Cuomo: Pension Reform On Tap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has weathered criticism from Mayor Bloomberg for failing to include pension reform in his budget proposal, said he plans to address the problem, which he sees as bigger than just NYC.

“There’s no doubt that we need pension reform,” Cuomo told reporters after his speech in Westchester today.

“Costs of pensions are exploding all across the state. It’s not just a problem in New York City. It’s a problem for the state, it’s a problem for local governments all across the state. So we’ll be working on a comprehensive pension reform package as soon as we get the budget done.”

Bloomberg has made pension reform a key focus of his Albany agenda this year and yesterday unveiled a wide-reaching overhaul of the system yesterday that has city unions declaring war.

The city needs action from Albany to accomplish the changes the mayor is seeking, which includes elimination of a $12,000 annual payment to both cops and firefighters – and not only for yet-to-be-hired workers known as the “unborn,” but for all current retirees, too.

Silver’s ‘Chai’ Year

A reader forwarded this “save the date” card for an upcoming brunch fundraiser to honor Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is celebrating “his Chai year” in his powerful leadership post.

silverchai

For those of you not so familiar with Hebrew, “chai” translates as “life.” It consists of the letters “Chet” and “Yod,” which correspond with the numbers 1 and 8, respectively.

The number 18 is a spiritual number in Judaism, and many Jews give gifts of money in multiples of 18 – particularly for special occasions like weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.

Jewish charities often suggest the contributions in multiples of chai ($18, $36, $54 etc.), but I’ve never before seen it used in a political fundraising context like this one. (The contact is Cindy Darrison, a veteran Jewish fundraiser who has worked for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Govs. David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer).

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Groups Band Together To Push Millionaire’s Tax

The budget backlash continues today as several groups representing education, public employees, and low- income New Yorkers bashed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, saying there are other ways to close the state’s $10 billion gap without laying off workers or cutting from education and health care.

Their proposal? Maintain the so-called millionaire’s tax on New York’s wealthier residents.

“We want to make sure that while we’re cutting services to the most vulernable populations of this state, that we’re not giving a multi-billion dollar tax cut to the wealthiest New Yorkers,” said Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness.

“We just don’t think it’s the right time to being doing something like that. Our state is still fiscally struggling and we need that revenue to make sure that we can provide the services and maintain the jobs in this state.

The group, which has dubbed itself GrowingTogetherNY, faces an uphill battle because the governor and the GOP-controlled Senate have made it clear new taxes are not on the table this year. But members think they have an advantage.

A majority of New Yorkers support the tax, which is reflected in a recent YNN/Marist Poll. GrowingTogetherNY hopes to build support by taking its message to the people at events across the state – just like the governor in his latest upstate swing.

Bloomberg Hoists The Terrible Towel

Here’s Mayor Bloomberg making good on his bet with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl after the Jets lost to the Steelers 24-19 in the AFC championship.

Bloomberg hoisted a Steelers “Terrible Towel” at the New York Public Library, one of many established by Pittsburgh steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie.

“For the record: This is painful, and I do not intend to do this next year,” Bloomberg said. “…Jet fans always pay their bets off…The groundhog was easy compared to this.”

Later, Bloomberg wore a Steelers jersey while assembling care packages for service membes – another part of his bet.

Hydrofracking Opponent Disrupts Cuomo Speech

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mini-budget address Manhattanville College in Purchase was interrupted by an anti-hydrofracking advocate, who was escorted from the room by severla men – including one who appears to be a member of the governor’s security detail.

Right around the moment when Cuomo was opining on how “democracy does work” and asking the public to join him in his crusade about the Albany special interests, the dreadlocked protestor yelled out: “No hydrofracking! No more trust in you! No hydrofracking!”

Cuomo paused in his speech, but seemed unruffled, telling the crowd:

“Hydrofracking is a different issue that we’re not addressing today. We will get to hydrofracking. It’s not a budget issue. But it’s a very important issue. And democracy does work.”

He received a prolonged round of applause, which I can’t tell is because he promised to deal with the controversial issue of hydrofracking, which, it should be noted was something that dogged him on the campaign trail last year, or because he didn’t lose his cool.

Senate Dems Accuse GOP Of Being Anti-Duffy (Again)

The Senate Democrats are again accusing the Republicans of trying to neuter LG Bob Duffy, pointing to the quiet reintroduction of a bill that would remove the constitutional provision that puts him in charge when the governor is outside the state.

The measure, co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Griffo (of Utica) and Mark Grisanti (of Buffalo), also provides likewise for when the LG or temporary president of the Senate isn’t in New York. It has been referred to the judiciary committee.

This comes on the heels of the Senate’s approval this week of a rules change that stripped Duffy of his ability to cast a tie-breaking leadership vote. The Democrats accused the GOP of violating the state Constitution (a point that will no doubt end up being settled in court) and also disenfranchising the highest-ranking upstate official in state government.

Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran e-mailed this statement:

“This begs the question: what do Senate Republicans have against Lt. Gov. Duffy?”

“Republicans had no problem voting to make federally indicted Pedro Espada the President of the Senate, putting him one heartbeat away from the Governor’s Office, but now, they are attempting to eliminate a constitutional provision that lets the Lt. Gov. Duffy serve as Governor when the Governor is absent from the state.”

“This is political pandering at its worst, and something Republicans never would have attempted were the Lt. Gov. a member of their party. What’s the next step for Senate Republicans – removing protections for freedom of speech, religion, and trial by jury?”

But Griffo insisted the Democrats are making something out of nothing, pointing out that this bill isn’t new.

In fact, he has a number of bills that deal with the line of succession, including one that an LG-turned-governor appoint a replacement No. 2 within 30 days if he ascends to the position of executive.

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Crossroads To The Rescue

A conservative group affiliated with Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is defending 19 GOP House members – including two New Yorkers – who are the targets of a DCCC campaign launched last week.

The Fix’s Chris Cillizza reports the group, Crossroads GPS, is going up with radio ads to counter the spots that are already on the air attacking, among others, Reps. Nan Hayworth and Ann Marie Buerkle for “choosing a partisan plan that will cost jobs and make America less competitive over the President’s common sense solutions to create jobs and get the economy moving again.”

The DCCC’s ads are part of a larger campaign that includes Web ads, automated phone calls, live phone calls, and e-mails in the targeted districts.

Crossroads GPS insists its ad buy is bigger than the DCCC’s, estimating the cost at about $90,000. The spots continue a theme that was very popular during the 2010 campaign: Trying to tie the Democrats to (now) Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The DCCC is decrying Crossroads, calling it a “Karl Rove run special interest-funded shadowy outside group.”

“While Representative Ann Marie Buerkle is being held accountable for pushing a partisan plan to cut 40 percent in education funds and cost us American jobs, big money special interests are lining up to stand to protect their investment,” said the DCCC’s Jesse Ferguson.

“As much as they try to distract from his plans, special interest groups like this one can’t hide Representative Ann Marie Buerkle’s dangerous plan that would make us less competitive and hurt our economy at the worst possible time.”

“The question is what does American Crossroads expect for their protection of Representative Ann Marie Buerkle.”

Bloomberg Counting On ‘Sympathetic’ Cuomo

There’s an interesting moment at the tail end of this interview of Mayor Bloomberg by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in which the mayor discusses – in the same breath – his support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2010 campaign and his expectation that he’ll eventually get his way on the repeal of “last in, first out.”

“I think that that’s going to be something it’s my job to work with the governor, ” Bloomberg says at about the 5:42-minute mark.

“I actually think Andrew Cuomo is somebody I supported. He’s got a very tough job. He didn’t create the situation he finds himself in. He’s got to try to find a solution. And I think he will be sympathetic to the argument and understand we have to come up with some of these solutions.”

“We are going to have to have thousands of cuts and to do it on a last-in, first-out basis would be catastrophic.”

Bloomberg later says he doesn’t think the governor would want the mess that he believes firing the newest teachers would create.

The mayor has so far been muted in his criticism of the governor and his budget, declining to attack him in public, although he did issue a statement calling the zeroing out of NYC’s revenue-sharing aid on top of the education spending cuts “unfair.”

“LIFO,” as it has come to be called, was not in the governor’s budget, nor was anything to do with pension reform, which Bloomberg has made clear is a top priority for him this year. The mayor initially warned he could be forced to lay off as many as 20,000 teachers if Albany’s cuts were severe, but he has since backed off that threat somewhat.

The Post reported not long ago that state lawmakers are eyeing a “compromise” that would allow Bloomberg to fire between 2,000 and 4,000 of so-called “nonteaching teachers,” including those in the rubber room and the absent teacher reserve pool. So far, nothing conrete has materialized, however.

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Schneiderman Targets On-Line Tobacco Retailers

AG Eric Schneiderman has filed lawsuits against six Website operators that alledgedly sold illegally sold cigarettes to New Yorkers, part of what he deemed a “disturbing trend” that provides teens easy access to tobacco and costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

“These vendors not only broke the law prohibiting the sale of tobacco online, but also endangered our children by making cigarettes easier and cheaper to purchase,” Schneiderman said in a press release.

“With thousands of children becoming addicted smokers each year, and hundreds of thousands more expected to die because of smoking-related illnesses, our fight for a healthier New York is not over.”

“This office has a proud history of standing up to corrupt tobacco corporations, and as Attorney General I will continue to stop those, no matter how big or powerful they might be, who put profits before the health and safety of our communities, and the laws of this state.”

The six vendors are: (1) Totally Tickled Limited, Inc. for discountcigarettesdomestic.com, Kentucky Smokes, and David White; (2) Anton Limited for INeedSmoke.com, and Kyle Williams; (3) Cigarettes-online.biz and John Sparkle; (4) Best Products Solution Limited for http://cigoutlet.net/; (5) Best Products Solution Limited for Smokin4free.com; and (6) Best Products Solution Limited for cigoutlet.biz.

The Public Health Law prohibits the shipment of cigarettes to any person in the state unless that person is licensed as a cigarette tax agent or wholesale dealer.

Four of the complaints further charge that the internet vendors violated the Executive Law by repeating these illegal sales on more than one occasion. The state is seeking fines of up to $5,000 for each violation and injunction against future sales.

The CDC estimates that 24,100 children under the age of 18 start smoking annually. In addition, DOH reported the state lost between $436 million and $576 million from the sale of low price, mainly untaxed cigarettes in 2004. Of that loss, between $106 million and $122 million derived from on-line tobacco sales.

This is all part of Schneiderman’s effort to carve out a new focus for the AG’s office. So far, it’s clear that consumer protection is going to play a big role in that.

Iowa Operative: Pataki ‘Very Serious’ About 2012

Former Gov. George Pataki’s resignation this week from his Revere America PAC sparked speculation that perhaps he’s bowing out of national politics and no longer interested in another White House run.

Quite the contrary, as it turns out.

Sources close to Pataki said the Hudson Valley Republican’s departure from the 501(c)4 actually indicates that he is putting his ducks in a row for formation of a potential exploratory committee. Apparently, the FEC isn’t big on presidential candidates also heading up independent expenditure operations.

In addition, members of Team Pataki have touched base lately with a key contact in Iowa, which holds the first caucuses of the presidential season.

Diane Crookham-Johnson, a key Republican donor who was executive director of Pataki’s Iowa campaign and then served as executive director of Revere America, told me just now that she has received “contract from people with Pataki’s group letting me know that the resignation was an indication that he was very serious about ’12.”

“I was personally very excited about that and have continued to hear from people in Iowa that they really wanted to hear he was interested,” Crookham-Johnson said. “I think this news will be well-received.”

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