Cuomo Surprised And Shocked By NYSP Raises

After meeting with officials at the State Emergency Management Office to talk about the snow storming slamming much of New York, Governor answered questions about today’s report in the NY Post that several high ranking members of the New York State Police got raises in the past few weeks.

“Surprised. And shock. How bout that,” Cuomo said when asked for his reaction to the report. “We are going to be reviewing those raises. I am aware of the story that was in the press today and we are going to be reviewing it as part of the budget process. But I was surprised and I was shocked as I think most New Yorkers were.”

Cuomo went on to criticize the entire state salary structure, saying their are many areas of the state where it doesn’t make sense because commissioners make less than their deputies, and then turned his attention back to the issue of raises for state workers.

“Giving large raises at this point in time, in this context, when you know the fiscal problems the state is having, you know the state is in the middle of laying off 900 employees because of the budget problem. To be giving raises in that environment I think is problematic. I think it is insensitive,” Cuomo added.

Cuomo also answered questions about the snow storm. He refused to talk about the problems that arose during the late December snow storm that shut down much of New York City. And he dismissed a question suggesting that his appearance at SEMO was in some way intended to show up Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was blasted for poor snow response during the last storm.

“I am here because this is my job. This is what the Governor should be doing. This is what state government should be doing. It should be working. It should be coordinating. It should be preparing. Agency heads should be working together. You should be anticipating winter storms are going to happen. Let’s get ready, let’s get prepared. This is the state government working.”

Bloomberg Earns Hikind’s Praise

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, one of several Orthodox Jewish elected officials who were extremely critical of the Bloomberg administration’s response to the Christmas weekend blizzard, now has nothing but good things to say about the clean-up effort in the wake of the latest storm.

“Obviously, Sanitation’s job was made easier by significantly less snowfall than last month’s blizzard,” Hikind said in a press release.

“But I want to give credit where it’s due, and the Sanitation Department stood at the ready before the first snowflake even fell. This is the kind of reaction New Yorkers have a right to expect.”

Hikind noted that plow operators were working throughout Midwood, Brooklyn late last night and early this morning, adding: “I knew they could get it right.”

The Post reported several neighborhoods were targeted for a slowdown by Sanitation bosses last time around – including the Jewish-dominated Borough Park – because residents there are politically connected and generally well-heeled.

The alleged slowdown, which Sanitation bosses insist did not occur, is now the subject of investigations.

Hikind deemed the bungled response to the last storm a “disaster,” and was outspoken in his criticism of the mayor and the Sanitation Department for failing to live up to multiple promises to get the streets cleaned even five days after the last flake had fallen.

DSCC’s New Leadership Team

The Senate Democrats are poised to announce a new slate of leaders to head up the DSCC as the party licks its wounds in the minority and plots its 2012 grudge match (barring any special elections) against the GOP.

The line-up reflects the new power structure within the Democratic conference, which was also on display in Minority Leader John Sampson’s selection for ranking committee memberships and conference leadership posts.

All the key constituencies are represented: Upstate, women, Latinos, blacks, the suburbs and the power boroughs (Brooklyn and Queens).

As has been previously announced, Queens freshman Sen. Mike Gianaris will be chairing the DSCC, replacing Sen. Jeff Klein, who stepped down from his No. 2 deputy leader position and led a four-senator revolt from the Democratic conference.

The new co-chairs are Sens. Neil Breslin, who replaced Klein as Sampson’s deputy; Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jose Peralta, who bumped Sen. Kevin Parker from the position of whip for the Democrats.

“With our new leadership team in place we will mobilze Democrats, strengthen our political operation and recruit good reform-minded candidates to win back the majority,” Gianaris said.

“I thank Senators Breslin, Stewart-Cousins, and Peralta for their committment and efforts in the days and months ahead. Their expertise and assistance will prove invaluable as we take the necessary steps to bring the Democrats back to the majority.”

In a series of interviews that followed his ascent to the DSCC chairmanship, Gianaris predicted the Democrats would be back in the majority prior to the 2012 elections.

But it appears at the moment that the GOP is safely entrenched in the majority, with some additional extra breathing room (at least when votes are concerned) provided by the foursome internally being referred to as the “Kleiniacs.”

Gianaris also pledged a full review of the DSCC, which is some $3 million in debt, thanks in no small part to its heavy reliance on big-ticket political consultants during the 2010 cycle. The former assemblyman, who is known for his fundraising prowess, said he would be bringing the committee down to the bare bones and then rebuilding.

The previous co-chair line up had been: Sens. Liz Krueger, Malcolm Smith and Antoine Thompson.

Smith, of course, lost most of his power in the wake of the 2009 Senate coup. He is no longer Senate president, and has been relegated to the position of conference secretary. Thompson lost his WNY seat to Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti in one of the most Democrat-dominated districts in the state.

Here And Now

SNOW!!! (The Times describes it as a “giant, amoeba-shaped” storm).

NYC public schools are open. (Sorry kids).

Some parents felt the Bloomberg administration/DOE took too long to make the school closing call.

Mayor Bloomberg took no chances this time and declared a snow-related weather emergency long before the first flakes fell.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo learned from Bloomberg’s mistakes and moved quickly to address the storm.

This is Bloomberg’s shot at redemption.

The federal government is suing NYC for overbilling Medicaid by “at least tens of millions of dollars.”

Cuomo recruited a former top Wisconsin health official to be his point man for overhauling Medicaid here in New York, but Wisconsin’s efforts didn’t result in savings.

Twenty-eight top State Police officials got raises worth almost $600,000 during the final days of the Paterson administration even as the former governor cut some 900 state worker jobs. But they won’t be keeping those increases.

Judges aren’t happy with the independent commission created to review their salary increases and want to form a union-like organization – an unusual and unprecedented move.

Sen. George Maziarz predicts the renegade independent Democratic conference members will eventually get committees to chair.

More >

Cuomo Takes It To The People

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has pledged to get out of the “beltway” of Albany and make his cost-cutting case directly to New Yorkers, is poised to hit the road later this week in an (aptly named) “Take it to the People Tour.”

Sources familiar with the governor’s plan say he’s expected to start out in Jamestown (which a reader described as “last outpost in New York before you reach the wild, wild, west”), on Thursday morning, (Jan. 13).

Cuomo is scheduled to speak some time between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Robert H. Jackson Center.

Trivia alert!

Jackson was the chief prosecutor at Nuremburg and a US Supreme Court Justice. The Jackson Center is the only facility in the US commemorating the service of a member of the nation’s highest court. Its board of directors is charied by former LG Stan Lundine, who served with Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo is expected to deliver a modified version of his State of the State speech, and the entire event will take about an hour. The governor is also believed to be planning a stop in Watertown, but it’s not clear if that’s going to be on the same day.

This approach is sort of a modified version of something former Gov. Eliot Spitzer did in 2008 when he delivered two State of the State addresses – one in Albany and another upstate (in Buffalo).

Extras

Rep. Gabby Giffords is breathing on her own, and her doctor says she has a “101 percent chance” of survival.

Roger Ailes reveals to Russell Simmons that he has told Fox News’ anchors to “shut up, tone it down.”

Members of Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns gathered to call for “common sense” gun laws.

Bloomberg on the latest snow event: “We recognize that we did not do the job that New Yorkers rightly expect of us in the last storm. We intend to make sure that does not happen again.”

This time, it’s an emergency.

Bloomberg has tire chains on one of his official Suburbans.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith is sorry.

Bloomberg insists he’s in charge no matter where he is – even if he’s out of the country.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is going against type.

Strangest confluence of special interests…perhaps ever?

Park attendance is up.

Rep. Pete King’s 1,000-foot gun ban is just, well, impossible to enforce. And a little silly.

AQE started an e-mail campaign to alert the governor against “devastating” budget cuts.

Lobbyists lament having to stand in line to access the Capitol just like some average citizen…the nerve!

Hillary Clinton has not changed her position on gay marriage.

MMA fans are out to prove they are “average, everyday people” and not “meatheads.”

“Client 9″ director Alex Gibney on Ashley Dupre’s role in the Eliot Spitzer scandal: “She’s got big breasts. She likes to have her picture taken. It’s all good…Turns out she was a bit player.”

King’s Ban

Here’s Rep. Peter King earlier today at a Mayors Against Illgeal Guns press conference with his longtime ally and the organization’s founder, Mayor Bloomberg, calling for something rather unusual, coming from a GOP elected official: A gun ban.

The Long Island lawmaker called the Arizona shooting “a bitter attack against democracy, not just against Congresswoman Giffords herself, but against the whole system and against her constituents,” adding:

“I’ll be introducing in the next several weeks legislation which would make it a federal crime to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet, that is attended by the president, the vice president, members of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, cabinet officials – including the CIA director – as well as federal judges.”

King insisted the intent behind this ban is not to create a special class of citizens afforded additional protection because they’re public officials, but rather “to protect the public and the staff members and innocent bystanders” who attend events with politicians who might be targets.

Freudian Slip?

An extremely sharp-eyed reader caught a very unfortunate – yet extremely pertinent – typo in the press release this afternoon announcing the Senate Democrats’ leadership and ranking committee posts.

The quote is attributed to Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, the Democratic conference chairwoman, who said:

“I am delighted to be a part of a conference that appreciates its diversity, regionally, ethically, racially, economically and politically.”

“Last year we made significant legislative progress, passing no-fault divorce, new protections for victims of domestic violence, and guaranteeing equal access to legal defense for those otherwise not in a position financially to protect themselves. I am very confident we will continue to make great strides this year.”

(I added the boldface type for emphasis).

I’m fairly certain the word whoever wrote this intended to use was “ethnically” – with an “n” – but unfortunately, that one little letter makes a world of difference, particularly when you consider the AEG scandal that played a large role in the Democrats’ loss of the majority.

DeFran On Millionaire’s Tax: No Way, No How For GOP

During a CapTon interview last night, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. John DeFrancisco shot down the suggestion the GOP might be open to reauthorize the so-called millionarie’s tax under the pretense that to do so would not technically be breaking the “no new taxes pledge.”

“There’s no way the Senate Republicans, in my mind, are going to reauthorize the millionaire’s tax. I just don’t see it happening,” the senator told me.

“We’ve pledged no new taxes and I’m sure that that pledge is going to be honored. We want to be consistent, especially when we have a partner with the governor on that issue, why would be back off of that pledge?”

To be clear, Sen. Tom Libous seemed to leave the door open to keeping the millionaire’s tax alive, but he later clarified that remark to something more along the lines of what DeFrancisco told me.

During a Q-and-A with reporters outside his office yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated his opposition to continuing the millionaire’s tax past its sunset date at the end of the year, which is something members of the labor community and select Assembly Democrats (albeit not all of them) have been pushing.

Sampson Consolidates Power Through Committees

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson released the full list of his ranking committee and leadership assignments today, revealing he is moving to shore up his support with three key constituencies within the conference: Hispanics, women and upstaters.

As has been reported (H/T CapCon), Sen. Neil Breslin is Sampson’s new No. 2, replacing Sen. Jeff Klein, who stepped down from the post and then promptly bolted the conference, taking three fellow caucasian conservatives with him.

So, that takes care of the upstaters (not that Sampson had much choice in the matter since the only other true upstater is Sen. Tim Kennedy, and he’s a little new to be elevated to leadership).

I’ve already written about the new roles for Hispanic members of the conference, one of whom, Sen. Jose Peralta, bumped Sen. Kevin Parker from the position as whip.

Parker is the ranker on the Energy Committee (recall that he lost his chairmanship and leadership post after he was indicted on assault charges and was later found guilty of two misdemeanors).

A number of women are now in leadership roles, including: Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson (conference chair), Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (leader for conference operations), Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (vice conference chair), Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (assistant Democratic whip), and Sen. Shirley Huntley (assistant Democratic leader for Intergovernmental Affairs).

Sen. Liz Krueger, who was speculated to be in line to replace Klein as the deputy Democratic leader, is ranking member on the Civil Service & Pensions and Social Services committees.

She no longer has a titled position on the Finance Committee, which she once vice chaired. Sen. Carl Kruger, who was the chariman, is the ranker. (Just to be clear, Krueger is still on the Finance Committee, but she’s not the ranker).

Sen. Malcolm Smith, who was the Senate President – a title he retained, but was stripped of almost all power following the ’09 coup – is secretary of the Democratic conference and ranker on Banks.

Senate Democratic Committee Assignments