Here And Now

The 2010 Census numbers are due out today, and will undoubtedly reignite the debate over redistricting reform. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected in Albany, but has no public schedule.

The governor released a Web video raising the possibility of a government shutdown, which he said would be the Legislature’s fault.

Lawmakers were puzzled by Cuomo’s public saber rattling. Said Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari: “I think the governor realizes the process is moving along very well, and if the budget is done on time – if that happens, and I’m quite confident (it will) – he can claim credit because he said what he said and browbeat us to give him an agreement.”

Assembly Democrats who want the rent laws addressed in the budget don’t appear willing to risk a government shutdown to get that done.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is taking a hard line on the rent laws.

Skelos said people with power should not “flaunt it.”

The Senate and Assembly remain about $150 million apart on a budget deal.

The State Senate and Assembly closed down several less controversial areas of the budget, including environment, agriculture and housing.

Long Island senators say a property tax cap deal is unlikely this year due to the lack of mandate relief to offset its impact.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver confirmed Assemblyman Robin Schimminger was kept off a budget conference committee in retaliation for his “no” vote on the house’s budget bill.

Governors around the country are squeezing city governments by reducing their state aid.

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Silver Reiterates: Put Rent Laws In Budget

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver just released the following statement after the mothership met – for a whopping 25 minutes – and then called it quits for the night with no major budget accomplishments to report:

“Extending and strengthening the rent laws that allow millions of New Yorkers to stay in their homes is a top priority for me, Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez, and the majority of our conference, and I believe it should be included as part of the budget.”

“As a recent report released by the Assembly documents, more than 10,000 rent-regulated apartments are lost in our city each year. We must act to save our threatened stock of affordable housing and protect working families from being priced out of their neighborhoods.”

It remains to be seen how far Silver and the Assembly Democrats are willing to dig in their collective heels on this issue. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s shutdown warning video this morning, Silver said he didn’t understand why the governor was talking so tough, insisting the three sides are close on an on-time budget deal.

But it’s clear certain downstate members of the conference are very upset about Cuomo’s flip-flop on whether the rent laws will be in the budget, I just don’t know if they’re ready – as veteran housing advocate Mike McKee suggested during a CapTon interview today – to shut down government over it.

Extras

It’s the first anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, but people are still confused about what that law actually does.

Rep. Paul Tonko, who voted “yes” on health care reform, said: “The baby is one. Like any proud parents, we’ll talk about how the baby is growing and how the baby needs feeding. There’s an attempt underway to starve the baby, and we cannot afford that.”

Is Cuomo kowtowing to Big Real Estate – one of his big donors – on rent reform?

IDC founder Sen. Jeff Klein is predicting a “tremendous victory” on the budget for Cuomo.

AG Eric Schneiderman is cracking down on illegal gas gauging.

A woman injured in the Bronx casino bus accident is suing.

Legal experts tell Streetsblog the case against the Prospect Park West bike lane is shaky.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, social media maven.

Rep. Tim Bishop’s spokesman is looking forward to a re-match with Randy Altschuler.

Good luck in your new job, Edward-Isaac Dovere!

Sen. Patty Ritchie succeeded in pushing a bill she hatched in her former incarnation.

Rep. Dick Durbin: Take that, Rep. Peter King!

Citizens Union supports judicial discretion in pension forfeiture cases.

Sen. Roy McDonald isn’t saying “no” to the millionaire’s tax. But he isn’t saying “yes”, either.

Sen. George Maziarz is “open” to bucking his conference on the millionaire’s tax, too. That’s three so far – if you include McDonald.

The NYC Council approved designation of the “Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.” Mayor Bloomberg is pleased.

Odd.

The Donald trumps Tim Pawlenty in the network mentions contest.

RIP Liz Taylor.

This rocks.

No Blonde Jokes, Please

Syracuse YNN’s Bill Carey flagged this funny moment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Central NY visit earlier today to delivered his last upstate speech presenting his 2010-2011 executive budget directly to the people .

The players in this drama: Cuomo (a Democrat), Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner (a Democrat), Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney (a Republican who crossed party lines to endorse Cuomo).

Miner: “I never in my life thought I would follow a tall blonde everywhere I go, but I do it willingly and with pleasure. Joanie is a tremendous partner and a tremendous leader for this region, so I’m thankful every day that she is there.”

Cuomo: “I’m going to leave the tall blonde remark alone, by the way. Because the mayor can say it, it’s one thing. I start talking about tall blondes, it’s a totally different thing. Trust me on that…Some things I know in life, and that’s one of them.”

The governor, of course, lives with Food Network star Sandra Lee, who happens to be tall. And blonde.

‘The Buck Stops On My Desk’

After his appearance in Syracuse earlier today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s been working hard to reach an agreement with the Legislature, but intends to get the best budget “for the people” by using the nuclear extender option, if necessary, because “the buck stops on my desk.”

“We’re working very well, we’re having good conversations,” Cuomo told reporters. “But at the end of the day I’m responsible for getting this budget done in a way works for the people, right?”

“The buck stops on my desk, and I was very specific when I ran for governor about what I was going to do if I was honored with election.”

“I’m going to do what I said I was going to do. That is very important. I’m going to honor the commitment that I made to the people of this state when they voted for me.”

Asked how his budget is asking wealthy New Yorkers to sacrifice along with everyone else, Cuomo replies:

“This budget effects everyone all across the state. I don’t believe, if you look at the way we’ve allocated it, about a 2 percent reduction to health care, about a 3 percent reduction in education, 2.7 percent, actually, to school districts statewide on average, a 10 percent cut to state government. And that effects all New Yorkers everywhere.”

“…If we raise taxes, not only are we in a position where people can’t afford to pay taxes, people will leave, and businesses will leave.”

Cuomo’s Budget Playbook

…As obtained by the NY Times’ Nick Confessore, who notes there are several areas where the Assembly’s position on key issues is marked “unknown,” which underscores Speaker Sheldon Silver’s close-to-the-vest negotiating style.

Confessore also points to a few instances – including on the all-important question of school aid restoration – where the “compromise, if any” column was left blank.

The governor has said he’s open to legislative proposals to restore some of his proposed $1.5 billion education funding cuts, but only if that doesn’t increase overall spending in the budget.

Another key area where no compromise is indicated: The regional economic development councils Cuomo wants to create and fund with $130 million worth of capital dollars. The Assembly has accepted this plan and would fund it through new borrowing. The Senate “opposes capital appropriation and reprogramming of legislative discretionary pots.”

What strikes me as interesting here is the fact that the executive branch seems to be open to suggestions put forth by both the Senate and the Assembly, depending on the issue.

Policy Advice 2011 12 Executive Budget

Rent Laws Ultimatum?

There’s been a lot of whispering around the Capitol over the past 24 hours about the possibility that the Assembly Democrats will dig in their heels on the rent laws and refuse to vote “yes” on a budget unless it includes this issue – something Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday is unlikely.

This is, of course, a big issue for the downstate Democrats who make up the bulk of the 99-member majority conference in the Assembly. I’ve heard now from several members who expressed dismay over Speaker Sheldon Silver’s reaction to Cuomo’s comments and said they had hoped he would push back more strongly.

So far, no assembly members I’ve spoken to have said they will stage an insurrection over rent control, and considering that the GOP conference and most of the upstate Democrats don’t have a dog in this fight, it’s unlikely there will be a showdown that forces a shutdown, as Cuomo has suggested.

Nevertheless, veteran housing advocate Michael McKee told me during a CapTon interview this afternoon that he believes it’s a possibility – however remote – that some Democrats would risk a shutdown, not to mention the voter wrath that could come with it, in hopes of getting the rent laws extended and strengthened in the budget.

“This is a question, and I think it might come to that,” said McKee, who is part of the Real Rent Reform Now coalition. “…I can’t speak to any legislator, I mean that’s a decision they have to make.”

“I want them to do whatever they have to do to make sure that not only do the rent laws get renewed, because we’re always in danger, in a sunset year when the laws come up for renewal, we’re always in danger of additional weakening amendments.”

“I want them to take whatever steps they have to take to make sure those laws not only get renewed but that we close some of the loopholes that have been put into the laws in the last 20 years that have caused us to lose 300,000 rent regulated apartments in the last 14 years.”

Cuomo said for the first time during yesterday’s Red Room press conference that he wants to both strengthen and extend the rent laws. But he also thinks that issue, along with the property tax cap that is a priority for upstate and suburban lawmakers – particularly in the Senate GOP – are too complicated to forge a deal on by the April 1 deadline.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, as a realist,” the governor said. “It is something i am advocating for including in the budget. It’s a complex topic and there is…another feeling that it’s too complex to put into the budget at this time.”

More Arrests At The Capitol (Updated)

CUNY professors protesting funding cuts to higher education, health care and social service programs are the latest protestors to be hauled off from the Capitol in handcuffs.

Joined supporters from community groups, schools and colleges across the state, CUNY faculty from the Professional Staff Congress chanted and held signs with slogans like “It’s a revenue crisis!” and “No Cuts to CUNY” and “Kids or Millionaires?”

They demonstrated in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. Cuomo spent the morning in Syracuse delivering a version of his budget address, making up for the fact that his original CNY visit earlier this month was called off due to a snow storm.

It’s unlcear if Cuomo was back in the building by the time this latest act of civil disobedience took place.

The State Police showed up and arrested at leats half a dozen people, according to CapTon’s Mike Whittemore, who said about two dozen people were ready to be taken into custody.

UPDATE: In the end, up to 40 people were arrested and will be charged with disorderly conduct.

“We made the decision to risk arrest because we cannot allow the injustice of this budget to stand,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, who was among the protesters.

“We have lobbied and rallied and written in support of a fair budget, but our voices have not been heard. Albany is on the verge of passing a budget that is so damaging to our students and so fundamentally unjust that we had to take a stand. We are educators – we spend our lives teaching students.”

Senior colleges at CUNY will lose $95.1 million if the governor’s budget passes without change. CUNY’s community colleges would lose another $17.5 million.

The CUNY faculty and staff were joined in their act of civil disobedience by CUNY students. Members of New York Communities for Change, the Real Rent Reform Campaign, and Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY) also took part in the protest.

VOCAL-NY, as you’ll recall, staged the sit-in earlier this month on the first floor of the Capitol during which more than a dozen people were arrested after they blocked the escalators on the State Street side of the building and refused to move.

UPDATE: I’ve been asked to note that Community Voices Heard was also involved in the early March protest that led to arrests. Also, here’s some video of today’s protest, compliments of YNN’s Solomon Syed. Listen for the chants of: “Wisconsin. New York. The struggle is the same.”

With An Eye Toward 2012, NRCC Robos Against Higgins

The NRCC is targeting Rep. Brian Higgins with a round of robocalls that accuse the Western NY Democrat of “supporting policies that could raise gas prices even more” at a time when New Yorkers are seeing prices at the pump hovering just short of $4 per gallon.

I don’t have sound of the call, which started hitting phones this morning. But the script accuses Higgins of being “so detached from reality that while families in New York are forced to pay more than $3.70 a gallon, Higgins has been in Washington supporting big-government policies that lead to higher gas prices and restrain the production of American-made energy.”

“Washington Democrat Brian Higgins continues to go along with Nancy Pelosi and his party leaders in support of radical policies that limit the production of American-made energy,” NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola said.

“We plan to hold Rep. Higgins accountable for his out-of-touch record that hurts Western New York’s economy and will result in higher taxes on small business owners.”

Higgins, who has been in the House since 2005, isn’t generally included on the “vulnerable” list of New York lawmakers. However, his district, NY-27, is one of two upstate that lost the most population over the last decade. (The other is right next door, NY-28, which is held by 12-term Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter).

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The Checks Are At The Capitol

The Alliance for Quality Education and its allies keeping the faith on the seemingly quixotic quest to extend the millionaire’s tax with a higher threshold, despite the fact that the Assembly Democrats are alone in their push to get this into the final budget deal.

AQE Executive Director Billy Easton was joined by Citizen Action of New York Executive Director Karen Scharff and others in unveiling oversized “checks” made out for $5.6 billion to the state’s rich.

The group plans to deliver to Senate Republicans, asking them to sign the checks because they’re prioritizing tax cuts for millionaires over investment in public schools.

On the opposite side of the check is a “voided” version made out for $1.5 billion to New York’s public school students. That’s the amount the governor has proposed in cutting from education aid. Easton says one/sixth of that total proposed by the Legislature to be restored is “not going to get the job done for our kids.”

A more significant restoration, he argues, would be possible if the millionaire’s tax is extended.