Pataki: No Debt, No Presidential Run

Former New York Gov. George Pataki told Sean Hannity on Fox News last night that he was more or less ruling out a run for president in 2012.

The Republican is launching a new group, No American Debt, and has more than $1 million in financial support for the organization.

“I’m not running for president, I think this is an extraordinarily important issue. Sean, I’ve been around politics long enough to say, ‘Never say never.’”

Pataki, a three-term governor, has flirted off and on about running for GOP nomination, but has never taken the plunge for a full-on campaign.

Here’s some video of the interview:

Bloomberg Takes On Another Tobacco Suit

Mayor Michael Bloomberg today launched a new federal lawsuit against tobacco sellers he says has been operating a bootleg cigarette ring on the Internet.

“Illegal cigarettes cost our City and State billions of dollars, through increased health care costs and by cheating law abiding small businesses out of customers and cheating taxpayers out of much needed tax revenue,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “We will continue working with our partners in the federal government to protect the public health and fiscal health of our City and State.”

The suit targets retailers in Kentucky, California, and Michigan operating under the name Cigarettes Direct who the mayor charges have shipped more than four million packs of cigarettes to city residents without paying for the necessary city tax stamp. The company operated seven separate websites, according to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court today.

The lawsuit seeks to recover $19.5 million in lost revenue, Bloomberg’s office said.

This isn’t the first suit Bloomberg has filed against online tobacco retailers. The mayor filed suit last year against King Mountain Tobacco Company after the retailers failed to pay city taxes.

Filed Chavez Complaint

Who Will Cuomo Pick To Lead The APA?

In honor of Earth Day on Friday, we’re taking a look at the possible changing face of the Adirondack Park Agency — a zoning and land use oversight agency that operates within the Blue Line of the country’s largest state park.

Established by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, it is a super planning board charged with preserving the sprawling wilderness.

But the park is also home to an estimated 135,000 year-round residents, some of whom chafe under the strict regulations and rulings issued by the APA. The population is dwindling and aging, while businesses struggle to gain a foothold within the park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be able to appoint five new board members this summer — four of whom must be full-time Adirondack residents.

“We haven’t always seen eye to eye with the in-park members of the board, but I think most of them have been people we can talk to and work with,” said Scott Lorey, the legislative director of the Adirondack Council.

Though the agency has been heavily criticized by property-rights groups and business owners, environmentalists say the APA has been leaning in the opposite direction in recent months.

“From our point of view, the board seems to be making some decisions favoring land owners and seem to be favoring private development, which seems to have us concerned,” Lorey said. “But they haven’t gone to the point of no return at this point. I think they’re still able to make good decisions and protect the environment.”

The full story airs Friday.

Buerkle Defends Tax Stance (Updated)

Syracuse YNN’s Bill Carey caught up yesterday with Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle to get her reaction to the twin radio ads (one from the DCCC, the other from the House Majority PAC) attacking her “yes” vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget and opposition to the president’s call to increase taxes on the rich.

“My job is to represent the people who live in this district,” the freshman congresswoman replied after a town hall meeting.

“My position about taxes is we don’t have a taxing problem in this country, we have a spending problem in this country. We don’t need to raise taxes. We need to stop spending…I’ve not heard anyone complain that their taxes are too low.”

Buerkle insisted she hasn’t really heard from any NY-25 residents who want to see wealthy residents get taxed at a higher rate – a proposal she deemed a “different philosophy” than her own.

UPDATE: Buerkle is getting some support from the group 60 Plus, the self-described “conservative alternative to the liberal AARP”, which is running “thank-you” ads for three New York House members (Reps. Chris Gibson in Ny-20 and Richard Hanna in NY-24 are also beneficiaries) who voted in favor of the Ryan plan. You can hear that ad and read its text here.

Shah To Address GNYHA Annual Meeting

State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah will speak at the Greater New York Hospital Association’s annual meeting in NYC next Thursday, the organization announced today.

Shah will be joined by Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard Medical School professor and staff writer for The New Yorker who will discuss “overcoming the cost and complexity of health care” – two topics that are a frequent focus of his writing.

Shah will be talking about “the changing face of health care in the context of the recently enacted New York State budget,” which dovetails nicely into the topic of GNYHA President Ken Raske’s speech: “How hospitals must do more with less in an era of fiscal austerity and unprecedented health care reform.”

GNYHA, as you’ll recall, was invited by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to participate in the Medicaid Redesign Task Force along with its health care workers union partner, SEIU 1199.

This was widely hailed as a very shrewd political move by Cuomo, who successfully neutralized two of the most hard-hitting special interests from the annual budget battle by turning them into allies instead of combatants.

Both 1199 and GNYHA ended up getting something in exchange for signing off on Medicaid reforms. The union saw a living wage for home health care workers while the hospitals got the creation of a medical indemnity fund for neurologically impaired infants that is expected to dramatically reduce their insurance costs in the long term.

More >

Dems Running All Over Buerkle’s Votes

Here’s the sound and text of House Majority PAC’s new radio ad targeting GOP freshman Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) for her vote in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget plan, which Democrats insist will “end Medicare as we know it.”

Jimmy V. points out on CapCon that the Republicans are questioning the veracity of this spot and also noting that Ryan’s proposal wouldn’t impact any seniors currently on Medicare.

Interesting aside for inside baseball types: I received this information from Ryan Rudominer, a former DCCC staffer who worked on ex-Rep. Scott Murphy’s successful campaign against Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in the 2009 special election in NY-20.

Rudominer and several others from the DCCC are now working on this PAC, one of several independent expenditure operations the Democrats launched to counter the wave of GOP-supporting outfits that dominated the 2010 cycle.

VO: “Ann Marie Buerkle says her favorite hobby is running. But she’s been running way too fast in the wrong direction.”

“Because Buerkle just voted for the Republican budget that raises the share of the tax burden on the middle class. And Buerkle’s plan threatens to end Medicare as we know it. That’s right, end Medicare as we know it. It even increases seniors’ prescription drug costs.”

“We’re not done yet. Buerkle’s budget cuts taxes by trillions for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Congresswoman Buerkle even said:

BUERKLE: “I have a real problem with taxing the rich because they make a certain amount of money.”

VO: “Ann Marie Buerkle. She likes to run. But come election time…look out! She won’t be able to outrun her record.”

“Paid for House Majority PAC. Not authorized by any candidate or candidates committee. House Majority PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

Yonkers Mayoral Hopeful: Drug Test Top Officials

Yonkers Republican mayoral candidate John Murtagh would seek random drug screenings for city officials including the mayor, deputy mayor and other city officials.

The drug tests would also be applied to Board of Education employees and workers who operate machinery and drive city vehicles.

“If a Yonkers employee is driving a public vehicle or performing in a ‘high risk’ job, the public reasonably deserves to know that the City is doing what it can to ensure that drugs and alcohol are not an issue,” Murtagh said in a statement. “Yonkers has an excessively large fleet of ‘take-home’ cars, and the City has a responsibility to make sure their drivers are sober and safe. Let’s not wait for some tragic accident to pass this bill; let’s do the smart thing and pass it before a tragedy occurs.”

An employee testing positive would be censured and brought before the Board of Ethics. An employee who refuses would be subject to dismissal, according to the proposed legislation.

Tedisco: In Honor Of Earth Day, Dump Paper

On the eve of Earth Day, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Saratoga,  is renewing his call for the Legislature to go paperless.

“On Earth Day, as Assembly members, we can do our part to reduce the Legislature’s carbon footprint and save taxpayers money by unsubscribing from the Legislative Digest and scores of other paperwork that’s already accessible online,” Tedisco said. “Hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper are needlessly printed each year by the Legislature, much of it going unread and tossed into landfills. This is no way to treat Mother Earth or taxpayers funds.”

Tedisco is trying to eliminate the paper used by the state’s paper-happy Legislature, which often stacks multiple-foot-high bills on lawmakers’ desks.

Tedisco raised the issue during the budget debate, appearing with a huge stack of spending bills on his desk. The lawmaker determined it costs the state $13 million to print the paper bills.

Log Cabin Republicans: Count Us In

The Log Cabin Republicans, the organization for gay GOPers, announced today it would join the coalition of gay-rights groups that have joined forces in the effort to legalize same-sex marriage this year in New York.

“Marriage is not a progressive or conservative issue. It’s an issue of equal rights for taxpaying citizens of this state,” said Gregory T. Angelo, Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York State. “For the first time, we are truly united in our fight to ensure every single New Yorker has the right to marry the person he or she loves.”

New Yorkers United For Marriage now includes The Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, The Human Rights Campaign and Marriage Equality New York.

“We are thrilled to have Log Cabin Republicans join the coalition,” said Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement. “It was a bipartisan coalition that repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and it will be a bipartisan coalition that will win marriage here in New York.”

A bill that would legalize gay marriage failed in the Senate in 2009 38-24 despite Democratic control of the chamber. A bill would need several Republican lawmakers to sign onto the measure. The coalition has already identified Sens. Jim Alesi of Monroe County, Greg Ball of the Hudson Valley and Roy McDonald as possible yes votes.

Giuliani On ‘Sick’ Gotti Film, Spitzer’s Extortion

Rudy Giuliani joined Curtis Sliwa on the radio this morning to commiserate with the shock jock as he prepares to go under the knife for prostate cancer treatment and opine on a range of topics – from John Travolta’s plan to play mob boss John Gotti Sr. (“sick”) to whether ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer would make a good NYC mayor (“no”).

Giuliani, who is a prostate cancer survivor himself, assured Sliwa he’ll “come out of this just fine” and also took the opportunity to remind men to get tested, even starting as early as 10 years before the recommended age of 50.

The former mayor had some very strong words for the upcoming Gotti movie, which he says will do nothing but “glorify” hardened criminals. (It turns out he’s not alone on this one, and he’s got some very personal reasons for feeling this way).

He also recalled his days as a prosecutor, and said Gotti Sr. was “disgusting”, “horrible” and “not very intelligent,” adding:

“He was a dumb moron, and the idea of glorifying this guy who enjoyed showing up at killings because he enjoyed watching them is sick.”

Giuliani was his usual coy self regarding whether he might run for president in 2012, saying he’ll likely make a few more trips to New Hampshire to “see what the landscape is.” He repeated his line about the need for someone strong to challenge President Obama, adding: “Another four years of this president, and the damage will be irreparable to our economy and our national security.”

The former mayor laughed out loud when Sliwa asked for his thoughts on speculation that Spitzer might run for his old job in 2013, saying:

“I can’t imagine that Eliot Spitzer wants to run for public office again after what he did while he was in the last two public offices as attorney general and as governor.”

“It isn’t just his personal misconduct, it’s the way he conducted himself as attorney general – the cases he brought to extort people…Because of the scandal that surrounded him, people forget the case he brought against (former NYSE head) Dick Grasso was thrown out of court. People forget the guy won his cases basically by extortion out of the courtroom.”