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 >

Canestrari: Gov’s 2-Year Education Spending Plan A ‘Straightjacket’

Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari struck a conciliatory tone on budget negotiations while chatting with reporters earlier today, insisting the Legislature doesn’t want to be “confrontational” with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, considering the fact that this is his first budget.

Canestrari, an Albany-area Democrat, admitted the “my way or the highway” budget extender threat from Cuomo is an “added incentive” to get an on-time deal. He noted the Assembly and Senate aren’t terribly far apart in their respective one-house proposals, which are on tap for passage this afternoon.

But Canestrari also flatly rejected the governor’s plan to put education aid and Medicaid funding on a two-year track, which is something Cuomo proposed as part of his 30-day budget amendments.

“It’s a straightjacket,” Canestrari said. “It’s tough to suggest that with everything else we’re doing.”

“It certainly is creative on his part, and I see the direction he’s going in. But I think that’s a heavy lift at this stage of the game. I really do. We have enough we’re dealing with right now. Let’s get the budget underway. I think that is hard.”

“…I do oppose it. I’d like to see more of the details. I have not looked at it that closely, to be honest. But I just think it ties our hands unnecessarily for a long period of time. I’d like to see more about it.”

DiNapoli: Risks Remain In Cuomo Budget

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli just released his analysis of Governor Cuomo’s 21 day and 30 day amendments, praising it for additional details, while also criticizing it for not being specific enough.

“The Governor’s Executive Budget proposal took welcome steps to remedy the state’s longstanding bad habit of spending more money than it takes in,” DiNapoli said. “The budget amendments provide additional detail on how savings will be achieved, but work remains to ensure the budget gap can be closed.”

DiNapoli focuses in on the work of the Medicaid Redesign Team, which came back with $2.3 billion in cuts. DiNapoli says $640 million of those cuts remain unspecified, which is a concern. He also warns that another $662 million in cuts come from proposals that have been previously failed in the state legislature.

And the comptroller also calls for more details when it comes to the cuts to the state operations budget. Specifically the $450 million in workforce savings that Governor Cuomo is calling for. The administration is currently negotiating new contracts with CSEA and PEF, which will have an impact on that aspect of the budget.

Complete press release after the jump:
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Pat Barrett To Head ORDA, Again (Updated)

Andrew Cuomo’s public schedule says he is in Essex County today. And while we don’t know exactly where he is, we have learned that he has tapped former GOP state chair Pat Barrett to head up the Olympic Regional Development Association, based in Lake Placid.

Barrett held the post during the final years of the Pataki era. When Eliot Spitzer was elected, he replaced Barrett with Joe Martens (who was confirmed as the new DEC commissioner earlier this month). But Barrett has remained on the ORDA board.

Barrett was also one of the first Republicans to publicly support Andrew Cuomo during his campaign for governor, even cutting a television ad for Cuomo. And he served on Governor Cuomo’s transition team.

Update: Multiple sources say Barrett’s selection was expected. The only concern is his health. He has had several heart surgeries in recent months.