Explaining Skelos’ Position On The Rent Laws

The unauthorized video of Rent Stabilization Association President Joe Strasburg speaking to a group in Brooklyn earlier this week turns out to be a treasure trove of information when it comes to understanding the politics of the rent control battle in Albany this year.

As you’ll recall, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos took a hard line on this issue, rejecting all but the most basic renewal of the current laws that are set to expire on June 15.

That is decidedly NOT what the Democrats are seeking, and even runs counter to what Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants, which is to both strengthen and extend rent protections.

So, why is it that Skelos is playing hardball here? Well, perhaps the following comments from Strasburg might shed some light on the subject:

We took a very strong position last year to support the Republicans in order to them back into power. Because we had the so-call experiment of two years with the Senate Democrats who attempted to really hurt this industry.”

“…So, in the last 48 hours, RSA – and we’re not ashamed of it – we gave and donated and supported all the Republicans. We basically emptied our piggy bank in order to make sure they recaptured the Senate.”

“And Dean Skelos, who understands how important you are as an industry – and it’s selfish – but he understands clearly that if he doesn’t hurt us or he tries to avoid hurting us, we will be there for him next time around, and next time around is two years from now, and you need resources in order to achieve and maintain being in power.”

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Maffei ‘Strongly Considering’ Re-match vs. Buerkle

While we’re all waiting for something to break on the budget front…Several readers have forwarded an e-mail former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei sent to supporters earlier today, confirming that he is indeed mulling a challenge to GOP Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, who ousted him from his NY-25 seat in a squeaker last fall.

“I have been asked many times what my future plans are and if I intend to seek a return to public office,” Maffei wrote. “I understand that the closeness of last year’s election would naturally lead to these kinds of questions.”

“I want you to know that I am strongly considering running again for Congress in 2012. Whatever the future may hold, one thing is clear. We cannot give up on our region or in the idea of broad-based moderate representation that takes into account the many diverse groups in upstate New York.”

“So far, my successor has shown no willingness to work with anyone but the hard right ‘tea party’ faction of the Republicans, spurning even the more mainstream Republicans trying to work out budgets with President Obama. These actions have put tens of thousands of Central and Upstate New Yorkers at risk.”

Maffei explained what he’s been doing in the private sector working for “Third Way,” which he described as ” influential moderate ‘think tank’ organization that advances policy ideas for – among other things – private-sector economic growth and the clean energy revolution.”

The former congressman, who worked a staffer to Rep. Charlie Rangel as on the Ways and Means Committee prior to his own foray into public life, said he’s enjoying his time on the outside, catching up with family and friends. But he clearly wants back into the game.

Buerkle is considered vulnerable by the DCCC, particularly since 2012 is a presidential election year that will bring out the sort of Democratic voters who show up once every four years and tend to vote down the ballot line. That could make a big difference, considering Maffei lost by less than 600 votes in 2010.

Then again, who knows what the district will look like in 2012.

Krueger: No Rent Control? No Budget

ICYMI: Sen. Liz Krueger, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee (thanks to Sen. Carl Kruger’s legal troubles) told me during a CapTon interview that she’ll have trouble voting “yes” on a budget that doesn’t include rent control, and believes a number of her colleagues feel the same way.

Of course, that seems at the moment to be a very strong possibility. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as much last week, after previously suggesting he agreed that the rent laws and property tax cap were “connected” and should be dealt with in the budget.

“That may be one of the key issues for me as a legislator,” Krueger, an Upper East Side lawmaker told me.

“If there is not rent regulation in the budget, or an ability to believe that we are ending up with much stronger laws long before June 15th, the deadline, that may be a basis for me and many of my Senate Democrat colleagues not to be able to vote for this budget.”

I asked Krueger if she thought there could be a Wisconsin-type quorum problem when it comes time to vote on a budget – assuming a deal is forthcoming at some point. “It’s a lovely state, but I hadn’t actually planned any trips to Massachusetts in the near future,” she joked.

Krueger did note that a quorum of 38 of the 62 senators in needed in the chamber to vote on budget bills. “Technically,” she said there are 32 Republicans, four independent Democrats who have been voting mostly with the GOP and 26 Democrats. That still leaves the majority short two Democrats.

“The math is interesting,” Krueger acknowledged.

It’s a safe bet that there are some Democrats in the Assembly chamber who feel the same way. While it doesn’t appear likely they’ll hold up the entire budget on this issue, they may very well vote “no.”

Skelos, Post Cuomo And Sans Silver: Still Optimistic on Budget Today

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, after meeting solo with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said: “We’re making progress, and I’m still very optimistic that we can close down things today.”

Skelos couldn’t say why Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wasn’t at the closed-door get together, adding: “I don’t know if he was invited.”

This smells like a divide-and-conquer strategy to me. Assembly Democrats say the speaker is very concerned about the possibility that Cuomo will cut a deal with the Senate Republicans and leave him scrambling.

Asked if the speaker is still cooperating with the other two men in the room, Skelos replied: “We are working with the governor and hope to have a budget today.”

He also said there are “loose ends” that still remain to be tied up, but school aid is “pretty much closed down” with a tentative agreement to restore some $250 million worth of the $1.5 billion Cuomo cut.

Silver told reporters he wasn’t aware that Skelos and Cuomo were meeting, insisting: “I have no sticking point with anybody; it’s very close.” The speaker also said he’s “in tandem” with the governor on the budget.

PIC Won’t Investigate MRT Members

The Public Integrity Commission has refused to heed a call to investigate whether four members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team violated the Public Officers Law, saying a complaint filed by the Center for Justice and Democracy “failed to establish a basis” for the probe.

The PIC informed the Center of its decision in the letter that appears below. Commission spokesman Walter Ayres confirmed the veracity of the letter, but declined to speak any further about the matter, citing the PIC’s policy of not discussing matters on which no action is taken.

In short, the PIC determined that it was perfectly viable for the governor to tap “stakeholders” to make policy recommendations, even if those individuals might benefit from the changes they suggest. In addition, the MRT “employed an open, public and transaparent process, including disclosure of members’ business and professional affiliation and interests and opportunities for public input.”

Needless to say, the CJD is not pleased with this outcome. Its executive director, Joanne Doroshow, said her organization continues to believe the MRT “acted in ways very much at odds with the public interest…and stand to directly financially benefit from their proposal.”

“At the end of the day, allowing people to create policy on behalf of the State who stand to directly benefit is not only wrong – it stinks,” Doroshow continued.

“The Center for Justice & Democracy has outstanding Freedom of Information Law requests from February seeking information and records maintained by the Governor and Department of Health that we believe are critical to the Commission’s understanding of these Medicaid Redesign Team matters.”

“The Commission has given us an opportunity to provide additional information and we look forward to doing exactly that in the coming days – assuming that State Government does not try to stonewall the public document request.”

As you’ll recall, the Cuomo administration rejected the CJD’s claims as an “absurd stunt.”

Complaint Regarding Four Members of the Medicaid Redesign Team

Cox: Levy Would Have Made A Good Governor

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox said he was “surprised” to learn of the political fundraising improprieties that have forced Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to forgo his re-election bid this fall, but would not say he regretted trying to woo the Democrat-turned-Republican into the 2010 governor’s race.

In fact, Cox heaped praise on Levy, saying he had been a “terrific county executive who always fought for the taxpayers of his county and was very effective in implementing pro-growth policies.” The chairman insisted Levy would be doing the same thing at the state level had he been successful in his gubernatorial bid.

“His policies were not only fiscally responsible, but pro-growth, and that’s what we need as governor,” Cox told me.

“What I’m saying is that the policies that he stood for and fought for in Suffolk County and implemented very effectively are eaxctly the policies that we need in New York State.”

“…We do need nuclear power in this state. We do need to get rid of LIFO for teachers. We do need to make sure that, over time, the rent controls in New York City will continue on the path they’re going. These are the kinds of things I think (Levy) would be fighting for as governor.”

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Cuomo Uses Triangle Fire Anniversary To Talk ‘Progressive’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been accused by the left of abandoning his Democratic values by pushing a fiscally conservative budget and refusing to tax the rich, released a statement marking the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that is decidedly liberal in tone.

The statement highlights the tightrope Cuomo has been trying to walk by proposing funding cuts and policies the left abhor while also reiterating his support for signature left social issues like gay marriage.

He also stopped short of trying to undermine collective bargaining rights a la Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and balked at an all out repal of last in, first out – something Mayor Bloomberg has been pushing, much to the chagrin of the unions.

Here’s the statement in full:

“On March 25, 1911, a tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City killed 146 workers. From the ashes of this tragedy came some of the most sweeping changes to working conditions ever enacted by a state government.”

“New York’s actions in response to the fire changed the face of workplaces in this country for the better.”

“In New York, we have historically taken on the nation’s most difficult challenges first and solved them. Our state’s celebrated history made New York the progressive capital of the nation. There is no better example of this than our state’s response to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.”

“New York’s Factory Investigation Commission, which emerged as a result of the fire, prompted our lawmakers to act on behalf of our most vulnerable workers. Laws were passed that were considered revolutionary at the time. These laws were the foundation for modern labor laws, not just in New York, but in other states and at the federal level.”

“As I said in my State of the State address, we must continue to achieve the social progress that made the Empire State a leader. This commission brought forth sweeping changes in New York’s factories. The country, in turn, followed our lead.”

“As New Yorkers, we must continue to lead, continue to make progress on behalf of our most vulnerable workers, and never forget the memory of those who perished in the flames of this horrific tragedy.”

Clergy To Pray For Cuomo To Get Religion On Cuts

Faith leaders from around the state will be asking their congregations to pray for Gov. Andrew Cuomo this weekend in hopes that he will have the “wisdom to protect the most vulnerable from immoral cuts,” according to a press release.

Bishop Orlando Findlayter of the New Hope Christian Fellowship is among the faith leaders who will be preaching on this topic Sunday. He’ll be opening the doors of his Brooklyn church to members of the press to make his plea public.

“As religious leaders we believe the governor’s plan to balance the state’s budget by reducing educational funding while protecting millionaires is unconscionable,” said Findlayter. “We urge our legislators to stand with our children and oppose this detrimental budget.”

Findlayter is not new to this type of engagement in politics from the pulpit. Back in 2008, he urged the NYC Council to reject Mayor Bloomberg’s push to extend term limits so he could run for re-election in 2009. At the time, the mayor was reaching out to clergy members in hopes of gaining their support for his (eventually successful) push to change the term limits law.

This strikes me as a bit of a Hail Mary (pardon the pun, please) pass when it comes to the millionaire’s tax, since both Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Cuomo have refused to move off their opposition to extending it past its sunset date this year.

Skelos went so far as to declare the millionaire’s tax off the table and dead yesterday. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to go quite that far in public, but members of his Democratic conference admit they’ve given up hope of including it in the final budget deal.

It’s possible the April 15 revenue numbers will be less robust than expected, leaving a larger-than-anticipated revenue hope that lawmakers have to fill. If that occurs, perhaps the millionaire’s tax will return, but I doubt it.

On the budget front, legislative leaders are still holding out hope for a handshake deal today, but the governor appears unlikely to bless that particular union. The Senate GOP is conferencing at noon. Silver needs to leave sometime this afternoon in order to be back in NYC before sundown to start observing Shabbat.

NY-26 Ad Watch: Corwin, 3; Hochul, 0

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin has launched her third TV ad, this time returning to her positive approach of showcasing her accomplishments as a small businesswoman instead of attacking her Democatic opponent, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul.

The 30-second ad started airing this morning. Here’s the script:

“New York’s biggest export is our children, who can’t find jobs here at home.”

“As someone who was part of a small business that created hundreds of jobs in our region, I know government doesn’t create jobs; it’s small businesses. That’s why I’m running for Congress.”

I’ll use my small business experience to end burdensome regulations, support policies that help manufacturers, and oppose trade agreements that just aren’t fair. I’m Jane Corwin, and I approved this message because our working families deserve good paying jobs.”

Corwin’s second ad went negative on Hochul, seeking to define her as a taxing liberal joined at he hip with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before she had a chance to present herself to the voters.

Hochul, who was just tapped to be the Democratic and WFP candidate last week, has yet to get up on the air – perhaps indicating that her fundraising isn’t going as well as she had hoped. Corwin has made it clear she’s willing to spend her own cash on this campaign, which is part of the reason why the GOP wanted her so badly.

Here And Now

The Legislature is technically not in session today, but Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver asked their respective conferences to stick around in case they manage to get a handshake deal on the budget.

If they succeed, the 2011-2012 budget might actually be EARLY instead of just on-time – a big win for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s in Albany with no public schedule.

Cuomo conspicuously did not join the legislative leaders in their rosy predictions, and a source speculated they might still be looking for him to force their hand through the budget extender-vs-shutdown option.

The looming agreement would mark just the third time since 1984 that the Legislature approved a budget by the April 1 deadline – 2005 and 2006 were the others.

Lawmakers expect to restore somewhere between $200 million and $300 million of the $1.5 billion the governor cut from education funding, as the millionaire’s tax is, according to Skelos, “dead.”

Cuomo said the 2010 Census figures, which show continued loss of population upstate, prove the need to pass his budget.

Post-budget policy fights will likely include UB2020, LIFO, a property tax cap and the rent laws, which are set to expire on June 15.

The WNY delegation is meeting with Director of State Operations Howard Glaser on UB2020 today.

Union members marched in Lower Manhattan to protest budget cuts at both the city and state levels.

While acknowledging Mayor Bloomberg’s record on pensions has not been “stellar,” the Times sides with him on his push to wrest control of negotiating pension benefits from the state.

Med-mal caps similar to what Albany is now considering have proved problematic in other states.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority froze wages for the county’s 8,100 employees two days after County Executive Ed Mangano sent it a revised budget.

The state Financial Control Board warned NYC residents the cuts they’re seeing now are probably just the beginning.

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