone Election Day appearance. (She choose to make calls to voters and spend time with her family instead).

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions reportedly isn’t optimistic about Corwin’s chances.

It could all come down to Jack Davis.

NYC labor unions aren’t looking to make contract deals with Mayor Bloomberg.

Orlando is a more popular tourist destination than the Big Apple.

“Gay cousin Michael” urges Sen. Tom Libous to vote “yes” on gay marriage. (I’m unsure this is true; we haven’t been able to confirm yet).

Rep. Bill Owens is due in traffic court tonight after getting caught doing 84 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The Democrats overrode Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s redistricting veto.

Presidents can dream, too.

Pataki 2012?

It looks like former Gov. George Pataki has had a change of heart on throwing his hat into the ring.

“I’m not running now, ” Pataki said during a stop today in Henniker, NH. “But we’ll see what happens over the course of the next month.”

The governor spoke at New England College as part of what’s called the ECON-101 Town Hall meeting series, where political leaders discuss their economic plans for America.

While in the Granite State, Pataki lambasted President Obama, saying he has “the worst fiscal record of any president in history.” He also launched anti-Obama ads that will run through June 13 – the date of the GOP primary in NH.

Pataki has been back and forth on this 2012 thing.

He said during a CapTon interview last fall that he hadn’t yet ruled it out. Then a Pataki supporter in Iowa told me back in February that the former governor was indeed seriously considering another attempt at the White House.

But Pataki himself said as recently as late April (during an appearance with Sean Hannity) that he did not plan to run.

Lawsky Wins Senate Nod For Financial Services Department

Ben Lawsky, a veteran of the Andrew Cuomo’s attorney general office and gubernatorial office, won confirmation to lead — and by default shape — the new Department of Financial Services.

The agency combines the departments of Banking and Insurance as a regulatory agency, part of Cuomo’s plan to reorganize and “right-size” state government.

Lawsky, a New York City resident, most recently was Cuomo’s chief of staff.

“There is no one better suited to take on the task of leading this new department than Ben Lawsky,” Cuomo said in statement. “Ben’s deep understanding of complex markets, evolving financial products, and consumer protection uniquely enables him to safeguard investors while maintaining a vibrant marketplace in New York. Ben has been devoted to public service for his entire career and I am glad that he will continue to serve New Yorkers in this capacity.”

Lawsky’s job will probably be a daunting one. He’s being charged with forming the new agency as scrutiny increases on the business practices of Wall Street. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the causes of the mortgage crisis.

Lawsky told me in an interview last week that he’s got to strike a balance between regulation and ensuring businesses can prosper in New York.

Skelos: ‘Three Way Agreeement’ On Cap, But…

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said in a statement following the news conference today with the legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that a three-way agreement had been achieved, but differences remain on a expiration date and “minor technical issues.”

“Almost four months ago the Senate passed the hard property tax cap legislation proposed by Governor Cuomo,” Skelos said. “Since then, Senate Republicans have advocated every day for the enactment of a strong property tax cap. Other than the sunset provision and minor technical issues, we have reached a three-way agreement on a bill that achieves our goals and includes 95 percent of the bill we already passed and will finally put the brakes on skyrocketing property taxes.”

Skelos said during the news conference that there was a “broad” agreement on the cap between his conference, the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Cuomo.

Earlier in the day, he suggested that linking the tax cap to rent control laws for New York City would remain up for negotiations, noting there’s three weeks left in the session.

Full release is after the jump: More >

Empire Center’s McMahon Likes What He Sees In Cap

It’s a little surprising to hear the Empire Center’s EJ McMahon actually praise a fiscal measure in Albany, but that’s what he’s doing today.

McMahon, the director of the business-backed think-tank, said the proposed cap by the Assembly contains few exclusions, even if the growth in pension costs above 2 percent is carved out of the measure.

“I think it’s a good deal, it’s a tax cap,” McMahon said.

He compared the proposal to what Massachusetts has in place for capping local and school property taxes, saying that while it might not be the toughest in the nation as suggested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the proposal remains fairly tight.

“The way they constructed the partial exemptions for pensions is very limited,” he said. “The thing that concerned me is they would pass a piece of paper with the title tax cap and then say well, it’s better than nothing and it wouldn’t be. But the essential elements as I understand them in the draft that I’ve read, but the way the pension exclusions are constructed it’s very partial and it’s not an enormous loophole.”

Corwin Campaign: Impound Paper Ballots (Updated)

Not at all surprising, since the outcome of today’s special election in NY-26 could be very close indeed. I reported yesterday that there are about 6,400 paper ballots out, which includes military and overseas ballots and absentees.

UPDATE: The Buffalo News has a more in-depth report on this. Corwin’s campaign received a court order that prevents the race from being certified this evening. There will be a show-cause hearing on Thursday – at the earliest.

26th CD Impoundment Order

Cuomo: Sunset Date Main Sticking Point

In a Red Room news conference in the Capitol, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this afternoon that the main sticking point in finalizing a tax cap is setting an expiration date.

“We have an agreement on that cap, on the parameters,” Cuomo said.

No date has been set as a proposal, but under the provisions of the Assembly bill that Cuomo is now embracing, the cap’s expiration would be tied with extendning rent-control laws for New York City.

But that’s not exactly how Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, sees the issue.

When asked multiple times if there was a deal on the tax cap and to describe which aspects of the proposal the GOP conference supports, Skelos stuck to a one-line script.

“We will have a tax cap this year,” Skelos said.

Before the question-and-answer session with reporters, Skelos suggested this was a major step forward in getting a cap in place, calling it “a great day.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo also parsed the meaning of spokesman Josh Vlasto’s quote that a temporary cap would be a “non-starter.”

“Never said, sunset. Was it a temporary law would be a non-starter? Not the same thing,” Cuomo said.

Later Cuomo clarified his position, saying that he was opposed to a “temporary” meausure.

“If this was a temporary law, I would be against a temporary law. Temporary is we’re going to do it for one year, we’re going to do it for two years, we’re going to do it for three years. I would be against a temporary law. This is not a temporary law. This is a law, like rent regulations, which will come up for reevaluation, recalibration, on a periodic basis that makes sense like the rent regulation laws.

Higgins Lauds Hochul

Democrats and Republicans are already playing the expectation management game in NY-26, with both sides noting (perhaps the only thing they can actually agree on) that special elections are both unpredictable and volatile.

Republicans, including Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, are rejecting the suggestion – embraced by both the Democrats and the media, to varying extents – that the results of today’s election should be seen as a referendum on the House majority and, more specifically, the controversial Medicare overhaul proposal authored by Rep. Paul Ryan.

Many Democrats are saying that NY-26 will be a harbinger of what’s to come in 2012 when there will be a re-match for control of the House – with new district lines and President Obama’s re-election bid further complicating an already complex situation.

But Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents the neighboring NY-27, took a more balanced approach during a CapTon interview last night, suggesting a number of factors are actually at play today – not the least of which is the strength of the Democratic candidate, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, who has run a very good, albeit not flawless, campaign.

Higgins refused to take the bait when I asked if he’s worried he might end up having to face Hochul in a primary after the district lines are redrawn. (Recall that many people believe NY-26 might not even exist for much longer), saying redistricting is a concern for another day.

“I think like any election there are a number of variables,” Higgins said. “The Ryan plan is certainly one, the third party candidate on a Tea Party line is another.”

“But also, as I mentioned at the outset, the quality of the Democratic candidate. Kathy Hochul has an outstanding reputation both locally and statewide. She’s gone against governors in her own party. There was a proposal that people statewide get a new license and Kathy helped lead a statewide fight to make that voluntary, thus saving taxpayers in New York about $130 million.”