Skelos Thanks Cuomo, Derides Dems

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who is trying to link himself and his conference as closely to Gov. Andrew Cuomo as humanly (and politically) possible, followed the governor’s lead by taking a post-budget victory lap via a Web video released this afternoon.

Skelos took a shot at the Democrats right out of the gate, saying:

“For the past two years, when state government was controlled by the Democrats, New Yorkers were hit with late budgets that increased spending and taxes and drove jobs out of this state.”

“We promised to put an end to that dysfunction and restore fiscal sanity by cutting taxes, reducing spending and creating jobs. The budget we passed two days before the April 1 deadline fulfills those promises.”

“The budget spends less, taxes less and includes real reforms that will put New York back on the road to economic prosperity.”

(Two days early, eh? The majority leader is going by a different calendar than mine, apparently, although there’s been a lot of debate over what constitutes an “early” versus merely “on time” spending plan).

Skelos goes on to reiterate some of his favorite pre-budget talking points, promising to continue this trend of working in a bipartisan fashion with Cuomo to provide sane, adult leadership in Albany.

Not surprisingly, Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran isn’t buying all that. He released the following response:

“The Senate chamber, which Senator Skelos blocked the public from yesterday, should be a place for bipartisan cooperation and united action, not political attacks. It is our hope the spirit of bipartisanship that gave us an on-time budget will continue and the promises we all made will be promises kept,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Conference.”

Common Cause Considers Suit Over Capitol Lockdown

Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner told me during a CapTon interview that her organization is “looking at” a possible legal challenge over the Legislature’s decision to restrict public access to certain parts of the Capitol during last night’s budget vote.

Common Cause is arguing that the “virtual lockdown” violated Article III, Section 10 of the state Constitution, which says:

“The doors of each house [of the Legislature] shall be kept open, except when the public welfare shall require secrecy.”

I suggested that perhaps a concern for lawmakers’ safety – recall that Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari said the protesters “threatened us” – might be a sufficient cause for taking extra security measures and shutting down parts of the Capitol normally open to the public. Lerner rejected that, saying:

I don’t think anybody’s arguing the budget debates required secrecy. They were telecast. The press was there. So what justification do you have, constitutionally? Convenience is not a constitutional value. This is straightforward language.”

“…I am sure that legislators who are used to being walled off from the people find it very challenging to have people who are angry actually observing what’s going on.”

My full interview with Lerner will air this evening at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

The No Club

By request (from the comments section), here’s a list of the senator who cast “no” votes on the budget bills.

You’ll notice Democratic Sens. Ruben Diaz Sr. (Bronx) and Tom Duane (Manhattan) were in the negative on every single bill. Sen. Bill Perkins (Harlem) was excused for the first two votes, I’m told.


David Koch Continues NY GOP Support

Wisconsin wasn’t the only state engaged in a heated budget battle that saw an influx of cash from conservative billionaire David Koch.

Koch, who is best known as a Tea Party funder (and the guy impersonated by NY-26 candidate/Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy during his prank call to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker), helped finance the counter-protest during the Badger State’s union-backed “week of rage.”

He also ponied up another $100,000 to the state GOP’s housekeeping account here in New York, according to the majority’s off-cycle campaign finance report on file at the state Board of Elections. That was the bulk of the cash the party reported raising since January.

It took in another $50,000 from H.J.K. LLC. and now has $131,802 on hand in its housekeeping account and $104,547 in its general account (the Westchester GOP was the biggest contributor there, sending in $25,000).

Koch has given $173,500 to the GOP since 2000.

All of Koch’s contributions to the party originate from a PO Box in Witchita, Kansas, which is the home base of the family business, Koch Industries. David Koch lives with his wife, Julia, in NYC, but he’s still reportedly banking out in the heartland.

Koch has spread his campaign cash around in New York. He and his wife, Julia, contributed $87,000 to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he ramped up his 2010 gubernatorial bid.

The labor-backed WFP called on Cuomo to return that cash, insisting Koch’s uber-conservative policies aren’t in line with New York’s Democrat-dominated ideology. But the governor has declined to do so (or at least it appears that way, according to Newsday’s Dan Janison, who was the last to report on the Koch-Cuomo connection).

Nadler, King, Maloney Seek 10th Anniversary 9/11 CODEL

Here’s the letter from Reps. Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney and Pete King to House Speaker John Boehner seeking an official CODEL – a special congressional delegation visit – that would bring all of their colleagues to NYC to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are apparently on board with this idea, which the House members say would “send a strong message to the nation and the world that, 10 years later, we remain unified; that the spirit of New York City and the nation are strong and unshaken; that our commitment to freedom has never wavered; and that we will always honor and remember the victims, the first responders, survivors and their families.”

9-11 CODEL Letter – March 29 2011 – FINAL

Stavisky Sets The Record Straight

A feisty Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky put Sen. Mark Grisanti in his place last night after he claimed the Democrats had done nothing to advance UB2020 when they controlled the chamber.

Savisky, a Queens Democrat who used to chair the Higher Ed Committee during her party’s brief stint in the majority, noted that she – with an across-the-aisle assist from Republican Sen. George Maziarz and the ill-fated (now former) Sen. Bill Stachowski and others – passed a UB2020 bill in 2009.

“That bill passed this house,” Stavisky said. “You are mistaken. You are wrong. I vote aye.”

The Abzug-Ferraro Connection

Attorney Jerry Goldfeder wrote in this morning to note the “profound” arc of history in today’s funeral services for the late Queens (and VP contender) Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, who is being laid to rest on the anniversary of the death of the late Manhattan Rep. Bella Abzug.


Goldfeder described Abzug as “a great pioneer whose achievements and fighting spirit led to the success of many women, including Gerry,” adding: “We should take a moment to salute the memory of Bella as we mourn Gerry Ferraro.”

For those not in the know, Abzug was pounding on the glass ceiling even before many were willing to acknowledge it existed. She was an attorney in the 1940s – a time when very few women practiced law – and took on civil rights cases in the South. She was active in the organization Women Strike for Peace and landed on the master list of Nixon opponents.

Abzug served in Congress, representing a Manhattan district (and part of the Bronx, too, for a while) from 1971 to 1977. She introduced the first federal gay rights bill, the Equality Act of 1974, with then Rep. – and future NYC Mayor – Ed Koch.

She ran for the US Senate in 1976, but was defeated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She lost a NYC mayoral bid in 1977 and two attempts to return to the House in 1978 and 1986.

Abzug was also Manhattan BP Scott Stringer’s cousin, and he likes to tell the story of how he got his start in politics by campaigning on her behalf at the age of 12.

Grisanti: UB2020 ‘Is Not Dead’

Here’s Buffalo Sen. Mark Grisanti explaining on the Senate floor last night why he was voting “yes” on the budget, even though it did not include the UB2020 plan – arguably the No. 1 policy issue for WNY legislators.

The Democrat-turned-Republican freshman lawmaker chided members of the minority for griping about the fact that UB2020 wasn’t included in the final budget bill, noting Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to hold a summit prior to the session’s end to try to get the long-stalled plan unstuck.

Sen. Tim Kennedy cited the lack of a UB2020 piece of the budget as his motivation for voting “no” on the plan. Grisanti, who had pledged prior to his election during a CapTon interview (and elsewhere) to vote “no” on anything that didn’t include UB2020 – and even follow the lead of former Sen. Bill Stachowski and hold things up if he could – said Cuomo’s promise helped change him to a “yes”.

“If you want to sit there and denounce the commitment of your own governor who has stated five times in a press conference that there’ll be a summit in Buffalo, you don’t have to attend, that’s fine,” Grisanti said.

“If you want to doubt what happened here in this Senate, of a 55 to 1 vote, that’s fine. But what I didn’t see, is I didn’t see the Democrats on that side talking to their Democratic friends in the Assembly to push that bill forward as I was doing – not only with the Republicans – but meeting with Deborah Glick and other members. This bill is not not dead. This bill has moved faster in the last 90 days than it has in three years.”

To be fair, Kennedy did send a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver following the Senate’s passage of the UB2020 bill, urging him to take up the measure.

DiNapoli Concurs With Cuomo On Budget (For Now)

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a statement echoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sentiment that the budget passed by the Legislature is “significant for what it does not do,” eschewing new taxes, fee hikes and one-shots in favor of spending cuts.

The comptroller also praised the fact that the 2011-2012 plan doesn’t rely on borrowing to pay operating expenses – a big no-no in the world of responsible budgeting.

“These are welcome changes from the short-term fixes and budget gimmicks of the past,” said DiNapoli, (who, of course, is a former assemblyman and voted in favor of all those budgets that included the same “fixes” and “gimmicks” he’s now decrying).

The comptroller acknowledged the budget will not come without considerable “pain,” especially for school districts and health care providers who are now facing a “formidable challenge to absorb significant cuts in funding.”

When school districts present voters with their proposed budgets in May, we will start to see the impact of these cuts at the local level,” DiNapoli continued. “In addition, the cuts in health care must be managed to minimize the impact on those most in need of care.”

“Now comes the hard part. The state, local governments and school districts must now not only do more with less but do it better as well. All of us in government have to watch tax dollars and monitor spending very closely.”

“My office will begin its comprehensive review of the budget and will issue a report soon after the Financial Plan is released by the Division of the Budget.”

Cuomo Praises Lawmakers In Video Victory Lap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just released this Web video, essentially taking a victory lap and thanking legislative leaders for getting an on-time budget passed that contained almost everything he proposed in his executive spending plan.

During the 2 minute address, he calls the budget a “transformational moment of our state” and touts the defeat of “the special interests and their lobbyists.” He also goes out of his way to praise the Legisalture for heeding his call to pass a budget that includes deep spending cuts and no new taxes – and for doing so in time to meet the April 1 deadline.

…Not that they had much choice in the matter, considering his threat to employ the all-or-nothing budget extender method. Anway, everyone now lives to fight another day over mandate relief, ethics and redistricting reform, a property tax cap, the rent control laws and whatever else crops up prior to the session’s scheduled end on June 20.

Here is the complete transcript:

“This is a transformational moment for our state. The first step to the road to economic recovery. It wasn’t easy, but we overcame the special interest and their lobbyists. And we did the people’s business in Albany.”

“The new budget changes the way our state works in many many ways. It closes the current $10b deficit. It cuts waste and inefficiency and begins significant consolidation of our state government. It overhauls our economic development efforts to create good jobs for New Yorkers throughout the state.”

“What the budget does is impressive, but what the budget doesn’t do is also impressive. It doesn’t raise taxes. That is what I promised when I was elected, and that is what we did.”

“It is a new day in Albany. Government needs to recognize the new economic reality. Government needs to tighten it’s belt and cut the waste. Just like every family in this state has done. And we must refocus government on improving performance, not growing bureaucracy.”

“Our goal is to have the world class education system here in New York. The best health care system. And a thriving economy proclaiming New York is open for business. We have more to do to clean up Albany, and restore the promise of New york State government. But this was a great step.”

“I applaud the state Senate and Assembly. They performed admirably. And the government worked as it should. We put aside politics to get this done. We weren’t Democrats or Republicans. We were New Yorkers first, and we acted that way.”

“My friends, I took office about 90 days ago. I said my goal was to give you a government that functions, a government that is competent, and a government of integrity. In short, a government that works for you. This budget works for the people of New York. We have more to do, but we are one our way together.”