Gillibrand Aides, Miss NY Advocate For Gay Marriage

Members of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand staff and Miss New York Claire Buffie will join advocates from around the state today in lobbying state senators for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“We have a new governor in office who has not only made the commitment to our community and to New York State to pass marriage equality, but he said he’d like to have it done this year,” said Ron Zacchi, executive director of Marriage Equality New York. “With this statement, its urgent New Yorkers put their time and energy to have it pass in New York State this year.”

“…There are 26 pro-marriage equality votes in the state Senate. (That’s) two more than there were when a marriage equality bill was struck down in late 2009. The state Assembly has passed the marriage equality bill three times, so Senate Republicans remain crucial.”

Advocates are targeting Sens. Roy McDonald and Betty Little as potential GOP “yes” votes. (Remember that no Republicans voted “yes” when the bill died in the Senate two years ago).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports gay marriage and said during the campaign that it would be a priority of his first year in office. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said last October that he thinks the bill should come to the floor for an up-or-down vote, but he has so far shown no sign of moving the measure.

Gillibrand has made gay rights – including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – a focus since she inherited former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s seat in January 2009 as a means to demonstrate her liberal cred to skeptical progressives who were worried by her Blue Dog days in the House.

Buffie made gay marriage her platform for the 2011 Miss America contest, although she didn’t win. (Miss Nebraska, one of the youngest competitors this year, landed the coveted crown).

Ex-Sen. Thompson Fundraises For Possible Return (Updated)

Former Sen. Antoine Thompson might not be done with politics after all.

Following the former Buffalo Democrat’s stunning loss last fall to Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti in one of the state’s most Democrat-dominated districts, Thompson is soliciting campaign contributions so he can “communicate with interest groups” and “demonstrate broadbased (sic) financial support” as he mulls a return to elected office.

A reader forwarded this solicitation his organization received from Thompson yesterday via fax in which the former senator claimed “many people” are urging him to consider giving public life another go.

Thompson didn’t specifically mention any particular office he’s currently eyeing, but the GOP is worried about retaining Grisanti’s seat and already thinking about how his district lines might be redrawn (assuming that whole independent/nonpartisan redistricting pledge goes out the window) to best protect him in 2012.

UPDATE: A reader says Thompson might be eyeing a run for Buffalo comptroller – a post that will be open March 17 when its current occupant, Andrew SanFilippo, starts his new job with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

As of mid-January, Thompson had just $3,928 in his campaign committee, which he has continued to tap despite the fact that he’s out of office.

Thompson’s campaign account has drawn scrutiny in recent months. Grisanti also claimed the former senator was something of a sore loser, allegedly destroying constituent files prior to turning over his office. This prompted Grisanti to propose a bill that would criminalize that kind of action, making it a misdemeanor.

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‘Dear Governor Cuomo’

The Alliance for Quality Education has launched a video contest dubbed “Dear Governor Cuomo” in which students, teachers, parents and other “concerned community members” are being asked to go on camera to explain how the governor’s proposed spending cuts directly impact them and their school districts.

Prizes include 3 iPads and a $1,000 award to purchase educational materials or services for a public school classroom or a youth-service organization. (Interesting that this education advocacy group is running a competition much like Cuomo has proposed making districts compete against one another for education aid).

The submission window begins today and ends Tuesday, March 8.

AQE, as you’ll recall, is receiving $425,000 from the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, to help run a grassroots campaign against Cuomo’s education cuts. The campaign now has a slogan: “College and Careers. Not More Cuts.”

“Students, parents, teachers and other concerned community members from across the state have heard from Governor Cuomo,” said AQE spokeswoman Nikki Jones.

“Now it is time for Governor Cuomo to hear from them. A $1.5 billion to cut to schools, atop of last year’s devastating cut, will mean that many students will be less likely to realize their dreams of on-time graduation and college and career readiness. The final budget will be the only tell-tale sign to show whether or not the Governor has offered a listening ear to the people of New York.”

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will reportedly turn up the heat on state lawmakers by introducing his own ethics reform bill in hopes of forcing them to take a public position on it.

Silver confirmed he supports requiring all lawyer-legislators to reveal their client lists and outside income.

The Times finds Cuomo’s prison-closing goals “worthy” but also believes he’ll be “hard-pressed” to reach his goal.

The so-called Tin Cup Brigade, led by Mayor Bloomberg, pressed its collective case at the Capitol, but seemed resigned to spending cuts.

The mayors abandoned the every-city-for-itself approach to present a united front.

Bloomberg had a “testy” meeting with the Senate Democrats about his push to repeal “last in, first out” for public school teachers.

The state and NYC budget directors exchanged verbal barbs via press release.

The mayor advocated for pension reform and mandate relief during his short trip to Albany, which he says would save the city $1 billion.

Bloomberg warned of “devastating” layoffs and senior center closings as a result of the cuts Cuomo wants, but focused most of his lobbying efforts on mandate relief.

Bill Hammond likes many of Bloomberg’s proposals and wises lawmakers paid more attention to his testimony.

The second join legislative budget hearing – on environmental protection – is getting underway now.

Cuomo met with the Senate Dems at the executive mansion last night (on the menu: sliders). He’s breakfasting with the Assembly GOP this morning. (No link).

More >

Extras

The Democratic Leadership Council is out of money and will soon shut down.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was at the White House Super Bowl party (with J-Lo!)

Mayor Bloomberg won’t push for congestion pricing again.

Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz was fined $2,000 by the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board.

Black lawmakers and advocates are calling for action on the 30 percenet HIV/AIDS rent cap bill that was vetoed by former Gov. Paterson.

Grading MTA Chairman Jay Walder, whom Cuomo is keeping.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is teaming up with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal to protect abortion rights.

Here’s a novel idea…I think it might be unconstitutional, though.

CPAC’s 2012 straw poll ballot doesn’t include a certain former governor of New York, but does include Chris Christie.

Rep. Bill Owens will sit on a third House committee: Small Business.

The IDC rolled out its fourth report – this time on combatting auto insurance fraud.

Sen. Jeff Klein appears to have changed his mind about the powers of the LG.

Dan Collins writes up the end of the “mutually self-interested” relationship between AFT President Randi Weingarten and Bloomberg.

Greg David suggests a united Cuomo-Bloomberg front on pension reform.

Hillary Clinton has out-traveled her predecessor.

The financee of a congressional staffer killed in the Tucson shooting has endorsed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s high capacity magazine ban bill.

A Latino call to action on redistricting reform.

Bloomberg is the second most philanthropic person in America.

Cuomo’s intramural basketball team (back in the day) was called the “Gonads.”

Assembly, Senate Review Cuomo’s Budget

Here, in no particular order, are the reviews by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 spending plan.

Their release corresponds with the first joint budget hearing, which was held today and drew local elected officials from all over the state to testify.

“This report presents the governor’s proposal in the detail needed to make the critical decisions ahead,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“This is a key step in the Assembly’s analysis of the state’s fiscal standing and in the process of working with the governor and Senate to craft a timely and responsible budget.”

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Senate Majority Staff Analysis of the SFY 2011-12 Executive Budget

When Budget Directors Attack

They do it in a fairly civilized manner. Because, after all, they’re budget directors – you know, numbers guys. And, of course, they’re exchanging these barbs in public. Lord knows what’s being said behind closed doors.

NYC Budget Director Mark Page responded thusly to today’s assertion his state counterpart, Bob Megna, that the Bloomberg administration’s numbers overstate the amount of state aid NYC stands to lose under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 spending plan:

“We had a fruitful discussion with the Governor and his team today about how to substantially reduce State mandates in order to help New York City manage the State’s $2.1 billion cut, down from its November budget plan.”

“The State Budget Director’s suggestion, however, that New York City has $2 billion in reserves is flat-out wrong.”

“The City is using $1.1 billion of resources generated this year to help close our multi-billion dollar Fiscal Year 2012 budget gap, which, even with these resources, totals $2.4 billion. If the Budget Director applied this rationale to the State budget, $3.5 billion in State closing funds balances from this year would obviate the need for any school aid cuts, statewide.”

“Obviously, this is not reality.”

Stalemate

The Cuomo administration is so far willing to do little more than listen to Mayor Bloomberg’s complaints about the governor’s proposed funding cuts to NYC, dispatching state Budget Director Bob Megna to refute the mayor’s numbers (yet again) via press release.

Megna’s statement basically a retread of what the administration had to say the first time Bloomberg slammed Cuomo’s budget proposal, calling it “unfair” to the city. The governor has, however, expressed his willingness to work with Bloomberg on the issue of pension reform.

“We appreciate the Mayor’s support and look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and his Administration in a collaborative fashion to address this serious fiscal situation,” Megna said.

“The Mayor’s budget assumed a double-digit percentage increase in education aid even though the city received a year-to-year cut in last year’s budget.”

“Given the fiscal situation facing the city, state, and nation, it was obviously not realistic to assume an increase in funding in the 2011-2012 budget.”

“Governor Cuomo’s budget does not cut $1.4 billion in education aid to New York City. Rather, on a year to year basis, education aid to New York City is cut $579 million. In addition, the $579 million cut is approximately 2.7 percent of the city’s total school budget, which is lower than the statewide average cut of 2.9 percent of the average school budget.”

It is also worth noting that Mayor Bloomberg has up to $2 billion in reserves which could be used to offset the loss of this education funding. As a result, we believe teacher layoffs should not be necessary.”

“As for revenue sharing, last year, the city received no money in revenue sharing and this year it will receive no money in revenue sharing, and therefore, there is no year-to-year reduction regarding this money.”

Timing I$ Everything

A sharp-eyed reader wrote in to note two rather well-timed fundraisers being held in Albany tonight, the timing of which is all quite serendipitous, I’m sure.

The chairs of the Assembly and Senate Racing & Wagering committees – Gary Pretlow, a Mt. Vernon Democrat; and John Bonacic, a Mt. Hope Republican – are both holding $500-per person events tonight.

Pretlow’s fundraiser is at the University Club, Bonacic’s is at the Fort Orange Club. They’re actually a mere block apart, which makes it easier for the racing interests in town to hit both events without breaking much of a sweat.

The racing industry reps are in town for Bonacic’s hearing on the future of racing, wagering and gaming in NY. Only those invited to testify were allowed to do so. The list of those expected to speak included:

Michael Amo, Chairman of the Board of the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association based out of Saratoga; Michael Speller, President of Resorts World New York; Charles Hayward, President and CEO of NYRA; representatives of several OTB Corporations including Donald Groth of Catskill OTB, John Signor of Capital OTB, Arthur Walsh of Nassau OTB; Joseph D’Amato of Empire Resorts; Joseph Faraldo of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York; Richard Violette, Jr. of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc. and Jeffrey Cannizzo of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.

Some news coming out of the hearing: Jim Odato reports Genting, which hasn’t even opened its Aqueduct racino yet, is already talking about expanding the number of VLTs on site.

He Said, He Said – Tea Party Edition

At the risk of getting in the middle of what’s shaping up to be a full-blown war of words between WNY Tea Party advocate Rus Thompson and former Carl Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo, I’d like to state up front that this will be my last blog post on this particular topic.

There, now that we have that out of the way….Caputo sent me the following e-mail responding to the e-mail that Thompson sent yesterday to his list of TEANewYork supporters:

I read Rus Thompson’s email. Rus is my friend and colleague and we often disagree. Today he requires correction:

1) “Carl has been quoted in the local media as saying Caputo is way off the reservation by contacting the TEA Parties.” (NO – Carl said exactly this: “[Caputo] was way off the reservation if he was trying to speak for the tea party people.” Watch it on video here.

“Carl is right; he knows I’m not a member of the Tea Party. Pretending to speak for an group to which I do not belong would certainly be “way off the reservation.”)

2) “He is using the master email lists for his own purpose and without permission from Carl.” (WRONG – I own my copy of the list, and campaign-related lists are a fraction of what I’ve used to drive 3,000 letters to New York State legislators in support of Cuomo’s fiscal reforms. )

3) “I have to say first and foremost Carl Paladino does not condone or support what Caputo is doing.” ( NO – I cleared this with Carl early on. Twice. He doesn’t oppose me speaking my mind. He also doesn’t want to jump aboard, but that would be inappropriate – and weird – anyway).

Caputo later followed up with: “This is certainly a tempest in a Tea pot, especially when you compare these few buzzing hornets to the pressing matters at hand in Albany.”