Differing Takes On CSEA Agreement

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, and Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, offered differing takes on the contract agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association.

The main jist: While Skelos talked about saving money, Sampson takes the angle of sacrifice.

Here’s Skelos’ comment, who credits Gov. Andrew Cuomo and CSEA President Danny Donohue with achieving the deal:

The approval of a new five-year contract by CSEA is victory for all New Yorkers. I applaud Governor Cuomo, CSEA President Danny Donohue and the members of CSEA for achieving a deal that will save taxpayers $73 million this fiscal year, and will help ensure a balanced state budget, avert layoffs and maintain vital state services.

Sampson, meanwhile, gives credit to the union workforce, which approved the agreement.

“Everyone understands we must come together and make sacrifices in these tough economic times. This deal will help avoid layoffs and is good for New York. The working women and men of the CSEA have made the tough choices we need to help put New York on the path to economic strength. We must remember their commitment to our state.”

Kicking Ex-Cons Off The School Bus

File this one under the “holy cow, this wasn’t a law before?!” department.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced the signing of legislation that expands the restrictions for who can receive a school-bus driver license either permanently or for at least five years based on felony convictions.

Among those being cut from the bus route:

· aggravated manslaughter in the first or second degree
· aggravated sexual abuse in the second, third, and fourth degree
· sexual abuse in the first degree
· course of sexual conduct against a child in the first or second degree,
· facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance
· predatory sexual assault
· sex trafficking
· disseminating indecent materials to minors in the first degree
· use of a child in a sexual performance
· promoting or possessing a sexual performance by a child
· aggravated assault upon a child less than 11 years old
· luring a child
· persistent sexual abuse
· aggravated criminally negligent homicide
· criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds

Cuomo indicated in a statement that disallowing convicts — especially those found guilty of sex crims — from being licensed to drive a school bus is a no-brainer.

“This law will protect our children by making sure those convicted of sexual offenses and other serious crimes are disqualified from becoming school bus drivers,” Cuomo said. “Keeping our children safe must always be a top priority and by signing this legislation we are putting in place additional precautions that will help protect our students. I thank Senator Bonacic and Assemblyman Pretlow for their work on this important legislation.”

Turner Makes A Stop In The Catskills

Votes are where you can find them, and for 9th Congressional District hopeful Bob Turner, they’re way north of New York City.

Turner, a Republican running in the special election against Assemblyman David Weprin, was spotted campaigning in the Jewish communities of the Catskills in upstate New York.

The Republican businessman, who was buoyed by a recent poll shopwing him only 6 percentage points down against Weprin, has made Jewish issues a central plank in his platform.

He’s campaigned heavily on strengthening American support for Israel and former Mayor Ed Koch endorsed Turner saying it would send a message to President Obama on the issue.

More controversially, Turner has revived the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” debate, challenging Weprin in an television advertisment on the Park51 project.

Weprin, meanwhile, picked up the endorsement of Sen. Charles Schumer, who represented the Brooklyn district before handing it over to protege Anthony Weiner.

In endorsing Weprin, Schumer played the Medicare and Social Security card, saying the Democrat would work to ensure those popular programs remain funded. And he said Weprin would be a check against the “reckless” GOP in Congress.

‘Voters Are Going To Get Angry At A Person’

I caught up with Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg earlier today who had some bad news/good news for President Obama in his latest survey.

The bad: New Yorkers’ support for Obama is low. That’s especially troubling for a Democratic president in a Democratic state.

The good: New Yorkers are not excited with any of his potential GOP rivals, save for former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who for now, is staying out of the 2012 race.

“New Yorkers are not thrilled, other than Rudy Giuliani, with the Republican presidential field at this point and it works to Obama’s advantage,” Greenberg said.

The real problem for Obama in New York, and likely the nation, is that his administration is taking ownership of the sagging economy, whether it wants to or not.

“I think that there’s no question what went on with the debt ceiling negotiations quote-un-quote, didn’t play well for the president,” Greenberg. “The election is a long way away and for all we know Barack Obama’s numbers could strong, they could be where they are right now or they could be weaker.”

And it remains unclear if voters are more upset with the lack of jobs, the Washington dysfunction or see them as the same thing.

“I don’t know if you can really distinguish them,” he said. “The longer it goes on, the more upset voters become. Who are they going to get angry at? Congress is too amorphous. They’re going to get angry at a person.”

CSEA And Cuomo Remain At Odds

Despite the conclusion of one of the more controversial contract battles in recent history between the Civil Service Employees Association and the executive branch, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NY’s largest state workers union remain at odds over a host of issues.

The 66,000-member union approved a five-year contract with the state that includes two years’ worth of furloughs, increased costs for health insurance and wage freezes for two years.

The labor agreement passed, 16,896 to 11,856, CSEA said.

The agreement is a major victory for Cuomo, who sought to gain concessions from unions. And it’s a victory for CSEA President Danny Donohue, who negotiated deal that averted 4,500 layoffs.

But it was evident tensions were high during the negotiating process. Donohue said today Cuomo’s negotiating approach “could have been better. He revealed the administration initially wanted a six-year contract “with a lot more zeroes.”

The union, which declined to endorse Cuomo or his Republican opponent, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, last year, still is not thrilled with the second floor.

At a news conference this morning, Donohue reiterated labor’s support for a continuation of the so-called “millionaires tax” – a surcharge on those making $250,000 or more that is set to expire at the end of the year.

Cuomo sided with the majority of Senate Republicans during the 2011-12 budget contretemps when it came to extending the surcharge as a way of closing the $10 billion deficit over union and liberal lawmakers’ objections.

Donohue also repeated his stance on the proposed Tier VI, a less-generous pension tier designed to save $90 billion over the next 30 years.

“Tier VI is crazy in our opinion,” he said. “They introduced Tier V last year. We think that’s far enough at this point.”

The threat of new layoffs, despite the labor agreement, still hangs over CSEA. Donohue said he would watch the SAGE Commission, the panel charged with reducing and reorganizing state government, very closely.

But he said it would not be to Cuomo’s political advantage to lay people off – especially in the middle of what could be a double-dip recession. “I don’t think the governor really wants to lay people off,” Donohue said.

Siena: Obama Hangs By A Thread In True-Blue NY

Today’s Siena poll brings more bad news for President Obama, who is leading all potential GOP challengers despite the fact that his job approval rating is the worst it has ever been.

Almost two thirds of NYers think the president is doing a poor or fair job, and they’re evenly divided when asked about a head-to-head match-up between Obama and “someone else.”

However, the closest any Republican comes to ousting Obama in the Empire State is former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani by six points – and he’s still mulling whether to get into the race.

Otherwise, Obama leads five other GOP contenders by between 18 (Mitt Romney) and 39 points (Sarah Palin).

Siena pitted Obama Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and – although she hasn’t announced yet, Palin, but inexplicably left out declared candidates like Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty (who dropped out over the weekend), Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich.

All these would-be and declared candidates, along with former NY Gov. George Pataki, who continues to flirt with a potential White House run, were included when Siena asked NYers to rate them on favorability and Republicans to choose a favorite 2012 contender.

“While the President is not as strong as he might like in New York, for the moment, the Empire State is not showing any inclination to change its traditional blue hue to red,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said.

NY Republicans seem underwhelmed by their field at the moment, with nearly one-qaurter picking hometown favorite Giuliani as the preferred candidate. (He has said he won’t likely make a decision for two more months, further diminishing the likelihood he’ll get in at all).

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew “Angel” Cuomo continues to enjoy a high approval rating, although it has dropped slightly from 71-21 last month to 69-22. His job performance rating is unchanged, standing at 58-40.

Empire State voters are split on whether NY is headed in the right direction (44 percent say yes, 47 percent say no), while they are very pessimistic when it comes to the country in general, with only 20 percent saying it’s on the right track.

SNY0811 Crosstabs

NRCC Robos Rep. Bishop (Updated)

The National Republican Congressional Committee is out with a new robocall targeting Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop in the tightly contested NY-1 congressional seat.

In the robocall, the GOP accuses Bishop of “punishing the middle class”.

“Rep. Bishop’s refusal to cut spending and balance our budget is hurting our economy, leaving families with higher prices for everyday items during these tough times,” said NRCC Spokesman Tory Mazzola.

“We plan to hold Rep. Bishop accountable for his failed tax-and-spend record that is stifling job creation, punishing small business owners and helping only Nancy Pelosi’s big government agenda.”

Bishop was one of 95 House Democrats who voted for the final bill that raised the debt ceiling, and created the super committee that is going to look at ways to cut spending over the next few months.

Before that, he voted against all of the other debt ceiling votes on the House floor, which Democrats criticized as a waste of time.

That included the so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance plan,” which only 5 House Democrats supported. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t let it come to the floor for a vote in the Senate. Also, President Obama said he would have vetoed the plan if it came to his desk.

Rep. Bishop is one of the NRCC’s biggest targets for 2012. In 2010, Bishop defeated Randy Altschuler by only a few hundred votes.

Altschuler is running again this year, but it appears he is going to face a primary (yet again) against George Demos – something both the state Republican Party and the state Conservative party want to avoid.

In 2010, a 3 way Republican primary appeared to hurt Altschuler’s campaign and his chances of winning the election, even though he handily defeated by Demos and Christopher Cox, the son of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox.

Complete text of the call is after the jump. UPDATE: You can listen to it here.

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Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and Westchester with no public schedule – yet. It’s a safe bet he will have something to say about last night’s CSEA contract victory, which wasn’t announced until just before 11:30 p.m. in a joint release from the union and the governor.

CSEA will provide details about the contract vote at a news conference with union President Danny Donohue at its HQ eadquarters, 143 Washington Ave., Albany, at 11 a.m.

The ratification of the CSEA contract was a “critical victory” for Cuomo, who called the vote a “big, big win” for both the union and the people of the state.

Nearly 30,000 of the union’s 66,000 members voted.

The CSEA vote sets the stage for the PEF contract vote, the result of which will be known on Sept. 27, and for negotiations between the administration and smaller unions.

The Post hopes the TWU follows CSEA’s lead.

“Insiders” say both Cuomo and NJ Gov. Chris Christie are willing to approve toll/tunnel hikes, but not increases as large as what the Port Authority has proposed. The decision is likely to come down to the wire.

The DN’s Bill Hammond thinks the NY governor is mishandling the whole fare issue, writing: “This is not the clear-eyed, surefooted leadership we’ve come to expect out of Cuomo over the past 7-1/2 months.”

A source close to Cuomo tells Hammond he’ll support increases that keep the PA going for the short term, and then will negotiate how it will spent its $33 million capital budget over the next decade.

Public hearings on the proposed toll hikes are scheduled for today. They’re likely to be raucous affairs. More here.

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CSEA Members Approve Contract

Members of the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest public-sector state union in New York, have approved a five-year contract with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, approving a wage freeze, two years’ worth of furloughs and increased health-insurance costs.

The approval of the contract avoids about 4,500 layoffs and could sway members of the other large public-sector union, PEF, to approve its labor agreement with the state. The PEF contract is due to be voted on by Sept. 27.

CSEA spokesman Steve Madarasz said earlier today that nearly 30,000 of the 66,000-member union voted, which he said is a typical number of members voting by mail-in ballot.

It was not immediately known what the margin of the vote was.

The contract approval is a big win for Cuomo, who is seeking a total $450 million in workforce concessions from state public employees, a figure that was baked into the 2011-12 state budget. The approval also comes after a small-law enforcement union, Council 82, split into two following its less-than-generous contract with the Cuomo administration.

“This is a big, big win– a win for the union and a win for the people of the state,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing the contract’s approval. “The union avoided layoffs and the state is financially stronger. I’m pleased that our approach of labor and management working together is vindicated. Mutual respect and honest negotiations work. I applaud Danny Donohue for his leadership and vision in this negotiation. This vote demonstrates their commitment to seeing this state get back on the right track. In these difficult financial times, shared sacrifice is needed, and CSEA members have shown willingness to do their part.”

CSEA President Danny Donohue reiterated passed statements about the less-than-ideal package, saying:

“These are not ordinary times and CSEA worked hard to reach an agreement that we believed would be in everyone’s best interest,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “CSEA members agree that this contract is reasonable and responsible for the long term and shows that CSEA members will do what is right for the good of all New Yorkers. The Governor’s leadership is helping move this state in the right direction.”

A news conference is planned for Tuesday morning at CSEA headquarters to discuss the contract vote. Madarasz says in an email the agreement was approved a “60-40″ margin.

Aqueduct VLT Opening Delayed To October

This just in from NY1 political director Bob Hardt.

The opening of a video casino at the Aqueduct race track in Queens is being pushed back until some time in October. A spokesman for the project says that removing lead, asbestos and pigeon droppings at the site has taken longer than expected, delaying the planned opening which was scheduled for later this summer.

The state last year received an upfront licensing fee payment of $380 million from the casino operators, Genting New York. The two-floor casino will be home to more than 45-hundred video slot machines.

The news is not good for NYRA. It is already projecting an $11 million budget deficit for this year, mostly in part to the shut down of NYC OTB, which owes NYRA roughly $20 million.

Once it opens, the VLT casino is expected to increase NYRA’s revenue by tens of millions of dollars each year.