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.

Skelos: (Still) Not Worried About Extenders, Doesn’t Like Power ‘Flaunting’

Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ratcheting up threats to force the Legislature’s hand via extender bills if an amicable budget deal isn’t reached by April 1, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is continuing to express optimism that it won’t come to that.

“I’m not even going to focus on extenders because I don’t think there’s going to be a need for extenders,” Skelos told reporters this morning.

“And, you know, if there ever was an extender I think the Senate would certainly be more in line with the governor than the Assembly would be. Again, I think we can close some down today.”

“We’re pushing the speaker to get the general conference committee going, to make proposals. We think four or five of them, of the sub-conference committees can be closed today – general government, EnCon, transportation, mental health…the speaker is holding up some of these because of his emphasis on human services.”

ADDED, as per Jimmy V. at CapCon…Skelos doesn’t like the governor’s tone, apparently, saying:

“If you have power, I don’t think you have to flaunt it. We all understand that the governor has a tremendous amount of power…The idea is to use your power to govern and to effect a compromise and get results.”

“I don’t believe in flaunting power. I don’t believe the governor believes in flaunting power, or the speaker does. The idea of leadership is to get a result, and that’s where we are.”

Cuomo: Shutdown Will Be Legislature’s Fault

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is upping the ante in his budget showdown with the Legislature, releasing a video message to New Yorkers in which he makes clear that he believes if state lawmakers reject his spending plan and force a government shutdown, the blame will rest squarely on their shoulders.

The video, posted on Cuomo’s government Website this morning, continues the tough talk he started during yesterday’s Red Room press conference.

“If the Legislature fails to pass a budget on time, the government will not have the funds to operate and it may be forced to shut down,” Cuomo says in the video.

“As your governor, I will make sure we are prepared for this contingency. I don’t want it to happen. I will do all I can do to get the budget accomplished. I’m working very hard to cooperate with the Legislature.

“But in the end I will not compromise on the important work that you elected me to do, and I will not back down from my promise to the people of this great state. Even if the Legislature causes a shut down of government, it will only be temporary, and it will only delay – not derail – our budget’s final passage.”

For the first time yesterday, Cuomo talked at length about the new paradigm created by the creative use of extender bills by his predecessor, David Paterson, during last year’s budget battle.

The governor said he’s willing to do “whatever it takes” to get what he considers a “good” budget – in other words, one that largely hews to the 2010-2011 executive plan he has put forward.

Cuomo has now made it crystal clear that he will won’t hesitate to force the Legislature into accepting his budget in the absence of an “amicable” deal by putting it into an extender and forcing lawmakers to choose between adopting his plan as-is and shutting down all but essential state operations.

The full text of Cuomo’s video message appears after the jump.

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Where The Rich Live (Updated)

As the pro-millionaire’s tax forces make a last-ditch effort to get the governor and Senate Republicans to agree to the Assembly Democrats’ proposal for a “true” PIT increase on the state’s wealthiest residents, NYSUT is forwarding around data on how senators’ constituents would be impacted.

A report by the NYC-based and labor-backed Center for Working Families overlaid state income tax data on top of Senate Districts and found fewer than four percent of residents in 29 of the 32 districts are currently being impacted by the income tax surcharge, which kicks in at $200,000 for individuals and $300,000 for couples.

That percentage would drop under the Assembly Democrats plan to boost the threshold to $1 million, making the tax actually live up to its name, and only for one year past the sunset date. So far, however, this idea doesn’t seem to have much traction with either Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Not surprisingly, the district with the highest percentage of well-to-do residents is the 29th 26th, located on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side (home to Mayor Bloomberg and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, just to name two). About 10.5 percent of the tax returns filed in 2005 came from people who reported earning $250,000 or more.

Of course, that was pre-economic downturn and pre-PIT hike, so it’s unclear 1) whose circumstances have changed, and 2) who might have moved out since then.

The so-called “silk stocking” district is represented by Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat who supports the millionaire’s tax. UPDATE: Krueger’s office e-mailed a statement, which appears after the jump.

There’s an Assembly district-by-district breakdown, too.

Senate District Income Distribution

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NY-26 Update: Ian Murphy’s Fireside Chat

NY-26 appears to officially be a five-way race now, thanks to the Green Party’s official nomination of Buffalo Beat editor/prank caller extraordinaire Ian Murphy.

“Ian Murphy has been portrayed by the media as the nation’s most famous prank caller, but his call to Gov. Walker was done to point out how entwined the Democrats and Republicans are with the corporate elite,” said state Green Party Co-Chair Peter LaVenia in a press release this morning.

LaVenia’s fellow co-chair, Howie Hawkins, whose gubernatorial candidacy last fall brought the Greens official party status and a ballot line for the next four years, concurred, saying:

“Ian’s call, and his campaign, reject the imperialism of our Democrat-Republican duopoly and our corporate oligarchy, whether in Wisconsin, New York, or in the Arab world.”

“We consider the austerity measures being pushed by President Obama and Congress to be as illegitimate as the war the President has started in Libya. Ian is the only candidate in the race for the 26th that will articulate these values, and that is why we nominated him.”

Apparently, Murphy has firmed up his platform since my CapTon interview with him last week.

According to the Greens, he’ll be supporting their calls to reduce the military budget, pass Medicare for All, and ban hydrofracking in the Marcellus shale. Meanwhile, Murphy himself released the following statement:

“Blah. Why are we writing press releases? It’s already all over the Facebooks tubes and the Twitter machines. I think they get the point – go to MurphyCanHasCongress.com.”

If you go there, you’ll find Murphy’s official announcement, which is a sort of “fireside chat” spoof. In it, he makes fun of Sarah Palin’s notes-on-my-hand moment. He says his platform is “anger.” His list of things about which he’s angry include the fact that his campaign manager made him “wear this goofy sweater.”

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making good this morning on a promise to reschedule a snow-delayed Syracuse visit. Forecasters are predicting a dusting of the white stuff, but nothing like the storm that prevented his CNY trip earlier this month.

Cuomo said the NRC has made Indian Point a “top priority” in its review of nuclear plants and seismic safety.

This is just the latest round in a long battle between Indian Point and the governor, who continues to insist it should be shut down.

There’s no timeline for the NRC’s review, but Cuomo wants the commission to move “quickly.”

The usually supportive Post is not supportive of Cuomo’s Indian Point stance.

Rep. Eliot Engel, who represents parts of the Bronx, Westchester and Rockland counties, is in the “shut it down” camp.

Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, insists the plant is safe, but also says it will cooperate with the NRC review.

Cuomo warned legislators the budget will be done “one way or the other” – either amicably or through the all-or-nothing extender method.

If the budget is indeed on time, Cuomo will have former Gov. David Paterson to thank.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is the only state lawmaker willing (so far) to go on the record endorsing a government shutdown over accepting Cuomo’s budget in an extender – if it should come to that.

“As a realist, you want the realist’s answer? As a realist, we have significant issues: Medicaid, education, prison closures,” Cuomo said.

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Extras

State grants to communities that host VLT parlors have been restored, according to Sen. Hugh Farley.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky is anti-NRC.

Four NY Republican House members make the 2012 most vulnerable list compiled by Democracy Corps.

The Ed Koch Bridge is advancing in the NYC Council.

Businessweek is finally integrating with its new parent company, Bloomberg LP.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, no longer nuclear over bike lanes.

Weiner and Rep. Jerry Nadler are among members of Congress questioning Obama’s move against Libya.

Voter support for the US involvement in Libya is growing, albeit slowly.

Nadler and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal called for the immediate remediation of PCBs in schools.

The Japan Society is NYC’s youngest landmark.

Michael Cohen, from failed state Senate candidate to Donald Trump’s “Karl Rove.”

Seen today at today’s protest to Cuomo’s proposed education funding cuts:

photo

Bloomberg Hits Airwaves With Budget Ad

NY1 reports that Mayor Bloomberg is poised to launch a self-funded 30-second TV ad promoting his budget and touting his “independence – not for the special interests, but for all New Yorkers.”

That anti-special interest message is big with executives at all levels of government this year, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It’s also sure to reignite speculation that Bloomberg is preparing for his post-City Hall life. But Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson insisted the mayor is merely “fighting to get his views out there,” and doesn’t have his eye on a fourth term in his current job or plans to run for another elected office.

The ad, produced by the same media firm – Squier Knapp Dunn Communications – that has worked on Bloomberg’s mayoral campaigns, says the mayor is fighting Albany’s education spending cuts through “reforms” that will “keep the best teachers in the classroom, educating our kids.”

The “reforms” in question include a push to repeal the so-called “last in, first out” rule that governs public school teacher layoffs.

Bloomberg’s LIFO push, spending cuts and championing of pension reform have sparked a war with the city’s employee and teachers unions, which have been running some $3 million worth of ads targeting the mayor for weeks now.

“One side has been presented on television and now it’s time to present the other side,” Wolfson told my colleague Errol Louis in an interview that will air on “Inside City Hall” at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. tonight.

Actually, more than one side has been presented on TV when it comes to LIFO. The pro-repeal group Education Reform Now has been airing spots to compete with the union’s ads.