Schumer Blasts Christie Over ARC

Sen. Chuck Schumer did not mince words this morning in taking NJ Gov. Chris Christie to task for pulling the plug on the train tunnel project under the Hudson River in October, saying his fiscally-challenged state can’t afford it.

Speaking at the Crain’s breakfast in Manhattan this morning, the senior senator said the project was “not in the planning stages,” noting it had “explicit funding commitments” from both the federal government and the Port Authority. Construction was already underway.

“I will be honest and direct here,” Schumer said. “hough I am extremely sympathetic to the fiscal problems Governor Christie clearly faces, and I recognize there are not easy choices to make, I believe pulling the plug on ARC was a terrible, terrible decision.”

“Practically, by failing to increase our tunnel capacity, we are simply going to force more people into their cars,” Schumer continued. “You think traffic on the George Washington Bridge and in the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels is bad now, just wait.”

“And if you don’t think that’s a disincentive for people to come to this area, let alone to commute into New York, you haven’t spent enough waiting in the helix to get into the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour.”

Schumer had quite a bit more to say on this topic, saying historians may look back on this moment as a “turning point” when the region – and even the nation – “stopping looking toward the future.” He suggested the country could end up paralyzed if it continues to axe big transportation projects.

The senator’s remarks (as prepared for delivery) appear in full after the jump.

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Duffy’s Replacement Resigns

Rochester will soon have its third Mayor in less than a month.

Today, Mayor Tom Richards announced he is going to step down on Thursday, after a complaint was filed accusing Richards of violating the Hatch Act, which prevents certain employees of a municipality from running for office, or engaging in other political activities. In short, if Richards remained mayor while also running for the office he could jeopardize federal funding for the city of Rochester.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to serve and run for office with the risk of an adverse Hatch Act finding or the intention to fight such a determination,” said Mayor Richards. “I came here to help the city and not to hurt it with fines and possible penalties. The possible loss of even one federal dollar is too much to risk.”

Richards says he is still going to run for the office. That election is scheduled for March 29th. In the interim, City Director of Economic Development Carlos Carballlada will be the acting Mayor.

NYPIRG Questions Committee To Save NY

NYPIRG says the recently formed Committee To Save NY is a lobbying group, and should be investigated by the Commission on Public Integrity for violating state lobbying laws. In a statement NYPIRG suggests the group may be breaking state lobbying rules.

“The Committee argues that it does not have to report since the budget bills have not yet been introduced. However, in at least one area – a cap on property taxes – legislation has been introduced that creates a property tax cap.”

The statement comes after this morning’s report in the New York Times, linking Governor Cuomo closely to the group of business leaders and advocates for fiscal responsibility.

It goes on to suggest that because Cuomo reportedly “spurred its creation” and “helped it build its membership and funding” the Governor must direct the Commission on Public Integrity to investigate the committee and find out if they are complying with state law.

The Committee to Save NY has been up with television ads for the past week now. During his upstate swing in Jamestown, Cuomo downplayed his connection to the group, suggesting it was just a bunch of people who support his budget, but probably did not support many other things he is trying to do.

NYPIRG’s complete statement is after the jump.
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Siena: NYers Back Cuomo’s Agenda, Millionaire’s Tax

Today’s Siena poll (the second in as many days) finds New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the bulk of the agenda Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out in his State of the State address, but also back an idea floated by the Assembly Democrats and organized labor that he has so far ruled out: Reinstating the so-called “millionaire’s tax.”

“The governor claims his election meant he has a mandate from the voters on the issues,” said Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg.

“While Cuomo may or may not have an issue mandate, for the moment, as we await his first executive budget, voters certainly support the governor on these issues that he talked about in the State of the State address.”

Eight of 11 SoS proposals are “strongly” backed by voters, including (87-10) Cuomo’s call to close the $10 billion budget deficit without new taxes or borrowing.

Unlike the governor, New Yorkers apparently don’t see a continuation of the personal income tax increase enacted two years ago on those earning more than $200,000 a year as a new tax. They support (55-42) the idea of letting the millionaire’s tax continue past its sunset date at the end of this year.

As seen in previous Siena polls, voters overwhelmingly back Cuomo’s call for a 2 percent property tax cap, and 60 percent believe it will become a reality in 2011. But they’re more closely divided on whether that cap should be able to be exceeded by an affirmative vote of 60 percent of voters, as the governor has argued, or simply a majority vote.

More than three-quarters of voters believe it’s likely the rent laws, which are also set to expire this year, will be continued – a big priority for downstate lawmakers, particularly the Assembly Democrats.

More than two-thirds think it’s likely New York will become a more business friendly state in 2011.

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Here And Now

The Committee to Save NY is operating at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s urging and with his blessing, but creates a sticky situation for a governor who pledged to bring transparency and an end to special interest control in Albany.

The Post echoes Cuomo’s rallying cry.

The governor’s got New Yorkers in his corner – for now, anyway.

Bill Hammond warns Cuomo not to get too comfortable with his high poll numbers.

Gun control was the topic du jour at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual MLK Day event in Harlem.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy will be joined by gun control advocates in Washington, DC today to discuss plans to push her proposed ban on high-capacity magazines. (No link).

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ family has begun to search for a rehab center where she will spend the next – likely very long – phase of her recovery.

Sarah Palin’s approval rating has fallen in the wake of the Arizona shooting.

Palin echoed calls for post-Tucson tragedy civility, but said: “I’m not going to sit down. I’m not going to shut up.”

The Senate Republicans will host a Medicaid reform roundtable at noon at the Capitol today. (No link). Several members of the governor’s Medicaid redesign task force will participate.

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Extras

Mayor Bloomberg received a mixed reception at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual King Day celebration.

He was initially booed when he took the stage.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gave her husband, Mark Kelly, a neck massage and is improving so rapidly she could go home in several weeks – or even days.

Giffords’ condition has been upgraded to “serious.”

Stick and stick vs. carrot and stick.

Former VP Dick Cheney might get a heart transplant.

The mayor on his hand-picked schools chancellor’s “birth control” bomb: “Cathie Black made a joke. Some people took it the wrong way. She apologized. She won’t make the mistake again.”

The very, very early bird catches the information word in Washington.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went on “The View.”

Sharpton and RWDSU’s Stu Appelbaum teamed up for a King Day living wage OpEd.

Sigh.

Bloomberg insists he’ll be with the Jets in Texas on Superbowl weekend.

Sharpton defended public employee unions on “Meet the Press.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t attend King’s MLK event because he was feeling “unwell,” the Rev. said.

Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Caucus Cautious On Cuomo

Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, chair of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, released a (belated) and rather lukewarm response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, expressing concern over the governor’s proposal inventive-based education funding and health care cuts that will could disproportionately impact minority New Yorkers.

While insisting the caucus recognizes the state’s fiscal challenges and looks forward to working with Cuomo, Hassell-Thompson said its members are looking forward to “fruitful dialogue with the Governor to ensure that the burden of closing the budget gap is not fallingsaliently on the shoulders of indigent communities and communities of color.”

The senator said the caucus was “encouraged” by Cuomo’s strong words about overhauling the juvenile justice system and boosting procurement contracts for MWBEs.

However, there is “uncertainty on the implementation process” for Cuomo’s approach to having schools compete for funding and worries about rent regulation, which is shaping up to be a flashpoint in the budget battle, but is also something the governor has yet to take a definitive position on.

The caucus has the potential to be very powerful – if, that is, its members were able to vote together in a bloc, which hasn’t happened in the past. However, even without a uniform voice, the minority members are strong enough to influence the policy agenda in the Legislature.

Cuomo has been particularly sensitive to issues of race ever since his disastrous 2002 primary against then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, New York’s first black major party gubernatorial candidate. He also took heat from black and Latino leaders during the 2010 campaign due to the lack of diversity on the statewide Democratic ticket.

At the time, Cuomo promised his administration would be the most diverse in New York history. His appointment to a top ESDC post today of Leecia Eve, a former Hillary Clinton aide and daughter of ex-Assemblyman Arthur Eve, which came on MLK Day, was no doubt choreographed specifically to address this ongoing issue.

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Stringer Sides With Cuomo On Shared Sacrifice

Manhattan BP Scott Stringer, who is aggressively preparing for a likely run for NYC mayor in 2013, is signaling support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “shared sacrifice” approach (although he’s reluctant to call it that), which would require labor unions to make concessions to help close the $10 billion state budget deficit.

Appearing on CUNY TV’s “Citywide,” Stringer told former NYC Councilman Ken Fisher the state and city “now at that same juncture” as they were during the last big fiscal crisis back in the 1970s.

“Now’s the time to put the politics aside and sit down and have that conversation that no one has been willing to have for quite some time,” the Manhattan Democrat said.

“And I’m going to do everything I can to get those leaders in a room to start thinking about it. Because going forward there’s a lot we can do to rebound this economy. But at the end of the day, labor has to talk to business, real estate has to talk to counterparts, and we’ve got to figure this out because that’s what’s at stake in the city.”

Stringer said the federal government will “not listen to us” if the city and state seek additional assistance unless local NY officials first work to get their respective fiscal houses in order. He praised Cuomo for taking steps to “set the tone” for a collaborative effort.

(Up to a point, of course; as we learned this morning, there’s also an element of “my way or the highway” to the governor’s approach).

The WSJ reported over the weekend that Stringer appears to have raised more campaign cash last year than any other potential 2013 candidate, although Rep. Anthony Weiner, who has done zero fundraising, still has more money on hand.

The full Stringer interview will air on Jan. 19 on CUNY-TV/ Channel 75, NYC CABLE TV.

Cuomo Hires Former Clinton Aide At ESDC

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon he has hired Leecia Eve, a onetime aide to ex-Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter of former Assemblyman Arthur Eve, to serve as senior vice president and counsel to the Empire State Development Corporation.

“Ms. Eve’s extensive expertise and knowledge of economic issues in New York, across the nation, and abroad will be instrumental in reopening New York State to business,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“Her decades of legal experience, combined with an intrinsic understanding of our state’s diverse economic needs, will help businesses thrive and prosper. I thank her for her ongoing commitment to public service.”

This is, I believe, Cuomo’s first ESDC-related appointment. He has been slow to tap people to serve in the economic development arena, despite the fact that he has insisted “jobs, jobs, jobs” is a main focus of his administration. This delay has not gone unnoticed and has earned the Cuomo administration a measure of criticism.

(To be fair, however, it should be pointed out that ESDC is a notoriously troublesome entity). At the moment, all we know, thanks to LG Bob Duffy, who confirmed this on CapTon last week, is that the current head of ESDC, Dennis Mullen, won’t be sticking around, despite his expression of interest in doing so.

Eve, who is African American and hails from Buffalo, also was one of several LG candidates passed over by then-AG/gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer in 2006 in favor of then-Senate Minority Leader David Paterson.

That decision angered the so-called Harlem Gang of Four, which included Rep. Charlie Rangel and Paterson’s father, former state Secretary of State Basil Paterson, who had already endorsed Eve and didn’t get a heads up from Spitzer about his selection.

Eve most recently served as VP for Policy of the No Limits Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that promotes economic issues at home and abroad and advocates transforming American foreign policy around the world, including advancing the rights of women.

She has worked as a judicial clerk to the state Court of Appeals Judge Fritz W. Alexander II, Judiciary Committee counsel to then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and as Senate counsel to then-Sen. Clinton.

Cuomo also announced Erik Bottcher has been appointed to serve as special assistant for Community Affairs. Bottcher is an LGBT advocate and worked for NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn. For more on his hiring, click here.

Diaz Accuses Cuomo Of Blackmail

Senator Ruben Diaz is blasting Governor Cuomo in response to today’s article in the NY Post.

The paper reported that Cuomo has told his top staff members that he plans on shutting down the government if the State Legislature failed to negotiate a budget by the April 1 deadline.

Diaz has been one of the most vocal advocates against cutting funding for health care, education, and other social services. In a statement he continued to urge lawmakers not to make cuts.

“I am dismayed by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s public threat to shut down New York State’s government if we do not approve budget cuts that will most definitely hurt the poor, our children’s education, New York’s healthcare system, and our senior citizens, Diaz said.”

The Bronx Senator went on to suggest that what Cuomo is suggesting is blackmail.

“When my colleagues and I once attempted to negotiate change in the Legislature to improve the lives and well-being of less advantaged New Yorkers, the Four Amigos were accused of black-mailing. We weren’t, but it seems all too obvious to me that Governor Cuomo is blackmailing New York.