Empire Center: Upstate Schools Tightening Belts Better

Upstate school districts are managing their costs better and exhibiting more fiscal restraint than their downstate counterparts, a report from the fiscal conservative Empire Center found.

The think tank found that per-pupil spending will increase statewide by 1.95 percent, driving up the per-student cost in New York to $20,401. However, it was the suburban school districts in the metropolitan regions of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties that saw the biggest tax hikes, the report found.

This makes sense. Upstate districts in general do not have the broad tax base enjoyed by New York City suburban school districts. The state Education Department’s tax report card released this week found districts on average are increasing their levies by 3.4 percent, higher than the 2 percent property tax cap proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor said at a news conference Wednesday that districts can live within their means if given less state aid. The 2011-12 state budget included a $1.2 billion cut to education aid.

Empire School Report 2011 12 Main

NYPIRG Offers Window Into Pension Investments

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks tighter rules for lobbying and favor-currying before the state’s pension fund, the New York Public Interest Research Group has compiled a list of the 265 companies that have invested in the pension fund along with how much they’ve spent lobbying the state last year.

The companies spent $31.9 million lobbying the state in 2010. The fund invests about 44 percent, or $26.8 billion, in the companies.

The state retirement fund is one of the largest pension systems in the country. At the same time, the companies spent $2.5 million cumulatively on lobbying state officials. The companies include a who’s who of major firms, banks and insurance companies.

From NYPIRG:

As the public discussion unfolds about what role, if any, lobbying should play in investment decisions, this information provides a window into the resources deployed and the potential influence wielded by major players in the state’s pension fund.

Less than two weeks after former Comptroller Alan Hevesi went to jail for his role in a massive pay-to-play pension fund scandal, Cuomo proposed tight rules for the pension fund and a permanent ban on placement agents and a ban on director contributions to the comptroller from firms and companies that have business before the fund. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli had a ban on placement agents directly lobbying the office since 2009.

Hevesi was sentenced to 1-4 years in state prison after accepting millions in gifts in exchange for investments in the pension fund, a scandal that also included his political operative, Hank Morris.

NYPIRG Pension Fund

Corwin Spot Highlights Talking Phone Book Biz

Congressional hopeful Jane Corwin is out with a new 30-spot today highlighting her business experience the same day a Siena College poll shows her Democratic challenger Kathy Hochul running only 5 percentage points behind.

The ad focuses on the GOP assemblywoman’s work on the Talking Phone Book and touts her rise through the company.

Here’s the ad’s script:

Jane Corwin: I’m Jane Corwin and I approved this message, because our working families deserve good paying jobs.

Dennis Kujawa (Marketing Executive, 25 years at Talking Phone Book): With Jane Corwin’s help, the Talking Phone Book was a true Western New York success.

Frank Vito (Sales Consultant, 26 years at Talking Phone Book): Jane Corwin started at the bottom, delivering phone books after school.

Brenda McCrossan (Controller, 16 years at Talking Phone Book): But Jane Corwin worked her way up to help lead the company.

Kujawa: Jane Corwin was part of a team that created hundreds of jobs for Western New York.

McCrossan: Jane Corwin helped create my job.

Kujawa: Jane Corwin will fight for jobs in Washington.

Vito: Jane Corwin. She’s got my vote.

McCrossan: I’m voting for Jane Corwin.

Corwin’s campaign noted that the economy continues to grow at an anemic rate, news that they blamed on Democrats’ “economic policies.”

Corwin Holds 5 Point Lead In NY-26

The first public poll is out in the 3 way race for NY’s 26th Congressional District, and as expected the numbers show a tight race.

Republican Jane Corwin is leading with 36 percent of the vote. But Democrat Kathy Hochul is only 5 points behind, with 31 percent. Meanwhile, 3rd party candidate Jack Davis, who has pledged to spend $3 million of his own money on the race, has 23% of the vote.

Green Party candidate Ian Murphy only polled at one percent, while nine percent of responders said they were undecided with 4 weeks to go.

What I find interesting is that Jack Davis, a former Democrat who also sought the Republican party’s backing in this race, is polling at roughly 20% with both Republicans and Democrats. So he isn’t necessarily hurting Corwin or Hochul more.

Another interesting number is that Hochul has a one point lead over Corwin in Erie County – where both politicians are from – and where most of the voters are in the sprawling 7 county district.

Both Corwin and Jack Davis have already put more than a million dollars of their own money into the race. But during the last fundraising period, Democrat Kathy Hochul actually raised more cash from outside donors, over $300k, and did it without help from the DCCC.

As Liz alludes to in her post yesterday, these poll numbers could convince DCCC Chair Steve Israel to find some funds to support Hochul’s bid.

26th CD 2011 Special Poll Release 1 — FINAL

Here And Now

If you are just getting up, Kate and William are now officially married. More here, here, and everywhere!

Back in the US, President Obama is expected to tour the storm damage in Alabama today.

In New York, flooding has become a major concern.

Governor Cuomo has been avoiding the President during recent fundraisers in New York City, even when his name is on the invite.

The Cuomo Administration audited state government waste and found some interesting, albeit unsurprising, things.

Some business leaders are going to get behind the push for same sex marriage in New York.

The Catholic Conference thinks gay marriage advocates may not have enough votes, in the Assembly, which has passed the bill three times already in the past three years.

Gabby Giffords will make her first public appearance today at the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final flight.

Doctors who were first to treat Giffords say the Congresswoman’s family thought she was dead when they arrived at the hospital.

The Daily News reports that Donald Trump skipped the Vietnam War because of a medical deferment, and not a high draft number as he has said in the past.

One of the wrongfully convicted Central Park 5 is demanding an apology from Trump.

Trump’s newest insult. “Leaders are just stupid.”

Long Island Power Authority chairman Howard Steinberg wants to privatize the public utility that is under investigation by the Inspector General.
More >

Extras

The California GOP is claiming Gov. Andrew Cuomo as an ally, but it has its facts wrong.

Big Dem donor Dennis Mehiel, who ran for LG the year Cuomo ran his first (unsuccessful) gubernatorial campaign, was named to the ESDC board.

Ralph Nader predicted an easy win for Obama in 2012, but said he’d “never vote for him” because he has a “terrible record” (too pro-Wall Street).

Rep. Michael Grimm’s town hall meeting last meeting turned nasty. The congressman was not pleased, saying: “I’m not going to be disrespected or allow anyone else to be disrespected. It’s not nice, it’s inappropriate.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer declined to dump on Trump.

Huh?

Assemblyman Micah Kellner and TLC Commissioner David Yassky squared off on Facebook over the taxi of tomorrow.

HRC activists met with Sen. Joe Addabbo, who voted “no” on gay marriage in 2009.

The Club for Growth released its 2010 congressional scorecards for the House and Senate.

The state Business Council has a new communications specialist.

The latest from NMA on Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate.

A former NYC Department of Education consultant surrendered to federal authorities on Thursday to face charges that he stole $3.6 million from the public school system.

The NRCC is roboing against Rep. Bill Owens.

Anti-Walmart flashmob with singing crossdresser, man on stilts, happy face masks.

Did Trump lie about how he avoided the draft during Vietnam?

The Rochester City Council is calling on Cuomo and the Legislature to pass GENDA and sign it into law.

The latest from the HRC’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign: Julianna Marulies and her husband, Keith Leiberthal, make a “traditional marriage” argument.

Will NY-26 Poll Be A Game Changer?

Tomorrow, the Siena College Research Institute will release the first public poll of the NY-26 race, and word on the street is it will show the contest to be far closer than most observers had previously though – perhaps even with a single-digit margin separating the two majority party candidates.

Until former GOP Rep. Chris Lee’s abrupt resignation in the wake of his Craigslist scandal, the district that includes all or parts of Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties was viewed as “safe Republican.”

The enrollment as of April 1 is as follows: 170,503 Republicans; 143,160 Democrats; 20,348 Independence Party members; 9.488 Conservatives; 1,895 WFP; 872 Greens and 89,494 independents (blank).

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin came into this race as the assumed frontrunner, and that’s only partly because of the GOP edge in the district. She also benefitted from the fact that Republican leaders managed to get their collective act together and nominate her early, enabling her to hit the campaign trail – and the airwaves – long before her opponents.

After much dithering, the Democrats settled on Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, angering some party members (and maybe even the governor?) who had hoped she would challenge Republican County Executive Chris Collins this fall. (During a recent CapTon interview, she all but ruled out a local run even if she loses this special election).

Hochul was viewed as something of a sacrificial lamb, but then she posted stronger-than-expected fundraising numbers without any assistance from the DCCC.

More >

Cuomo Mails NYRA: Keep Jobs Here (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is displeased with the new that the New York Racing Association inked a contract recently with an Oregon company to provide telephone wagering services.

As Jim Odato over at CapCon reported on Wednesday, NYRA said the outsourcing of telewagering services was needed after the call volumes increased when New York City OTB was forced to shutter its locations last year.

Though NYRA insists no New York jobs will be lost, Cuomo is still concerned about the contract “given the extraordinary investment New York State has made to maintain NYRA’s viability over the years.”

Here’s the letter:

Dear Mr. Hayward:

It is my understanding that the New York Racing Association (NYRA) has entered into a contract to conduct NYRA’s telephone wagering from a facility located in Oregon. NYRA’s decision to locate these activities and the potential jobs out of State is extremely troubling given the extraordinary investment New York State has made to maintain NYRA’s viability over the years.

My top priority as Governor is to create jobs in New York State. As such, I expect you to do everything possible to ensure that these telephone wagering activities are conducted within New York State by New York State taxpayers. The Empire State Development Corporation stands ready to help you to identify options for keeping these jobs within the State.

I would ask your full cooperation in this effort and look forward to a prompt response.

Sincerely,
Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor

Update: Senate Republicans spokesman Scott Reif emailed a short time ago to note that Sen. Andrew Lanza has a bill due to be before the Finance Committee Monday that would require NYRA to contract with call centers in New York. It does not have an Assembly version.

Duffy: Despite Complaints, No Change Expected To Regional Councils

Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, in Watertown today, responded to criticism that the regional economic development councils he is due to lead have poorly drawn boundaries.

Those concerns were raised in the Watertown Daily Times back in February, were legislators in both parties noticed how the boundaries encompass diverse geographic areas that have little economic relation to each other.

Still, Duffy said today a sweeping change to the program wouldn’t work.

We’ve listened very carefully to that. I think the tough thing is trying to break down the state in manageable geographic areas. And I think that the governor is open to listening to some of the issues and adjustments that come up but in the end I think a large wholesale change might not be practical.

The councils are meant to compete with each other in order to generate job-creation ideas in order to receive economic development funds that is being distributed by the Empire State Development Corp.

It was expected that the councils would be coming sometime this week, but so far their composition and fleshed-out design have not been released. Duffy said Gov. Andrew Cuomo was focusing on legislative priorities.

The governor is going to announce the councils when he’s ready. The governor’s number one priority is the legislative priorities for the rest of the session….between now and the end of session the governor will decide when he’s ready to announce the regional councils.

Trump: Now We Can Get To The Real Issues

The Donald is still taking his victory lap.

Developer and reality-show host Donald Trump posted a video on YouTube today again taking credit for having President Obama release the long-form version of his birth certificate. And Trump, who may actually be launching a presidential campaign, said he wants to get to issues like China and OPEC.

“I was thrilled, I could not have been more happy,” Trump said, adding that he’s getting a lot of credit for having the president produce the document.

“Now we can get on with what’s happening with oil, what’s happening with the economy, how OPEC is ripping us off, how China is taking our jobs — the kind of things I want to be taking about,” Trump said, with a JFK bust in the background.