Cuomo Sees ‘Fluidity’ To Tax Cap Talks

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Talk-1300 AM this morning that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver probably doesn’t want a property tax cap, but has been trying to reach a compromise on the measure.

“The speaker does not generally support the cap,” he said. “He is aggressively laying out the caveats and that is the ongoing articulation of his position.”

The governor wants a 2 percent cap on local and school property taxes. The Republican-led Senate approved the cap on Jan. 31 and GOP lawmakers have signaled for weeks they would not be open to negotiations that would “water down” the cap.

However, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos cracked the door a bit this week on those talks, saying he would consider changes proposed by Silver, who has said “minor” exemptions may be inserted.

Cuomo in the radio interview applauded that statement.

“That’s the intelligent position and I applaud his intelligence in handling this,” he said. “We have parties open to discussion and I applaud him.”

The tax cap has broad support in polls, but some local county leaders say the state needs to deal with troublesome mandates imposed by the state before a ceiling can be put in place.

Cuomo said the cap talks are fluid and decried the blow-by-blow in the political blogosphere.

“There is a fluidity to all of this and it can’t be defined by these simplistic snapshots,” he said.

Cuomo: Moreland Commission Is A Promise, Not A Threat

Empaneling a Moreland Commission to investigate the Legislature if lawmakers fail to approve an ethics overhaul is fulfilling a campaign promise, not a threat.

“There is very little incentive for the legislators to pass ethics reform which quite frankly only effects the legislators,” Cuomo told Fred Dicker on Talk 1300-AM this morning. “You need to generate public support for ethics reform.”

But he added it was incorrect characterize the Moreland Commission pledge as a threat aimed at recalcitrant legislators who don’t want to disclose their outside income or clients who have business before the state.

But there are some questions as to whether a Moreland Commission could even be used to investigate lawmakers and any creation could lead to legal challenges.

The ethics overhaul is part of Cuomo’s “People First” campaign, a tour around the state with the governor and members of his administration to drum up support for ethics, gay marriage and the 2 percent cap on local property taxes.

Cuomo said the ethics overhaul is needed because voters don’t trust state government and the Legislature to police itself.

“The people of this state don’t trust the system,” he said. “The people have seen scandal after scandal, year after year, sometimes month after month and they see the system guaranteeing integrity isn’t working.”

The tour has led to some tension with lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has seen shades of disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in Cuomo’s harsh rhetoric. Skelos told Liz last week he would consider an ethics bill for the executive branch as well.

Cuomo said in the interview that some tension was to be expected, but that he has a good working relationship with Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“I have a good and functional relationship with both houses,” he said. “We’re able to communicate, we’re able to function.”

NY-26 GOP Blame Game Begins

Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich took a very subtle swipe at his Erie County counterpart, Nick Langworthy, during an interview yesterday with YNN’s Casey Bortnick, suggesting he should have involved more party leaders in the running of Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s NY-26 campaign.

Reilich confirmed his organization only recently started playing a larger role in assisting Corwin, who came into the race as the widely accepted frontrunner, but has steadily lost ground thanks to a combination of independent Jack Davis’ presence in the race, a stronger-than-expected bid by Democrat Kathy Hochul and gaffes like the alleged assault on Davis by her Assembly chief of staff.

“They have asked us in the last couple weeks to get more involved,” Reilich said. “And we do know how to win races. And we have done just that. I have not met with Nick Langworthy since this race has begun. They were pretty much directing the race up until the past couple weeks and now we have become more involved.”

“…I am respectful of Nick being involved to the level that he was,” the chairman diplomatically continued. “We had about a 20 percent stake of the district. So, I understand that it covers many counties, so you are working with many county chairs. And I work with all the county chairs, and he was spearheading it at that time, so we deferred to his judgment.”

There’s a lot of internal GOP chatter over who might come out of this special election with egg on their face if Corwin doesn’t manage to eke out a victory next Tuesday.

Langworthy and Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who is up for re-election this fall, have been deeply involved in Corwin’s campaign, and both have a lot at stake here.

The chairman, as you’ll recall, has been her chief surrogate/defender and also was behind the release of that “assault” video. His stock was very high following the defeat by Carl Paladino (another Corwin backer) of GOP gubernatorial nominee Rick Lazio in the 2010 primary. He was even floated as a potential replacement for state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who has largely taken a hands-off approach (at least publicly) in NY-26.

Here And Now

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver accused Mayor Bloomberg of using firehouses as a “negotiating pawn” in the annual budget battle, a practice he deemed “inappropriate.”

“We oppose this legislation, and the chance it becomes law is zero,” Mayor Bloomberg’s spokesman Mark Botnick said of Sen. Marty Golden’s bill to void recognition of same-sex marriage performed outside New York.

Golden’s bill is co-sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous of Binghamton and Bronx Democrat Ruben Diaz Sr.

A deal on a tax cap looser than the one Gov. Andrew Cuomo originally proposed is in the air at the Capitol.

Cuomo said school districts cut spending because of his call for a 2 percent cap on property-tax increases.

The Times says Cuomo’s desire not to let a gay marriage bill come to the Senate floor for a vote is “wrong”, agreeing with Bloomberg that New Yorkers should know where lawmakers stand on this issue.

Still a “no” on gay marriage: Sen. Betty Little.

Golden says state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long has put the “fear of God” into people on same-sex marriage.

AG Eric Schneiderman and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver make this week’s City Hall “winners” list.

Schneiderman is investigating Donald Trump’s for-profit school.

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is expected to be released today after making bail.

More >

Extras

Here’s the text of President Obama’s Mideast speech.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not take kindly to Obama’s call for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on the 1967 borders.

Political reporters, including yours truly, received an odd NY-26 robocall from a 617 area code slamming Jack Davis’ Boston-based political consultant.

A Davis spokesman called the call “another dirty trick.”

Obama joked about Hillary Clinton’s frequent flier miles.

Katie Couric will interview Clinton tonight – her last night as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

The RSA launched a radio ad campaign urging the Legislature not to strengthen the rent laws.

Medicare on fire in NY-26.

The state Conservative Party is calling on county leaders to stop collecting their share of the sales tax on gas.

Jane Seymour wasn’t surprised to learn of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s out-of-wedlock child and thinks there might be more where that came from.

The NFIB won’t support a “watered down” property tax cap.

Long Island GOP senators ganged up on the Assembly.

More pressure for Cuomo to get out of “S-Comm”.

The IG busted a Buffalo man for collecting unemployment benefits while in prison.

Two Democratic “super PACs” are seeking clarification from the FEC.

Might Hofstra get another presidential debate?

Obama saw the first Senate defeat of a judicial nominee today.

A Bronx charter school appears to be breaking the state law barring admission tests for students.

Most political operatives never believed a Trump 2012 run was for real.

Cuomo Touts Jobs Numbers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon is touting a state Department of Labor report that found more than 43,000 private-sector jobs were created last month — a sign that he said the state was getting back on track.

He also noted in the statement that the report found good news for the economically troubled upstate region as well. Upstate regions — excluding the metro New York City counties on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley — added 12,000 jobs, a .4 percent increase.

“These statistics are a sign that our state is getting back on the right track and we are creating jobs and getting New Yorkers back to work.

“While these numbers are positive news for our state, we have a long way to go. We must continue to work together through private and public partnerships and responsible economic policy to create more jobs and make this the Empire State once again.”

Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy have said the regional economic-development councils will be up and running soon. The councils will compete for state grants by developing job-creating ideas.

Report: AG Subpoenas Trump School

More bad news for Donald Trump on the heels of his announcement last week that he won’t be running for president in 2012.

The NYT’s Michael Barbaro follows his in-depth piece on Trump’s empire (the facts of which he declined to debate with The Donald on CNBC) with a report that AG Eric Schneiderman is investigating whether a for-profit school founded by Trump has engaged in illegal business practices.

While Trump blasted Barbaro and insisted his story was full of factual errors, Schneiderman apparently considers the complaints he has received about the school to be “credible” and “serious” enough to issue a subpoena.

A managing director at the Trump Organization confirmed the AG’s subpoena and told the Times: “We look forward to resolving this matter and intend to fully cooperate with their inquiry.”

A source familiar with the situation independently confirmed for Capital Tonight that the AG has indeed launched this probe.

Apparently, this is part of a broader investigation into the for-profit education industry by the AG’s office, which is reportedly opening investigations into at least five education companies that operate or have students in the state.

“Mr. Schneiderman is looking into whether the schools and their recruiters misrepresent their success in finding students jobs, the quality of instruction, the cost of attending, and the program’s accreditation, among other things,” Barbaro writes. “Such activities could constitute deceptive trade practices or fraud.

“The four other companies are Career Education Corporation, which runs the Sanford Brown, Braircliff and American InterContintental universities; Corinthian Colleges, the parent company of Everest Institute, WyoTech and Heald Colleges; Lincoln Educational Services, the owner of Lincoln Technical and Lincoln Colleges Online; and Bridgepoint Education, the operator of Ashford University.”

Hoyt Enlists Constitutents To Lobby Senate On Gay Marriage

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat, has released a video expressing his support of legalizing gay marriage in New York and urging his constitutents to call their senator in hopes of pressuring into the “yes” column.

Hoyt doesn’t mention any specific senator by name, but his district just so happens to be located in the Democrat-dominated district represented by Democrat-turned-Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti, who said this week he would vote “no” if the gay marriage bill were brought to the floor today.

Grisanti had previously been unwilling to discuss how he might vote, which earned him the attention of Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters when she blew through Buffalo back in March.

Last fall, Grisanti ousted a “yes” voter, Democrat Antoine Thompson, running on the GOP line after an unsuccessful primary attempt back in 2008. (WNY insiders told me they never really considered Grisanti’s vote gettable on marriage after he mailed church-going voters about Thompson’s “yes” vote during the very contentious – not to mention close – election).

On issues other than gay marriage, Hoyt tends to be one of those conservative-leaning upstate Democrats – particularly when it comes to education policy. He’s a big charter schools supporter, which has earned him the support of Mayor Bloomberg.

Hoyt is also a longtime Cuomo supporter. He was one of the few elected officials to endorse Cuomo during his quixotic gubernatorial primary challenge to then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall back in 2002. Interesting to note, though, that while Hoyt has recorded a video expressing his support for gay marriage, Cuomo has not (so far, anyway).

The governor has released videos on two of his three “People First” tour policy priorities – the tax cap and ethics reform – and also on the rent laws, which didn’t make the Top 3 tour list.

Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell has reintroduced his gay marriage bill in the absence of a program bill from Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told me yesterday he has no immediate plans to bring the bill to the floor, but didn’t rule it out, either.

All Quiet On WIGS Lobbying (For Now) — Updated

Wegman’s, the Rochester-based supermarket chain, was the only entity to so far register with the Commission on Public Integrity this year in support of S897, the bill that would allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.

And the folks at Wegmans, whose owners poured thousands of dollars in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign coffers, haven’t spent that much money this year lobbying the state. Danny Wegman, the company’s CEO, was even named to one of Cuomo’s transition committees — giving rise to speculation that the issue could be pushed this year.

The company’s March-April statement posted on the CPI website shows $20,000 in compensation fees to Abraham Crown & Associates. The same disbursement was made for January and February, the company’s filing shows. They were the only shop to list the WIGS measure as their specific lobbying focus.

Other groups and lobbyists may post later this month.

But as Erin Billups reported Wednesday, the debate over WIGS will heat up. Gov. David Paterson supported the measure last year as a means of increasing revenue for the cash-strapped state. However, the pro-WIGS people will still have to convince lawmakers in both parties in the Assembly and Senate who fear it could hurt small businesses.

Update: Michael Rabinowitz of the New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets added that the proposal has broad support in polls and reminded me of the industry-backed survey that found more than 6,000 jobs being created by the measure.

“Wine in grocery stores is a common-sense solution for New York,” he said. “There’s a reason why polls consistently show a strong majority of New Yorkers support the idea, which would create 6,000 net new jobs across the state. We are hopeful more and more legislators will join their constituents in supporting it.”

Flanagan’s Tax Cap Flip-Flop

Yet another sign that tax cap talks are indeed moving forward at the Capitol – at least conceptually.

The Watertown Times’ Bryan Amaral noted a distinct change in Sen. John Flanagan’s take on the cap that occurred sometime between last night, when the Long Island Republican addressed a group of upstate school administrators, and late March.

Back in the pre-budget days, Flanagan, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told Newsday a cap was unlikely to be passed this year due to the lack of accompanying mandate relief – something education officials, local government leaders and the business community have all echoed to varying degrees in recent weeks.

But last night, Flanagan said: “I do believe we will get the tax cap.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said earlier this week – and again yesterday, after meeting with the governor – that he is now open to changes to the 2 percent cap proposal, although he didn’t specifically rule anything out or in.

Flanagan notably didn’t rule out exempting pension costs, which is something the Assembly Democrats were thought to be planning to put into their tax cap bill. However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told me during a CapTon interview last night that a pension exemption is “not necessarily” something he’ll be seeking.