‘What Does A Bull In A China Shop Do?’

Here’s footage of Carl Paladino’s Q-and-A with LCA reporters earlier today. He was in town for the state Conservative Party’s annual political action conference in Colonie and also stopped by the Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter earlier today.

Asked what the future holds for him and whether he plans to make regular appearances in Albany, the Buffalo businessman replied: “What does a bull in a china shop do?” He is so far sticking with his pledge not to run for office again after his failed gubernatorial bid last fall.

There’s a sort of weird moment in here when Paladino refuses to answer a question from NYS Public Radio Network’s Karen DeWitt…I’m not sure what that’s all about.

Paladino hedged when asked whether his former Democratic opponent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is doing a good job so far. Many of his fellow conservatives, including state Party Chairman Mike Long, have been singing Cuomo’s praises. But Paladino said he’s waiting to see if Cuomo “walks the walk.”

“Nothing’s been done yet,” he said. “I mean, there’s been a lot of talk, so let’s see how it goes. I’d be happy to comment after we see what his budget holds and we see what he’s proposing…We’re a mess. Let’s not forget that. We. Are. A mess. The only way we’re going to straighten that out is with some really strong leadership. And I would hope that Mr. Cuomo provides that.”

Budget Picture Purposely Fuzzy

The Cuomo administration has so far kept the details of the governor’s shock-and-awe budget under wraps, generally allowing only the most tightly orchestrated of leaks.

I’ve spoken to a number of business leaders, legislative staffers and special interest types who are all talking about how unusually secretive this process has been.

My understanding is there will be no staff briefings on the budget until late tomorrow morning – very late in the game, or, as one staffer told me, “This has never happened before.”

And the legislative leaders’ briefing at the mansion tonight – all four leaders are invited, minority and majority alike, by the way – will be a dinner meeting at which details will likely be sparse.

Even when Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially takes the wraps off his first executive spending plan tomorrow at the Egg’s Hart Theater at 1 p.m., there will be some areas that are more detailed than others.

It’s now fair to hypothesize, given the OpEd Cuomo penned today, that the “built-in” 13 percent annual increase assailed as part of the so-called budget “sham” will be eliminated from both Medicaid and education spending.

So, that would hold spending flat. However, I’m told there will likely be cuts ON TOP of this of up to 3 percent in Medicaid and education.

That’s even bigger than what has been speculated to date, would be “dramatic as hell,” I’m told, (particularly when you figure in the federal match), and would require federal approval for any any change in reimbursements.

It’s likely there will be more details available on the education cuts than on the Medicaid cuts. That’s because Cuomo has tasked the Medicaid Relief Redesign Team with proposing cuts of its own by March 1 – one month before the April 1 budget deadline (and remember, Cuomo is reportedly willing to risk a government shutdown rather than let the budget battle drag on indefinitely).

In other words, the relief team, made up of health care industry representatives with skin in the game, will be told: Come up with a way to take this out of your own hide or face an across the board cut of up to 3 percent on top of the loss of the increase they had been expecting.

In addition, as the DN’s Ken Lovett reported this morning, there will be a 10 percent across-the-board cut of the already cash-strapped state agencies.

The two percent property tax cap that we expected to see in the governor’s budget has instead been sent as a program bill to the Legislature last Friday and will be voted on in the Senate today.

Caputo Crusades For Cuomo

As previewed in today’s NY Times, Carl Paladino’s former campaign manager, Michael Caputo, is signing on to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget agenda and e-mailing Tea Partiers in hopes they will follow his lead.

Caputo told the Times that he still “can’t stand” the Democratic governor, who defeated the Buffalo businessman in a landslide win last November.

But he has managed to put aside his dislike for Cuomo long enough to pen a missive that praises his fiscally conservative agenda – all the while insisting the governor sounds “an awful lot” like the mean he beat at the polls.

In the e-mail, which will be sent to some 10,000 activists, Caputo lauds Cuomo for standing his ground when Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver floated the idea of linking the property tax cap to renewal of the rent control laws and also (so far) resisting calls from Assembly Democrats and their allies in organized labor to extend the millionaires tax that is scheduled to sunset at the end of this year.

“Like you, I oppose the Democrat Party’s progressive agenda,” Caputo writes. “Like you, I fought like Hell to stop Andrew Cuomo’s campaign for Governor of New York State. I don’t much like him; I’m still angry about his dirty campaign against Carl.”

“But, at the risk of a localized lightning strike, I must admit the Governor’s early fiscal moves are conservative, responsible and absolutely necessary.”

“…I am a die-hard Republican who fought in the trenches for Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Carl Paladino. I’m as conservative as you can get, and last year I spent most of my time criticizing Andrew Cuomo.”

“It is starting to look like I may end up eating a few of my words. But I would happily sit for that meal if the Governor delivers real fiscal reform. In fact, I am writing to tell you I will work to push Cuomo’s fiscal agenda.”

“Right away, I will contact my legislators and ask them to vote for the two percent property tax cap, but only if it includes mandate relief for local governments. I’ll ask them to cut spending, not raise taxes, to balance the budget. And I am writing to encourage you to do the same.”

Caputo includes a sample letter for recipients of his e-mail to send to their respective lawmakers and also a link that will helps them locate their representatives. His (very lengthy) e-mail appears in full after the jump.

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Megna: ‘People Are Going To Howl About This Budget’

The buzz at the Capitol today is over a report that Governor Andrew Cuomo is going to introduce fundamental changes to the way the budget process works by eliminating automatic spending increases that are currently required by law.

“I think it is very significant. And I think it is very exciting,” Budget Director Robert Megna said in an interview on Talk 1300 AM’s “Live at the State Capitol with Fred Dicker.”

“We at the budget division have been saying for many years that the reason we have these gaps is because we have laws on the books that do not change, that drive costs.”

Cuomo administration officials say those automatic increases have been in place for decades, and translate into roughly a 13 percent for education and medicaid. So, for example, what would have been described as a 10 percent cut in funding in the past, was instead a 3 percent increase in funding.

Sources inside the Cuomo administration say that eliminating these automatic increases would cut the proposed budget gap to roughly $2 billion, as opposed to the $10 billion expected for this year. Megna wouldn’t confirm the exact number when asked, but he did suggest that Cuomo was going to propose reforms to eliminate recurring budget gaps.

‘I think people are going to howl about this because the Governor is trying to change the way we fundamentally do the budget. And we on the first floor appreciate this,” Megna said.

Bloomberg’s Undercover Gun Project

Mayor Bloomberg today unveiled several videos shot during an undercover investigation at an Arizona gun show that depict the sale of a Glock pistol with a 33-round extended magazine – just like the weapon used in the Tucson tragedy – being legally purchased with no background check.

The mayor, who has been crusading against illegal guns for years now, said the videos reveal a “dangerous gap in our existing federal gun laws.”

“We have demonstrated how easy it is for anyone to buy a semiautomatic handgun and a high capacity magazine, no questions asked,” Bloomberg said in a press release.

“This country must take two simple steps to stop more of the 34 murders that occur with guns every day: make every gun sale subject to a background check, and make sure the background check system has all the required records in it. ”

“Congress should act now, but gun show operators shouldn’t wait. They can do the right thing today by making sure that every gun sale at their shows is subject to a background check. Four of the seven gun shows we investigated in 2009 have agreed to make that reform, and there is no doubt it will save lives.”

More details and videos can be found here.

Cuomo Uncovers Budget ‘Sham’

As he prepares to unveil his first executive budget tomorrow, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has penned an OpEd slamming the entire budget process, calling it “the real Albany sham.”

Cuomo writes that the growth of the state budget is “dictated by hundreds of rates and formulas that are marbleized throughout New York State laws that govern different programs – formulas that have been built into the law over decades, without regard to fiscal realities, performance or accountability.”

These formulas, which predominantly mandate education and Medicaid funding, increase rates annually, calling for an overall 13 percent increase in both areas next year. Cuomo deems this information “close to a state secret” and calls that boost “wholly unrealistic.”

“This is the system that has brought New York to the brink, and it is why we are the highest ‘spending-and-taxing’ state in the nation with programs that fail to perform for the people,” Cuomo writes.

“This all must end. We need fundamental reform in the budget system that allows us to recalibrate spending this year to a sustainable level and replace ‘the special interest protection program’ of automatic, unrealistic increases. There is no such thing as “permanent” laws and they must all be reviewed and replaced or modified when necessary.”

The governor’s OpEd appears in full after the jump.

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DioGuardi ‘Maybe’ Planning Re-Match With Gillibrand

Former Rep. Joe DioGuardi confirmed to CapTon’s Mike Whittemore that he’s definitely mulling another run for office, but hasn’t yet decided which race to enter. Among the possibilities: Another challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who’s up again in 2012.

“Maybe,” DioGuardi said. “Let Kirsten Gillibrand now do what she said she was going to do then lets measure her actions and words.”

“Let’s see what Obama does. Everybody is assuming it’s going to be very tough for Republicans in two years because Obama is running for president. Hey, we’re not out of this yet. Unemployment is not going to come down dramatically…In fact it may not come down at all.”

DioGuardi petitioned his way onto the ballot after failing to make the cut at the party’s convention. (He did, however, get the Conservative Party nod, which explains his presence here at CPAC). He defeated Bruce Blakeman and David Malpass (who is also here, along with his wife) in last September’s primary, but then lost big to Gillibrand in November.

The former Westchester County congressman said the no-so lame duck session in 2010 was “good” for Gillibrand because it produced results, thanks to the president’s pragmatic approach, adding:

“(S)he benefitted, but a horse race is not one lap, you got to go around and then you have that final lap and many times the horse that wins, it’s that final lap that counts most. I’m that kind of person. I’m not a sprint runner, I’m a long distance runner. I’ve been that way all my life.”

Shaking The Money Tree

Compliments of NYPIRG: A list of 37 fundraisers held/scheduled to be held in NYC or, better yet, in Albany in the shadow of the Capitol this legislative season.

The highest-dollar event so far: A $15,000-a-head shebang on Feb. 17 for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

This event (which, unlike most of the others here is being held in Manhattan, not Albany, at the Top of the Rock), is specifically billed as an effort to raise cash to fuel Cuomo’s budget battle with organized labor.


Marlin: Nation’s Eyes On Nassau County

Conservative commentator and NIFA Board member George Marlin told me this morning that the fiscal woes of the state’s second-richest county will “tell a broader story about the state and quite possibly the nation.”

“When the second-richest county in the state and the third-richest county in the nation gets in trouble, all the others are watching,” Marlin said during a brief interview outside the CPAC conference at the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road.

“We could show the way for others down the road. If we’re in trouble, what does that mean for the others? The eyes of the state are going to be on us, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if governors of the other states are watching, too. This has national impact.”

The NIFA has given Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano until Feb. 15 to come back with new budget numbers and has so far taken a pass on freezing public employee salaries.

Mangano has accused the board of being politically motivated and more in line with Democrats, although Marlin was a big booster of the county executive during the 2009 election, which led to his surprise ouster of former Executive Tom Suozzi.

Mangano has threatened to sue the board. Marlin said he met with the county executive after the unanimous 6-0 vote to put the county under state supervision last week and used Mangano to work collaboratively with NIFA, but thus far to no avail.

Marlin also told me he was at the first roundtable meeting of Cuomo’s economic advisory council in Manhattan last Friday (also attending: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; Frank Zarb, former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange; Felix Rohatyn, special advisor to chairman and C.E.O., Lazard; former chairman, Municipal Assistance Corp.)

Unlike those others, Marlin is not a member of the council, but was there by “special invitation.” He refused to offer any details about the governor’s budget, although he did allow a briefing was given. He said everyone in the room agreed not to speak to members of the media.

DCCC Targets Hayworth, Buerkle

The DCCC has included two New York congresswomen – Nan Hayworth (NY-19) and Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) – in a new radio and grassroots campaign that targets potentially vulnerable House Republicans across the nation.

The ad accuses 19 GOP members of “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 campaign will include radio ads (starting in drive time today), Web ads, automated phone calls, live phone calls, and e-mails in targeted districts throughout this week.

Here’s the text of the Buerkle ad; the full list of targeted House members appears after the jump. UPDATE: Click here to listen to the ad.

“Here in Central New York the recession is still hitting hard, good job openings are really scarce. So it was good to hear President Obama’s plan to make the economy work for the middle class again. Invest in education to train our children for the jobs of the future, maintain America’s lead in technology with more research and development, and reduce the deficit with an overall budget freeze. That plan makes a lot of sense.”

“But Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle supports a plan in Congress that would cut education by 40 percent. And her plan would cut science and technology research by 40 percent, too. Research and development is how we get the new products that create new jobs. How does cutting that help us compete with China and India? It doesn’t make sense.”

“We should tell Ann Marie Buerkle to work with President Obama to create jobs, instead of supporting a partisan plan that costs jobs.”

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