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

Pataki Leaves Revere America

Former Gov. George Pataki announced today he is stepping down from his post as honorary chairman of Revere America, the anti-health care reform PAC he started in lieu of running statewide last fall.

The New York Republican’s decision comes on the heels of a Florida judge’s ruling this week that the law Pataki and other opponents like to call “Obamacare” is unconstitutional.

“It has been an honor to lead Revere America through this critical formative period and more importantly to advance the effort to repeal and replace the health care law,” Pataki said in a statement.

“A federal judge has now rightfully declared that law unconstitutional, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to repeal and replace it, and Revere America played an active role in the historic 2010 campaign that made that vote possible.”

“This is an excellent time for me to step down, based on my other commitments and the fact that Revere America has been successfully launched. I will continue to play an active role in our national discussion and will work to advance policies that promote and preserve American freedoms.”

Pataki used Revere America to travel the nation during the 2010 election cycle and advocate for repeal of the law – a message many of the Tea Party-backed GOP congressional candidates successfully embraced and rode to victory in November.

The PAC also ran TV ads against candidates who had voted in favor of the reform bill, including several in New York (former Rep. John Hall, who lost to Rep. Nan Hayworth, was a top target) and New Hampshire.

The fact that Pataki was playing politics in an early presidential contest state reignited speculation that he is again eyeing a White House bid – a hyphothesis he did little to dispel in multiple interviews in late December (including on here on CapTon).

The Revere America PAC became a target of NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who decried the fact that it didn’t have to reveal its donors, thanks to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

Brewer To Bloomberg: Solve Your Own Problems

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer took some shots at Mayor Bloomberg’s undercover gun show sting in her state during an appearance with Fox’s Greta Van Sustern.

Here’s the exchange, which comes at around the 4:45-minute mark:

BREWER: “Well, I find it interesting that he’s out here in Arizona solving our problems. I guess he believes that he has solved all the problems in New York. Here he is in the good state of Arizona.”

“It has been a fascinating story, but we are a big Second Amendment state I support our laws here. I’ve signed gun laws here. What he went after the way it was portrayed is not what the issue is. I think all laws should be enforced.”

“And those people that buy guns from private owners at a gun show have the responsibility, if they knowingly realize it, someone cannot pass a background check or if they suspect that maybe they are mentally incompetent, it is a state felony and a federal felony. So those laws need to be enforced.”

VAN SUSTEREN: It’s interesting, according to the newspapers he spent $100,000 with eight investigators. I guess on the bright side, they probably stayed at a company of hotels in Arizona so at least

(Snip).

VAN SUSTEREN: “He might have helped you out a little. Do you intend to send investigators to the city of New York to investigate anything?”

BREWER: “Actually, no. I’ll let him take care of his state.”

VAN SUSTEREN: “Or city.”

BREWER: “And I’ll be taking care of Arizona.”

Cuomo: ‘I Will Not Be Intimidated’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released an on-line “video message to the people” that’s essentially a consolidated version of his budget address and an effort to rally New Yorkers to his side as he prepares to do battle with the special interests and lobbyists that want to protect the status quo in Albany.

In 5:15-minute video, Cuomo again assails the budget process that he has called a “sham” and equated to Enron, saying it’s time to “pull back the curtain in Albany.”

“There is plenty of waste and plenty of duplication all throughout government,” the governor says. “That’s what needs to be eliminated, and the time to eliminate it is now.”

“In the past, the attacks by the special interests and the lobbyists forced the governor to back down and give in. Know this: I will not be intimidated. This is why you elected me and I will get it done.”

“But I need your help to do it. The real power of the governor comes when the people of the state stand with him. Democracy only works when the voice of the people rings strong and rings true. I need you to make your voice heard now.”

‘The Committee To Protect NY’s Wealthy’

HANYS President Dan Sisto assailed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget during a CapTon interview last night, taking the governor and his business community allies to task for being unwilling to extend the so-called millionaire’s tax while advocating deep spending reductions in health care and education.

Sisto, who is a member of the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Task Force, told me the close to $3 billion cut Cuomo is seeking in the 2011-2012 budget is “impossible” to come up with between now and March 1 when the task force members are charged with making their recommendations.

Cuomo has made it clear that if the health care industry can’t cut itself, then he wants the Legislature to empower the health commissioner to do it instead.

Sisto took aim at the Committee to Save New York, which has raised some $10 million from business and real estate interests (but not disclosed the source of that cash) to fund a campaign in support of the governor’s agenda.

“You know, I know there’s a committee to protect New York,” he said. “To me it’s the committee to protect New York’s wealthy.”

“To put up money to say we’re going to defend the governor who defends us from paying the surcharge we have now on our taxes, but we’re going to cut $15 billion where and take money out of education. You know, sick children can’t learn, but we need healthy schools.”

Stavisky Concerned About Higher Ed Cuts

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who is the ranking member on the Senate Higher Education committee, just issued a statement suggesting Governor Cuomo’s proposed cuts to SUNY and CUNY could lead to tuition hikes.

“These proposed cuts raise some immediate concerns about affordability, as colleges and universities will need to account for decreased funding. The possibility of increasing tuition, for instance, will jeopardize some students’ ability to begin and complete their college degree,” Stavisky said.

“The cut to community colleges will sting statewide, particularly Upstate, because when the economy declines people turn to these institutions for quality, affordable retraining.

What’s interesting is that Stavisky, who is from Queens, goes out of her way to point out that these cuts will hurt upstate communities particularly hard. Senate Democrats have struggled to appeal to much of upstate, where their are only 3 Democratic Senators. (4 if you count David Carlucci in the Hudson Valley).

Stavisky did have some praise for Cuomo’s plan to use colleges as economic engines for communities, something SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has been championing since she took over. The Senator argues this is a reason funding should not be cut to higher education.

“As we move forward, we must focus on strengthening SUNY, CUNY and private college and university programs, not cutting them, to keep New York State competitive in the 21st century,” Stavisky said.

Cuomo vs. Bloomberg, Round ?

The Cuomo administration is not sitting idly by while Mayor Bloomberg criticizes the governor’s first budget for being, as he sees it, “unfair” to New York City.

State Budget Director Bob Megna issued a statement yesterday rejecting the mayor’s claim that the city stands to lose $2 billion if Cuomo’s spending plan is enacted as-is by the Legislature and also insisting the mayor has more than enough stashed away to make up the difference of whatever the final aid reduction might be.

“Governor Cuomo’s budget does not cut $1.4 billion in education aid to New York City,” Megna declared. “Rather, on a year to year basis, education aid to New York City is cut $579 million.”

“I want to be very clear on this because there can be no dispute about it – New York City will get $579 million less in education aid than it did in last year’s budget. It is also worth noting that Mayor Bloomberg has at least $2 billion in reserves which could be used to offset the loss of this education funding.”

“The fact that the Mayor has these reserves is a credit to his Administration for smart fiscal planning.”

“In terms of revenue sharing aid, New York City received no such aid last year and this year also does not receive any aid. Mayor Bloomberg has chosen to characterize this as a $300 million cut, but in fact on a year to year basis, the city has remained exactly the same.”

“An analogy is helpful to understand this point: If I was paid $50,000 last year and I get paid $50,000 this year, my salary remains flat. And I would not characterize it as a cut of $10,000 even if I had hoped I would be making $60,000 this year.”

So far, the tone of the public exchanges between the Bloomberg and Cuomo administrations has been quite civil. The mayor, who endorsed Cuomo for governor last year, opened a DN OpEd this morning by praising him for taking on the “challenge” of trying to move the state into a new fiscally responsible era.

But the mayor went on to criticize the governor for failing to include “structural reforms” in his budget, particularly when it comes to pensions, that he insists will save the city significant cash. Bloomberg also reiterated his threat to lay off “thousands” of city employees – including teachers – if the state fails to act.

Bloomberg Defends Arizona Gun Show Sting

Mayor Bloomberg is unapologetic about the undercover Arizona gun show sting he launched in the wake of the Tucson shooting – a move that sparked criticism from the Arizona attorney general, who called the sting a PR stung.

Appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show last night (arguably one of the friendliest forums for the mayor’s anti-illegal gun campaign), Bloomberg said:

“Most of the guns that we seize in New York City come from other states. And we’re not trying to tell Arizona what their laws should be, or Pennsylvania, or Virginia, where a lot of our guns come from, or South Carolina, some even from as far away as Arizona. All we’re saying is: You’ve got to stop this federal government because no state can do it on their own.”

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Here And Now

Happy Groundhog Day! Staten Island Chuck did not see his shadow, and so it will supposedly be an early spring. Hard to believe, considering the size of the snow bank from which I had to extricate my car this morning. But hope springs (ahem) eternal. And now, some headlines….

It’s Day Two of the Great Budget Battle and/or Snowmageddon and everyone is starting to dig in (and out).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the state “functionally bankrupt.”

Health care industry representatives questioned whether the Medicaid Redesign TF will be able to cut $2.85 billion by March 1. The alternative? Cuomo does it for them.

Mayor Bloomberg called Cuomo’s budget “unfair” to NYC.

Cuomo aides insisted NYC isn’t taking the $2 billion haircut Bloomberg has claimed, pegging the number closer to $659.4 million in real dollars, including $579.7 million in education aid.

In a DN OpEd, Bloomberg said the governor has gone only “halfway toward making the reforms we need.”

The MTA is taking a $100 million cut.

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (who worked with Cuomo at HUD back in the day) took a different approach to the budget than Bloomberg.

Much still remains to be decided in Cuomo’s budget by the various task forces he has tapped to come up with cuts and in negotiations with state worker unions.

More >