Negotiating Now, ‘Prepared’ For All Eventualities

Gov. Andrew Cuomo struck a conciliatory tone during his post-leaders meeting press conference, saying he and the majority conference legislative leaders – who were standing on either side of him at the time – remain “optimistic” about an on-time budget (give or take a few days).

But asked how prepared he is to go the all-or-nothing extender route if a three-way deal fails to materialize, Cuomo responded:

“Prepared. The ultimate obligation is to get the people of the state of NY a good budget, right? That is the goal.”

“The means is do it amicably in a three-way process and get it done on time. That’s what we are working towards now. I am optimitic we can get that done. My colleagues are optimistic. I’m hopeful. I have my fingers crossed.”

“…Your question suggests a note of realism.. So let’s say it doesn’t happen, what’s the contingency plan? Then there are other ways to get the budget done.”

While Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos looked on, Cuomo said there is “flexibility” in his executive budget proposal (he has already signaled a willingness to restore health care and education aid, as long as the overall $132.9 billion number doesn’t grow). He then pretty much put the kibosh on two key elements of their respective one-house budget plans.

On the millionaire’s tax, which Silver has proposed, Cuomo insisted the topic hadn’t come up today. He also said his opposition, which he has expressed repeatedly over the past several months, hasn’t changed.

Silver said he’s not drawing a line in the sand on the tax, adding:

“(E)verything is open, everything is negotiable. I think it makes sense though, and I think we still have some time to persuade our colleagues in government, that it’s what makes sense. It’s what brings us a balanced budget this year and a balanced budget next year.”

Cuomo also panned the Senate GOP’s proposal to use the $500 million worth of education aid for which he wants districts to compete to restore some of the $1.5 billion in funding cuts. He called the two $250 million competitive funds “essential.”

“I’m not willing to sacrifice performance,” the governor said. “Look, for me one of the major incentives, one of the major initiatives in the budget is moving toward performance….It’s not just more money, more money, more money.”

Cuomo’s Concern Over Indian Point Renewed

Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed surprise and concern over an MSNBC report that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rates Indian Point’s reactor No. 3 as having the higest risk of core damage from an earthquake.

The governor said this is an issue that he plans to pursue ASAP. He also noted that he has long had concerns about the Hudson Valley nuclear power plan and recommended while he was attorney general that it not be relicensed.

“One normally doesn’t think of earthquakes and New York in the same breath, especially compared to California and out west,” Cuomo said. “So, that is a matter of concern; we are going to be checking into it – the statement and the basis for the statement – immediately.”

“I’ve had concerns about Indian Point for a long time….I understand the power and the benefit. I also understand the risk. This plant in this proximity to New York City was never a good risk. But this is new information that we’re going to pursue.”

Hoyt: Bloomberg ‘Misspoke’ About Buffalo

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat, said he talked this afternoon with Mayor Bloomberg and received an assurance from the mayor that he “misspoke” and “meant no disrespect” to the Queen City while delivering remarks to housing developers in NYC earlier today.

“I had the chance to remind the Mayor about all that is great about the state’s second largest city,” Hoyt said in a press release.

“He added that he feels that more needs to be done to help our struggling upstate cities and accepted my invitation to visit Buffalo in the future. I look forward to showing him why we are so proud to call ourselves ‘Buffalonians.’”

Hoyt, as you’ll recall, is a Bloomberg ally largely due to the fact that they share a support for charter schools. He received campaign contributions and fundraising assistance from the mayor last year when he was a facing a second tough primary challenge from Buffalo Common Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr.

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Mangano’s Slash And Burn Solution

After losing his lawsuit to block the takeover of county government by a state fiscal watchdog, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is submitting a revised budget that includes $121.2 million worth of cuts.

Of that total, Mangano says some $50.5 million will achieved through layoffs and eliminating vacant positions and $10 million will come from a wage freeze for county employees that would require NIFA approval.

3[1].16.2011 Budget Cuts for 2011

Mangano has insisted the NIFA takeover would result in a 21.5 percent property increase in 2011 alone for Nassau County residents. The authority refuted that allegation.

The county executive said the steps he’s proposing will “protect” homeowners and businesses from any tax increase, saying that is “the last thing Nassau families need in these tough economic times.”

“These cuts will affect every area of the County and the services we provide. That’s unfortunate, yet necessary in the face of NIFA’s decision to change accounting practices and create a paper deficit,” Mangano said in a press release.

“…NIFA has not provided any fiscal alternative to end this practice and prevent a property tax increase,” the county executive continued. “While I remain curious in learning how NIFA believes changing accounting rules to create a paper deficit helps our taxpayers, I am particularly concerned with its impact on reforms I put in place to repair Nassau County.”

Mangano is also calling for a $40 million savings to be achieved through across-the-board budget cuts, including: $15 million from the reduction of contractual expenses; $15 million from the restructuring of the police department; $5 million from ending the county’s relationship with the MTA to run Long Island Bus service; and $4.5 million from the privatization of inmate healthcare.

The county executive is project $20 million in lower tax refund liability than NIFA.

NIFA Director George Marlin said earlier today that he did not expect Mangano to appeal Nassau Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond’s rejection of the county executive’s lawsuit. Mangano is scheduled to submit his revised budget to NIFA’s members next Tuesday.

3[1][1].16.2011 Slide2

Cuomo Holds First 3-Way Leaders Meeting

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just called a three-way leaders meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos – the first such get-together of this budget season.

The 1:45 p.m. meeting was announced by the governor’s office shortly before 1:30 p.m. It will take place in the Red Room on the Capitol’s second floor.

The meeting is closed to the press, but will include a media availability when it’s all over. The minority leaders – Senate Democrat John Sampson and Assembly Republican Brian Kolb – are apparently not invited, which I’m sure they’re going to have something to say about.

Just yesterday, Skelos lamented the lack of public leaders meetings and said he would be happy to attend one. He also said – perhaps mindful of the days not so very long ago when he was the one routinely being shut out of high-level budget negotiations – that he hoped the minority leaders would also be included.

According to Fred Dicker, (second item), both Skelos and Silver appealed to Cuomo not to hold public leaders meetings as his predecessors, David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer, liked to do, noting that these highly choreographed events tended to turn into media circuses that didn’t result in much progress from a deal-making standpoint.

DeFrancisco’s Widget Theory On LIFO

Sen. John DeFrancisco, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, joined me for a wide-ranging CapTon interview last night, during which he exposed thusly on why repealing the “last in, first out” requirement for firing public school teachers is a good idea:

“If we have a business that hires people to make widgets, are we going to hire the person who makes widgets that can’t make a widget well?”

“Well, we happen to have teachers that are teaching students and the education process is failing us. Shouldn’t we make sure we have the best teachers and that should be the process that when we have to fire, we have quality rather than seniority.”

I’m sure the UFT agrees wholeheartedly. (Not).

Bloomberg Disses Buffalo

Mayor Bloomberg exacerbated the upstate-downstate divide this morning by taking a swipe at Buffalo, suggesting the Western NY city’s problems are nothing compared to what he faces in the Big Apple, despite its chronic hemorraging of both population and jobs.

“Our city’s problems are problems of success,” the mayor said during a speech this morning.

“We don’t have enough classrooms. We don’t have enough roads. We don’t have enough housing. If you go to other cities, they don’t have those problems.”

“There’s an awful lot of free space up in Buffalo, New York, if you want to go there. I don’t think you do.”

“Buffalo would love to have our problems, and one of the challenges in this country is how we help a city like Buffalo. But New York is on the other edge of that. We don’t have enough of the things that people want, and in other cities, they don’t have things that people want. That really is the difference.”

Um, yeah. Did the mayor learn nothing from his predecessor, Ed Koch?

I’m sure that’s going to sit real well with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, not to mention all those Queen City residents for whom WNY pride isn’t merely a passing fancy, but a near-fanatical religion – particularly when it comes to sports teams and local delicacies like wings and beef on weck.

This kind of talk is what should lead observers to take Bloomberg at his word when he says he has no presidential aspirations. Buffalo has a lot more in common with the Midwest than with NYC. If the mayor can’t play well in WNY, there’s no way he’d fly in the rust belt, no matter how many billions he spends.

UPDATE: NY1 political director Bob Hardt reminds me that Brown, a former senator, is a Queens – not Queen City – native himself.

NIFA Director: Mangano Will Cooperate

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano will end his so far quixotic legal fight against a state takeover and start cooperating with the Interm Finance Authority now that a judge has upheld its power, the authority’s director predicted this morning.

George Marlin said Mangao and NIFA Chairman Ronald Stack had a “cordial” conversation yesterday after Nassau Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond rejected the county executive’s lawsuit that sought to block the fiscal watchdog panel from usurping his power.

“I think the time of political and bombastic rhetoric has come to an end,” Marlin said during an interview on TALK 1300 WGDJ-AM. “…The indication I get is the county is going to cooperate.”

The Mangano administration has not yet announced whether it will appeal the judge’s decision.

The county executive is expected to submit a revised budget proposal to NIFA by 5 p.m. next Tuesday. At that point, authority members will decide whether the new numbers meet their expectations and then “we can bring this to an end as quickly as possible,” Marlin said.

He has called for a summit between NIFA members and the five unions that represent county employees sometime next week.

After the ruling, Mangano released a statement saying the NIFA takeover will result in a 21.5 percent property tax hike for Nassau County residents in 2011. Stack rejected that allegation.

Report: Indian Point Ranked No. 1 On Quake Risk List

MSNBC has a report out today that is certain to reignite the long-running battle over shutting down Indian Point at a time when concerns over a nuclear disaster are running high due to the crisis in Japan.

The report reveals that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rates the Hudson Valley power plant’s reactor No. 3 as having the higest risk of core damage from an earthquake. That assessment was made in new NRC risk estimates provided to MSNBC.

The chance of quake-induced core damage at No. 3 is estimated at 1 in 10,000 every year, which is right on the verge of NTC guidelines requioring “immediate concern regarding adequate protection” of the public.

The second reactor has a much higher rating, with a 1 in 30,303 chance each year.

The plants with the second and third highest risks are in Massachusetts (Pilgrim 1 in Plymouth) and Pennsylvania (Limerick 1 and 2), respectively.

Now, New York isn’t exactly an earthquake hotspot, but we have seen a few in recent years – including a magnitude 3.9 jolt just off the coast of Long Island in November 2010. That was the the New York region’s biggest quake in close to two decades.

The state joined the push to close Indian Point in 2008 . It was the first to formally oppose the relicensing of a nuclear power plant, and that effort took place while now-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was AG.

In 2007, Cuomo called Indian Point a “catastrophe waiting to happen,” and restated his commitment to closing the facility in his energy policy book released during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

But the problem of replacing the 2,000 megawatts of electricity produced by the plant – up to 30 percent of the power used by NYC and Westchester County – remains. And until that’s solved, it’s highly unlikely Indian Point will be shut down any time soon.

Corwin Launches First TV Ad

As the Democrats continue their search for a candidate in NY-26, GOP/Conservative/Indpendence Party-backed NY-26 hopeful Jane Corwin has launched her first TV ad – a spot that highlights her experience as a “small businesswoman.”

In fact, the words “small business” are invoked no fewer than three times during the 30-second spot, which underscores the fact that the economy and job creation is issue No. 1 on voters’ minds these days – particularly in WNY.

The ad isn’t especially creative or interesting. It’s a straightforward introductory-type spot. Interestingly, it makes no mention of Corwin’s political affiliation, noting her top ranking by the “pro-jobs group Unshakle Upstate,” but failing to mention her similar rating in the Conservative Party’s annual legislative report card.

The assemblywoman is clearly trying to appeal to independents and conservative-leaning Democrats with this spot, which is a good strategy considering the Democrats won’t have a candidate until the end of the week.

Corwin gave her Facebook fans a sneak peak at her ad last night. It started airing across the district today. The script appears after the jump.

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