Flanagan To Stay In Senate (Updated)

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is resting easy tonight following today’s news that Sen. John Flanagan won’t run for Suffolk County Executive.

From Skelos’ statement:

“John Flanagan is a trusted public servant and a close friend, and I know this decision was a difficult one for him and his family. While I have no doubt that John would have made a great County Executive, he is already a terrific State Senator and a tireless worker on behalf of Suffolk County residents in Albany.”

Flanagan had been toying with the idea of running for job ever since Steve Levy, a Democrat-turned-Republican and one-time gubernatorial contender, announced he wasn’t running after the county district attorney investigated his campaign finances.

Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone announced earlier this week he would seek the Democratic nomination for the job. Republican Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick has also expressed interest in running.

But the political ramifications for the state would have been huge.

If Flanagan had been victorious and left the Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Republicans 32-30, a Democratic pickup would result in a 31-31 tie.

A 31-31 tie could mean any number of things: whether the Republican move to limit the power of the lieutenant governor to break deadlocked votes is constitutional and if the Independent Democratic Conference of Sens. Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Valesky and David Carlucci can play kingmaker.

UPDATE: Flanagan’s statement appears after the jump, following the full statement from Skelos.

More >

Weekend Open Thread

Lots of possibilities for discussion….

- The royal wedding is over and the honeymoon has commenced. Life for all us commoners can return to what passes for normal.

- Cuomo 2014 is on.

- State lawmakers will be busy when they return to work on Albany Monday.

- Disgraced ex-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s onetime political Svengali, Hank Morris, is now his sworn enemy.

- Democrats are taking a page from the GOP playbook, forming independent committees that have limited reporting requirements to help the president and the party in 2012.

- The nation’s 15 highest taxed counties are all north of the New York City suburbs or in the western part in the state.

- It appears Jane Corwin is worth more than Jack Davis.

- The people behind Donald Trump’s non-campaign include not a few New Yorkers.

ICYMI: The Donald dropped five f-bombs during his speech to a GOP women’s group in Las Vegas. The crowd didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they loved it. Is this presidential behavior? Thoughts?

NYRA Responds To Governor

NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward says of course he will comply with the Governor’s request to work with the Empire State Development Corporation to keep jobs in New York State.

Yesterday, Cuomo released a letter to the press calling NYRA’s recent decision to outsource some telephone wagering to another state “troubling.”

In his response, Hayward explained that no jobs were lost in the process. Instead, they had seen such a large increase in volume since the closure of the New York City OTB that they had to seek help. He also made it clear that it was done with the knowledge of the state Racing and Wagering Board.

“The decision to utilize additional telephone outsourcing services was made pursuant to law and approved by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board after several weeks of discussions with the Board, and subsequent to prior decisions by the Board to approve the outsourcing of telephone wagering operations by both Yonkers Raceway and Saratoga Harness,” Hayward writes

“The imminent opening of the Belmont Park and Saratoga racing seasons – including the large public interest in the next several weeks of Triple Crown racing fan participation will result in additional call volumes – and of course additional revenues and employment to all participants in the racing industries in the State.”

Hayward goes on to say that NYRA has actually increased the number of union mutuel tellers since the closure of NYCOTB.

Nyra Gov Response

Extras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has skipped all three of President Obama’s NYC visits in the past month. His staff says he’s too busy working.

Azi Paybarah notes the governor’s poll numbers are considerably higher than Obama’s

Former Staten Island BP Guy Molinari called Donald Trump “a son of a bitch”, and is upset he’s “creating so many problems” for the GOP and “legitimate” candidates.

Says Roger Stone: “The good news for Obama is that Trump can no longer use the birth certificate issue – the bad news is Trump will now pound the Administration on gas prices, unemployment and two (or is it three?) wars that are sapping our national resources.”

Mayor Bloomberg is worried about the royal newlyweds’ privacy.

A transgender rights group is honoring former Gov. David Paterson.

Eliot Spitzer is still beating the drum against Wall Street.

The Club for Growth called Sen. Chuck Schumer a “job-killing protectionist.”

Bloomberg View editorials will start appearing late next month, and they will be “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” – just like a certain post-partisan billionaire mayor for which the editorials are named.

Spitzer insists he doesn’t has a bias, but also doesn’t believe objectivity is possible.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo wants SUNY Binghamton included in the upcoming UB2020 summit.

RIP Hope Reichbach.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie (who isn’t running – yet) is tied with Mitt Romney for the 2012 GOP nod if big names like Trump, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin stay out of it.

The CFB released an annual report on voter assistance in NYC.

Cuomo toured flood-ravaged Moriah in the Adirondacks and declared a state of emergency in Essex County.

New Yorker writer Evan Ratliff counters Rep. Michael Grimm.

There were reports Rudy Giuliani planned to tour a storm-damaged county in the South.

Politics as lawn art in NY-26.

ICYMI: Here is Donald Trump’s expletive laden speech to conservatives in Las Vegas last night. (Around 5 minutes in is the most controversial part)

Slaughter: ‘Brilliant’ Obama, Smarter Than Jefferson?

I didn’t get a chance to post this yesterday, but YNN Buffalo’s Kevin Jolly caught up with the ever-quotable Rep. Louise Slaughter to ask for her (somewhat belated) reaction to President Obama’s release Wednesday of his long-form birth certificate.

Jolly barely got his question out – he asked whether this move would put the whole birther issue to rest – before the Democratic WNY congresswoman interrupted him, saying:

“Look, the media has to lay that to rest. The media’s the one that’s always asking that. But I was dumbfounded by the idea that everybody’s saying he should stop talking about it. I mean, they’re trying to even blame that on him.”

“It’s a matter of embarrassment before the rest of the world that we would ask that of a president. No other president has ever been asked for that. Now they want his college grades? I mean, enough already. I think they ought to relax and give competence a chance.”

Jolly then asked: “What is behind this? I don’t get this.”

“Yes you do, and it’s a really dreadful thing,” Slaughter retorted. “I mean, the man is so brilliant.”

“Let me tell you something that I read this about the first book he wrote, “Dreams of My Father” (sic; it’s actually “Dreams From My Father“…That book did not have to be edited.”

“Now I don’t know about you, but I have never heard editors and publishers that a book didn’t have to be touched – by anybody! I bet even old Thomas Jefferson even had some changes made. That’s an extraordinary achievement.”

Slaughter may have unwittingly re-opened the whole authorship question – another favorite topic of the anti-Obama types, and something Trump himself has raised during his non-campaign for president.

Senate To Consider Gas Tax Holiday Next Week (Updated)

A bill that would suspend a trio of gasoline sales taxes will be considered by the Senate next week, according to a committee agenda posted this afternoon.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Greg Ball, R-Carmel, will be considered by the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations on Tuesday. The bill would also have to go through the Senate Finance Committee before it could be considered by the full chamber.

The measure would suspend the 8-cent excise tax, the 8-cent sales tax and the 17-cent petroleum business tax during the Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day weekends. New Yorkers pay among the highest gasoline prices in the country.

A same-as measure is backed by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Saratoga, in the Democratic-led Assembly. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not ruled out a gas tax holiday as the average price-per-gallon in New York tops $4, citing the negative economic impact high gas prices are having on the recovery.

Though the Conservative Party — whose leadership as backed Cuomo’s fiscal policies — cheered the measure, Associated General Contractors of New York President and CEO Mike Elmendorf sounded a note of concern over the proposal, saying it would starve the Dedicated Bridge and Highway Trust Fund.

Update: Tedisco spokesman Adam Kramer says the Assembly version has been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, but it has not appeared on any agendas for next week.

Cuomo Declares Disaster For Essex County

As the upstate and central New York regions clean up from an extended storm and reported tornado, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today declared he was activating the state’s disaster response.

The governor toured the town of Moriah in Essex County were a heavily traveled bridge collapsed.

In a statement, Cuomo said,

“These hard-hit communities need their roads and businesses open and a return to normalcy as quickly as possible. I have directed state agencies to provide any and all assistance and to help coordinate county-wide clean-up and repair operations.”

The response involves activating a variety of emergency and transportation workers in order to deal with the storm damage. On Thursday, Cuomo activated the State Emergency Operations Center in preparation of storm damage.

NARAL For ’100 Percent Pro-Choice’ Hochul

On the heels of this morning’s Siena poll that showed her within five percentage points of the presumed GOP frontrunner, Democratic NY-26 candidate Kathy Hochul has picked up the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice NY.

The NYC-based organization lauded Hochul as a “100 percent pro-choice candidate, who will defend both the reproductive health and rights of the women of New York State.”

“It is critical that we add Hochul’s strong pro-choice voice to the allies we already have in Congress,” said NARAL’s interim executive director Andrew Stern.

“She will be a powerful counterpoint to the opponents of women’s health care who won their seats by claiming to be worried about jobs and the economy and then wasted no time pulling a destructive bait and switch.”

“Kathy Hochul will stand up to those who would deny women access to critical health care services,” added Stern. “Her opponent, Jane Corwin, will stand with them.”

Stern is referring to the House GOP push to defund Planned Parenthood, which reportedly was a sticking point in the budget battle that almost led to a government shutdown earlier this month.

The Planned Parenthood rider – along with others dealing with hot button issues like environmental regulations – didn’t make the cut in the 11th-hour budget deal, but Corwin has said she would have voted “yes” on a stand-alone amendment like the one that passed in February, 240-185.

Corwin supports abortion rights in the first trimester, in cases of incest or rape and when the life of the mother is in danger – all positions that drew criticism from some conservatives early on in the race, but didn’t end up costing her the Conservative Party line.

NARAL spokeswoman Samantha Levine told me the organization has never endorsed Corwin because it defines 100 percent pro-choice as someone who supports “the full range of reproductive rights and access – without barriers or bans.”

“It’s certainly not our policy to support those who gratuitously announce that – given the opportunity – they WOULD HAVE made it harder for women to access care!” Levine added.

In Letter, Business Leaders Say Gay Marriage Keeps Competitive Edge

As the Times reported this morning, a coalition of business leaders, including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Daily News owner and real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman and Daniel Doctoroff of Bloomberg, have signed onto an open letter pushing for same-sex marriage legalization.

In the letter, support for gay marriage is framed as an business-friendly way of keeping New York competitive and keeping it at the cultural center of the world.

From the letter:

To remain competitive, New York must continue to contend with other world cities to attract top talent. Increasingly, in an age where talent determines the economic winners, great states and cities must demonstrate a commitment tocreating an open, healthy and equitable environment in which to live and work

The effort smacks of a similar tactic used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who marshaled the resources of the business community to support his austerity budget plan, which passed the Legislature largely intact.

It also comes as a coalition of pro-gay marriage groups are trying to focus their energy on passing a same-sex marriage bill this year, a goal supported by Cuomo. The group is trying to quietly lobby Republican and Democratic senators in an effort to flip several votes.

The measure failed in the Democratic-led Senate in 2009, 38-24. Though that dampened the spirits of pro-gay marriage advocates, the hope this time is that growing public support, a vote in a non-election year, combined with a GOP desire to remove the issue from the table could spur the bill’s passage.

Open Letter Business Leaders Final 4 29 11

Empire Center: Upstate Schools Tightening Belts Better

Upstate school districts are managing their costs better and exhibiting more fiscal restraint than their downstate counterparts, a report from the fiscal conservative Empire Center found.

The think tank found that per-pupil spending will increase statewide by 1.95 percent, driving up the per-student cost in New York to $20,401. However, it was the suburban school districts in the metropolitan regions of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties that saw the biggest tax hikes, the report found.

This makes sense. Upstate districts in general do not have the broad tax base enjoyed by New York City suburban school districts. The state Education Department’s tax report card released this week found districts on average are increasing their levies by 3.4 percent, higher than the 2 percent property tax cap proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor said at a news conference Wednesday that districts can live within their means if given less state aid. The 2011-12 state budget included a $1.2 billion cut to education aid.

Empire School Report 2011 12 Main