Here And Now

The Cuomo administration will announce today that Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton will resign his local post to accept a state job – likely head of the Canal Corp., according to a source with knowledge of the move.

State lawmakers are starting to complain about all the holes in Cuomo’s budget.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos raised the prospect of a late budget and suggested that would be Cuomo’s fault.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco said the governor delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers: Pass the budget on time or he’ll follow David Paterson’s lead and put his proposal into extenders, forcing them to choose between approval and a shutdown.

LG Bob Duffy is presenting Cuomo’s budget in Utica today at 1 p.m. (No link). He was in Plattsburgh yesterday.

Good government advocates think Sandra Lee should make a good faith gesture and disclose her personal financial investments even though she and Cuomo aren’t married.

Salon’s Steve Kornacki thinks Cuomo is in for a “rude awakening” if he thinks he can make it to the White House.

Today’s joint legislative budget hearing will focus on the public protection portion of Cuomo’s budget.

Rep. Pete King predicted Skelos will receive help from the GOP leadership in Washington, which is very interested in keeping the Albany chamber in friendly hands as redistricting looms.

Cuomo also said he will consider the restoration of aid to municipalities who host video lottery terminals during this year’s budget negotiations.

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Stratton To Take Job In Cuomo Admin

Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton is going to resign and take a job inside the Cuomo administration, a source with knowledge of the arrangement confirms to CapTon.

An announcement is expected tomorrow. At this time, the source would not reveal what position Stratton will have.

Cuomo Deputy Press Secretary Josh Vlasto would not confirm or deny the story when CapTon reached out to him this evening.


Rep. Peter King won’t let “political correctness” get in the way of his hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims.

NY-25 made POLITICO’s list of the top 10 hottest House races for 2012.

Was the Sullivan County casino dead before it even got off the ground?

Chris Cillizza surveys the 2012 GOP field.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco got a gubernatorial hug today.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand accused the GOP of having a “heinous disregard” for women.

“There is no crime in coming in under budget,” said Raymond R. Castello, one of John Haggerty’s team of defense attorneys.

Sen. Tom Libous is “encouraged” by ethics reform negotiations.

The Koch brothers: The Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool.

A Bronx Planned Parenthood clinic was the target of an anti-abortion group’s undercover sting.

Beleaguered Central Labor Council President Jack Ahern is trying to rebuild after several staff resignations and before a report by his union’s independent ethics officer hits later this month.

More Hillary Clinton speculation.

Acting DEC Commissioner Joe Martens toed the company line on drilling in the Marcellus shale.

President Obama will host GOP leaders for lunch tomorrow.

The NYC Record is now on-line.

Bloomberg made a point of meeting with Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the IDC, when he was in Albany yesterday.

Do-it-yourself redistricting.

The NYC Council’s pork-barrel spending is now on-line at

The president stopped smoking. Again.

Personally, I’d pick flying.

Senate GOP Gives Dems $15.2 M to Work With

The Senate Republicans have finally settled on an allocation amount for their Democratic colleagues with which they will have to run their entire minority conference operation – including both central and member staff.

The GOP confirms it will provide the the Democrats with $15.2 million.

To put that into context, the Democrats gave the Republicans slightly over $13 million when they first took back the majority in 2008.

They then upped that amount to $23 million following the 2009 Senate coup and stalemate that was (if you believe then-Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.) all a fight for reform and the more equitable distribution of resources and had nothing to do with power.

Every rank-and-file member is getting a base allocation of $350,000 plus another $50,000 for those with ranking positions on committees (assumedly to cover additional staff). Once you add all that up, according to the Democrats, you’re left with somewhere between $2 million and $3 million with which to pay the central staff – about enough to cover 40 staffers, I’m told.

The Senate Dems were way over budget when they were in charge – more than $10 million, to be exact. They’ve been trimming their costs, laying off 130 people on Jan. 19 (this doesn’t include resignations), and have brought their spending down from $41 million to $26 million.

That’s still a long way from $15.2 million, however. Then again, the Democrats only have to split their money 26 ways and not 30, thanks to the departure of the four renegade IDC members, who have negotiated their own allocations – not to mention committee chairmanships – with the Republicans.

“We’ve made significant payroll reductions to bring spending down appropriate levels and further reductions are ongoing,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

The Republicans made repeated claims after winning back the majority that their brief stint in the minority had opened their eyes to how important it is to treat the other side with dignity and provide it with adequate resources.

However, since taking control, the GOP has done some things that called that assertion into question – most notably, pushing through rules changes that stripped LG Bob Duffy of his ability to cast a tie-breaking leadership vote.

‘Disappointment’ Abounds At NYSAC

Apparently even serving on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s transition team AND both his Medicaid and mandate relief task forces still doesn’t give one enough juice to wrangle an in-person appearance by the state’s chief executive.

NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario was very upset that Cuomo declined to show up at the association’s annual meeting in Colonie today – the first time in some two decades that a governor has been a no-show for this event.

“This is an unusual occurance here, not to have our general if you will,” Acquario told reporters. “I say that with respect.”

“These are essentially his soldiers in government. County legislators, County supervisors, county executives, county treasurers, all these people at the local government county level are delivering state services locally. They really wanted to hear from their general.”

“What are the orders from the top? What is the state saying to its troops down below? And how can we help in that message? And I think there is a lot of disappointment here, that he did not come to this event because a lot of people came here thinking he’d be here to learn about the things he has been talking about.”

The disappointment is being expressed across party lines. Republican Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards, who, thanks to the state’s bizarre Election Law, was Carl Paladino’s LG running mate last year, just left the CapTon studio where he echoed Acquario’s sentiment.

Edwards was slightly more pointed in his criticism of Cuomo. But if you want to see that, you’re going to have to tune in tonight at either 8 p.m. ot 11:30 p.m.

Skelos: We’re A Month Behind Budget Schedule (Updated)

Here’s Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos complaining to reporters after the NYSAC conference in Colonie today about the timing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, which the Long Island Republican said is at least a “month behind schedule.”

(H/T to CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind on this one).

“The process is now at least a week or so behind where it should be,” Skelos said. “The problem is he’s taking a different approach.”

“He’s leaving it to different task forces and mandate relief groups to make recommendations. But it’s interesting, Medicaid Reform Task Force, March 1st, then his 30-day amendments have to be done March 3rd, and then we have, as a Legislature, 27 days to do what we’re supposed to do. And that’s going to be a challenge.”

A new governor actually gets some extra time to release his executive budget to the Legislature. As a point of reference, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s first budget address came at the very end of January 2009. Cuomo’s was on Feb. 1.

UPDATE: Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran e-mailed over a quote slamming Skelos, which appears after the jump, and also incldued a helpful link on the constitutional requirement vis-a-vis the governor and his budget.

Skelos’ comments seem to be setting the stage for a late budget. Early on in this game, Cuomo was reportedly willing to shut down the government if state lawmakers blow the April 1 deadline, but he later backtracked from that.

At the very least, there’s now some daylight between the Democratic governor and the Senate GOP leader, who had previously been practically joined at the hip, philosophically speaking.

Of course, then the budget with its deep educating funding cuts came out and all bets were off. Now the Long Island nine – including Skelos – is digging in and talking about the lack of fairness and equity in the reductions Cuomo is seeking.

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Changing Of The Guard At Manhattan GOP

Multiple GOP sources confirm that Jennifer Saul has resigned her post as chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, effective Fen. 16.


Saul, who was the lone female GOP county leader in the five boroughs, informed party members of her decision last night, citing personal reasons. Apparently, there’s a letter out, too, but I haven’t managed to track that down yet.

According to my sources, there’s no scandal here; Saul recently remarried and wants to spend more time with her family. She has not yet responded to a call for comment. I’m told she will retain her position as the state’s female RNC committee member.

Manhattan attorney Dan Isaacs, a longtime GOP fundraiser/donor, will take over for Saul, according to my sources.

Isaacs made a failed bid for the state GOP chairmanship back in the spring of 2009. Actually, he was the only Republican to formally declare a challenge to then-Chairman Joe Mondello, but he lost out to Ed Cox in the end.

Saul is the daughter of Andrew Saul, a wealthy Westchester County businessman and MTA Board member who briefly ran for congress in 2008 in NY-19.

She replaced James Ortenzio (a big George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani booster/donor) in January 2007 as head of the Manhattan GOP. Ortenzio was sentenced to five years’ probation on felony tax-evasion charges in January 2008.

Budget Not Likely To Affect Parks This Year

There will likely be no additional state park closures this year, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for a nearly $19 million reduction in funding to the agency.

“I am confident that the 10 percent reduction can be achieved without requiring new closures of state parks or historic site by reevaluating our operations to identify additional efficiencies, eliminating redundancies, and examining how savings from actions taken in the current fiscal year will help in in the next fiscal year,” said Andy Beers, acting commissioner of the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, before a joint legislative budget committee this morning.

Environmental agencies have seen hefty funding cuts over the past two years, which forced hundreds of layoffs and temporarily closed several parks and historic sites (public outrage ultimately convinced the legislature to restore park funding).

However, while Cuomo’s 2011-2012 budget proposal included deep spending cuts, it spared parks and the DEC from having to further reduce staffing levels, which supporters and unions say have dropped to dangerously low levels.

(That was, as you’ll recall, the crux of the battle between the Paterson administration and former DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis that led to Grannis’ termination).

Acting DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens says he plans to strengthen funding for programs that might maximize tourism revenue.

“We’ll further our tourism goals by providing stewardship funding for our public facilities such as campgrounds, boat launches and trails, and strengthening our zoos, aquariums and parks,” Martens told lawmakers. “And we’ll help keep farming operations profitable by providing funding for farmland protection.”

Here’s some of Marten’s testimony:

You can read his remarks here, and Beers’s testimony here.

Superintendent Salary Cap Support Grows

Sen. John Flanagan told me during a CapTon interview last night that he’s open to the idea of a salary cap for public school superintendents, whose compensation was targeted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his budget address last week.

Cuomo mentioned the salary of a Syosset schools superintendent, Carole Hankin, who earns $386,868 a year, as an example of where education officials might consider cutting to make up for the loss of state aid they are expected to suffer during this budget cycle.

(He didn’t call Hankin out by name during his Feb. 1 presentation at the Egg’s Hart Theater, but she’s easy enough to identify, thanks to her outsized paycheck).

A spokesman for the governor refused to discuss with the NY Times whether Cuomo is considering following the lead of NJ Gov. Chris Christie in imposing a cap on most superintendents’ salaries, but Flanagan told me he thinks that’s fair game.

"And then if we want to go to that debate about distribution and fairness and equity, then I think it's all part of what should be discussed. There's no question in my mind, a contract like that to me, in my opinion, as a taxpayer, as a parent, as an elected official, it's outrageous."

Flanagan is one of the so-called “Long Island nine” – the GOP senators who make up the Nassau and Suffolk delegations (including Majority Leader Dean Skelos) who are digging in on Cuomo’s proposed education cuts, saying they aren’t fair and equitable.

Sampson Brands Skelos An ‘Enemy Of Reform’

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson took a shot at his GOP counterpart today, accusing Majority Leader Dean Skelos of backtracking on his 2010 campaign pledge to support ethics and redistricting reform.

After addressing the New York Association of Counties annual conference at the Desmond, Sampson told reporters Skelos has abandoned his support of requiring moonlighting lawmakers to disclose their outside income within narrow ranges and, in the case of attorney-legislators, release their client lists.

This comes on the heels of the majority leader’s waffling on his election-year promise to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch that he (not to mention every member of his 32-person GOP conference) would co-sponsor a bill to form an independent redistricting commission by March 1, Sampson noted.

“After breaking his promise on independent redistricting and now backing away from full ethics disclosures for public officials, Senator Skelos is showing himself to be an enemy of reform,” Sampson said. “It appears as if Senator Skelos signed the reform pledge in disappearing ink.”

Both Skelos and Sampson are of-counsel at downstate law firms.

The same goes for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has long balked at the idea of revealing his client list, but had a change of heart on the subject after Gov. Andrew Cuomo came into office pledging to clean up Albany.

Koch appeared on CapTon last week and threatened to revive his statewide reform tour – but this time accusing balky lawmakers of being liars with their pants on fire – if his March 1 deadline isn’t met.

Cuomo is reportedly planning to send an ethics program bill to the Legislature in hopes of pressuring members into taking a public stand on the measure.