Tax Cap May Be Too Rigid For Assembly, Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged today that his proposed cap on local and school property taxes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation may be too “rigid” for some in the Assembly.

“I think it’s fair to say the Assembly believes my proposal is too rigid and their should be more flexibility in it,” he said.

But he also said he still favors his original proposal as a means of controlling the highest property taxes in country.

“I believe the strongest proposal is the proposal we put forward,” Cuomo said. “Now that is different than say — I’m not saying, my idea is the best and therefore I’ll be deaf to any discussion on the proposal. I understand other people may have opinions, the Legislature may have opinions and I’m open to discussing different options.”

The governor’s proposal passed the Senate Jan. 31, but is yet to be taken up in the Assembly. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said on Tuesday that he would introduce his own separate proposal to cap taxes.

Cuomo would not say if he talked to Silver about that specific proposal.

“I have been talking to the speaker about a property tax cap proposal for a year. Those conversations are ongoing.”

Baldwin For Schneiderman (Again)

Actor Alec Baldwin is again lending his star power to his longtime friend, Eric Schneiderman, headlining a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for the AG The Plaza’s Edwardian Room in Manhattan tonight.

This was Schneiderman’s first annual NYC spring celebration, according to the invite that appears below. It is also his first post 2010 election fundraiser; the one we reported on yesterday, which will be hosted by Democrat-turned-Republican supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis on May 24, will be the second. (Timeline fixed).

Baldwin endorsed Schneiderman during the five-way Democratic AG primary last year, and then was a special guest at the AG’s inauguration ay City College in January.

The actor has a long history of political activism and has been floated on several occasions as a potential candidate – perhaps even as a primary challenger to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand or Rep. Tim Bishop.

So far, he hasn’t ruled anything in or out. But he is under contract to “30 Rock” through 2012.

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Cuomo: Let The People First Tour Begin

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to barnstorm the state and deploy various members of his cabinet in an all-out effort to pass his three major agenda items by the end of June: a 2 percent property tax cap, the legalization of gay marriage and an ethics overhaul.

The tour mirrors his effort to travel the state in order to drum up support for his deep cuts in the state budget, which passed the Legislature largely intact.

Cuomo hopes that success will continue as he brings an argument to voters again.

“The budget passed because we did dozens and dozens of these events,” Cuomo said, mentioning the PowerPoint-based presentations conducted in various regions around the state.

There’s no set schedule for when the tour will begin or where the first event will be. Cuomo said the tour will include himself, Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy and other members of his administration speaking before community groups, newspaper editorial boards and other venues.

It’s clear this was long in the works. The Buffalo News reported back on April 5 the Cuomo administration planned a tour on the tax cap, but the campaign hasn’t gotten underway until now.

But the governor’s power in Albany to pass issue-based legislation is diminished compared to the broad power the office yields during the budget process – thanks in large part to the fact that he no longer wields the all-or-nothing budget extender nuclear option.

Cuomo said during a news conference this afternoon after meeting with his cabinet that the goal is to cajole legislators and convince the public to lobby their state representatives as well.

“This has been the consistent plan all along,” Cuomo said.

The issues Cuomo has chosen to push already enjoy public support – especially the 2 percent tax cap. Gay marriage still faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The governor has threatened to investigate the Legislature through a Moreland Commission if lawmakers do not pass an ethics overhaul, which most likely will force legislators to reveal more information about their outside income and attorney clients.

Senate Dems Launch Interactive Ethics Forum

On multiple occasions this session, the Senate Democrats have tried to force Senate Republican leadership to hold a forum to discuss ethics reform in Albany. Their requests have been blocked each time, so now they are taking their discussion to the internet.

Below is the streaming forum they are hosting as we speak. There is also a link here.

During the forum, they are going to discuss a handful of bills they have introduced. From the creation of an independent commission on government ethics, to increasing financial disclosure, to stripping pensions from public officials convicted of felonies (Governor Cuomo says he is going to introduce a bill on this as well, but hasn’t to date.)

Senate folks say the best way to get your question in is to tweet @NYSenDems. You can also email them at: nysendems@gmail.com

Watch live streaming video from nysendems at livestream.com

The Power Of ‘I Do’

New Yorkers United for Marriage, the coordinated, Cuomo-led campaign that is pushing the Senate to pass a bill allowing same-sex couples to wed, will start airing its first statewide ad tomorrow.

The ad features Mary Jo Kennedy and Jo-Ann Shain, a New York couple that has been in a committed relationship for 29 years and would like to codify that relationship by exchanging wedding vows.

“The wedding vows are so important for us because we have been living those vows for our entire relationship – at this point we just want to be able to say I do in New York State,” Shain said.

This signals the start of what’s expected to be an intense effort that lasts until the measure comes up for a vote in the Senate or the Legislature leaves town in late June, whichever comes first.

The Times reported last month that the campaign, which is under the direction of former SEIU 1199 political director Jennifer Cunningham, is hoping to raise more than $1 million to fund a “media blitz.”

There’s also a new Website, which links to the five leading LGBT organizations that make up the coalition, as well as up-to-date information on the latest developments. It also has a link where supporters can email their state lawmakers.

Gov. Cuomo said yesterday he’s “optimistic” the gay marriage bill will be passed by the Legislature before the session ends. However, it appears at this point that it’s a later-rather-than-sooner sort of situation, because the Senate Republicans haven’t conferenced the issue yet and have no plans to do so.

In addition, as Jimmy Vielkind pointed out on CapCon, there’s no bill to speak of. Cuomo, unlike his predecessors David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer, has made gay marriage a priority, but has so far not sent a program bill to the Legislature for consideration.

Bloomberg: ‘We’re All A Target’

ICYMI: Mayor Bloomberg appeared on the CBS News “Early Show” this morning to discuss President Obama’s visit to Ground Zero tomorrow.

He dodged the question about who will get to meet with Obama (the White House has been playing that pretty close to the vest so far), but did talk a little bit about security challenges at Ground Zero in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.

“I think we’re all a target,” the mayor said. “We will provide the utmost security down at that site. We’ve been doing it for the last nine and a half years. We’ll continue to do that.”

“Commissioner (Ray) Kelly has this downtown security plan. It’s cameras. It’s technology that you don’t even know exists. It’s a lot of boots on the ground. We’ll continue to do that. But I think the danger here is that we think because one man is no longer alive, that the threat has gone away, and that’s not true.”

“The message of 9/11 and the message of 1993 when there was a bomb attack at the World Trade Center site is that our freedoms are constantly being threatened. And after 1993, we forgot. We learned nothing from that…I think so far, (after 9/11), we have not forgotten that lesson.”

DeFrancisco Suggests Some Wiggle Room On The Cap

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, suggested today that Senate Republicans would be open to compromise on the yet-to-be released proposal from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on his 2 percent tax cap.

“It’s always good to compromise, you want to have results. It’s nice to have principles and stay with those principles, but if you don’t get a result, it’s not good,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has said he’s hesitant to negotiate on a cap fearing it would ultimately water down the bill.

The Assembly’s cap will have some modifications, likely to ease its passage in the Democratic-dominated Assembly.

DeFrancisco also said the he could not comment directly on the proposal until he had seen it.

“Not knowing what the unspecified changes are, there’s not much more I can say about that, but I would say that we can look at it,” he said.

Silver said Tuesday he plans to introduce his own 2 percent property tax cap, but a different version than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants and that the Senate passed on Jan. 31.

“We think that’s the best bill,” said DeFrancisco of the governor’s bill.

Collins: Cap With No Mandate Relief Would Undo Society

Erie County Executive Chris Collins today warned that a 2 percent cap on property taxes without significant mandate relief would “be the undoing of society as we know it.”

Collins, a Republican and launcher of an aborted campaign for governor last year, also said in a Talk 1300 AM radio interview that the budget agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers was largely “status quo” that shifts costs to school districts.

But he reserved his greatest concern for the 2 percent cap on property taxes that was approved by the Republican-led Senate in January. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told us Tuesday that he would introduce his own proposal with some changes, but keeps the 2 percent cap.

“We have to have mandate relief and all of us being punished by state mandates … it would be the undoing of society as we know if it passed without mandate relief,” Collins said of the cap.

He criticized the mandated spending — especially for Medicaid, a huge cost driver for his county.

“The county of Erie has the largest Medicaid burden of any of the counties outside of the five boroughs,” Collins said. “That burden is so onerous in the case of Erie County it takes up 100 percent of property values.”

Collins knocked the state for not doing enough to control the required spending on local governments.

“The finger points all the way back to Albany,” he said.

Collins, after dropping out of the gubernatorial race in 2010, was a strong supporter of Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino’s campaign.

He also said federal officials aren’t doing enough to help western and upstate New York and that too much attention has been showered on the downstate region.

“Why is the world treating Erie County and Nassau County, with all its wealth, as the same,” he asked.

No Pataki Invite To Obama’s Ground Zero Visit (Updated)

A source close to former Gov. George Pataki, who was governor on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, said he was yet to receive an invitation to President Obama’s Thursday visit to Ground Zero.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, however, was invited to the event, but it is unclear if he will attend as Maggie Haberman reported. The terror attacks were the defining moment of Giuliani’s mayoralty and Pataki’s public role in the attacks was overshadowed by “America’s Mayor.”

Obama’s trip to Ground Zero follows the death of Osama bin Laden at the hand’s of U.S. forces in Pakistan on Sunday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is yet to announce if he will attend. But sources with direct knowledge of the plans say the governor’s office is coordinating with the White House on possibly attending.

Cuomo has skipped the president’s political events and fundraisers held in New York City, but did attend Obama’s visit to General Electric in Schenectady.

During his first unsuccessful run for governor in 2002, Cuomo infamously criticized Pataki for his response to Sept. 11, saying “He held the leader’s coat.”

Most notably, former President George W. Bush is not attending the event, choosing to stay out of the spotlight in his post-presidency.

UPDATE: A Pataki source says the former governor received a call from the White House shortly after noon today inviting him to join the president tomorrow. (CapTon, getting results).

Now the question is: Will he attend? The former governor is traveling in the southwest and it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to make it back in time for the Grounz Zero event, which is taking place in the afternoon.

Here And Now

Former President Bush declined President Obama’s invite to join him at Ground Zero tomorrow.

A spokesman said Bush prefers to remain out of the spotlight, but “continues to celebrate with Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”

Rudy Giuliani got an invite, too.

The White House is keeping mum on who the president will be seeing in NYC, although sources told the DN retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jim, was killed on 9/11, will be there.

According to Mayor Bloomberg, Obama will also be at Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks – a move the mayor called “terribly important.”

Obama kept his promise, Michael Daly says.

Obama’s poll numbers are up as much as nine percentage points, but Americans are worried Osama bin Laden’s death will increase the threat of terrorism in the short term.

The investigation leading to the 9/11 mastermind’s demise has revived the debate over harsh interrogation tactics like waterboarding.

Prosecutors are expected to dismiss charges against bin Laden stemming from a 1998 indictment.

The House Republicans pushed through a bill that defunds key parts of Obama’s signature health care reform law.

AG Eric Schneiderman has issued subpoenas to two investment firms that own stakes in a paperwork-processing firm under investigation regarding questionable foreclosure practices.

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