Cuomo: Fingers Crossed On Debt Ceiling

Appearing at an economic-development team rollout event on Long Island today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he remained optimistic that Washington wouldn’t allow the U.S. to default on its obligations for the first time in American history.

“We have our fingers crossed that it’s going to be resolved so we can all move on,” Cuomo said.

A deal on closing the budget deficit didn’t appear today in our nation’s capital as Speaker John Boehner tries to corral the needed votes for his gap-closing plan, which lacks support from both Democrats and members of his own GOP caucus.

The U.S. will default on Tuesday unless the nation’s debt ceiling is raised.

Meanwhile, Wall Street reacted when the Dow closed down nearly 200 points. European markets also performed poorly.

Elected officials like Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have warned against a default, saying it would damage the state’s economy. But Cuomo shrugged off the question of whether a default would damage the Empire State, saying he was confident a deal would get done.

“My hope and my expectation is that we can work it out and all move on and that’s what I believe is going to happen,” he said.

Cuomo was also asked by reporters about thorny issues of making different regions of New York — a very tribal state — compete against one another. But Cuomo reiterated that competition was best for developing job-creation ideas.

The 10 regional councils are competiting for up to $1 billion in economic development money.

“The best plan, the best plan wins,” he said. “I like competition, because we don’t have the money to fund every plan, and we want to fund the best plan.”

He added that he enjoys the “energy of competition.”

“That’s not what this is about,” he said. “It’s not the criteria. It’s an equal playing field.”

Extras

Several NYers made The Hill’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in DC list for 2011.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo cracked down on tour buses using a rule created by the state DOT just hours before the enforcement action took place.

Sen. Greg Ball has proclaimed himself victorious in the freshman senator fundraising race.

Ball has $126,000 more on hand than the No. 2 on that list, Sen. Lee Zeldin.

Cuomo’s former secretary, Steve Cohen, believes the governor has been “incredible accessible” to the media, and the only way to improve that would be to move in with him.

Assemblyman David Weprin’s former finance director received a voicemail message threatening the congressional candidate.

32BJ endorsed Weprin along with four Assembly special election candidates.

Scandal-scarred Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. missed 1/3 of sessions this year, but he made sure to keep up to date on Facebook.

Rep. Pete King maintains dozens of Americans have traveled to Somalia to join the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab.

Fewer NYC teachers are qualifying for tenure following a change by the DOE in how effectivness is measured.

Former President George W. Bush recalled 9/11 during his first extended interview since Osama bin Laden was killed.

Rep. Michael Grimm accused the president of starting a “class warfare,” and is none too pleased with the protestors outside his district office, either.

Assemblyman Brian Kolb wants Cuomo to rescind the extra fee on businesses being charged to cover the state’s federal unemployment interest payments.

The economic development council announcement in Schenectady tomorrow is invitation-only.

Family Court Judge Ronald E. Richter will be NYC’s new commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services.

YNN (OK, really CapNews9) alum Zack Hutchins gets well-deserved props for being the man behind the Senate GOP’s Twitter feed.

The man convicted of threatening ex-Gov. David Paterson was sentenced.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s accuser met with prosecutors after granting media interviews.

Third party promoters refuse to give up their fight.

If Rudy Giuliani can host “Mob Week,” perhaps Eliot Spitzer will do the same for a film festival about prostitution?

Evidence of Sens. Tom Duane and Diane Savino at the San Diego Pride Parade.

Owens: Tax Hikes Unlikely Until After 2012

This seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but Rep. Bill Owens told me last night on CapTon that if tax increases aren’t included as part of the debt ceiling deal – and it looks like things are going that way, President Obama’s desires notwithstanding – they are unlikely to be revisited until after the 2012 elections.

Again, this is not at all surprising, considering the stance adopted by the more conservative members of Congress. But it just highlights the fact that Obama’s decision to raise the tax-the-rich issue at all while addressing the nation Monday night was basically pure politics.

Brennan Center Urges LATFOR To Follow Prisoner Law (Updated)

The Brennan Center at NYU is urging the legislative panel overseeing the redistricting process to count prisons as residents of their last known address, not in the facility they reside in.

The good-government think tank is wading into a contentious debate over the 2009 law passed as part of the super-late state budget. The commission known as LATFOR is, for now at least, counting prisonsers as residents of the district were the prison is.

That’s because the law is being challenged by some Senate Republicans, who could lose population (and thus clout in Albany) if the measure is adhered too.

From their letter to lawmakers:

“That methodartificially inflated the political influence of districts with prisons to the detriment of districtswith no or fewer prisons. It also diluted the voting rights of citizens of the districts in which theincarcerated persons previously resided. This phenomenon had a disproportionate anddiscriminatory impact on the voting rights of the minority and low income voters who made up asubstantial portion of the residents of these districts.”

The ongoing redistricting process, which must be done every 10 years based on fresh Census data, must be completed by early next year. Lawmakers are also resisting good-government groups’ call for an independent commission to draw district lines. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to veto lines drawn solely by lawmakers.

Update: LATFOR member Roman Hedges has released a statement through the Assembly.

“I, along with Assemblyman John McEneny, co-chairman of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, agree with the groups who signed the letter regarding the prison count issue and intent to fully comply with the law. We urge our fellow task force members to do the same.

Latfor Letter 7-27-11

Regional Development Councils Cheat Sheet

An administration source forwarded this memo of talking points on the 10 regional economic development councils that are in mid-rollout by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and LG Bob Duffy. (I believe we’re at 6 and counting 0).

There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it is interesting to note the timeline being “suggested” by the second floor.

There are 10 “tasks” – starting with implementing a public participation strategy that includes at least two forums in addition to council meetings and ending with submission of the 5-year strategic plan and grant applications by Nov. 14. As has been noted by a number of people now, that’s a very ambitious agenda.

Regional Development Councils 69605

Thruway Exec Director Departs, More Where That Came From

Another holdover from a previous administration is departing his post – the third in less than a week.

This time it’s Mike Fleischer, who has been around since the Pataki days. He sent an email to Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. staffers today informing them that he will be giving up his executive director job to “to pursue an attractive opportunity in the private sector.”

Fleischer has been in his current post since April 2003. Prior to joining the authority/corporation, he served as first deputy commissioner at the DOT. Here’s the rest of his email, which doesn’t provide any additional information about his day day on the job or his next move:

“It was an honor to serve with the men and women who work each day to improve the experiences of the users of the 570-mile Thruway and the 524-mile Canal System.”

“I have been struck by the ‘can-do’’attitude that is constantly displayed by our co-workers. Whether it is a lock operator going out of their way to help a boater, or a snow plow driver assisting a motorist in need, the phrase ‘it’s not my job’ is never part of our vocabulary.”

“We talk about the Thruway and Canal as a family, and we are. We care about each other – we sometimes disagree but we all want what is best for the organization and the people we serve.”

“I want to thank all of you for the work you have done – and will continue to do – on behalf of the State’s residents and visitors.”

(H/T to the DN’s Ken Lovett for beating me to the punch on this one).

Fleischer’s resignation comes 24 hours after NYPA CEO/President Richard Kessel announced he will be leaving the day after Labor Day and just short of one week after MTA Chairman Jay Walder surprised the political world by abruptly informing the Cuomo administration he will also leave this fall to accept a job in Hong Kong.

I expect these resignations to be coming thick and fast as the governor moves into Phase II of his first year on the job, which, as he put it, will include a focus on “operationalizing” state government.

An administration source informed me yesterday that “exempt positions are all under review,” and the the governor is particularly interested in appointments that demonstrates he intends to live up to his campaign pledge that his administration would be the most diverse in NYS history.

Walder’s Last Hurrah

Outgoing MTA Chairman Jay Walder released the cash-strapped authority’s preliminary 2012 budget today, which calls for no fare or toll increases in the short term, but also proposes borrowing billions of dollars to cover its capital costs and assumes a three-year pay freeze for TWU members.

“By keeping our focus on making every dollar count, this financial plan brings stability back to the MTA’s finances,” Walder said in a press release.

“As a result, we’re able to meet our commitments to avoid service cuts and fare increases next year. The savings also pave the way for a new funding strategy that will advance vital capital investments that protect the safety and reliability of our transportation network.”

You can read the full two-part plan here and here. The press release, which features an easy-to-read breakdown of the highlights, appears below.

The key elements of the budget were reported by various news outlets this morning. The Post, for example, noted that while there’s no fare or toll increases expected in 2012, another round of hikes is proposed in 2015 to help the MTA close its yawning budget deficit.

A $54 million shortfall is anticipated in 2014, while 2015 is still $178 million in the red.

The upshot here: Whoever takes over for Walder has a serious uphill climb facing him (or her).

And it’s not at all hard to understand why Walder, whose abrupt resignation announcement took the political and transportation worlds by surprise, jumped at the chance to take a job in Hong Kong – a place that is experiencing considerable growth – rather than remain in a place where innovation is taking a back to to preservation.

This all comes at a group of Senate Republicans, led by Long Island freshman Sen. Lee Zeldin, are crusading to get the payroll tax enacted as part of the 2009 MTA bailout repealed.

Release 2011-07-27 2012 Budget and Capital Program

Southern Tier, Long Island Economic Teams Unveiled

The two areas of the state couldn’t be any different, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled the economic-development teams for Long Island and the Southern Tier.

Leading the Southern Tier panel is Cornell University President David Skorton and Tom Tranter, the president and CEO of Corning Enterprisies.

In (or “on” depending on your residence) Long Island, Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz and Long Island Association Kevin Law. One interesting name for LI is James D’Daddario, a former fundraiser for Rick Lazio, the Republican opponent Cuomo never had in 2010 (h/t to Azi’s tweet).

If anything, the twin announcements highlight just how different the regions of New York are — and the potential pitfalls of having the teams go head-to-head when it comes to competing for economic-development cash.

The Southern Tier panel should be closely watched. In a very smart post at Politics on the Hudson, Jon Campbell points out that many of the members of the council are generally supportive of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of the Southern Tier.

The controversial method being considered for gas extraction — high-volume hydraulic fracturing — is under review by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Business groups say the practice can be done safely, but environmentalists have sounded increasing concerns.

Though there’s no explicit mention of hydrofracking or gas drilling in the news release, each press statement includes this generic, but possibly pertinent, language:

Each Regional Council will develop a plan for the development of their region. The state will work with the Regional Councils to align state resources and policies, eliminate unnecessary barriers to growth and prosperity, and streamline the delivery of government services and programs to help the Regional Councils carry out their plans for development.

Gillibrand Raising Off Deficit Debate

As Washington continues to struggle with the never-ending debt-deficit debacle deadline-death spiral, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is sending out a fundraising email to supporters.

In the email, Gillibrand, D-N.Y., writes that Republicans are four seats away from capturing control of the upper house of Congress.

“Take my word: I will not be one of those four seats,” Gillibrand writes.

Her goal is to raise $25,000 by July 31.

Gillibrand has a pretty grueling political schedule. She was elevated by Gov. David Paterson after crushing Republican Sandy Treadwell in 2008. She ran for a two-year term in 2010, defeating Joe DioGuardi. And she has to run for a full, six-year term in 2012.

So far, her only GOP challenger is Republican George Maragos, who has an early start campaigning.

That’s a lot of campaigning for a senator.

From her email:

Cut Medicare. Destroy Social Security, as we know it. Increase the burden for the middle class.

When it comes to solving the serious economic problems our country is facing, the GOP keeps coming back to the same solutions. They expect students, the elderly and hardworking families to pay more, but refuse to require anything of the wealthy and corporate America.

It isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.

I know you’re counting on me to stand up for what we believe in and not allow the Republicans in Congress to ignore the plight of ordinary Americans as they look out for special interests. But I need your help so I can stay in the Senate and keep on working for what’s right.

Kessel: ‘Sense Of Accomplishment’

New York Power Authority CEO Richard Kessel said in a statement released late yesterday that he’s stepping at the right time.

“I’m leaving the New York Power Authority with a sense of accomplishment for the wide ranging measures we undertook over the last few years for spurring economic development around the state, particularly in Western and Northern New York where our large hydroelectric projects are located,” Kessel said. “It’s been my distinct pleasure working with Governors Paterson and Cuomo and carrying out their energy and economic development policies.”

As reported on Tuesday, Kessel leaves by Labor Day. He had trouble getting along with the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite his work as a political operative for the governor’s father, Mario.

And, in the No. 1 cliche in the world resignations, the statement says Kessel plans to spend more time with his family (doesn’t anyone want to spend less time with their family?)

He added that, “It’s the right time for me to be leaving and I’m very comfortable with the decision.”