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.”

The WFP’s Big Quarter (Updated)

NYPIRG’s spreadsheet king Bill Mahoney released this little number earlier today. It lists all the committees that have so far filed Jan. 15 financial reports with the state Board of Elections.

UPDATE: Apparently, a glitch in the BoE’s software caused every number in the WFP’s filing to report twice. So I asked Mahoney to re-calculate the numbers, and the labor-backed party is NOT the top filer, but rather the third-highest.

The WFP’s filing has been updated on the BoE’s Website. The party raised $1.06 million, spent $1.03 million and has $290,793 on hand.

Not surprisingly, the WFP’s biggest donors are unions, including CWA (co-chair Bob Master is the political director), SEIU/1199 and NYSUT’s political arm, Vote/Cope.

The party still owes $107,635 to two law firms – Skadden Arps and Levy Ratner – dating back to its legal troubles in 2009.

The WFP announced back in August 2009 that the US attorney’s office had cleared it of any wrongdoing in a probe of the party’s for-profit arm, Data and Field Services.

That announcement cleared the way for then-AG/gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo to agree to run on the WFP line, but he made the party sign off on his “New NY Agenda” before he accepted its endorsement. Cuomo won sufficient votes on the line, compared to other minor parties, to bump the WFP from Row E to Row D.

Jan 11 Filers

PEF: Massive Layoffs Would ‘Cripple’ State Services

The Public Employees Federation, New York’s second-largest state workers union, is weighing in on this morning’s reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is thinking of following in his father’s footsteps and seeking a massive reduction in the state workforce in his first executive budget.

In a prepared statement, PEF President Kenneth Brynien said he has received “no formal notification” regarding any proposed layoffs.

He warned that slashing the public payroll by 10,000 to 15,000 positions would not only “cripple the delivery of essential services,” but would also likely have the opposite effect of a key Cuomo initiative: Growing the state’s economy.

“We all understand the state’s fiscal crisis and the need to find solutions,” Brynien said.

“But any suggestion of reducing the state workforce by 10,000 to 15,000 would not only cripple the delivery of essential services, it would have a chilling effect on the state’s economy and undermine the state’s fragile recovery. We should all be working together to create jobs, not more layoffs.”

Brynien said the state suffers from both a spending problem AND a revenue problem, and suggested the union would soon be presenting the governor with its ideas about how to address both of those issues.

CSEA, the largest public employees union, declined to comment when contacted by the NY Times yesterday. Union spokesman Steve Madarasz said:

“We’re not going to respond to speculation at this point. When he has a proposal to make, we’ll respond to it appropriately. Abstract numbers without any context don’t tell us very much.”

Cuomo has made it quite clear since the campaign that he wants the public sector unions to be “part of the solution,” which to him basically means that they agree to concessions or suffer the consequences.

Both CSEA and PEF are poised to enter contract negotiations this spring with the Cuomo administration. The governor has said he intends to be personally involved in that process.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is weighing plans to lay off 10,000 to 12,000 – or maybe even 15,000 (depending on which newspaper report you believe) state workers. The last governor to order that many pink slips: Mario Cuomo.

On the chopping block: Clerical workers, state troopers and park rangers. A workforce reduction that large would undoubtedly cause a noticeable reduction in government services.

The governor’s breakfast with Assembly Democrats at the executive mansion turned heated as lawmakers took on the governor for abandoning his progressive roots and tangled with him over the millionaire’s tax.

The challenge to Cuomo came from Assembly members Catherine Nolan, Rory Lancman and Barbara Clark, all of Queens.

Cuomo will continue his post-State of the State tour with a speech at Marist College in Poughkeepsie this morning.

The budget deficit has ballooned to $11 billion, according to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long plans to launch a campaign that will include robocalls, mailings, emails, a postcard drive and radio and TV ads in support of Cuomo’s agenda.

Cuomo praised Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City address, saying he “rightly recognizes that government has to do more with less and that during these difficult times, tough choices and sacrifice are required.”

Bloomberg narrowed his focus in the speech, with little talk of national politics.

Bloomberg’s 2011 Albany agenda includes pension reform.

More >


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will likely leave the hospital Friday and move into a Texas rehabilitation center.

Top aides have departed the NYC Central Labor Council to protest Jack Ahern’s leadership.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t committed yet to serving a second term as secretary of state.

Sen. Lee Zeldin saw his first bill pass in the upper house – with a super-majority.

The Senate GOP approved business tax cuts and spending limits that go beyond what Cuomo has proposed.

Deposed RNC Chairman Michael Steele likened himself to Caesar.

Rep. Anthony Weiner during today’s health care law repeal debate: “I just want to advise people watching at home, playing that now-popular drinking game of ‘you take a shot whenever the Republicans say something that’s not true’: Please assign a designated driver. This is going to be a long afternoon.”

Living wage advocates weighed in on Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City address.

Tier VI may be on the horizon.

“We’re looking at different things that we can do with Triborough – maybe freeze it, suspend it,” said Larry Schwartz. “Maybe there’s something for the next two or three years it can be done and revert back. We have to be at least willing to discuss them.”

The governor’s Mandate Relief Task Force has a Website.

The Authorities Budget Office released a highly critical report on the Genesee County IDA.

“We, at last, after 34 flaky years, have a great senator in district who will make us proud,” former Bronx BP Freddy Ferrer said of Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

Bloomberg will weigh in “from time to time” on Bloomberg LP editorials.

Cuomo served the Senate Republicans sliders at the executive mansion.

Here’s the NYLCV’s 2011 policy agenda.

Marcia vs. Mike, place your bets now. (I’m going with the former).