Libous Wonders How Cap Would Work With Gas Drilling

Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said he was on board with the Assembly’s version of the property tax cap for the most part, but still had questions over how the measure would work with gas drilling in the southern tier.

The cap proposal that is now supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would exclude growth in new properties that broaden a tax base, similar to what the Massachusetts tax cap provides.

Properties that are found to have reserves of natural gas underground often become a financial boon to the owners.

But with the possible start to drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation of the Southern Tier, Libous — who supports the use of hydraulic fracturing — said more information is needed.

“I think it will come to an agreement. I mean, it was stated by the leaders yesterday our conference — we have some questions. I have an issue about if and when natural gas drilling starts, there are some concerns about valuation and how it’s determined.

He added:

There’s some issues I’m going to bring up to our finance people. I think their are issues like that — crossing Ts and dotting Is. But the concept and the cap and how it functions I think is a good thing for the taxpayers of this state.

Libous also dismissed what was seen as equivocating by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, during Tuesday’s news conference on the issue, calling it “Albany banter.”

Silver: Proposal Comes After Senate ‘Intransigence’

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, is taking a victory lap of sorts this morning, telling Fred Dicker that the Senate Republicans were surprised by the compromise proposal released on Tuesday that is being embraced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Let’s remember on their own last year the Senate passed a property tax cap that was four percent with a whole bunch of exemptions,” Silver said, referring to the then-Democratic chamber.

In January, the Senate approved Cuomo’s recommended program bill for a “hard” 2 percent cap on property taxes.

“They passed the governor’s 2 percent and fgured the Assembly would never do it unless working on it and working on it that would be something that is fair and equitable,” Silver said.

The measure would include an exemption for pension growth and would sunset at a yet-to-be determined time. Silver seemed particularly delighted during the news conference as Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos struggled to say whether he supported the new cap (Skelos later released a statement saying he endorsed the plan and that only the sunset date and “minor technical details” separated” them).

Silver said the sunset proposal is not “foreign” to legislation in Albany and added that what called inaction on the Senate GOP’s part resulted in Tuesday’s introduction of the measure.

“The idea of a sunset or a recalibration is not something that’s foreign,” Silver said. “After a lot of inaction and intransigence by the Senate, the governor said let’s put out there.”

McMahon: Sunset Would Have Been A ‘Dealbreaker’

Including a specific expiration date in the Assembly’s property tax cap would have been a “dealbreaker,” said EJ McMahon in a Talk-1300 radio interview this morning.

McMahon told Fred Dicker that tying the cap to rent control, a proposal now embraced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was a “clever” move by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

“This cap shall take effect as long as New York has a rent control,” McMahon said. “What it says is as long as we have rent control, we’ll have tax cap. It’s a very clever, unique way to secure this.”

He added that Senate Republicans lose some leverage in the rent control — and expansion of regulations — debate.

“I think the point is you have to look at the very clever way he put a non-sunset sunset, it clearly weakens a very important piece of leverage they hold over rent control. If it doesn’t completely end their leverage, it significantly weakens their leverage going forward,” he said.

It was somewhat unusual to hear McMahon praise a proposal from state government.

“It’s a giant step toward getting tax relief. I think it’s a very important symbol,” he said.

McMahon, an influential and very quotable policy analyst for the fiscally conservative think-tank, also said he was approached ahead of time by Cuomo officials to get his input on the proposal.

“I think it spoke highly of their confidence that they had held mine,” he said.

The Happiest Man In Buffalo

There were a lot of happy people at Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul’s headquarters last night. The chicken wing-eating and beer-drinking crowd was feeling pretty confident to begin with, and only got increasingly animated as the night wore on, breaking into loud cheers when the AP called the race for their candidate.

But perhaps no one was as animated (aside from the 20-something canvassers reveling in the free food and drink) as Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, whose smile grew wider and wider throughout the evening.

Thanks to Hochul’s gamble to run a long-shot congressional campaign instead of challenging GOP County Executive Chris Collins (in spite of an internal poll that reportedly showed her well ahead and the desire of state-level Democrats to see Collins eliminated as a future concern to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Poloncarz was tapped to take the fight to Collins instead.

And as Poloncarz sees it, his job just got a whole lot easier, thanks to Hochul’s win.

“I think this sets us up nicely,” the comptroller told me. “…This was a repudiation of the Republican agenda – an agenda that Chris Collins is out there calling for.”

“Yes, this was an open seat, and it’s a different race. But in the end, the people of the 26th are saying: We don’t want the candidate who supports Wall Street and big oil, we want the candidate who supports Main Street. It’s fair to say that people united for Kathy Hochul and the message she brought to the table. It’s a similar message that I’m going to be taking about.”

It’s not possible to draw exact parallels between the NY-26 contest and the upcoming county executive race. Ousting an incumbent is a lot harder than winning an open seat – even in a GOP-dominated district – particularly without a vote-splitting third party candidate for Collins to worry about.

(The conservatives, who have been known to back Democrats in WNY, have already given him their early support, although the Indy line is still in play).

More >

WFP: NY-26 Residents ‘Did Us All A Solid’

The Working Families Party, which sent a team of canvassers to knock doors for Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul, is among those taking credit for helping propel her to victory.

The labor-backed party is also fully embracing the NY-26-as-Medicare-referendum storyline being pushed by the Democrats, taking this opportunity to urge the Dems to, as WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor put it in an email to supporters this morning, “use this victory well, and stand up for what we know is right.”

“The people were not fooled,” Cantor wrote. “Hochul got nearly 50% of the vote in a 4-way race, beating all expectations – including ours.”

“Middle-class and working-class citizens of Western New York, seniors and younger people alike, cast a vote for a better America today. In the words of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, the voters of the 26th CD were basically saying that “we all do better when we all do better.”

“They were not willing to buy the Ryan-Boehner-Pawlenty-Romney-Whoever view that we don’t actually have any obligations to one another, that we are just islands unto ourselves. Medicare is a promise, from one generation to the next, that all Americans deserve to be treated with dignity. Nothing more, but nothing less either.”

“The people of Western New York just did a huge solid for the whole country.”

Hochul ran on the Democratic and WFP lines, while Assemblywoman Jane Corwin had the Independence, Conservative and GOP lines. Jack Davis ran as a small-i independent on the TEA Party line, and Ian Murphy was the Green Party’s candidate. The unofficial results: Hochul, 48,530; Corwin, 43,836; Davis, 9,495; Murphy, 1,130.

Dave Weigel writes this morning about the so-called “spoiler” effect Davis had on the race, and concludes that theory isn’t all the GOP is making it out to be. He also touches on the long-standing division in the GOP – particularly upstate – which caused the emergence of a third-party candidate in the first place.

Here And Now, NY-26 Post Mortem Edition

Sorry for the delay, it was a bit of a late night and the power at the hotel where we’re staying in Buffalo experienced a freak power outage this morning. And now, headlines…

Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul will make two stops to thank NY-26 voters this morning. She’ll be at the Hillview Restaurant in Depew at noon, and at the Long Pond Family Restaurant in Greece at 1:30 p.m. (No link).

The Buffalo News on Hochul’s “odds-defying” victory.

Hochul, who doesn’t live in the district, carried Erie County in a big way, but she was competitive everywhere else and also eked out a win in Niagara County.

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin said she is “concerned” by the “discourse” and “gotcha politics” that took place in this election.

Jack Davis was noncommittal about whether he’ll run again, (this was his fourth congressional campaign), but pledged to stay involved in the fight against free trade because “the country needs me.”

“(F)or the first time since November, the idea that Democrats might have a shot at winning back the House is no longer a laughing matter,” Alexander Burns writes.

On a race without Davis, Nate Silver writes: “If Ms. Corwin had won all of Mr. Davis’ vote (and Ms. Hochul won all of Mr. Miller’s vote), she would have won 51-49. That would still qualify as a bad night for the Republicans, however.” (I believe he means Murphy, as in the Green Party’s Ian Murphy, not Miller).

Will all the talk be Medicare, Medicare, Medicare in 2012?

Sen. Chuck Schumer thinks so. So does EJ Dionne.

Maybe Hochul won because she was simply the better candidate.

The Democrat and Chronicle plans to hold Hochul accountable.

More >

Hochul: We Are All Future Seniors

Here’s Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul’s victory speech:

Rep. Higgins: Hochul Embodies Best Of WNY

Congressman Brian Higgins just fired off this statement. He has been a big supporter of Hochul throughout the campaign, and even told us yesterday on Cap Ton that he was confident that she’d win.

“Today Western New Yorkers voted to send Kathy Hochul to Congress. This is a victory for those who believe seniors, who worked hard all their lives, should be able to retire with dignity and security, and an opportunity to send a tremendous public servant, who embodies the best of Western New York, to our nation’s capital to create jobs right here at home.

“Western New York is a unique community that deserves the dedicated and respected leadership Kathy can deliver. I congratulate Kathy and look forward to having her join me in Congress in the continued fight for Western New York.”

Hochul Receives Presidential Congrats

Here’s President Obama’s statement congratulating Congresswoman-in-waiting Kathy Hochul on her win.

He didn’t endorse her as he did the Democratic candidates in past NY specials, and that makes sense, considering his poll numbers these days and the fact that Sen. John McCain carried the district back in 2008 (this was one of just five NY districts he won).

There was, however, a big under-the-radar DNC presence here – including a late cash transfer to the NYS Democratic Party to help with field, I’m told, although I don’t have the exact figure on that yet.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory in New York’s 26th Congressional District,” Obama said.

“Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future. Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington.”

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz On ‘Far-reaching Consequences’ Of NY-26

Newly-minted DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a (rather lengthy) statement that echoes the Democratic line of the night: This was a referendum on the Republicans’ effort to overhaul Medicare.

“I wholeheartedly congratulate Congresswoman-elect Hochul and her grassroots supporters for their hard work and dedication despite being outspent by a 2-to-1 margin.”

“Tonight’s election result is not just a victory for Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul, it’s a victory for the residents of Western New York and for Americans who believe that our elected leaders should fight to protect Medicare and ensure that our government works for our seniors, working families and young people.”

” Kathy’s Republican opponent, and those who spent a small fortune on her behalf in a solidly Republican district, found out the hard way that their extreme plans to abolish Medicare and slash Medicaid and investments in health care, education, innovation and job creation are wrongheaded and unpopular even in a district that should have been a cakewalk for the Republican candidate.

“Just a few months ago, former Republican Congressman Lee won the 26th district with 74 percent of the vote – but since that time Republicans have voted to end Medicare and place a whole host of additional burdens on seniors, young people and working families while preserving tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and big oil and they have been on the wrong side of public sentiment ever since.

“Tonight’s result has far-reaching consequences beyond New York. It demonstrates that Republicans and Independent voters, along with Democrats, will reject extreme policies like ending Medicare that even Newt Gingrich called radical.”

“With this election in the rear-view mirror, it is my hope that Republicans will accept the message being sent by voters in this race, in the polls and at town hall meetings across the country and work with Democrats to get our fiscal house in order while protecting Medicare and other initiatives vital to our economic recovery.”