Protesting The Committee To Save NY

Protestors who support the extension of the so-called millionaire’s tax converged outside REBNY’s annual gala at the New York Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan last night, criticizing the real estate industry for supporting the pro-Cuomo Committee to Save NY.

Low-income and housing advocates carried a banner and shouted at gala attendees: “Hey, you millionaires! Pay your fair share!” They also passed out fliers that accused members of the CSNY of wanting “tax breaks for the super-rich and service cuts for everyone else.”

The flier also listed the names of CSNY board members (disclosed last week after the committee came under fire for its lack of transparency) and called on them to step down.

Cuomo has made it clear on numerous occasions that he opposes continuing the temporary three-year personal income tax increase on wealthy New Yorkers that is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2011. The governor insists he will be able to close the $10 billion+ budget deficit without borrowing and raising taxes.

Supporters of continuing the tax – including a number of Assembly Democrats – argue the governor won’t be able to cut his way out of such a massive budget hole and could use the revenue ($1 billion in the current fiscal year, $4-to-$5 billion in the next) generated by the millionaire’s tax.

REBNY Cmte to Save NY from VOCAL NY on Vimeo.

Here And Now

Welcome to the Capital Region, President Obama! Snow Capitol of NY…OK, not really. But it sure feels that way. Fourth storm so far this month. Plus, I got the car stuck in my own driveway. Brilliant. And now, the headlines.

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who will be with Obama in Schenectady today, has been tapped by the president to run his outside panel of economic advisers, replacing Paul A. Volcker. He’ll chair a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Among those on Air Force One with the president today: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Richard Hanna.

Cash-strapped states may soon be able to declare bankruptcy.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is continuing to make rapid progress and will be transferred to a Houston rehab center today.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took his “tough-love tour” to Poughkeepsie and was well-received.

The governor said there will be “short-term pain” inflicted by his budget, but refused to confirm reports that he will call for the layoff of between 10,000 and 15,000 state workers.

Cuomo said he doesn’t expect a government shutdown, but also didn’t rule out the option.

A reduction of that size could cost WNY some 1,000 jobs.

The spending cap passed by the Senate yesterday would have prevented layoffs had it been in place years ago, says Sen. Tom Libous.

Cuomo is open to doing away with the MTA payroll tax.

Mayor Bloomberg upped the ante against the city’s labor unions, saying: “If we don’t get pension reform, we are going to have to have a much smaller workforce.”

The unions are playing defense.

The mayor is trying – at times in vain – to demonstrate how much he cares about the outer boroughs.

More >


More than 100 US mobsters were arrested in what US AG Eric Holder called “the largest Mafia round-up in history.”

It was, William Rashbaum writes, “a blanket assault against seven mob families in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.”

Holder said no decision has been made on whether to hold the KSM trial in New York, but warned that “nothing’s off the table yet.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of chickens in Poughkeepsie, but kept layoff numbers to himself.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb called the layoff leaks “rumor mongering at its worst.”

Cuomo has asked legislators to do him the courtesy of reviewing his budget instead of immediately criticizing it.

Patrick Gaspard is leaving the White House and headed to the DNC.

Change is afoot at the DN.

Is there trouble in Palin paradise?

The last remaining undecided Assembly race (100th AD) is, well, still undecided.

After voting to repeal the health care reform law, House Republicans are now moving to rewrite it.

Bloomberg launched the NYC Urban Technology Innovation Center.

An alternative State of the City.

The state is on track to have a $1.5 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapolo.

Sen. Marty Golden is Senate Majority’s representative to the MTA Capital Program Review Board. (No link).

Cuomo weighed in on the possibility of the Trudeau Institute leaving Saranac Lake.

Coming And Going

There’s been a lot of moving around in the lobbying/consulting world this past month, which is something that typically occurs when a new administration blows into town. Here’s a synopsis of announcements that have landed in my in-box over the past several weeks:

- Former Bronx BP Herman Badillo has joined Parker Waichman Alonso, a national law firm dedicated to protecting victims’ rights, as a senior counsel in its New York office.

“My career has always been about defending the rights of individuals and underserved communities,” Badillo said in a press release. “Protecting everyday people is the focus of Parker Waichman Alonso’s practice, and I’m honored to continue my work with them.”

- Empire Government Strategies, a New York-based political consulting firm has recently expanded its lobbying team in both Albany and Washington, D.C.

Joshua Lamel, former chief of staff to two members of Congress, and Jeff Lande, former VP of Tech America are joining the firm, founded by former Assemblyman Jerry Kremer. In addition, Alfredo Vidal, president of the Vidal Group, has signed on to EGS’s Albany office.

- State & Broadway, a NYC and Albany-based lobbying/consulting/organizing firm, has hired Jeremy Hoffman to serve as senior government affairs consultant and principal coordinator for NYC government relations.

Hoffman worked for seven years for NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, leaving her staff as deputy legislative director. Most recently, he worked for the Laborers Eastern Region as a government affairs coordinator.

- Mercury Public Affairs, the consulting and lobbying firm founded by a group of former Pataki administration aides/advisors that has since expanded to several states, has hired Dan Cho to its New York government relations team. His new title is director of New York lobbying compliance.

Cho served as a strategist and advisor to NYC Councilman Dan Halloran, a Queens Republican, during his hotly contested 2009 race. Following Halloran’s victory, Cho served as an advisor on the councilman’s transition team.

In 2008, Cho worked as a coordinator and national coalitions special assistant for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in Arlington, Va.

- Joel Barkin has departed his post as deputy Secretary of State for Public Affairs and is now director of communications at The Roffe Group.

DC37 Makes The Case For Pensions

DC 37, NYC’s largest public employee union, is pushing back on Mayor Bloomberg’s call for what he deems “meaningful” pension reform and pledge in yesterday’s State of the City address that he won’t sign a contract with salary increases unless it also includes concessions.

The union released this video feating some of its 50,000 retiree members discussing how they get by on a fixed income – a theme also struck in the January edition of DC 37′s in-house newspaper, “Public Employees Press.”

In her response to Bloomberg’s speech, DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts noted the average pension for one of her retirees is $17,000 annually “after making contributions during decades of dedicated service and sacrifice.”

Bloomberg has tapped former NYC Mayor Ed Koch to lobby for his pension reform agenda in Albany.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the mayor’s speech yesterday. Earlier today, he endorsed the idea of pension reform, but wouldn’t comment specifically on Bloomberg’s proposals.

‘Short-Term Pain’ For ‘Long-Term Gain’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated today that the state is in “really dire financial shape” and did not deny reports that he will propose widespread layoffs of public employees – perhaps as many as 15,000 – in his executive budget on Feb. 1.

The governor was deliberately vague on the details when pressed by reporters following his appearance at Marist College in Poughkeepsie this morning.

“We’ve been spending too much money for years, but it has to stop now,” he said.

“And there is going to be, no doubt, a period of short-term pain as we make these adjustments I believe it’s for a period of long-term gain…When we have the budget done, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about, and we’ll put out the budget then.”

Interestingly, at the same time he was discussing the potential of firing thousands of people, which PEF has warned would negatively impact the state’s economy, Cuomo touted the “bottom up” strategy of the regional economic councils he has tasked LG Bob Duffy with heading to create new private sector jobs.

UPDATE: The state Labor Department reported earlier today that New York’s economy lost 22,600 private sector jobs, or 0.3%, on a seasonally adjusted basis in December 2010.

He also called the MTA payroll tax a very “onerous tax” and said he’s open to finding a better way to fund the system.

Asked if he foresees a government shutdown looming due to a budget stalemate with the Legislature, Cuomo replied:

“It is possible? Yes. Is it desirable? No. It is probable, in my opinion? No. It’s going to be a very difficult budget because the numbers are difficult, beacuse it’s a difficult reality. But I don’t believe there will be a shutdown.”

Catskill Casino Good For…Wisconsin?

New York racino officials are upping the ante in their push to scuttle the Catskill casino deal inked with the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe by former Gov. David Paterson, releasing an analysis that found 32 cents of every dollar taken in at the facility would end up thousands of miles away in Wisconsin, where the tribe is based.

The analysis, which should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt, reveals that the Stockbridge-Munsee would pay less than one third the amount that racinos currently pay in taxes to the state. (This is, of course, not based on the terms of the agreement struck by Paterson and the tribe, because that hasn’t been made public).

New York’s racinos send $0.62 of each dollar they taken in to the state. Of that, $0.42 goes to education funding, $0.10 goes to lottery administration, $0.09 goes to horse racing purses and $0.01 goes to the horse breeding industry.

“Because it is required to pay less than a third of what current Racinos pay in taxes to the state, the Stockbridge-Munsee casino has an unfair competitive advantage that seriously jeopardizes the future of New York’s Racinos and the horse racing industry as a whole,” argued James Featherstonhaugh, secretary of Saratoga Gaming and Raceway.

This comes on the heels of a letter sent last week by the racinos that predicted the Catskill casino would result in a loss of $400 million in revenue, $200 million in state education dollars and nearly 1,000 jobs.

Also today, a group of Assembly members sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and members of the New York congressional delegation in opposition to the proposed land swap in Sullivan County that would allow construction of the casino.

The deal requires federal approval, which is pending. Cuomo hasn’t taken a formal position on the casino, but has noted the upstate economy is in desperate need of economic development.

Where the Dollar Goes 1-20-2011

McEneny Concerned About Layoff ‘Tsunami’

Assemblyman Jack McEneny voiced concern today that the bulk of the 10,000 to 15,000 state worker layoffs reportedly being mulled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be concentrated in the Capital Region – a development he said would “be a tsunami” and an “absolute disaster.”

McEneny, an Albany Democrat, said neither he nor the state worker unions have ever received an exact count of how many of the 900 layoffs undertaken at the end of the Paterson administration occurred here in the Capital Region.

“I’ve seen people say, ‘Well that’s the public sector,” the assemblyman said.

“But I can remember when we had problems with the recession in the early ’90s. Suddenly people who ran small restaurants, dry cleaning businesses, all of those shops would say: ‘Business is terrible.’ And I say: Well, who do you think your customers were? Who do you think is paying your salary?…When you start attacking a major payroll in a community, then it’s very, very difficult.”

McEneny said he is of the “never said never” mindset when it comes to extended the millionaire’s tax, which is being advocated by a number of his colleagues, adding: “I suspect we’re not going to be able to meet our goals; somewhere along the line there’s going to have to be a compromise.”

DCCC Chair To Republicans: We’re Coming After You On Health Care

Here’s DCCC Chairman Steve Israel explaining to me on CapTon last night how the Democrats are planning to use yesterday’s health care vote against the House Republicans in the 2012 election cycle.

Israel specifically called out Rep. Michael Grimm (NY-13) suggesting it was hypocritical for him to bote “yes” on repealing the reform law while also accepting the government-provided health insurance plan afforded all members of Congress.

“Here’s what he said,” Israel said, reading from that story, which appeared in the print version of the paper earlier this month. “‘I don’t have health care, and God forbid I get into an accident and I couldn’t afford the operation. That could happen to anyone. I would be a ward of the state.’”

“Hello? That’s why we need protections for people, not just if you’re a congressman, but for everybody.”

It will be the “same deal” for Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) and Rep. Tom Reed (NY-29), Israel said, adding:

“We’re going to hold them accountable. If they’re not accountable, we’re going to recruit candidates and we’re going to win those seats back for the middle-class voters of those districts.”

Israel acknowledged he has a challenge ahead of him. Not only is the DCCC almost $20 million in debt, but the House Democrats are out of the majority and will be competing with the president for a limited amount of campaign cash.

But the Long Island lawmaker, who has been a prodigious fundraiser, insisted he’s not daunted. He’s already raising cash and making calls to recruit candidates.

Assemblywoman Calls Out Limbaugh

Assemblywoman Grace Meng, the Legislature’s only Asian-American member, is the latest in a long line of people offended by Rush Limbaugh, calling out the radio shock jock for mocking Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Limbaugh was complaining about Fox News’ coverage of the president’s visit to Washington, lambasting the network for failing to provide a translation of his speech.

The conservative talk show host then launched into an impression of the Chinese leader that consisted entirely of “chings” and “chongs” with a few “ches” thrown in for good measure.

“Not since Jerry Lewis impersonations of Chinese as buck-toothed and squinty-eyed has a public figure been so insulting to Asian-Americans and a visiting world leader,” Meng said in a press release.

“At least the Jerry Lewis offense has the very slight benefit of being popular over a generation ago. Rush Limbaugh should be ashamed of himself, but the real tragedy of this is that he’ll likely feel no remorse.”

“His advertisers and sponsors should be worried about impact to their reputation and brands. I personally suffered ridicule like this as a child, and had hoped we were past this for the sake of all our children. Sadly, that’s not the case.”

Meng is not alone in her outrage. California State Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco called on Limbaugh to apologize for his “pointless and ugly offense.”