Cuomo: ‘We’re Not Out Of The Woods’

Despite Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s report that New York’s tax revenue is $800 million above projections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today said he still expects to deal with a $2.5 billion deficit in the coming 2012-13 fiscal year.

DiNapoli issued a statement earlier this month after the tax revenues showed unusually good news for the state’s coffers due mostly to higher-than-expected personal incomes. However, DiNapoli warned that the state’s budget situation remained tenuous.

Cuomo today largely agreeed.

The Democratic governor said it was unlikely the state would have the money off-set the so-called uninsurance employment “tax” that’s currently dinging business owners.

The state Department of Labor is charging businesses $21 per employee in order to pay a $95 million bill to the federal government.

Cuomo said the money just isn’t available to pay for the tax out of the state’s treasury right now, despite the revenue influx.

“We would need the federal government to waive the cost. I’m advocating that they do it. Up until now they haven’t.

In terms of other avenues to pay, as have been suggested, the state is not in position to pay. It’s approximately $100 million. Remember, this state when we closed the budget, we had a roughly $2.5 billion deficit for next year. So we’re not out of the woods for next year. So we have a lot of work to do and we certainly don’t have a lot of time.

Speaking to Liz last night, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, blasted the surcharge, adding that the state should pick up the bill.

Update: An earlier version of the post included a typo on the fiscal year. It is the coming 2012-13 fiscal year.

Turner Resurrects Ground Zero Mosque

As Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is poised to endorse Assemblyman David Weprin today in hopes of blunting the whole Israel issue in the NY-9 race, Weprin’s Republican opponent, Bob Turner, is resurrecting a controversial topic about which we haven’t heard much of late: The so-called Ground Zero mosque.

In a press release (sent by GOP communications guru Bill O’Reilly, who apparently has signed on to Turner’s campaign), the Queens businessman asks: “Do David Weprin and Joe Lieberman still disagree on the World Trade Center mosque?”

On Aug. 10, 2010, Lieberman said during an “Imus in the Morning” interview that he was “troubled” by plans to construct a Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero, adding:

“I don’t know enough to say that it ought to be prohibited. But frankly I’ve heard enough about it and read enough about it that I wish somebody in New York would just put the brakes on for a while and take a look at this.”

In a debate with his then-Assembly opponent, Bob Friedrich, on Sept. 2, 2010, Weprin said he supported the “right of the mosque to build on that site,” although he expressed hope that a “compromise” could be worked out – as proposed by then-Gov. David Paterson – that would be acceptable to the 9/11 families who opposed the project.

“David Weprin supported construction of a mosque just steps from the World Trade Center site, while Senator Lieberman vocally opposed it,” O’Reilly said.

“We are curious to know what each of their positions are today. Is it appropriate for a mosque to be built in the shadow of the World Trade Center? It is a legitimate question and the public has a right to know their respective answers.”

This is not the first time Turner has made the mosque into a campaign issue.

When he challenged then-Rep. Anthony Weiner in 2010, Turner hosted an anti-mosque rally/demostration at the Forest Park Band Shell.

The mosque was a sticky wicket for Weiner, who was unusually reserved about the topic – perhaps due to the fact that his wife, Huma Abedin, is Muslim. (Weiner, like Weprin and Lieberman, is Jewish, although the Assemblyman and Senator are, I believe, considerably more observant than the former congressman).

At the time, Weiner argued that weighing in on the project would be a violation of the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

But he also wrote in praise of his one-time rival, Mayor Bloomberg, for his outspoken defense of the mosque – formally known as the Park51 project. Bloomberg, as you’ll recall, very publicly invoked the freedom of religion argument in saying the mosque should be built.

The mosque was employed as a wedge issue in the 2010 governor’s race, with the Conservative Party and Rick Lazio running ads that employed 9/11 imagery. Carl Paladino also seized on the issue during the GOP primary, which he ended up winning, ousting the party’s convention-selected candidate, Lazio, from the ballot.

Cuomo: Development Councils Reflect Diversity

Asked how the economic development councils were formed Gov. Andrew Cuomo deflected the question by saying it’s one for Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, who acts the chairman for all 10 panels.

But Cuomo did say the council members and the regional co-chairs — one from business and one from academia — were set up so that they reflected the diverse interests of the local economy.

“The councils baiscally make up a diverse group of economic interests in that region, right? The people who are on the council, represent just that –regional interests, business interests, labor interests that are essential to putting together a plan.,” Cuomo said during a Q and A at Schenectady County Community College.

Of course, the question dances around the fact that councils and some co-chairs include Cuomo donors (they also include many non-political contributors and some Republican donors as well). Cuomo administration officials would also point to the fact the politically involved are more likely to volunteer for a unpaid gig like the economic-development councils.

But asked why Price Chopper’s Neil Golub (a backer of Republican causes) wasn’t included on Capital Region council, Cuomo simply said, “I don’t know.”

Here’s the full Q and A.

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

While we’re all anxiously awaiting word from Washington on whether this country is indeed going to hell in a handbasket, I present for your viewing amusement/horror Rep. Pete King’s interview on Don Imus’ show this morning.

The radio shock jock and the Long Island Republican spent much of the 10+ minutes exchanging insults, most of which were focused on the congressman’s third in a series of hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims. Imus started it off by saying King “sounded like a remedial reading course,” and it pretty much went downhill from there.

As David Freedlander noted, this entire exchange is kind of wince-inducing. I couldn’t decide if these two guys like each other enormously and demonstrate that through macho trask talk or really hate one another’s guts. I’ll leave that up to you.

DiNapoli: Debt Debate ‘Uncharted Territory’ For Pension Fund

There’s no way to tell what consequences will emerge if the United States defaults on its debt, but it’s safe to say no good will come from it if Congress fails to act by the Aug. 2 deadline, according to New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

That could mean bad news for the state’s $146 billion pension fund, which is subject to the market’s performance.

“There’s no good outcome,” warned DiNapoli.

“We may not be sure how severe or how negative the outcomes will be but we know there will be no good that comes out of it. So while there are number of days left, I think the focus should be on keeping the pressure on the leadership in Washington to come to a resolution. That, to me, is the only solution.”

Despite the fact that stocks plunged yesterday as debt ceiling talks stalled once again in the nation’s capitol, DiNapoli assured that no erratic moves would be made leading up to the debt deadline.

“We’re not day-traders,” he added. “We don’t change our asset allocation on a daily basis depending on what’s happening out there. We have confidence in our longterm strategy.”

DiNapoli made the remarks at a news conference in Albany after accepting an Energy Star award from the Environmental Protection Agency for his office’s efforts to make the agency more energy efficient.

DiNap

Since 2007, the Office of State Comptroller has reduced paper purchases by 23.5 percent, reduced natural gas consumption by 64 percent (compared to 2005 figures), purchased “green” products such as hybrid vehicles and cleaning supplies, and cut water use at the 110 State Street office by 9.3 percent from 2006 levels.

Klein Seeks Full Alcopops Ban

Sen. Jeff Klein, who is rapidly morphing into the Eliot Ness of Four Loko, is calling for a hard ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages following news the State Liquor Authority is taking on what he considers a “gentleman’s agreement” with retailers.

“News of a State Liquor Authority probe regarding on-going sales of caffeinated Four Loko proves that a simple gentleman’s agreement is not enough to keep this dangerous product off store shelves and out of New York State.”

“My legislation, (S.3889A), to outright ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages passed the Senate this session. The Assembly needs to do its part to protect New Yorkers from this product, which the FDA deemed ‘unsafe,’ and pass my bill as soon as possible.”

The bill would make it a felony to sell alcoholic beverages spiked with caffeine.

Klein’s news release on the issue included a link to this blog post from The Times that shows cans of alcoholic Four Loko continue to be on the selves.

The SLA was quoted in the post saying it would review its policies to ensure Four Loko is taken off the shelves completely.

Cuomo And Senate GOP Continue Lovefest ’11

If there was any clear indication that Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo continue to enjoy a good public relationship, it was Sen. Hugh Farley praising the governor at the roll out of the Capital Region Economic Development Council.

Farley, R-Niskayuna, praised Cuomo before a capacity crowd at the Schenectady County Community Colllege, saying that the governor held “unparalleled” respect among the Republican conference. During his introduction Farley, 80, referred to Cuomo, 53, as “this young man.”

Farley, one of the longest-serving state senators, also praised Cuomo’s father Mario as one of the “greatest governors” of the state of New York.

“He’s his father’s son and the apple did not fall far from the tree,” Farley said.

Cuomo, in turn, praised Farley as a “true statesman.”

The governor also acknowledged Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, in the audience as lawmaker who he doesn’t always agree with, but one who “has guts.” McDonald was one of four Republican senators who voted yes for the same-sex marriage bill.

McDonald could face a primary challenge in 2012, and as Jimmy wrote yesterday, several candidates have been circling the waters.

Cuomo later said during a question-and-answer session that he didn’t know if it “helped or hurt” McDonald to garner his praise.

The Cuomo-Senate GOP dynamic has been an interesting one to watch. As Cuomo tours the state during the rollout of the economic-development councils, he’s been touting his major fiscal successes: the 2 percent property-tax cap, a reduced budget that closed a $10 billion deficit and holding the line on tax increases.

These goals all aligned with Senate Republicans. And while Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, was seemingly boxed out by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s tax cap plan, it can still be counted on as a victory the GOP. And as Senate Republicans head into an election year with a thin-two seat majority, having a popular governor on your side couldn’t hurt.

Kolb Blasts Unemployement Insurance ‘Tax’

ICYMI: Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb last night on the show criticized the administration for allowing the state Labor department to send out a $21 dollar surcharge for every single employee in the state. The indirect tax is to pay a $95 million bill to the federal government for interest on unemployment insurance from the past few years.

Leader Kolb says the state should be picking up the bill. Especially since recent tax revenue forecasts show that New York has collected $800 million more in the first quarter of the 2011-2012 budget.

“If everyone says they are about jobs, then why are we going to try and hit a surcharge to businesses across the state for $95 million when we already have an excess of $800 million in tax receipts already this year that could more than pay that bill. And I think it clearly sends the wrong message.”

Kolb continues, “And this is exactly the types of things that drives small business people, large business people, mid-sized businesses crazy that New York State, every chance it gets tries to nickle dime them when they can.”

Kolb also suggested the money could come from the pool of cash Governor Cuomo has been put aside for regional economic development councils to compete for.

“Even as they are trumpeting around about the economic development plan that is supposed to be collectively $1 billion, so how about we even take $95 million of the $1 billion that you are talking about economic development, and don’t tax business. It’s because they can, and they do, and that’s why I think it’s so outrageous that we are trying to say we are open for business, but the first chance we get, we levy a surcharge on every single business in New York State.”

Here And Now

Economic development council tour, Day III.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and LG Bob Duffy make a joint appearance at Schenectady County Community College at 10:30 a.m., and then go their separate ways with Cuomo at SUNY Potsdam at 3:30 p.m. and Duffy at SUNY IT in Utica, also at 3:30 p.m.

Yesterday’s stops included Binghamton, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

Leaders of SEFCU, Albany Medical Center, RPI and the University at Albany will be part of a Capital Region economic development council, the TU reports. Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto refused to confirm or deny that.

The Medicaid Redesign task force holds a public hearing on restructuring Brooklyn’s health care system at New York City College of Technology at 11 a.m.

More headlines…

Today’s Q poll finds NYC voters support Walmart, bike lanes and free entry to the 9/11 museum. They also do not believe city workers should pay more for their pensions or health care.

At least nine NYPD officers have received subpoenas from a grand jury robing leaks of top-secret information about a terror plot to blow up NYC subways.

As the debt ceiling showdown nears, House Speaker John Boehner has jettisoned his usual laissez-faire approach and demanded that conservative members of his conference fall in line.

A default would cause significant harm in New York, impacting everything from revenue streams to the pension fund, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli warned.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: “There’s a potential, unfortunately, that Social Security benefits wouldn’t go out. There’s a potential that veterans benefits wouldn’t go out. If you paid those, you might not be able to pay the creditors.”

The Cuomo administration stonewalled Tom Precious when he sought details of the 10 percent across-the-board cuts at state agencies ordered by the governor earlier this year.

More >

Cuomo: Fingers Crossed On Debt Ceiling

Appearing at an economic-development team rollout event on Long Island today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he remained optimistic that Washington wouldn’t allow the U.S. to default on its obligations for the first time in American history.

“We have our fingers crossed that it’s going to be resolved so we can all move on,” Cuomo said.

A deal on closing the budget deficit didn’t appear today in our nation’s capital as Speaker John Boehner tries to corral the needed votes for his gap-closing plan, which lacks support from both Democrats and members of his own GOP caucus.

The U.S. will default on Tuesday unless the nation’s debt ceiling is raised.

Meanwhile, Wall Street reacted when the Dow closed down nearly 200 points. European markets also performed poorly.

Elected officials like Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have warned against a default, saying it would damage the state’s economy. But Cuomo shrugged off the question of whether a default would damage the Empire State, saying he was confident a deal would get done.

“My hope and my expectation is that we can work it out and all move on and that’s what I believe is going to happen,” he said.

Cuomo was also asked by reporters about thorny issues of making different regions of New York — a very tribal state — compete against one another. But Cuomo reiterated that competition was best for developing job-creation ideas.

The 10 regional councils are competiting for up to $1 billion in economic development money.

“The best plan, the best plan wins,” he said. “I like competition, because we don’t have the money to fund every plan, and we want to fund the best plan.”

He added that he enjoys the “energy of competition.”

“That’s not what this is about,” he said. “It’s not the criteria. It’s an equal playing field.”