IDC Wants Independent Audit Of MTA

The Independent Democratic Conference is calling for an outside audit of Metropolitan Transportation Authority with the hope it will shine some light on whether the deeply unpopular commuter tax should be repealed.

“There’s a reason to look toward cutting or repealing the MTA payroll tax,” Sen. Jeff Klein said.

“But I think the only effective way we can look at the MTA payroll tax and really look at it seriously, but I think the first step to repealing it is by taking a hard look at the payroll tax.”

Sen. David Carlucci, a Rockland County Democrat, who is sponsoring the measure, said an audit would “tame the MTA.”

“It seems like whatever happens, there is never enough money,” he said. “The amount we’re paying in taxes is far outweighed in terms of services they we’re receiving.”

The measure, which does not have an Assembly version, would seek an outside auditing firm to open the books of the MTA, which the conference charges has been subject to “questionable accounting practices. \

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Mr. Fix-It

Newsweek is running an on-line feature on advice from 20 experts on how to fix “broken” governments, which includes everyone from Mayor Bloomberg (who thinks LIFO repeal is the next big thing) to DN owner/publisher Mort Zuckerman to ex-Obama administration Budget Director Peter Orszag.

And clocking in at No. 11: David Paterson, former governor of the great state of New York. His proposal to save government: “Real pension accounting. ”

“Controversial accounting standards have allowed state pension funds to appear more solvent than they are,” Paterson argues. “The effect: delaying the day of reckoning, making state fiscal crises much worse than needed.”

“The blame should not be put on public workers: we should not treat the product of a lifetime of work as partisan jujitsu. Congress can solve this problem by prohibiting states from estimating pension growth beyond the last three years of actual pension growth or state revenue growth.”

“Overestimating returns, which has landed 48 states in huge deficits, would then cease.”

If I remember correctly, GOP state comptroller contender Harry Wilson argued that the pension numbers being presented by his Democratic opponent, incumbent Tom DiNapoli, were overly optimistic.

DiNapoli refuted that…and he also won in a squeaker last fall.

Tonko: Budget Taking ‘Trillions’ From Middle Class

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat from the Albany area, said on Fox News today that the federal government’s spending cuts have come out of the middle class.

Tonko, a former assemblyman and chief of NYSERDA, said entitlement programs should be reduced, particularly in areas of fraud.

“Of course we’re always looking for efficiencies and cut waste and abuse. But suffice it to say if we’re taking trillions from the middle class, you’ve cut spending, but it’s coming out of the hide of the middle class.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, said the country can’t afford to continue spending at a rate that keeps in heavily in the red, adding: “This is about reducing the debt deficit. No one in country believes a $1.6 trillion deficit is good public policy.”

Here’s the exchange:

Sampson: Redistricting Would Help Senate Democrats

An independent redistricting commission would likely help his Senate Democratic conference, Minority Leader John Sampson told reporters in an informal question-and-answer session.

He also added that a millionaires tax likely wouldn’t come up for a vote this year in order to offset budget cuts.

“I think that, will there be more seats in play? Yes. Will we pick up seats? Yes. And that is the fear that our colleagues across the aisle have. If the playing field is balanced, they believe their majority will be in jeopardy.”

Democrats hold a wide enrollment advantage in New York.

Senate Republicans are resisting a plan to create an independent commission that would redraw legislative boundaries for state and federal seats this year. The Senate already approved a constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission, but that would not take effect until 2022.

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Gas Industry Mails Cuomo On Fracking

As anti-fracking advocates plan a demonstration today at the Capitol opposing the controversial natural-gas extraction process, the oil and gas industry is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to begin granting permits.

“Nearly three years has gone by since the state essentially halted the permitting of natural gas drilling in the Southern Tier,” wrote Brad Gill, Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY executive director, in his letter to the governor.

“During that time we have watched people, jobs, businesses and opportunity flee our state for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, where those economies are rebounding strongly as a result of increased natural gas development.”

Gill added:

“Our industry is asking the state to provide an economic opportunity that is balanced by environmental protection.”

“We are asking that policymakers work right now to embrace the economic opportunity that is balanced by environmental protection, and allow science, reason and our existing rigorous SGEIS process to trump emotion as New York works to derive the benefits of natural gas.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is due to release its report on the safety of the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, sometime this summer. Before leaving office, Gov. David Paterson signed a moratorium on the process until the review is completed.

Though environmentalists oppose the process, industry groups and some landowners hope they state will being granting permits soon, arguing that it will aid the economically troubled Southern Tier region.

Pride Agenda Bolstered By Siena Poll

Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director is happy with what he sees as a growing trend of support for marriage equality, further bolstered by today’s Siena poll.

“Today’s Siena poll results are yet another indication of ever-increasing support in New York for allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. State legislators who have not supported marriage equality in the past should take note that New Yorkers – including nearly two thirds of suburban voters and a majority of upstate and Catholic voters – clearly believe in fairness and equality for their LGBT family, friends, neighbors and colleagues,” Ross Levi said.

According to the poll, 58% of New Yorkers support marriage for same-sex couples and only 36% oppose it.

Assembly To Vote On Rent Regs Expansion

The Democratic-led Assembly today plans to vote on an expansion of rent regulations for New York City and some suburban communities, a measure that is unlikely to have support in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The proposal appears to increase regulations on landlords and expand tenants’ ability to contest rent increases.

The measure would extend rent control laws until 2016, decrease from twenty percent to ten percent the amount a landlord could increase rent upon vacancy and also prohibit a landlord from taking more than one increase in any one calendar year, among other provisions.

In addition, a landlord whose building is in violation of required maintenance laws would be prohibited from collecting rent increases.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Vito Lopez plan a 3 p.m. news conference to discuss the “expected passage” of the bill.

Rent control for New York City is due to expire June 15.

The bill comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to get the Assembly to pass a cap on local property taxes. Cuomo has said he supports extending rent control for the city and possibly expanding regulations. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said he wants to keep rent control, but would be hesitant to increase regulations on landlords.

Cuomo has to walk a careful line has he tries to keep his pro-business coalition together. The Committee to Save New York includes landlords who are in favor of his 2 percent cap, which the Senate already approved, but property owners are likely to oppose any expansion of rent regulations.

At the same time, Silver has said the two issues – a tax cap and rent control – are “philosophically linked” but not necessarily joined at the hip.

Iannuzzi Elected To 3rd Term

NYSUT just announced that delegates have re-elected Dick Iannuzzi to a 3rd term as president of the state’s biggest teacher’s union.

Iannuzzi has been one of the few outspoken critics of Governor Andrew Cuomo and his proposed budget, which cut state aid to schools by 2.7% or about $1.3 billion. NYSUT chose not to endorse the Governor during last year’s election, though they didn’t block the endorsement by the AFL-CIO, their umbrella labor group, which they likely could have.

In their press release, NYSUT takes a slight shot at Cuomo and the legislature for those education cuts, calling them devastating.

Iannuzzi will begin his latest term at a critical juncture for the labor movement, as issues like collective bargaining and seniority are under attack nationwide, and as public K-12 and higher education in New York struggle to cope with the devastating effects of more than $1 billion in cuts by state government.

Those cuts, in fact, come at a time when there are 15,000 fewer teachers and support staff in New York state public schools than two years ago, and as districts statewide expect to lay off at least 10,000 more employees in 2011-12.

The release also included this quote, which Iannuzzi is said to have delivered to the delegates that elected him.

“The road ahead will continue to be challenging. You know the issues and the challenges. … The battle will be fought here and won here. Not won or lost here, but won here. And that’s because of each of you and the work you do.”

The delegates also re-elected another slate of officers including Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta, Vice Presidents Maria Neira and Kathleen Donahue, and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler. All terms are for three years.

Siena: Broad Support For Cuomo’s Post-Budget Agenda

Today’s Siena poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo heading into post-budget policy negotiations with a very strong hand, as New Yorkers strongly support his top agenda items – from instituting a property tax cap (83 percent) to creating an independent redistricting commission and legalizing same-sex marriage (both 58 percent).

Cuomo saw both his job performance and favorability ratings jump following the budget battle, even though voters believe their local schools and hospitals lost out as a result of the on-time spending plan passed by the Legislature.

“Andrew Cuomo starts his second hundred days as governor continuing to enjoy ‘rock star status’ among New Yorkers,” said Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg.

“His favorability rating is back over 70 percent, his job performance rating is up and, by a 61-9 percent margin, voters say he was a winner, not loser, in the just-completed budget battle.”

The governor is viewed favorably by 73 percent of voters and unfavorably by 18 percent, up from 69-20 last month. Fifty-four percent say he is doing an excellent or good job – up from 51 percent last month – and 41 percent say he’s doing a fair or poor job (unchanged).

SNY0411 Crosstabs

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Here And Now

Hundreds of anti-fracking advocates are expected to demonstrate in Albany today.

The Marcellus shale drilling isn’t likely to be an issue in WNY.

The hydrofracking lobbying bill – both for and against, but mostly for – now tops $3.6 million.

Expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate has a new job working the counter at a Queens pizzeria.

“The guy in charge is Andrew Cuomo.”

Cuomo’s quiet pick of Kevin Gagan, a former assistant AG, to serve as the No. 2 at the State Police has angered some senior officers who had been hoping for one of their own.

Cuomo advisor Drew Zambelli calls LG Bob Duffy “a tremendous asset to the administration.”

Former Staten Island Rep. Guy Molinari gave Cuomo an “A” for his first 100 days.

President Obama will turn his attention this week to the next battle looming in Washington: Reducing the nation’s debt.

Obama advisor David Plouffe says Donald Trump has “zero” chances of making it to the White House.

It was the first time the administration responded to Trump’s ongoing questioning of the president’s citizenship.

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