DCCC Chairman Steve Israel on the lesson from NY-26: Medicare, Medicare, Medicare is the key to success in 2012 House races.

Newt Gingrich, vindicated?

Israel has close to 100 Republicans in his sites, including Rep. Paul Ryan.

Undeterred by the NY-26 outcome and concern among his fellow Republicans, Ryan doubled down on his Medicare overhaul plan.

Rep. Michael Grimm said Ryan’s proposal is “not a perfect plan, but a starting point.”

More NY-26 winners and losers.

Some of the operatives behind Hochul’s successful campaign.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has moved from jobs to Medicare.

LG Bob Duffy defended the tax cap to NYCOM, insisting there needed to be a “stake in the ground” before mandate relief could occur.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder is apparently riding a different subway system than Mayor Bloomberg.

Councilpedia now has contribution data for NYC Council members and citywide electeds.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he won’t leave Albany without passing “meaningful” ethics reform, although that could be a one-house bill.

“For us, it’s time to re-evaluate our relationships with just about everything going on in Albany,” said NYSUT’s Dick Iannuzzi, who is most displeased with the tentative tax cap deal.

Marijuana advocates protested outside Bloomberg’s Upper East Side townhouse. More here.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking federal disaster declaration for 26 counties ravaged by floods.

The California AG will conduct an inquiry into whether former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger misused taxpayer funds to cover up his extramarital affair.

Unmarried voters appear to hold a grudge against cheating candidates.

Sarah Palin might join the 2012 fray after all.

The Senate Democrats failed, again, to force the ethics issue.

Bloomberg went to bat (legally speaking) for NYC Comptroller John Liu, with whom he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye.

Hochul Considers The Davis Effect

Earlier today, I sat down with Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her first extended sit down interview since her upset victory in NY-26 last night.

The Republicans are downplaying the Democrats’ Medicare referendum message by insisting this race was merely an anomaly – a freak occurrence in which the results were skewed by a well-funded third party “spoiler”, Jack Davis.

I put that question to Hochul. While she believes she could have defeated Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in a head-to-head competition, she also thinks Davis posed just as much of a problem for her campaign as he did for her GOP opponent.

“When you start looking at what was happening in this election, again the polls were always tight…from the very beginning,” Hochul told me. “Jack Davis started going down, and I think the Corwin people thought those votes were going to come back to them.”

“They came over my way. That was not expected. And also, we had to deal with the people voting for Jack Davis. He ran three times as the Democratic candidate and he had a very strong message that appealed to labor on trade issues.”

“So, say what you will, but Jack Davis was also a factor in our race as well,” Hochul continued. “…People knew it was Jack Davis and they’d say: ‘Well, Democrats have pulled the lever for him three times’, and he came very close last time he ran. So, it’s all very fluid and and a lot of chaos was involved.”

“I don’t know if you can just point to one factor and say with or without Jack Davis the outcome would have been different.”

My full interview with Hochul will air this evening at 8 p.m. and re-air at 11:30 p.m.

Schumer On The ‘Power Of Medicare’

Sen. Chuck Schumer wasted no time in trying to capitalize on Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul’s win in NY-26 last night, sending out an email to supporters this morning on the “power of Medicare” for the Democrats to make a case against the Republicans.

The senior senator is trying to get more signatures on an on-line petition to “save Medicare” that he created along with Sens. Barbara Boxed and Patty Murray in advance of the vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to hold later this week.

“There are two reasons Kathy Hochul won her race,” Schumer wrote. “One, she is a great candidate and a Western New Yorker through and through. And two, voters of all political persuasions clearly do not want to destroy Medicare.”

“Today in the Senate, we’re getting a chance to deal the Republicans another blow when we actually vote on their destructive plan to gut Medicare and send huge new tax breaks to the ultra-rich.”

“The Republican plan is hugely unpopular, and if Democrats are able to defeat it and keep Republicans from gutting a system millions of workers have paid into for decades – doubling their health care costs – it will be a big victory for America.”

“If we’re able to defeat their bill and win this special election in the same week, it could well turn the political tides in Washington and have a lasting effect on our policy going forward.”

Cuomo Denies Boxing Out Skelos On Tax Cap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted he didn’t box out Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on the tax cap agreement announced Tuesday, saying that he it was the product of a “collaborative process.”

“I think the Senate will say they passed the tax cap years ago, they passed my original bill on the tax cap early on, so there’s no doubt this was a collaborative process all along. And I’m hoping to ethics reform as a collaborative process. We need the Assembly, we need the Senate,” Cuomo said.

Speaking to reporters after a “People First” event in Utica, the governor demurred as to whether he would attempt an ethics overhaul the same way.

“I’d go up, down, left right, doesn’t matter to me as long as we get it done,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to the people of the state who does it first, it matters if we get it done.”

Cuomo moved quickly on Tuesday to latch onto the Assembly’s proposed cap on local property taxes, which includes a narrow carve-out for pension growth and a yet-to-be-determined sunset date tied to the expiration of rent control laws for New York City (The full measure can be viewed here).

Senate Republicans had long pointed to their passage of Cuomo’s original tax cap in January. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he didn’t want to negotiate a bill if it meant a watered-down cap.

If Skelos was left out of the negotiations with Silver, it could make negotiations for an ethics overhaul that much harder. Cuomo wants legislators to reveal more of their outside income and their list of clients who do business with the state.

Skelos, who has made his financial disclosure information public, has said he would consider introducing legislation to police the executive branch as well, a vow that Cuomo shrugged off.

Silver, meanwhile, promised to not end the regular legislative session in June without approving an ethics bill.

NYSUT Withdraws From Teacher Evaluation Confab

The state United Teachers union today announced it would back out from the state Department of Education planned teacher evaulations conference after the department adopted stricter evaluations standards recomended by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The State Education Department and Board of Regents had an opportunity to build on nearly a year of collaborative work with teachers and other stakeholders to implement a rigorous, comprehensive and transparent teacher evaluation system,” said NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi in a statement. “Instead, the Regents ignored the voice of teachers; undermined more than a year of good-faith work and turned their backs on the concept of partnership. Participation of state and local teacher union leaders in a conference aimed at a building collaboration would appear to be, at this point, counter-productive.”

The teacher evaulations that Cuomo proposed — which were quickly accepted by Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch the same day — rely heavily on student test scores and discount teacher tenure for faculty layoffs.

The union said the conference, scheduled for June 11 at Cornell University in Ithaca, would have “highlighted ways districts and unions could work collaboratively to design strong evaluation systems.”

Earlier this week, the three former teachers of the year winners sent a letter to the education department decrying the evaulation regulations.

In the letter they wrote:

“We could call upon assessment experts who insist that standardized tests were not developed to evaluate teacher effectiveness. And we could examine the last decade of educational results that followed No Child Left Behind: rampant gaming of the system to provide the appearance of growth, narrowing of the curriculum, excessive teaching to the test and virtually no change in the achievement gap.”

Read The Assembly Tax Cap Proposal

Here, in all its 37-page, 12,966-word glory, is the Assembly’s alternative proposal for the cap on local and school property taxes along with the bill’s memorandum of support.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now backing this measure, which would exclude pension costs above 2 percent and allows for a 1.5 percent “carryover” provision.

The plan does include an unspecified “sunset” provision that would be tied to rent control for New York City. Senate Republicans say they’re onboard with this plan for the most part, but have not agreed to a specific expiration date.

Note that there’s no identical bill, or “same-as” introduced in the Senate yet.

This bill is a comprehensive property tax cap that will help alleviate the burden caused by such ever increasing property taxes that are currently hurting homeowners and businesses throughout New York. This bill will help make New York State more affordable and competitive and provide relief to businesses and homeowners in New York state.

Tax Cap

Davis: ‘I Have Not Yet Begun To Fight’

Democrat-turned-Republican Jack Davis is being roundly lambasted throughout GOP circles today for “spoiling” the NY-26 election for Assemblywoman Jane Corwin – an assertion both Davis and several well-known pundits are rejecting today.

Davis, according was noncommittal last night when asked if he might run again in the wake of his fourth congressional campaign loss. He did, however, pledge to remain involved in the political process. He reiterated that promise in a statement “on lessons of the special election in NY-26 and what’s next.”

Upshot: He has “not yet begun to fight”, the key to fixing entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security is putting the country back on sound financial footing, and the key to that is (what else?) trade.

“Now, the leaders of both parties are pushing new trade treaties that promise to offshore more jobs. Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans opposes these treaties,” Davis said.

“The candidates who are going to be victorious in 2012 will carry the common sense message of economic patriotism that Jack Davis delivered in Western New York in the spring of 2011. We must have a Made in America economy if we are to restore prosperity and put our fiscal house in order.”

“Jack Davis has been fighting the war against job-killing free trade policies since 2003. You win some battles and you lose some. But the fight goes on. Jack’s motto is “I have not yet begun to fight.”

Jack Davis for Congress

Reilich: Democrats ‘Instilled Fear’ In Election

Monroe County Republican Chairman and member of Assembly Bill Reilich blamed Democrarts for instilling fear in voters on the proposed changes to Medicare.

“I think the Medicare issue was raised by the Democrats in such a way that it instilled fear in a lot of the voters,” Reilich said. “They were concerned that perhaps some of their benefits would be cut. That they would suffer as part of the proposed plan.”

Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in Tuesday’s special election in what’s being spun as a referendum on the GOP budget plan put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Hochul stuck the same script throughout the campaign, mainly that Medicare needed to be protected. Meanwhile, Corwin embraced the plan.

However, also playing a roll in Corwin’s defeat was independent candidate Jack Davis, who probably siphoned some votes away from the Republican.

“With Kathy Hochul in Erie county she was very well known,” Reilich said. “And just had to get better known in the eastern portion of the district. Where Jane certainly outside of her assembly district had to battle a very popular county clerk in Erie county and at the same time had to get known in Monroe County.”

He added that there’s a “lesson to be learned” with how the GOP presents its budget-cutting ideas on the national level, and showing why the increasingly costly program is need of an overhaul.

I don’t know what implications it will have. I can say that at the national level, I think they should have taken a little bit more time expressing the problems with Medicare before coming out with a solution. I think in this case the solution may have been known before anyone realized there was a problem with Medicare. And I think that is a lesson to be learned from this.

Cuomo Seeks Federal Aid For Floods

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today reached out for federal assistance in the wake of the spring floods that are wreaking havoc across upstate New York.

“The seemingly never-ending rains and ensuing flooding have caused severe damage and losses in many corners of the State,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While State agencies continue to do all that is possible to assist the impacted areas, I am asking President Obama for federal assistance to help our citizens and their communities on the road to recovery.”

A joint federal-state team found more than $38 million in damage for the 21 affected counties: Allegany, Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Madison, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Warren, and Yates.

The floods impacted more than 1,000 homes, destroying 14 and leaving 218 with severe damage. The federal program Cuomo is applying for 75 percent federal reimbursement to municipalities for the costs of debris removal and emergency response actions as well as for repairs to public facilities.

Despite the call for help, Cuomo’s office said the state’s response was “swift and continuous.”

NYSUT’s Iannuzzi Says Cap “Unfair And Undemocratic”

State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi called the Assembly’s version of the 2 percent cap on local and school property taxes both unfair and undemocratic for its supermajority override provision and for essentially limiting how taxpayers can fund schools.

“Obviously I can’t say this is the bill we wanted them to come up with and we certainly dismayed at what we believe are certainly unfair and undemocratic provisions such as the 60 percent override and what is effectively zero percent tax levy bill,” he said.

But he also said the re-introduction of the surcharge for millionaires in the Assembly is a sign that the Democratic-controlled chamber realizes that education should be funded.

“I believe the Assembly is making a real srtatement about the state devoting greater dollars to education and I believe they’re doing so because they know a tax cap will make it impossible for local communities to fund education,” Iannuzzi said.

As was the case in the original tax cap bill proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and approved by the Senate in January, the cap includes a provision that allows for a 60 percent override in the instances of a major project slated for a municipality or school district.

Teachers unions have long said a circuit-breaker solution, which would tie household income to property taxes, is the better way to go. But the provision is costly and even traditional backers of the circuit-breaker have dropped it.