Senate, Assembly, Cuomo Reach Cash Consensus

The Senate Finance Committee, Assembly Ways and Means Committee and state Budget Division have reached on agreement on just how much cash they’ve got to spend in 2011-2012, settling on a number that’s $155 million higher than the governor’s initial estimate.

The three parties have collectively decided to assume the economy will continue to recover, although they’re not all on the same page about how long that will take. Here’s the formal statement:

All parties agree that the economic outlook reached in economic consensus should result in an increase of receipts through the end of 2011-12 of $155 million when compared to the amount projected in the Executive Budget.

While the report acknowledges that differences exist between the parties on the speed and strength of the State economic recovery, all parties agreed that New York’s recovery will continue.

Earlier this week, the Senate estimated the state would end up with $438 million more than Cuomo’s prediction in the coming fiscal year. The Assembly, meanwhile, put the number at $49 million less that what the governor expected.

That’s actually a departure from past years. The Assembly traditionally has come out high in its projection, while the governor usually under-estimates revenue and the Senate ends up somewhere in the middle.


Gay Marriage Push Gets Simmons, Goes Mobile

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is the latest prominent New Yorker to team up with the Human Rights Campaign’s push to legalize same-sex marriage, appearing in a new video that will soon be appearing on Taxi TV in NYC.

The New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign has been going on for months now. But this is the first time its videos, which feature an ecclectic mix of spokespeople from Mayor Bloomberg to Barbara Bush to Kenneth Cole (Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s brother-in-law) to Whoopi Goldberg, have appeared anywhere other than on-line.

The initial ad buy will run for two weeks from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. starting tomorrow and reach an estimated 1.5 million New Yorkers. Additional advertising is anticipated.

“As public opinion continues to shift in favor of marriage equality across the country and particularly in New York, we are honored to have Russell Simmons lend his voice to the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

“The people, governor, and an increasing number of lawmakers in New York support marriage equality. We are thrilled to expand the reach of our message that families and communities in the Empire state will be stronger when the law recognizes and respects the love and commitment of same-sex couples.”

This isn’t the first time Simmons has injected himself into the gay-marriage debate. He wrote an open letter in support of then-Gov. David Paterson’s (unsuccessful) push to legalize sam-sex marriage back in 2009. Simmons will be honored at the NYC GLAAD Media Awards on March 19.

Cuomo Admin Preps For Layoffs

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his team to start negotiations with the two biggest public employee unions his director of state operations, Howard Glaser, was telling state lawmakers the administration will move ahead with the layoff process if a contracted deal isn’t reached in the next four weeks.

Exactly when the pink slips would start going out is a “consequence of many factors,” said Glaser, who clearly didn’t want to be held to any hard-and-fast schedule.

The contracts with PEF and CSEA expire at the end of the month. Cuomo has assumed $450 million worth of workforce savings in his 2011-2012 executive budget and has instituted a wage freeze (something he pledged to do during the campaign in his “New NY Agenda”).

The governor has called on the unions to be “part of the solution.” Former Gov. David Paterson tried that, too, seeking concessions like wage freezes and furloughs, only to be met with lawsuits.

So far, it doesn’t seem like the unions are interested in concessions.

CSEA (joined by NYSUT) released a statement in the wake of the Mandate Relief Redesign Team’s report yesterday that panned its call for creation of a sixth pension tier, calling that “gratuitous.”

Jimmy Vielkind reports Glaser emphasized personal talks between Cuomo and the leaders of PEF and CSEA are already underway. Formal bargaining will begin with PEF next week, and with CSEA on March 21.

Testimony From Howard Glaser

Gillibrand Loses Spokesman

Matt Canter, who has served as communications director to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand since she inherited Hillary Clinton’s seat back in early 2009, is moving on to take a job at the DSCC. (Fixed).

Canter will have the same title in his new post. He starts work on March 14 and is replacing Eric Schultz, who served through the 2010 cycle.

“Sen. Gillibrand has been so effective at delivering for this state and leading the fight in Washington on so many important issues,” Canter told me. “It has been an honor and privilege to work for her and for New York.”

No word yet on Canter’s replacement in Gillibrand’s office, but she’s going to need someone quickly, considering she has to run again in 2012 for a full six-year term.

Prior to joining up with Team Gillibrand, Canter was communications director for the 2008 Senate campaign of Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and for the Georgia Senate campaign of Jim Martin. Before that, he was communications director to Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI).

NOTE: Canter is going to the DSCC, which is the US Senate’s campaign committee, not the DCCC, which is the House committee. Sorry for the confusion. I got a little ahead of myself there.

The DSCC used to be headed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, but he declined to return to that post, preferring to ascend up the leadership ladder in the Senate instead. Washington Sen. Patty Murray is the current DSCC chair.

Dem Letter Fights Continue

One of the 42 Democrats who sent a letter to Governor Cuomo criticizing him for abandoning the left is backing away from the original letter.

Albany Common Council member Anton Konev just released a new letter to Cuomo, state party chair Jay Jacobs, and party executive director Charlie King saying he signed the letter because he supports a tax on millionaires, and not because he disapproves of Governor Cuomo, or his other policies.

The original letter signed by the 42 dissident Democrats was met with a response from state party executive director Charlie King. He essentially said to the group, who are you?

Then yesterday, many supporters of Cuomo also joined together to release a letter of support for the current Governor, and for the state party for their response.

Here is Konev’s letter:

Letter To Cuomo

Budget Hearing Humor

Today’s joint budget hearing is on Workforce Issues. One of those testifying is PEF President Ken Brynien who led off his testimony with a joke highlighting the union’s take on the ongoing fight over layoffs and taxes on millionaires.

“Three men walk into a bar. One billionaire, one state worker, and a tea party member,” Brynien said.

“After ordering drinks, the waitress brings out 12 cookies. The billionaire grabs 11 of them and the state worker starts to complain. The billionaire leans over to the Tea Party member and says ‘Be careful or the state worker is going to take your part of your cookie.’”

Cuomo Names Contract Negotiators

The Cuomo administration has just announced the two people who will be negotiating new contracts with unions in coming weeks – before they expire on March 31st. They are Joseph Bress and Todd Snyder.

Here is some background on them:

Mr. Bress was the Vice President of Labor Relations at the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) from 1997-2010. Prior to working at Amtrak, he was appointed head of the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, under Governor Mario M. Cuomo. The office was responsible for labor relations and human resources policies for over 200,000 New York State employees. He also served as Chair and Executive Director of the New York State Ethics Commission. Mr. Bress holds a B.A. from Harpur College, Binghamton University and a J.D. from Buffalo Law School, SUNY Buffalo.

Mr. Snyder is a Senior Managing Director of Rothschild Inc. and Co-Head of Rothschild’s Restructuring and Reorganization group, a leading international investment banking and financial advisory firm. He has been an advisor to Rothschild Inc.’s companies in restructurings and reorganizations for twenty-three years. He has been instrumental in a diverse selection of complex transactions including reorganizations, restructurings, financings, workouts, exchange offers, mergers, divestitures and management led buyouts. He advised the Bush and Obama administrations on the restructuring of the auto industry. Prior to joining Rothschild Inc., Mr. Snyder held a series of positions in restructuring and reorganization. Prior to his move to investment banking, Mr. Snyder practiced law in the Business Reorganization department of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Mr. Snyder graduated with honors from Wesleyan University and received a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In addition, Mr. Snyder is an adjunct professor at New York University Law School and New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Lippman Releases Budget Cut Plan

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman just released a statement detailing budget cuts the courts will make in the upcoming year.

During his budget address, Governor Andrew Cuomo specifically called out the judiciary for failing to submit proposals for a 10 percent cut. Chief Judge Lippman appeared on CapTon the following week and defended the courts, arguing that they are a separate branch of government, and therefore didn’t need to submit to Cuomo’s request of 10 percent budget cuts.

Lippman says the Unified Court System has revisited its budget, and cut an additional $100 million. Their original budget request was for $2.7 billion in funding.

“We will achieve this target through continued reductions in the court system’s workforce, including a hard feeze on hiring, layoffs of administrative and other non-operational personnel if necessary, and programmatic efficiencies — re-examining all non-personal service expenditures, including programs such as Judicial Hearing Officers, Town and Village Court assistance, the Judicial Institute, legal reference materials, and the like,” Lippman said.

Lippman Statement

Senate To Take Up UB2020 (Updated)

On the legislative calendar for today in the state senate is the UB2020 bill, sponsored by Buffalo senator Mark Grisanti.

Unlike last year’s SUNY Empowerment bill, this bill only applies to the campus of the University of Buffalo. The bill would give the university the ability to set tuition and also let the school spend more money without legislative approval.

Western New York lawmakers, Democrat and Republican, have touted the plan as vital for the region’s economic growth. Back in January, they held a press conference to call for the passage of the bill. And several senators told us on CapTon that they would even be willing to hold up the budget in order to make sure this passes.

The Assembly Democratic conference has historically opposed the plan. Many members worry that it will make tuition unaffordable for lower income students.

Update: Senate Republicans tell me that Grisanti’s bill caps tuition for families making $60,000 or below at 2010-2011 levels, addressing one of the concerns that has been raised by some Democrats.

Here And Now

The millionaire’s tax is not dead after all.

After meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: “I indicated to him that the overwhelming sentiment of my house is to renew (the millionaire’s tax) and to do it.”

This is an about-face for Silver, who previously had admitted the millionaire’s tax had little chance of moving in the Senate or being approved by Cuomo – a position of which the NY Observer approved.

The Bloomberg and Cuomo administrations are at war over last in, first out.

Just minutes after Mayor Bloomberg’s preferred LIFO bill squeaked through the Senate in a 33-27 vote, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would introduce and aggressively champion his own teacher evaluation bill.

Bloomberg aides dismissed Cuomo’s plan as a “sham” and a sell-out to the UFT, but UFT President Michael Mulgrew said it appears “far superior” to the measure the mayor has been pushing.

“We can look at long-term ways to use merit to evaluate teachers – nothing wrong with that. But we have a problem now, and we need the governor to help us now,” the mayor said.

The Post pressures Silver in its ongoing LIFO repeal campaign.

The speaker said the whole LIFO argument is moot since the Board of Regents is already working on an evaluation system.

This could be a problem.

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