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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Here And Now

After taking his budget message to the people via the Internet yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will deliver another in-person speech in Westchester today. LG Bob Duffy is hitting the road, too. He’s in Syracuse.

Mayor Bloomberg threw down the pension reform gauntlet with labor leaders. His plan requires approval from Albany.

The mayor, whose own administration has been partially responsible for pension fund growth, now wants to require most new municipal workers to work at least 10 years, or double the current amount, to qualify for a pension, and bar them from receiving pension checks until age 65.

Bloomberg also wants to eliminate an annual $12,000 bonus for current police and fire retirees and workers as part of an overall plan to create a new tier of less generous benefits for future workers.

The Post thinks repeal of the “last-in, first-out” policy for public school teachers should be Bloomberg’s top priority.

The Republican push to repeal health care reform was blocked by the Senate Democrats.

The WSJ thinks the House Republicans could learn from Cuomo and should “follow his savvy lead and blow the whistle on this rigged (budget) process early and often.”

For the first time in a decade, spending on lobbyists is flat in Washington, D.C.

A variety of program cuts are sprinkled throughout Cuomo’s first budget, which he insisted is “fair” in its across-the-board cost reductions.

The Times sees Cuomo’s budget as a mixed-bag, expressing disappointment over the lack of revenue raisers and concern over the deep education cuts, which the paper thinks go too far.

The governor’s budget includes a lot of unanswered questions.

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Extras

Mayor Bloomberg opted not to have a “public fight” with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

From the White House: Paul A. Engelmayer, of New York, was nominated to be US District Judge for the Southern District of New York, vice Gerard E. Lynch, elevated. (No link).

The NYC Council voted 36-12 to ban smoking at NYC beaches and parks.

Bloomberg is back to his irascible old self.

Cuomo’s budget is not good for the poor.

Staten Island Chuck looks really thrilled to be starting his morning with Bloomberg.

Dan Janison coins a new nickname for an odd political alliance.

The Medicaid Redesign Task Force has changed its public hearing schedule.

Opposition to the Catskills casino plan is growing.

The mayor met with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to discuss creating a NYC Facebook site.

The Daily has launched.

Hillary Clinton is answering the 3 a.m. phone call.

The CBC suggests cost-saving chages to the way teachers share the cost of health insurance premiums.

Sen. Chuck Schumer wants airport traffic control to be able to switch from radar to GPS.

A Reno gun show tightened its rules on background checks following Bloomberg’s Arizona gun show sting.

The environmental community breathed a sigh of relief after seeing Cuomo’s budget.

This is a little sad.

The governor assumes the state will be able to collect sales tax on Indian-sold cigarettes.

Redefining inside-the-beltway commentary.

Higher Ed Funding Will Be A Budget Sticking Point

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, chair of the Higher Education Committee, released a statement today expressing disappointment in the 10 percent cuts to SUNY and CUNY included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 budget, calling them “short-sighted” and on track to overburden future generations with debt.

“While one can argue with the governor’s assertion that there are trend factors in some areas of the budget which have made increases automatic, there can be no doubt that institutions of public higher education have consistently seen nothing but cuts over the last few years,” Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, said.

“In addition, during the Pataki administration the same institutions experienced a disproportionate amount of retrenchment as well.”

“Everyone wants to tout the critical importance of a more educated workforce; they bemoan the fact that our numbers of graduates in the 25-34 year old cohort is dismal in comparison to other countries and to older age brackets.”

“Furthermore, there is growing concern that it takes much longer for college students to graduate. Now the President’s renewed focus on higher graduation rates will be dramatically undermined by the consistent under-funding of public higher education in this state.”

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Acquario: Take A Deep Breath Over Budget Cuts

Here’s NYS Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario chatting with CapTon’s Liz A. after the budget address yesterday and offering some advice to everyone who was, essentially, freaking out over the deep spending cuts proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I think people should take a step back and take a breath and calm down,” Acquario said. “Let’s work through this as a process.”

“This is the first step. This is the chief executive offering a budget to the people, through the state Legislature and there’s going to be a process now to go through this budget and produce something that will be enacted, hopefully, by April 1.”

“And that was heard loud and clear in this room here today that we need an on-time budget and a budget that’s balanced and reflects today’s reality.”

Acquario is a member of both the Medicaid Relief and Mandate Relief task forces appointed by the governor to come up with recommendations on cuts (in the first case) and legislative proposals (in the second) by March 1 – one month before the legal budget deadline. He was on Cuomo’s transition team, too.

It’s interesting to hear him take this approach, particularly when you consider the fact that AIM aid was cut across the board by 2 percent and zeroed out for NYC.

YNN/Marist Poll: NYers Start To See The Light On Economy

The final piece of our poll puzzle assesses New Yorker optimism when it comes to the economy and the results are something of a mixed bag.

When asked whether New York’s economy is on the rebound, 19 percent say things are beginning to improve, 31 percent think the situation is deteriorating and 50 percent think the economy is holding steady.

Voters in the Empire State are split when it comes to whether the worst of the economic meltdown is behind us – 49 percent say it is; 47 percent say the worst is yet to come.

Political affiliation seems inform one’s level of optimism – Democrats tend to agree we’ve already weathered the worst of the economic storm. Most Republicans predict the darkest clouds are on the horizon.

The poll also asked voters to gauge their personal finances – 27 percent say they expect their family finances to get better; 19 percent are preparing for things to get worse; 54 percent don’t anticipate any change. Those are the same figures Marist found last May.

Here is the complete poll:

EMBARGOED_Complete February 1 2011 NY1_YNN_Marist Poll Release and Tables