DiNapoli: Cuomo Budget Leaves $4 B TBD

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is out with his assessment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 budget proposal, which the comptroller “begins to address the state’s structural deficit by bringing recurring expenses into better
alignment with recurring revenues,” but also relis on more than $4 billion in yet-to-be specified actions.

“For the past four years, I have called for the state to live within its means. This proposal is a solid step in that direction,” DiNapoli said in a press release.

“But the plan includes more than $4 billion in placeholder savings. Without knowing the details of many of the deficit-closing actions, it is difficult to determine if they will produce the projected savings. With uncertainty
comes risk.”

Cuomo’s wait-and-see spending plan has frustrated state lawmakers, who have slowly come to the realization since the governor’s Feb. 1 budget presentation that he’s boxing them into a corner by dramatically shortening the time frame with which they have to come to an agreement.

Both the Medicaid and mandate relief task forces aren’t slated to release their recommendations until March 1, while the prison closure and SAGE commissions aren’t mandated to make any proposals prior to the April 1 budget deadline.

DiNapoli identified several areas of “risk” in Cuomo’s proposal, including the assumption of $2.85 billion worth of savings from Medicaid and $1.4 billion in state operations reductions without any details of how that will be achieved.

In addition, the comptroller said, the governor is relying on “optimistic tax receipt projections,” noting the expected revenues from the PIT increase (AKA the millionaire’s tax that Cuomo wants to let sunset at the end of the year) were overestimated in the current budget by more than $1 billion.

Also, like former Gov. David Paterson, Cuomo is assuming the state will start collecting sales tax on cigarettes sold on Indian land to non-Indian customers, which isn’t something the tribes intend to let happen without a fight. Here’s DiNapoli’s entire report:

2011_Review_Executive_Budget

With Deadline Looming, Koch Retools

In preparation for the March 1 deadline set by his PAC, NY Uprising, for the so-called “heroes” of reform to co-sponsor a redistricting reform bill, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is retooling his Website to demonstrate which state lawmakers have kept their word to date, and who’s falling short so far.

Koch has threatened to travel the state for a “liar, liar pants on fire” tour to make an example of legislators who reneg on their reform pledges, is so far holding out hope that everyone who signed will make good on their respective promises.

“Many New Yorkers are cynical that their legislators in Albany will keep their word – I disagree,” the former mayor said.

“I believe that most are honorable, and look forward to celebrating their successes with them. And for the few that see fit to break their word, New York Uprising is gearing up to put that on full display for their colleagues and their constituents.”

The revamped site does the following:

- Re-labels any “hero” as an “enemy of reform” if he or she fails to step up and support key legislation, as promised during the 2010 campaign.

- Designates “heroes” based on support for key legislation – even for lawmakers who did not take the NY Uprising pledge.

- Makes the actual pledges signed by the legislators available for download.

- Continues to display the full roster of “heroes” and enemies” in the state.

As you’ll recall, the entire (then 30-member) GOP Senate conference signed Koch’s trio of redistricting, budget and ethics reform pledges, but Majority Leader Dean Skelos has been noncommittal since his party returned to power.

Skelos has said he remains supportive of taking the politics out of the redistricting process to the extent that’s possible, but also has been making vague statements about the need for a constitutional amendment – not something that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was the lone legislative leader not to sign Koch’s pledges last year, mentioned “reforming the redistricting process” during his pre-State of the State comments, but he was speaking very broadly and hasn’t said anything about details since then.

In Campaign Cash, Gillibrand (Almost) Back To Square One

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who won her first statewide election last fall and has seen her national profile rise in recent months, had just $614,593 on hand at the end of the fundraising period that ended Dec. 31, 2010.

The former Democratic congresswoman spent almost every penny she raised, taking in $13,419,824 during this election cycle and dropping $13,007,755 on her successful effort to retain the seat she inherited from former Sen. Hillary Clinton, compliments of then-Gov. David Paterson, in January 2009.

Gillibrand has no campaign debt. She did very little fundraising between the November 2010 election, in which she easily defeated her GOP opponent, former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, and the end of the year, bringing in just $19,634 while spending just short of $290,000.

The senator spent much of the end of 2010 focused on lobbying – successfully – for the passage of two key agenda items: The 9/11 Zadroga bill and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She hit the national TV circuit following the shooting for her good friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, and has seen her approval rating steadily rise.

Yesterday’s Siena poll showed Gillibrand with her highest approval rating since she took Clinton’s seat – 57-18, up from 50-24 just four months ago.

The poll also found 52 percent of voters, including a plurality of Republicans, say they are prepared to re-elect Gillibrand, who must run again in 2012 – this time for a full six-year term.

Gillibrand is a prodigious fundraiser and has more than enough time to replenish her campaign coffers before the 2012 cycle starts in earnest. She’ll be helped in that election by the fact that President Obama will again be atop the ticket, drawing out Democratic voters who generally don’t come out in off-year elections.

Next year might well be the Republicans’ last chance to take Gillibrand out, and even then it will be an uphill battle. So far, both DioGuardi and another of her 2010 GOP challengers, David Malpass, have indicated an interest in a potential re-match. There has also been some very nascent talk of a potential primary, but so far nothing has materialized.

Here And Now

On tap at today’s joint legislative budget hearing: Education aid for both elementary and secondary schools.

The Cuomo administration’s new argument for education aid reductions: “Cut the fat, build the muscle.”

Bill Hammond says the 2007 agreement in response to the CFE case was unrealistic and education advocates should quit arguing for more cash.

“It’s an old form of torture, putting a wet rope around your neck and slowly torturing you,” Purchase College President Thomas Schwarz said of Cuomo’s proposed funding cuts to public colleges.

The New York Insurance Association is challenging Cuomo’s reliance on what it contends are about $300 million in “improper” assessments to fund an array of programs beyond what state law obliges the insurers to fund.

Cuomo’s approval rating is sky-high, in spite of his painful budget cuts.

Oops.

The rise of Rep. Pete King, suburban juggernaut.

There’s a corruption “crime wave” in Albany, according to Citizens Union.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn will call for parking relief in her State of the City address today.

More >

Extras

President Obama released his FY2012 budget.

Welcome to Bad Cap City, compliments of NYSUT.

Former Gov. David Paterson says he was out of his time.

Assemblyman Ron Canestrari says his house will likely “tweak” the governor’s property tax cap bill and then pass it, but there are no three-way talks underway at the moment.

Hillary Clinton on her now-infamous hair clip: “I didn’t think it looked that bad, but…what do I know?”

It took an emergency appendectomy to get Sen. Diane Savino to quit smoking again.

Former Gov. David Paterson praised Sen. Mike Gianaris on WOR this morning.

Lobbyists offered state lawmakers some love on Valentine’s Day.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says her friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, is making “remarkable progress.”

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s State of the City address tomorrow will be viewed through the lens of 2013.

The Senate Democrats unveiled an ethics reform package.

Azi Paybarah is returning to the NY Observer.

Ben Smith tries to read Roger Stone’s pushing of Donald Trump in 2012.

Outgoing ESDC Chairman Dennis Mullen regrets not being able to create more jobs.

Rep. Pete King thinks his fellow House Republicans are trying to have it both ways.

Shirley Sherrod sued Andrew Breitbart.

Bristol Palin is not poor.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley won’t run in NY-26, but is backing Assemblywoman Jane Corwin. (No link).

North Country schools say they can’t cover Cuomo’s education aid cuts with reserve cash.

Kink Leaves Senate Dems For Union Advocacy Group

Michael Kink has departed the Senate Democrats’ payroll to return to his advocacy roots, signing on as executive director of a new coalition of unions and community groups that aims to change labor’s approach to the state budget battle.

Kink, who led the Democrats’ policy office, will head the Strong Economy for All Coalition, which, according to a recent Times report, will soon open with a $5 million budget, backed by SEIU/1199, the powerful health care workers’ union, and the UFT, the New York City teachers union.

Unlike in years past, this organization will not channel the bulk of its cash into a bruising air war with the governor.

(This makes particular sense this year, since Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to use his leftover campaign cash to fight fire with fight, has been adding to his coffers and also has the Committee to Save NY and its $10 million in his corner).

Instead, Kink said, the focus will be on “people power,” organizing a network he estimates will eventually be several million people strong when you count all the unions involved – from 32BJ, CWA, 1199 and the AFL-CIO – to advocacy groups like Citizen Action, Communities for Change and the Center for Working Families.

Just to name a few.

“I think they will be able to find common ground with governor on a lot of areas,” Kink said. “They share the goal of showing people government can work effectively in some areas.”

Kink will not be lobbying. (He’s not allowed when it comes to wooing his now-former employer, the Legislature). Instead, he’ll focus on research, communications, policy and organizing. That’s similar to what he did in his pre-Senate job at Housing Works, although I believe he did lobby for that organization, too.

Kink said his departure from the Senate was voluntary. (I asked him this question, since, as you’ll recall, the Democrats were forced to cut way back on their payroll after losing the majority last fall and going vastly over budget).

His departure is a loss for the Dems – and for reporters, who learned a lot by following his Tweets.

Cuomo Praises Bethlehem Schools

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who singled out school superintendents’ salaries during his budget address as a potential area for savings in the face of education aid cuts, released the following statement this afternoon:

“The leadership of the Bethlehem Central School District has implemented a voluntary salary freeze for its top administrators.”

“This is a responsible and sensible first step that recognizes the state’s current fiscal condition and I encourage school districts across New York to find ways to reduce costs and put children first.”

The Bethlehem school district announced this morning that 26 administrators or managers are voluntarily giving up an increase in pay for 2011-12, representing a savings of about $65,000.

The Bethlehem Principals Association (BPA) is comprised of elementary and secondary principals and assistant principals, as well as the middle school house leader and high school academic deans. BPA members had been slated to receive a 2.5 percent increase next year – the last of a two-year contract.

The Bethlehem Central Management Group has also announced its members will take a pay freeze. It includes directors and managers within the Food Service, Operations & Maintenance, and Transportation and Technology departments.

Also not accepting an increase: Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Jody Monroe, Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe, and Superintendent Michael Tebbano.

This will be the third straight year Tebbano has voluntarily agreed to freeze his pay, which means he’ll be entering his fourth year on the job making the same amount he did when he first came on. According to SeeThroughNY.com, Tebbano earned $126,226 in 2008.

“”The district faces enormous fiscal challenges, which undoubtedly will result in a loss of programs and services from those who matter the most — the kids,” Tebbano said.

“This announcement is great news. It represents a tremendous demonstration of leadership, as well as support for our students in these times.”

Richardson, Cuomo On Tap For Caucus Weekend

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it must be that time of year again, time for the annual Albany gathering known as “caucus weekend.”

Technically speaking, it is the 40th annual winter get-together of the State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc.

This is a must-do event for Democratic elected officials – and even some Republicans seeking crossover appeal with the all-important black and Latino voting blocs.

It features a business and career expo, a youth summit, seminars and lots and lots of receptions. Boatloads of receptions, both officially connected to the caucus and its members and held off-site (in other words, outside the Crowne Plaza Empire State Convention Center) by various lobbyists and politicians.

The three-day extravaganza culminates with black-tie gala which usually draws a high-profile keynote speaker. (Then-Sen. Barack Obama was invited in 2007, but declined to attend; former President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote instead).

Last year there was a lot of drama at this event. Between the potential primaries between then-AG Andrew Cuomo and then-Gov. David Paterson and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former Rep. Harold Ford, there was a lot of intrigue going on at the head table.

This year promises to be considerably more sedate, politically speaking, although the labor lunch (noon on Saturday at the Egg’s Hart Lounge, featuring AFL-CIO President Denis Huges) might produce some fireworks, considering the brewing battle between Cuomo and the public sector unions.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is scheduled to keynote the gala. The Rev. Al Sharpton is the guest pastor at the Wilborn Temple Sunday morning. Cuomo is expected to attend, according to past Caucus Chairman Darryl Towns, who last week announced he’s giving up his seat to take a job with the Cuomo administration.

“I know that he’s looking forward to participating,” Towns told me, although he couldn’t immediately provide any details about which events the governor will be attending. (No word back yet from the Cuomo press office)

Assemblyman Nick Perry chairs the Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators. Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson chairs the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.

Holey Budget!

State lawmakers’ growing frustration with the holes Gov. Andrew Cuomo left in his 2011-2012 budget proposal was on display at this morning’s joint legislative hearing on economic development, which produced a frosty – albeit polite – exchange between Assemblyman Jeff Aubry and outgoing ESDC Chair Dennis Mullen.

Aubry, a Queens Democrat who chairs the Assembly’s Corrections Committee, expressed concern over the lack of information on how, exactly, the regional economic development councils proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be awarding cash to communities that lose prisons.

To be fair, Mullen isn’t sticking around in the Cuomo administration. He’s going to be replaced by the Business Council’s Ken Adams, assuming the Senate gets around to confirming him. But in the interim, Mullen was on the hot seat this morning.

AUBRY: “It’s a little bit disheartening that we have no details now since we’re going to have to approve a plan to reduce budgets and to allocate resources without knowing how that process is going to work.”

“That is a bit disturbing given our need to make judgement about whether or not this is a good plan. Is there an anticipated time that we would understand that before April 1?”

MULLEN: “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

AUBRY: “Who would know?”

MULLEN: “I think the governor is going about this the same way that he’s gone about other initiatives. He’s bringing the council together to try to help him understand and determine and when that work is done I’m sure the governor is going to make those findings available.”

AUBRY: “And I’m sure councils are going to be excellent vehicles for the local delivery of services. However, I would expect the professionals at the top of the agency to figure out the format with which they would act.”

“You can’t imagine that a council is going to devise an economic development plan or strategy all by itself without any form or shape…without direction from the professionals, I don’t know how successful they would be.”

Bill Clinton’s Excellent Upstate College Tour

A second upstate college has landed a visit from former President Bill Clinton in the coming months.

Clinton will be at UAlbany on March 2 as part of the “World Within Reach” speaker series, which has also featured retired Gen. Colin Powell, former White House political director Karl Rove, former Gov. Howard Dean, and most recently, TV interviewer extraordinaire Barbara Walters.

This fall, Clinton will be paying a visit to my alma mater – University of Rochester – as part of the school’s Meliora Weekend.

The event, which runs Oct. 20 – 23, is the annual alumni reunion, homecoming, and family weekend. It attracts some 6,000 attendees each year for four days of lectures, performances, seminars, and social gatherings.

Previous keynote speakers for the weekend include medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, University of Rochester alumnus and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, journalist Anderson Cooper, Powell.

Former Senator-turned-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker at Meliora Weekend in 2002.