CWA Endorses Same-Sex Marriage

The Communications Workers of America District 1 (CWA), the state’s largest telecommunications and media union, with more than 150,000 members, today added its voice to the chorus calling for the passage of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage before the 2011 legislative session ends next month.

“It’s time for New York State’s Legislature to pass marriage equality legislation,” said CWA VP Christopher Shelton. “We are one of the most diverse unions in the state, representing workers in telecommunications, government service, education and countless other fields.”

” While our members come from many different backgrounds, we are united in our belief that all loving and committed New Yorkers should be able to marry the person they love.”

CWA is a major player in the labor-backed Working Families Party. (I believe the union’s political director, Bob Master, is still a WFP co-chair).

The party, as you’ll recall, endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2010. The governor accepted the party’s nod and ballot line only after it was cleared of wrongdoing in the US attorney’s probe involving its for-profit arm, Data & Field Services, and its leaders signed on on his fiscally conservative “New New York Agenda”.

CWA is just the latest in a list of unions that has come out for marriage. Tomorrow, there will be a labor event for marriage equality at 10 a.m. on the steps of City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes will kick off the press conference with RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, (who is openly gay and just came out in 2009), UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, and affiliates of the NYC Central Labor Council.

The labor leaders will be joined by ESPA Executive Director Ross Levi and former Miss America and AFTRA Eastern Regional Vice President Kate Shindle.

Corwin: Election Not A Referendum On House GOP

Republican Jane Corwin says she is going to spend much of today with her daughter, who she has not seen much of in the past few weeks as she campaigned across the 7 counties of NY-26, before heading to some poll places to encourage voters to support her.

The Republican, who was the clear favorite when the race started, finds herself trailing in the polls and without much momentum. Her campaign has been bogged down by the video her chief of staff took of Jack Davis. And before that, she was criticized for saying she would have voted for Rep. Ryan’s budget plan which critics say will destroy Medicare.

After voting, Corwin spoke to voters and downplayed the national significance of this election.

“On a national level, clearly there is a lot of people looking at this. A lot of people saying it is a referendum on the House Republicans. I think this is more about philosophies. About understanding the conservative philosophy. And how people are looking for fiscal responsibility in Washington. And, I believe the people of the 26th District want someone to represent them who is fiscally responsible. And I feel pretty positive it will be me tonight,” Corwin said.

Jack Davis: ‘I Compare Myself to George Washington’

TEA Party candidate Jack Davis voted this morning in Clarence, around 7am, and then proceeded to make his case for why he should be elected. Despite dropping significantly in recent polls, Davis still expressed confidence he could win when he spoke to reporters.

“I am the only candidate that’s a businessman. And I will represent the people of Western New York and America, and not the special interest groups that have really influenced the amount of money that has been spent on this campaign,” Davis said.

Davis was asked if not competing in the debates with Kathy Hochul and Jane Corwin hurt him. He answered emphatically, no. He says the Corwin and Hochul campaigns have spread lies about him, and he refused to be on the stage with the candidates.

“”I am an honest man, I compare myself to George Washington. I will not tell a lie. And when they lie about me, I just can’t stand to be around that person. I refuse to be. I was on the stage once with Jane, and I. It just bothered me so much. I said I am never going to submit myself to this. I have a program, I have a plan. I will work my plan. I don’t need media debates with two liars.”

Paterson’s Hindsight On Gay Marriage

Former Gov. David Paterson was honored last night by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund for, among other things, his 2009 executive order that barred discrimination against transgender public employees after the Senate failed to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, (AKA GENDA) which is still bottled up in the chamber.

Prior to the awards program at the fundraiser held at the Chelsea Art Museum, which raised some $100,000 for the TLDEF, Paterson spoke to The Advocate’s Julie Bolcer about the current battle to pass same-sex marriage and the failure of the bill to pass on his watch.

“One of the problems two years ago is too many cooks spoil the broth,” he said.

“I thought the biggest problem with the advocates two years ago was they really thought it was going to pass, until they started fighting over who was getting the credit before it passed and then they got themselves mixed up with other issues, like when the senate had a coup, and they wanted a bill put on the floor. Why would you put such a sensitive bill on the floor in the middle of a senate coup?”

“That made no sense, and I think that spelled the beginning of the end, because in the spring of 2009, I thought it was going to pass.”

Paterson said he believes the Democrats will be able to come up with 27 “yes” votes (the current tally stands at 26), and then it will all come down – again – to whether the Republicans want to play ball. The former governor insisted there are five GOP senators who “want to vote for marriage equality”.

The question is: Are they willing to risk the wrath of state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long to do so?

Paterson said he hasn’t personally lobbied anyone on gay marriage, although he did sign on to a letter with fellow black, Latino and Asian leaders that cast this fight as on par with the civil rights struggles of the past. (The former governor has made that argument plenty of times in the past.

Paterson also spoke admiringly of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s involvement in this effort, saying:

“I think what he’s done, which is extraordinary, is he’s controlling the whole process, which is what I did when I was the minority leader and we passed SONDA, and in retrospect, probably what I should have done two years ago,” said the former state senator from Harlem.”

(On that SONDA claim, I was under the impression that was mostly due to then-Republican Gov. George Pataki’s willingness to sign the bill and put pressure on the Senate Republicans to pass it, which brought him – for the first time – ESPA’s endorsement in his re-election bid back in 2002. Perhaps I’m remembering that incorrectly).

Senate Looks At Gas-Tax Holiday Today

In non-property tax cap news, the Senate will consider a proposal today to suspend the gasoline tax for the three summer holidays of Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

The revised bill would alleviate concerns for the bridge and highway fund by not touching that pot of money. In addition, the measure would also create a voucher system for gasoline stations to be reimbursed.

At 33 cents, New Yorkers pay among the highest gasoline taxes in the country.

The bill’s Assembly sponsor, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Saratoga, told us Friday he was still working on getting the measure to the floor in the Democratic-led chamber.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been cool to the idea of gasoline tax holiday, but that was before the revised measure was introduced.

Skelos And The Sunset: We’ve Got Three Weeks To Go (Video Added)

The Assembly property-tax cap proposal, which includes an expiration date tied to the sunsetting of rent control for New York City, is seemingly at odds with what Senate Republicans have hoped for over the last several minds.

But Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos indicated that part of the proposal could be negotiated.

“I don’t think there’s a direct linkage other than the legislation right now talking abour a sunset provision. I think what’s positive about today is the governor, Senate Republican conference by passing a hard tax cap in January, we brought ourselves in a position that will have a good, workable tax cap,” he said in a brief scrum with reporters.

Pressed further on the expiration date, a provision that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office initally rejected, Skelos said the door was still open to neogitaitons.

“We have three weeks to go, so discussions will be on, there’s no conclusion as to the expiration date. If there is an expiration date, but the positive is we’re going to have a tax cap in New York state.”

Hochul Thanks Supporters

Democrat Kathy Hochul is not allowed to vote in the special election she is running for today, so instead she spent the morning thanking supporters in Amherst (7am) and in Greece (9am).

The Erie County Clerk is leading in two recent polls, but not by much. Everyone agrees that this election has become about who is better at getting out the vote. Which is why the appearance in Greece makes sense. it is the 2nd biggest town in the district behind Amherst.

Both Hochul and Republican Jane Corwin are from Erie County. Hochul is expected to beat Corwin there. But the rest of the district leans Republican, so Corwin is hoping to run up the score in the rural areas, and in the Rochester suburbs, specifically Greece.

Here is some video from Hochul’s Amherst appearance.

Cuomo On Assembly Tax Cap: ‘Best In The Nation’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just gave a full-throated endorsement to the tax cap plan unveiled this morning by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, insisting it is “right in line with every piece” of his original proposal and should come as no surprise to the Senate Republicans.

Speaking with The Post’s Fred Dicker on TALK 1300, Cuomo applauded Silver for putting the cap bill forward and said that even with the exemptions and sunset clause it will be the “tightest cap in the country, tighter than New Jersey, tighter than Massachusetts, tighter than any cap we’ve come across.”

“You put this cap together with the budget that we just passed, it would help turn this state around,” said the governor, who later added that he believes the cap is perhaps even “more important” than the on-time budget deal he pushed through the Legislature in late March.

“…I think this is the single most important development for the economy of the state of New York,” the governor said…I think if you put the budget together with the tax cap, it changes the trajectory of the state of New York.”

Cuomo said he’s waiting to hear the response from the other legislative leaders – particularly Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who only recently backed off his insistence that he would not accept the “watering down” of the 2 percent hard cap Cuomo proposals – and the Senate passed – earlier this year.

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Business Council Applauds Tax Cap Movement

The Assembly’s property tax cap plan is receiving praise from the state’s biggest business advocacy group. The state Business Council just released a statement saying they are happy that both the Senate and Assembly are backing a hard cap.

“The new property tax cap proposal moves New York closer to an economic recovery. Now both houses of the legislature have agreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that New York needs to implement a hard tax cap in order protect taxpayers and businesses. A cap will help bring fiscal discipline to government and dramatically improve the business climate in the state. Businesses will not come, stay, and grow in New York unless we get control of property taxes and this cap will do just that,” said Heather Briccetti, acting-president & CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

The Assembly’s cap does have some carve outs, but not as many as some had excepted. Senate Republicans say the proposal is under review.

Senate GOP: Cap Proposal ‘Positive Development’

The Assembly proposal for the 2 percent cap on local property taxes is close to what Senate Republicans already approved, spokesman Scott Reif said in a statement.

“We’re reviewing the bill now and will formally conference it later today, but it includes many of the things Senate Republicans have been pushing for three years, since we first passed a property tax cap,” he said.

The Senate approved the bill on Jan. 31, but the Assembly has yet to take up the proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a “hard” 2 percent cap.

The Assembly proposal unveiled today exempts the cap from the growth in pensions and allows for unexpected growth in the tax base.

“Senator Skelos has insisted on a strong cap and elevated the property tax cap as a post-budget issue this year,” Reif sad. “We view this as a positive development in our efforts to enact a property tax cap.”