Here And Now

Joint budget conference committees start meeting today. Here’s the schedule.

A few hundred million and some policy differences is all that stands between legislative leaders, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and an on-time budget.

The governor did not comment after the Assembly and Senate passed their one-house budget plans.

Cuomo’s daughters went skiing at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington yesterday while the governor spent part of the day in Saranac Lake. “I’ve been coming up for 20 years, I really love it and can’t get enough of it,” Cuomo said.

Advocates whose issues were left out of both the legislative and executive budgets are holding out hope for the big ugly.

AG Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed education entities with ties to Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley.

Sen. Liz Krueger is being praised as Sen. Carl Kruger’s replacement on the Senate Finance Committee, but as the ranking Democrat in a GOP-controlled chamber, she won’t have much impact on the budget.

An assistant US attorney who helped bring down Eliot Spitzer and was involved in building the case against Kruger is leaving for the private sector.

The chief of MediSys, who was charged in the Kruger-Boyland-Lipsky corruption case, has been ousted by his board.

Some say Richard Lipsky’s fall was a long time coming.

Senate Republicans rely on $2.5 million from the legalization of mixed martial arts in their one-house budget, but the Assembly doesn’t appear interested in going along.

The budget extenders are a powerful tool in Cuomo’s arsenal of which state lawmakers are painfully aware.

More >


Mayor Bloomberg on the Senate’s new LIFO proposal: “The Senate compromise makes sense in both the short and long term – it will enable us to keep the best teachers this year and achieve our shared goal of quickly implementing a new teacher evaluation system that will eventually be used to guide any future layoff decisions.” (No link).

Sen. Chuck Schumer is finding his new role as chief spokesman for the Senate Democrats a difficult task, thanks – more often than not – to the White House.

Former NYC Council Speaker Andrew Stein was sentenced to 500 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to charges that he made false statements to the IRS and investigators probing his $2-million-plus tax scam.

The NRSC attacked New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez for not giving up thousands of dollars in donations from real-estate developer Aaron Malinsky, who was charged in the Kruger-Boyland-Lipsky scandal.

An attorney/nightclub owner snared in a different, Brooklyn-based Kruger-related scandal, Michael Levitis, is appearing in a reality show.

About two dozen protestors in wheelchairs managed to temporarily shut down the Assembly today.

Fred Dicker responded to Alan Chartock thusly: “Chartock laid out a conspiracy theory so far-fetched it makes Glenn Beck look sober. This is something from the John Birch Society.”

AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes could remain at the helm of the NYC Center Labor Council for some time.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and Bloomberg teamed up to pressure Congress to close gun check loopholes.

Bloomberg did not discuss gun control when he met with House Speaker John Boehner. Instead, they focused on the economy and creating jobs.

The state Health Department launched a new phase in its “HIV Stops With Me” campaign with TV ads featuring nine HIV-positive New Yorkers.

Independent NY-26 candidate Jack Davis shocked GOP leaders with his comments about immigrants.

The CBC tries to get beyond the rent regulation rhetoric.

New York sports fans think Derek Jeter is the greatest athlete ever to hail from the Empire State, according to a new Siena poll.

Mixed martial arts advocates pitched lawmakers at the Capitol.

A little light reading: The Senate GOP’s full budget resolution.

Rep. Pete King’s next round of Homeland Security Committee hearings will be on radicalization within the prison system.

Cuomo wants his health commissioner to have “unfettered power” to cut the Medicaid program, according to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

A homeless gay teen pleads with Cuomo not to cut funding for youth shelters.

Assembly Mental Health Committee Chairman Felix Ortiz called for the immediate resignation of any state official complicit in the abuse cases at state-run group homes highlighted in a recent Times investigation.

NYC spent $75 million in 2010 arresting and jailing people who possessed small amounts of marijuana.

Silver On ‘Imaginative’ Senate GOP Funds, Two-Year Budgeting

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Ron Canestrari are apparently not on the same page when it comes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to put education aid and Medicaid funding on a two-year track.

Earlier today, Canestrari rejected that idea, which was included in the governor’s 30-day budget amendments, calling it “a straightjacket.”

But, according to the speaker, the Assembly has agreed with the governor’s cap “where it as it relates to growth in personal income” because it will provide the opportunity to raise – by at least $800 million – education aid next year. That is incorporated in Assembly’s one-house budget, the speaker said.

Silver did slam the Senate GOP’s budget, saying:

“(H)ow does the Senate pay for anything? We provided a funding mechanism for the additions that we did. The Senate really has not.”

“As a matter of fact they have very imaginatively – they claim they have – restored money to education they have not applied it to next year. They have kicked in the reimbursement in the following fiscal year so it doesn’t impact this year’s budget.”

“We’ve done a real honest and true restoration. We’ve provided the funds that make that restoration and we do it this year, we don’t build out year gaps, which is what the senate resolution has done.”

The Senate Republicans, not surprisingly, disagree with Silver’s assessment, saying most of the education cash they’re restoring comes from $500 million worth of aid the governor included in his budget to allocate via a competitive process. The GOP redirected that money to upstate and Long Island schools districts.

There has been some question whether those funds were intended for his year’s budget, but the GOP pointed to LG Bob Duffy’s testimony at a joint legislative hearing in which he confirmed that is indeed the case – sorta. As CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind explains, the $500 million is a “dry” approrpiation, which means it’s not expected to flow until the next fiscal year.

Sen. Maziarz Released From Hospital

It appears WNY State Senator George Maziarz is feeling better. His office just released a statement saying he has been released from Albany Medical Center and is resting comfortably at his Albany apartment.

“Senator Maziarz feels fine, but a little weary, after recovering from a fall in his apartment yesterday morning and undergoing a battery of tests in the hospital over the past 24 hours,” Maziarz spokesman Adam Tabelski said in a statement. “The medical staff was extra cautious in examining the head injury he sustained, but all indications are that he has made a complete recovery.”

The statement says Maziarz had hoped to attend session today, but was told to rest by doctors. He also thanked the staff at Albany Med for their “first-rate care.”

Cash-Strapped Protestors Avoid Arrest

CapTon’s Mike Whittemore sent over some footage of this afternoon’s protest outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office at the state Capitol.

Loretta Manning, of Newburgh, encourged the crowd to be respectful and avoid getting arrested, explaining: “We already went that way, and personally, today I don’t have bail money.”

“Today is the day that you make history once again,” Manning said. “But today, we’re going to show them something they never showed us: Consideration…We’re going to let them know that we’re the same people that put him there, and we’re going to be the same people to take him out.”

At about the 2:35-minute mark, Cuomo’s communications director, Richard Bamberger, emerges from the governor’s office to talk to the protestors. (Cuomo, as we know, was miles away in the Adirondacks). You can hear a woman handing over a petition and telling Bamberger:

“This is a message to let Cuomo know – I’m not going to call him governor – that this time I’m very upset…this is a statewide action here, statewide. So he should get the message that we know that this is a revenue crisis.”

She ends by urging Bamberger to “make sure this goes directly to (Cuomo), please don’t throw it in the garbage.” He nods and promises that he will.

Where In NY Is Governor Cuomo?

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s official public schedule, the governor was to be in Essex County today with no public schedule.

An intrepid team from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise tracked Cuomo to a gas station in Saranac Lake where he was pumping gas at the Hyde Mobil Station on Lake Flower Avenue. (Photo credit to the paper’s Peter Crowley).

Aside: Why the governor was pumping his own gas into what appears for all the world to be one of the state-owned SUVs that sheppard him around is beyond me. He’s not generally allowed to go anywhere without a security detail.

The paper will be reporting on what Cuomo was doing in Saranac Lake in tomorrow’s editions. According to Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto, the governor spent the day in the Adirondacks with his family and is due back in Albany tonight for a staff meeting.

No word on what, exactly, the governor was doing in the ‘Dacks. Skiing? Sight-seeing in Lake Placid? Winter hiking? I guess we’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

UPDATE: According to DN Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett, the governor’s three daughters are skiing today, but it’s unclear if their father joined them on the slopes.

Also unclear: Whether Cuomo was joined by his live-in girlfriend, Sandra Lee, who told recently that Saranac Lake and Capri, Italy are her two favorite vacation spots.

Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, the Assembly and Senate are scheduled to pass their respective one-house budgets today and convene a general conference committee (AKA the mothership) this evening.


Sampson On Redistricting, Pre-Koch Conversion

A reader forwarded this video of then-Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson explaining his reservations about the redistricting reform pledge pushed by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch during the 2010 campaign.

Sampson, as you’ll recall, was a late convert to Koch’s NY Uprising agenda. He didn’t sign the PAC’s budget, ethics and redistricting reform pledge until shortly before the September primary – a move characterized as a major victory by Koch, and one that left Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver the odd man out among the four legislative leaders.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ agreement, along with all his fellow GOP conference members, to sign on with Koch is now coming back to bite him as the former mayor is not accepting the constitutional amendment bill passed yesterday by the Republicans – with an assist from the four IDC members – as fulfilment of their promise to him.

Skelos has raised constitutional concerns about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s redistricting reform bill, and has been roundly criticized by the Democrats for doing so. But, as you can see from this video, which was referenced by the AP’s Mike Gormley in a story published yesterday, Sampson was saying much the same thing, back in the day.

“We’re asking an independent commission to do redistricting,” Sampson says. “These are un-elected individuals who are bureaucrats who are going to make these decisions.”

“One of the reasons we have been elected by the people is to make such decisions. And the question is are we violating our accountability to the voters because they elected us to make those decisions. I know I can make a fair, I can be fair and I can be accountable with respect to dividing lines.”

“But my issue is: The Republicans who signed onto this, they had an opportunity for the last 44 years – four decades now – to do reapportionment. They could have been equitable in the way that they’ve drawn lines.”

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? It’s almost as if he’s reading off the Senate GOP’s 2011 script.

CWA Targets Grisanti

CWA Local 1180 is poised to unleash a hard-hitting radio ad against Sen. Mark Grisanti, assuming the Democrat-turned-Republican freshman from Buffalo votes “yes” on the Senate GOP’s one-house budget that does not include a millionaire’s tax extender.

CWA is a member of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, a new union-backed group that is organizing part of the labor community’s response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 budget.

The coalition’s main goal was to change the way the budget battle is fought, moving away from the traditional TV air war and focusing more on grassroots organizing and social media.

However, some old habits die hard, as this radio ad demonstrates. Radio does offer a lot of bang for the buck, considering it’s ad rates are a heck of a lot less expensive than television and its reach is considerable.

CWA President Arthur Cheliotes, who is at the Capitol lobbying on the millioniare’s tax today, told me more “vulnerable” members of the majority conference will be targeted with ads, which are being produced by The Advance Group.

“We need them to understand that they’ve got to do what’s right for working people and not just protect the rich,” Cheliotes told me. Here’s the script:

“Senator Grisanti, you gotta be kidding me! We’re facing the worst economic times of a generation, and you want to cut taxes for millionaires? You gotta be kidding me!”

“Wall Street gave its biggest bonuses ever last year – two years after the trillion dollar bailout – and you want to give them a tax break? You gotta be kidding me!”

“Mark Grisanti would rather cut funding for education, close up state facilities and lay off thousands of our teachers than let downstate pay their share? Mark Grisanti, you gotta be kidding me! But this isn’t funny!”

Cuomo ‘Honored’ By Fake Christie

The demonstrators who brought you the pro-millionaire’s protest that blocked the Capitol’s State Street entrance and ended with more than a dozen arrests planned another “action” today – this time a little public disturbance/theater featuring a mock NJ. Gov. Chris Christie.

The Republican governor (who will be depicted by a protestor in a Christie mask) is “awarding” his Democratic counterpart for “ensuring the richest 1 percent will get richer by allowing their fair share tax to expire and balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and working class of New York State,” the flier reads. “Kudos, Governor Cuomo!”

There have been a lot of column inches filled in recent weeks with stories likening Cuomo to his counterpart across the river, who also may or may not have White House aspirations.

Christie himself heaped praise on Cuomo, noting the “son of a liberal icon” is pushing policies that mirror his own – including the superintendents’ salary cap.

cuomo action – christie public ed flier

Senate GOP Budget Based On Rosy Expectations, Cuts, Prayer

The Senate Republicans’ budget restores $280 million worth of education cuts proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, eliminates $296 million in unfunded mandates for local governments and spend slightly less overall than the governor ($132.5 billion, to $132.9 billion) – all without any new revenue generators (AKA taxes).

About 68 percent of the restored education aid would be sent to schools districts north of NYC, Skelos said, explaining: “What we’re doing is we are essentially restoring shares to the cuts. So there willl continue to be cuts…but especially upstate, they were disproportionately hit in terms of rural districts and small city school districts.”

Asked how the majority is accomplishment this feat, Sen. John Flanagan joked during a noon press conference: “Senator Marcellino said we pray a lot; if we don’t maybe we should.”

In reality, the Senate is banking on the fact that the economy will recover “slightly” faster than expected, improving the state’s revenue picture more quickly than the Cuomo administration’s Budget Division has predicted. (An exact dollar amount on this isn’t yet available, but should be by the afternoon, I’m told).

More >