The People’s Martha Stewart

Some notable details from the NY magazine profile of Food Network star and live-in companion of Gov. Andrew Couomo, Sandra Lee:

On the “will they or won’t they” question:

Friends say that neither Lee nor Cuomo feels a need to marry again – not to validate their commitment for the benefit of outsiders, anyway. Both are homebodies.

Cuomo likes to unwind by working on his muscle cars, and Lee bought him a high-quality set of Snap-On tools. Lee just remodeled the basement. “We’re very traditional,” she says of their respective roles. “I don’t like to put gas in the car or take out the garbage. He doesn’t particularly like to decorate window treatments.”

On their meeting at a party in the Hamptons:

“This huge muscle-bound man had little girls climbing all over him, and he was very gentle and kind with them,” Lee remembers. “I found that intriguing.”

At first, she tried to set him up with three different girlfriends of hers, and for four months, Lee stresses, they were just friends. Finally, wearying of Lee’s deflections, he said, ‘I think you should look in front of you.’”

More >

Capitol Occupation?

Maybe Wisconsin really can come to New York.

A reader forwarded an alert sent out yesterday about an “Albany occupation” planned for this Wednesday in opposition to what’s being billed as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

The “peaceful” protest will include New York Communities for Change (formerly ACORN), Right to the City, SUNY student groups and others, according to the e-mail, which continues:

“They expect at least 1,000 to participate in the occupation during the day on Wednesday and at least 500 to stay in the capital (sic) overnight.”

“FYI, as long as the legislature is in session, anyone has the right to be in the capital, even to protest inside it (although not in the Senate and Assembly chambers themselves). The organizers have notified the police of their intentions and no arrests are expected.”

“The situation will be very fluid, however, and the occupiers on the ground will be the ones who ultimately decide how long to continue the occupation and what course of action to take, although precautions will be taken at all times to avoid anyone being exposed to arrest who doesn’t want to be.”

“This is a very important action that I think we should support as strongly as possible. Please forward this to any and all activist listservs you are on. As Cuomo is currently preparing to bulldoze his way to an on-time, incredibly anti-working class budget, we need to make sure that our voices are heard. If you’d like to participate, get in touch with the organizers listed in the announcement below. Thanks!”

This is reminiscent of the so-called “week of rage” that occurred during the Wisonsin budget battle, when protestors refused to leave the building and the courts ultimately got involved.

I contacted a spokesman for VOCAL NY, which has been involved in several Capitol budget protests to date, two of which involved arrests. I was told that this demonstration is still on, despite the fact that Cuomo has already announced a framework budget deal with legislative leaders.

The deal makes only modest ($270 million) restorations in education aid, which has been a big issue for many protestors, and does not include their top priority: Extension of the millionaire’s tax.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has pledged to continue trying to convince the governor and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to change their minds on the millionaire’s tax, but so far, they’ve refused to budge. That’s in spite of the fact that public opinion polls – including today’s Siena NY poll – show widespread public support for continuing to tax the state’s wealthiest residents at a higher rate.

Siena Poll: NYers Back Cuomo In Budget Battle

In the final days of his budget battle with the Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened lawmakers with the shutdown vs. extender bills option, saying he felt completely comfortable that he would win in the court of public opinion.

Turns out, he was right.

Today’s Siena poll shows New Yorkers, by a large 67-27 percent margin, would have preferred to see the Legislature pass Cuomo’s budget in an extender bill – even if it could not be amended at all – than to opt for shutting down the government. A whopping 90 percent said an on-time budget is important.

Cuomo’s popularity remains high, although he was slightly dinged in this budget fight. The governor’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 69-20, down from 77-16 last month. Fifty-one percent say he’s doing an “excellent” or “good” job, down from 57 percent.

While Cuomo has fallen below 70 percent, more than two-thirds of voters still view him favorably, including two-thirds of Republicans and more than half of conservatives,” said Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg.

“His biggest drop in favorability since February was recorded by voters younger than 35, conservatives, African Americans, and voters earning less than $50,000. And it was largely among those same groups where his job performance rating fell the most.”

Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers said they most trusted Cuomo during the budget talks, compared to seven percent for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and five percent for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

One silver lining for Silver: Support for the millionaire’s tax continues to be strong. Seventy-one percent agree with the Assembly Democrats that it should be continued. Voters also strongly supported inclusion of both the rent laws (63) and a property tax cap (73 percent) in the budget, but neither made it into the framework agreed to last night.

SNY0311 Crosstabs

Take ‘Em Out And Shoot ‘Em

NY magazine’s Chris Smith has a great piece today about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s dual endgame approach to the budget battle – both of which had him winning, regardless of the outcome.

And, as we now know, he appears to have won big, with the Legislature giving him the bulk of what he proposed in the executive spending plan.

For some insight of Cuomo’s velvet glove approach with the Legislature, consider the following passage:

A former Cuomo operative remembers one of his old boss’s favorite tales about a predecessor, Nelson Rockefeller. Cuomo quizzed one of Rocky’s powerful aides, Alton Marshall, about the wealthy governor’s success with the Legislature.

“Ah, Rocky,” Marshall told him. “Rocky would bring ’em over to the mansion, he’d sit around, they’d have a few bottles of wine, they’d have some cigars. He’d say, ‘What do you need? How can I help you? I like you.’ Oh, yeah, Rocky, he owned ’em. They loved him. He was charming.”

Cuomo, the ex-aide says, was inspired, believing he had the skills, if not the libations, to work the same magic. “Yeah,” Marshall said, “and you know, every once in a while, you gotta take one of these guys outside and shoot him.”

For an example of this, look no further than the treatment Assemblyman Dick Gottfried when he dared to criticize the Medicaid Redesign Team plan.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo got a big budget win yesterday with an early agreement with legislative leaders on a spending plan that closely mirrors what he proposed back in February.

The framework budget adds just $250 million to Cuomo’s original plan, cuts state spending by more than 2 percent, reduces Medicaid by $2.8 billion and places a 4 percent cap on future education and Medicaid spending.

The agreement will restore $272 million worth of the $1.5 billion in education funding cuts Cuomo sought.

It remains unclear how that cash will be allocated, and that’s just one of a number of details that wasn’t available last night.

AQE is not happy.

The “definitive agreement” extends the Excelsior Program, makes permanent Power for Jobs, funds for the Tug Hill Commission, and cuts 2,000 more prison beds than expected.

It does not, however, include a millionaire’s tax, a property tax cap, extension of the rent laws, a med-mal cap or UB2020.

Insiders predict the Senate Republicans will kill stronger rent protections for NYC residents and kill the tax cap in the process.

Meet the new Gov. Steamroller – and this one gets results.

The state has not adopted an early budget since the first year of former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration.

Chris Smith writes of “Cuomo-Toto” in which the governor pulled back the curtain on Albany’s inner budget workings and “carefully crafted two endgames in which he wins either way.”

“My boat is bigger.”

More >

And Now, On To The Next Fight

Just because the budget battle appears to have ended doesn’t mean legislative leaders will spend the remainder of the 2011 session twiddling their thumbs.

There are a number of contentious issues that remain undone, particularly extension and potential strengthening of the rent laws, which are scheduled to expire on June 15.

After today’s Red Room press conference, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said there are “tons of other issues that we’ll be discussing once the budget is passed.”

Added Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: “We’ll be here awhile.”

Silver expressed hope that the rent control fight won’t go down to the wire the way it has in years past, saying: “We set a precedent here, hopefully, by doing things early.”

‘Do You Feel It?’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was (understandably) in a very good mood this evening as he announced his first budget deal with legislative leaders in the Capitol’s Red Room. The press conference produced some rather humorous moments…like this one:

Bloomberg Not Pleased With Budget Deal

Mayor Bloomberg just released a statement in response to the news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have reached a budget deal. In short, he’s not thrilled, although he’s encouraged to see the state moving toward an on-time budget.

Keep in mind: We’re not sure how much of the $270 million worth of restored education aid will be heading in NYC’s direction. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the city will receive a fair share. But there are not details on that as of yet. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said the allocation will be “regionally balanced.”

“At the outset of the budget process, we urged the Governor and State Legislature to adopt a budget that treats New York City equitably and provides the mandate relief and reform that would allow us to absorb the State’s heavy cuts,” the mayor said.

“This budget agreement appears to fail on both counts, and worse, it passes heavy new costs down to the City. Voters should remember that New York City was singled out by Albany and eliminated from the revenue sharing program, while other localities took no more than a three percent cut.”

“We appreciate that some of the cuts in education aid were restored. But make no mistake: the final budget still cuts New York City more than ever before. The restorations are merely a fraction of the $600 million necessary to avoid additional layoffs and cuts in the City’s budget – beyond what was announced in February – for the upcoming fiscal year.”

“While the outcome is disappointing and the results will be painful, it is encouraging that the Governor and State Legislature have worked together to produce an on-time budget.”

“We hope that same spirit of collaboration leads to action on the hard work that remains to enable the City to do more with less: by stopping pension costs from skyrocketing further with a new tier for the City and ending the last-in, first-out law that exacerbates the negative impact of Albany’s teacher layoffs on our public school children.”

‘Definitive Framework’ Of $132.5 Billion Budget Deal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders triumphantly announced a deal on a 2011-2012 budget that “in theory” could deliver the state’s first early budget since the last time a Cuomo was in the executive mansion.

“We worked through very, very difficult issues,” the governor said. “We not only got it done, but we got a great piece of work done. I believe that.”

The governor said the budget – which spends about $250 million more than he proposed, yet still clocks in at $132.5 million overall – is a victory for New Yorkers. He called it “the people’s budget.”

But it’s also a huge win for Cuomo himself, who gets a large portion of what he wants here – thanks largely to his overwhelming popularity in the polls and the extender power bequeathed to him by former Gov. David Paterson.


Some details remain to be worked out in conference committees. Bills will start being sent up for passage on Tuesday and the budget could be early, but definitely will be passed by the April 1 deadline, the governor said. He left open the possibility of messages of necessity to circumvent the three-day aging process.

Albany hasn’t seen an early budget – one adopted before the April 1 deadline – since 1983. That was former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s first budget; 27 of the last 36 budgets have been late.

More >

The Weekend That Was (So Far)

The legislative leaders are gathering right this moment at the Capitol to meet behind closed doors with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The expectation is there will be a deal to announce before the day is out.

So far, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and top staffers (Jim Yates and Dean Fuleihan) have arrived. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is in the building, and we haven’t seen him arrive yet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t slipped into the governor’s office somehow.

UPDATE: Silver is apparently already inside the gov’s office. Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, who had a press conference in NYC this morning, was the last leader to arrive. LG Bob Duffy is here, too.

So, now we wait. Until then, some reading material…

If there is a deal, presumably the sticking points of med-mal and prison closures have been worked out.

Seven state workers won $319 million in the Lottery…at least they don’t have to worry about getting laid off anymore.

The Times calls for equity in the education aid cuts, hoping to ease the burden on poor districts that stand to be disproportionately impacted.

Larry Levy warns “King Andrew” not to misjudge his opponents.

Semi-First Lady Sandra Lee is organizing what she hopes will be the world’s largest bake sale to raise money for the NYC Food Bank.

Mayor Bloomberg spoofed “Spider Man” and “Mamma Mia” in his annual Inner Circle Show response. Photos!

Sen. Chuck Schumer says the 2010 Census numbers are “dead wrong” and “cry out for investigation.”

More >