Kolb Urges Cuomo To Keep Tax Cap As Is

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb today urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep pressure on Democrats in his chamber to pass the property-tax cap as is, without alterations.

“New York has never been closer to having a property tax cap. In the Assembly, we are only 25 Democrat votes away from the tax cap passing. Think about that: if 25 Democrats join with our Members, our state will finally have a tax cap. If Governor Cuomo takes his statewide tour to Assembly Democrat Majority districts – and the media lets homeowners in these communities know where the Member truly stands – I am confident the property tax cap will pass this session,” Kolb said in a statement.

The Canandaigua, Ontario County Republican’s statement comes as Cuomo begins his statewide tour in favor of the 2 percent cap, along with pushing for gay marriage legalization and an ethics overhaul.

Cuomo’s office shot down the rumored proposal to have a temporary cap from the Assembly Democrats, who may be seeking a measure that would expire within 3-5 years.

Kolb also said in his statement that Cuomo should tout the original proposal that passed the Senate in January.

“The Governor should make it perfectly clear to New York taxpayers who actually supports the property tax cap – and who doesn’t. Our Assembly Republican Conference supports the property tax cap, is on record as voting for the Governor’s property tax cap bill, and has been leading this fight since 2007,” Kolb said.

Report: WNY Lobbyist/Dem Operative Shoved By Seneca Nation Official

The Buffalo News’ seemingly omniscient man in Albany, Tom Precious reports a Seneca Nation Council member was sanctioned by tribal leaders after being accused of shoving well-known WNY lobbyist and Democratic operative, Jack O’Donnell, off his chair at an Albany hotel earlier this week.

The incident took place at 74 State, a downtown hotel and bar that is popular with lobbyists and lawmakers – not to mention the reporters who cover them.

The council member, Bryan Gonzales, was in Albany for a ceremony Tuesday. That same day, Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter and another tribal councillor, JC Seneca, were in the CapTon studio for an interview and didn’t breathe a word about this incident. They were in Albany for the announcement of the Senate’s first-ever select committee on Native American affairs.

O’Donnell is the son of former state criminal justice czar and two-time AG candidate (although she didn’t run all the way to the end) Denise O’Donnell and Supreme Court Justice John O’Donnell.

He’s a commissioner on the Erie County Water Authority and a longtime WNY Democratic operative. O’Donnell has not only run both his mother’s AG campaigns, but also worked for a time for Tom Golisano. He’s also a liver transplant survivor.

O’Donnell, according to Precious, works for the lobbying firm Bolton St. John’s, and represents a client who once worked with the Senecas to land a Catskills deal for the nation. Otherwise, according to O’Donnell, the firm has no involvement in Seneca matters. More from Precious’ story:

O’Donnell reported he did nothing to provoke the incident, which landed him on the floor of the bar and suffering from pain to his torso and head, Deputy Albany Police Chief Stephen Reilly said.

O’Donnell was treated by Albany fire department EMS and taken to Albany Medical Center after the 2 a.m. incident Tuesday.

The injuries “didn’t seem significant,” Reilly said.

Reilly said today he was unsure if Gonzales had been arrested, but that a police report listed a charge of harassment, a violation that is a step below a misdemeanor. “There’s no indication of any confrontation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were,” Reilly said.

(Snip)

Gonzales was directed to apologize to O’Donnell and he has been suspended, without pay, from his council post for 31 days, Nephew said. He must also attend an employee assistance program and is banned from official travel for six months.

Diaz Calls For El Diario Boycott

In the wake of its editorial in favor of gay marriage, Sen. Ruben Diaz is calling for a boycott of the influential Spanish-language newspaper “El Diario.”

In a letter to the newspaper’s parent company CEO Monica Lozano, the Bronx Democrat said he would call for the boycott at his May 15 rally for “traditional” marriage.

Diaz, one of the most outspoken opponents of gay marriage in the Senate, writes in the letter that he is informing Lozano of the boycott plans “as a mere courtesy.”

The El Diario editorial in favor of same-sex marriage this week caught many by surprise. It comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a coalition of pro-gay marriage advocacy groups, along with business community officials, push the issue.

Monica Cl Lozano169-1

State GOP Postpones Annual Dinner

A reader just forwarded the following message, entitled “save the Date update”, sent to GOP county chairs shortly after noon today by state Chairman Ed Cox:

“The 2011 New York Republican State Committee Dinner Gala is being rescheduled in order to accommodate some of our guest speakers.”

“This event will NOT be held on Thursday, June 2. We will notify you as soon as we have a new date.”

“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. Thank you in advance for your patience and support as we endeavor to make this year’s dinner a memorable event.”

NOTE: Another (Republican) reader pointed out that “cancels”, which was what I originally went with in the headline, seems to indicate a lack of interest in the event. I thought it was fair since 1) the event, as scheduled, will not be held; and 2) no new date was given. However, erring on the side of caution, I have altered the headline. – LB

According to a GOP source, the original plan for the dinner was to invite all the would-be Republican presidential candidates to speak. But so far, no confirmations have been announced. (Part of the problem might be that there are so few actual declared candidates around).

Interestingly, the state Conservative Party’s annual dinner is being held on June 1 (Chairman Mike Long does have a habit of beating the GOP to the punch…just sayin’) at the Sheraton New York, which is a favored locale for political events – particularly Republican events.

Sen. Tom Coburn is the keynote speaker for the celebration entitled “Recovering Row C”, which the party did in the last election cycle, thanks to Carl Paladino – no word on whether he’ll be attending. He and Long weren’t exactly close.

The Sheraton was also to be the location of the state GOP event, and it just so happens to be the very site where Cox suffered an embarrassing defeat when his preferred gubernatorial candidate, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, failed to get onto the ballot.

As you’ll recall, Long’s candidate, former Rep. Rick Lazio, boxed out Levy and became the GOP standard bearer. But he was defeated in a September primary by Paladino, who petitioned his way onto the ballot and then went on to lose big in the general election to Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Another GOP event worth noting is coming up next month: The Manhattan Republicans will be hosting Donald Trump, who is apparently very much in demand among NYC party leaders, at their dinner on June 14.

NY-26 Roundup, Pat Boone Edition

A number of developments in the NY-26 race as the May 24 election date approaches. In no particular order, I offer the following for your consideration:

- Via Roll Call: Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is seriously considering investing in the race to assist Assemblywoman Jane Corwin due to a growing GOP concern that independent candidate Jack Davis is siphoning support from her and could provide Kathy Hochul with a path to victory in what has long been considered a GOP stronghold.

Is help coming for Hochul? From that same article, state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said:

“Steve is on board here. He’s taking a solid look at it. He’s got to be prudent and we’ve got to be smart about it…It is an overwhelmingly Republican district. And what we don’t want to do is create the story line that we are so engaged in this that should it work out the way every pollster imagines, it comes out to the detriment of the president, or whoever it may be. That’s just not fair.”

- Davis issued the following statement this morning in response to outside spending in NY-26:

“The voters of Western New York are not going to be intimidated or bullied by Karl Rove, big labor and other special interests that are willing to spend millions to try to own this seat for the insiders. ”

“This seat belongs to the people of Western New York, and I have faith that they will vote for someone who’s independent of the influence of lobbyists and both the Democrat and Republican parties. This seat is the people’s seat.”

More >

Cuomo’s Office: Temporary Tax Cap Is ‘Non-Starter’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may be willing to negotiate his tax cap, but making it a temporary solution to the highest property taxes in the country — a possible key detail in the Assembly cap proposal — won’t work.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto this afternoon knocked down any notion that a cap could be a short-term measure:

The Assembly’s position on the property tax cap is a non-starter.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said Tuesday he would introduce his own, separate proposal for a 2 percent cap on property taxes. Some differences may include allowing the cap to expire within 3-5 years and include exemptions for costly pensions.

The Republican-led Senate already approved the cap Jan. 31. Cuomo said Wednesday that some lawmakers in the Assembly may consider his proposal “too rigid” and again signaled a willingness to hear different ideas on the cap.

He plans a statewide tour promoting his version of the cap, which caps local property taxes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, along with an ethics bill and a measure to legalize gay marriage.

Obama Thanks Firefighters (Speech Text)

Here is President Obama’s complete remarks to the firefighters of Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, the main reason I came here is because I heard the food is pretty good. (Laughter.)

But to the Commissioner, to Mayor Giuliani — who obviously performed heroic acts almost 10 years ago — but most of all, to all of you, I wanted to just come up here to thank you.

This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago. Obviously we can’t bring back your friends that were lost, and I know that each and every one of you not only grieve for them, but have also over the last 10 years dealt with their family, their children, trying to give them comfort, trying to give them support.

What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say; that our commitment to making sure that justice is done is something that transcended politics, transcended party; it didn’t matter which administration was in, it didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act — that they received justice.

More >

PEF Returns To Familiar Territory: Knocking Consultants

As the budget negotiations continue with unions and the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Public Employees Federation is returning to a familiar area: knocking the use of consultants by state government.

The union said today that New York could cut down spending by $300 million if the consultants were dropped.

“The best example of the state’s wasteful spending on engineering consultants is the bridge inspection program. State and federal law require the inspections at least once every two years. The Department of Transportation complies with these requirements by using a blend of in-house staff and consultants even though their own studies show consultant inspectors cost up to 50 percent more than state employee inspectors,” PEF President Ken Brynien said.

Union spokeswoman Darcy Wells said there was no update on the negotiations between PEF and the governor’s office, but talks are continuing. Union officials from both PEF and CSEA have been extraordinarily tight-lipped over the talks after Cuomo’s office requested a media black out on the negotiations.

Cuomo is trying to achieve $450 million in concessions from the workforce, a savings that was baked into the 2011-12 state budget. If the talks fail to produce the savings, up to 9,800 layoffs are possible, the governor has warned.

Both unions shrugged off Cuomo’s announcement that he had successfully achieved concessions from Council 82, a small law-enforcement union. The agreement includes having employee shoulder a larger burden of health-care costs and a pay freeze.

Commissioners On The Road For Storm Damage

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commissioners are being sent out to survey storm damage around the state, his office announced today.

“It is the responsibility of state government to ensure a swift recovery for the areas of our state that suffered damage as a result of these storms,” Cuomo said. “I have deployed senior members of my administration to survey the current state of damage and assess the ongoing recovery effort to ensure the state is doing what it can and should be doing to help communities recover. These communities deserve to reopen their businesses and return to their daily lives as quickly as possible.”

Cuomo himself will be in New York City today for the wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero with President Obama. Previously, Cuomo visited Moriah, Essex County, to survey storm damage.

The deployment of the commissioners comes as the governor told the press on Wednesday that he would use his cabinet officials and administration members to promote his policy agenda for the rest of the year: a tax cap, a gay marriage legalization measure and an ethics bill (that’s yet to be introduced).

Here’s the schedule for the commissioners:

10:30am – Plattsburgh International Airport, Fixed Based Operations, Alabama and Idaho streets, Plattsburgh
o Noon – Tupper Lake Village Hall, 53 Park Street, Tupper Lake.

· Commissioner of the NYS Department of Transportation Joan McDonald will visit damaged transportation infrastructure and assess recovery and rebuilding efforts.

o 11:30am — City of Norwich Police Department, 18 East Main Street, Norwich

· Director of NYS Canal Corporation Brian Stratton and Director of NYS Office of Emergency Management Andrew Feeney will conduct a fact-finding tour of flood-stricken areas in Onondaga and Cayuga counties and meet with local officials.

o 10:30am — Onondaga Park Lake Marina, 106 Lake Drive, Liverpool
o Noon — NY State Police Barracks, Clark Street Road, Routes 5 & 20, Auburn

Assembly Mulling Sunset For Tax Cap

As Joe Spector of Gannett reported today, the Assembly’s property tax cap bill may include an expiration date and exemptions for pension costs.

I caught up with Assemblyman Joe Morelle this morning, who said a 3-5 year expiration date has been discussed, as is an exemption for pension costs.

Morelle, a key upstate supporter of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and backer of the original 2 percent cap on property taxes, said a cap would likely have to be coupled with some sort of pension system overhaul.

I want to be clear, these are things that are being talked about, I don’t know what decisions are being made. The second is how do we treat costs of the pensions in the property tax cap calculations. The reasons that have been raised is local governments are given an amount they have to pay annually based on the rate of hiring and retirement so they have far less control over that.

Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said earlier in the week that the cap would remain at 2 percent. At the time, Silver was not forthcoming with any details. A new bill is yet to be introduced.

Senate Republicans have said they don’t want to alter the original cap as proposed by Cuomo, who is now touring the state in support of the measure, along with an ethics overhaul and gay marriage legalization. The governor reiterated on Wednesday that he would be willing to negotiate on the cap.

GOP lawmakers have also said they don’t want to water down the cap to the point that it’s irrelevant. But Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, told us Wednesday that a compromise may be needed in order to get a result.