AQE, Students To Cuomo: Two Can Play Political Game

The Alliance for Quality Education is firing back at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who this morning accused school districts of playing politics when they say his proposed funding cuts would force teachers to lose their jobs, hurting kids in the process.

“Governor Cuomo is in denial when he says he can cut $1.5 billion from schools without hurting kids and the people of New York know it,” said AQE Executive Director Billy Easton.

“The Governor says people who support quality public schools are playing politics, meanwhile he is robo calling voters homes and there is a committee of millionaires doing direct mail to force through school cuts and finance tax cuts for the wealthiest New Yorkers.”

“Exactly who is playing politics? Local schools are slashing programs and preparing pink slips for teachers—it’s in the headlines of every paper across the state. The simple truth is Governor Cuomo’s budget will hurt kids and help millionaires.”

Meanwhile, AQE has released the finalists in its “Dear Governor Cuomo” video contest. Students from all over the state offered submissions that illustrate the impact they think the governor’s $1.5 billion worth of education aid cuts will have on their schools if approved by the Legislature.

Some of the videos are pretty hard-hitting. One example appears below. The other can be viewed here.

Cuomo: School Districts Playing A ‘Game’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had some strong words this morning for school districts that are crying poor and insisting his proposed education funding cuts will force them to fire teachers and hurt kids.

Flanked by some rather uncomfortable looking legislative leaders, Cuomo insisted that his two-year education and health care funding plan is crucial, explaining:

“If we didn’t do that, first of all, the day after we pass this budget we’d have a $15 billion deficit next year, we’d be right back in the hole because these outrageous, unsustainable rates of increase must stop.”

While Cuomo reportedly is – or was? – open to entertaining the restoration of education aid proposed by both the Senate and Assembly in their respective one-house budgets (recall that just yesterday he insisted there’s “flexibility” in his executive budget proposal), he basically accused districts that say they can’t afford to cut back of playing politics with kids.

“Manage the school system. Reduce the waste. Reduce the fraud. Reduce the abuse,” said the governor, noting the average district would see a 2.7 percent aid reduction in his budget plan.

“…I was the attorney general for four years. I investigated school districts…I know there’s waste and abuse in school districts, and I know there’s 2.7 percent! They’d have to say: We’re perfectly managed. We are the Swiss watch of organizations. You can’t find 2.7 percent waste or body fat in this organization? No. It’s a threat. It’s a game.”

Look for the rather amusing moment at the end of this clip where Cuomo, after stressing that the “day where government can just throw money at the problem, and raise more taxes…are over” makes a joke that elicits the one nod of consent from the heretofore grim looking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“Because you keep raising taxes on New Yorkers, we would be here alone in this room,” Cuomo says. “Wouldn’t be so bad if we were here and some of the reporters weren’t. They will be an exodous, and that’s what has to stop.”

Goodbye, June O’Neill

Veteran New York Democratic operative/activist June O’Neill is stepping entirely off the political stage, giving up all her remaining duties in both the state and local organizations she once headed, The Watertown Times reports.

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According to the paper, O’Neill – pictured her with her state chair replacement, Jay Jacobs – is leaving her position as state Executive Committee chairwoman and also from her post as vice chair of the St. Lawrence Democratic Party. More from the story:

“The move will come as a surprise to no one; Mrs. O’Neill, a Morley resident, is open about her desire to retire and spend more time with her family.”

“…There’s no word yet on who will replace her at the state party, but the rumor mill has also swirled about the potential departure of Jay Jacobs, Mrs. O’Neill’s counterpart at the party.”

O’Neill once worked for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Given her history with the Cuomo family, there was some speculation very early on that O’Neill might be brought back to re-take the reins from Jacobs, who was seen as a David Paterson loyalist, particularly after Tom Suozzi’s surprise loss to Republican Ed Mangano in the 2009 Nassau County executive race.

O’Neill was tapped by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer as part of an upstate-downstate team to head the state party. Her downstate counterpart, Dave Pollak, was forced out shortly after Paterson replaced Spitzer three years ago today.

Jacobs was tapped by Paterson to replace O’Neill, who moved down to head the executive committee. Instead of ousting Jacobs, Cuomo chose to supplement him with an on-again/off-again loyalist, Charlie King, as party executive director – a post the former LG and AG contender took on during the 2010 campaign.

Jacobs has been diligently trying to pay down the state party’s debt and also acting in conjuction with King as an attack dog, lambasting Republicans at all levels of government as the administration’s surrogate.

de Blasio’s Shout-Out To Buffalo

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio took to Twitter this morning to capitalize on counter Mayor Bloomberg’s verbal slight to Buffalo, expressing his love and support for the Queen City.

De Blasio isn’t eyeing a statewide run – at least not to my knowledge. But he is considering a mayoral bid in 2013.

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The $600 Million Man

ICYMI: Donald Trump told ABC News’ Ashleigh Banfield in an interview on “Good Morning America” that he’s prepared to spend as much as $600 million of his own cash on a presidential bid in 2012 – assuming he runs and, as he put it, “assuming I’m doing well.”

Trump said he thinks it would cost him less than any other candidate “by hundreds of millions of dollars” to mount a credible campaign for the White House. He already has high name recognition, so that wouldn’t be a problem.

He predicted it would cost between $500 million and $600 million to run, “if you go all the way.” And he insisted he’s good for that – and more, if necessary.

“I’d put up a lot,” The Donald said. “If I didn’t get people helping me, I’d put up all of it…I have much more than that (to spare).”

“That’s one of the nice things. I mean, part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. So, if I need $600 million I can put up $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage – I must tell you – that’s a huge advantage over the other candidates.”

Watch the full interview here.

DiNapoli: Most Schools Have Enough Reserve Cash

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is in Syracuse today, unveiling a new report about schools, and the amount of reserve funds they have.

His findings are not shocking. They actually mirror a similar report he put out last year. Basically, his audits found that most of the state’s schools have enough money in their reserve funds to be able to absorb the $1.5 billion in education cuts proposed in Governor Cuomo’s budget for next school year. DiNapoli made it clear that the reserve fund is only a one year solution.

“…after that, the reserves would be gone and without other actions, the expenses would still need to be addressed. And more than 100 districts across the state don’t have enough reserves for even one year,” DiNapoli said.

The reason the comptroller is in Syracuse is because Central New York and Finger Lakes schools make up a larger portion of the more than 100 districts that don’t have enough reserve funds to make up for this year’s cuts.

If you want to learn more about your schools financial standing, you can look it up here.

About Those Sunglasses…

In preparation for today’s leader’s meeting, here’s a moment of levity from yesterday’s post-three-way press conference during which Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos ribs Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the oversized sunglasses he was snapped sporting during his visit to Saranac Lake Tuesday.

“There was a photo of me today in the New York Post wearing sunglasses. They were not the most fashionable sunglasses. I had just borrowed them from Senator Skelos. That’s the truth, and that’s where I got the glasses.”

(To give credit where it’s due, the photo in question actually first appeared in The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, whose staffers spotted the governor while he was pumping gas at a local Mobil station. Details of Cuomo’s one-day trip to the North Country were not advised by his press office, although some information was later provided).

Paterson Traded Senate Resources For LG Run in ’06

During a recent wide-ranging interview, former Gov. David Paterson offered a new explanation for why he had agreed to run as then-gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer’s lieutentant governor in 2006.

(Since this is the third anniversary of Paterson’s swearing-in as New York’s first black governor following Spitzer’s demise, it seems particularly appropriate to mark the date with this post).

Paterson said his decision to depart his post as Senate minority leader was motivated by the fact that he believed the Senate Republicans had “figured out my game” in 2004, adding: “They knew how I beat them, and I didn’t think I could do it again.”

The former governor said he had taken his limited resources that year and “pretended” to push candidates in far more districts than he actually could afford to fight for.

“But really, I picked out three or four seats I thought I could win and put all the money in those areas and was very successful,” Paterson explained.

“And I knew that they would make the adjustment in 2006 and we were going to have a lot of resources to win…and I knew that I could exchange my candidacy for lieutenant governor to get those resources, and it was successful. That’s why I changed courses.”

There’s only one problem with this: While it’s true that Spitzer pushed very hard to help the Democrats in their quest to wrest the Senate from GOP hands and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into that effort, they didn’t actually succeed until 2008 – and we all know how that turned out in the end.

In the rest of this clip, Paterson, who was interviewed for The Common Good by former state Democratic Party Chairman Dave Pollak, is at his charming and comic best as he tells the story of learning he was about to ascend to be governor of New York and how he broke that news to his father, Basil, and his wife, Michelle.

Here And Now

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The joint budget conference subcommittee on health convenes at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room B/LOB. A five-way leader’s meeting – this time including the minority conference leaders – is scheduled to take place at that time, too, in the Red Room.

Three years ago on this date, David Paterson was sworn in as New York’s first black governor following the resignation of his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, due to a prostitution scandal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will review safety at the Indian Point nuclear power plant after an MSNBC report named it the nation’s most vulnerable in the unlikely case of a major earthquake.

Cuomo has long thought Indian Point was too risky to be located so close to NYC.

Evacuating everyone within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point would entail relocating 15 million people.

Peter Applebome thinks those worried about Indian Point and other potential natural disasters in New York – not matter how far-fetched they might seem – are right to do so.

Cuomo said there’s “flexibility” in his executive budget and he wants to make a deal with legislative leaders.

Rudy Giuliani thinks Cuomo has gotten off to a “very good start” because he’s “doing everything that a Republican governor would do in a similar situation.”

The outlook for the extended millionaire’s tax is not good at the moment.

Is Assemblyman Robin Schimminger being punished for standing with Cuomo and casting the lone Democratic “no” vote on the majority’s one-house budget?

The Senate wants the state to take over the licensing of billboards in the five boroughs – potentially stripping millions of dollars from the city.

More >

Extras

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is done.

What part of “done” don’t you understand?

Four Times reporters are missing in Libya.

Anti-smoking advocates are dismayed by the cuts proposed by the Assembly to the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program.

The William J. Clinton Foundation is giving up most of its office space in Harlem and decamping for Wall Street.

The NY Senate Democrats are Tweeting.

Rudy Giuliani is speaking at the University of Arkansas on April 3. Tickets are free.

President Obama took some heat for going on ESPN to reveal his NCAA bracket picks at a time when Japan is in crisis.

Obama is coming to raise campaign cash in Harlem, which was a big base of support for Clinton during the 2008 primary.

John Catsimatidis hasn’t yet closed the door on a 2013 mayoral run, saying he has “mixed emotions about it right now.”

AG Eric Schneiderman tapped Marc Minor as chief of the Investor Protection Bureau – the unit that polices Wall Street.

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will be the guest of honor at an Onondaga County GOP fundraiser on March 25.

Sen. Mike Nozzolio wants “saleability” to be one of the criteria used to determine which NY prisons should close.

A flashpoint between Republicans and Democrats in DC: Disposable forks.

Ben Smith sees the same old Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Blue&Read took home some Pollies after its first year in the campaign mailer business.

Bob Gangi left the Correctional Association of New York State after 29 years on the job.

Democrats are pressuring Cuomo to extend and strengthen rent control laws as part of the budget deal he’s negotiating with the Legislature.

Rent reform advocates handed out this flyer during afternoon rush hour today in NYC today in an effort to bring some grassroots pressure on Cuomo, too.

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