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.

More >

Levy Pans Mandate Relief Report

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, the Democrat-turned-Republican who tried (unsuccessfully) to challenge then-AG Andrew Cuomo in the 2010 gubernatorial race, just issued a rather scathing statement in response to the Mandate Relief Redesign Report, calling it “78 pages of nothing.”

(Hmmm. Can anyone say 2014?)

Levy said the MRRT was a “missed opportunity” that failed to address many of the unfunded mandates that drive up property taxes at the local level – a major issue for the suburban Long Island lawmaker.

“Mandate relief has been a buzzword for close to 20 years, yet the report recommends further study in many areas, or offers platitudes such as ‘no more unfunded mandates’ and ‘more cost studies’,” said Levy.

“The ideas are out there, but what is lacking is the intestinal fortitude to take on The Unsustainable Quo.”

The county executive called on Cuomo to reject the report, but it’s a little late for that, since the governor had already accepted it (via press release).

Among the MRRT “punts” singled out by Levy:

- Failure to address the Triborough Amendment and the Taylor Law. “Without addressing these laws, labor negotiations with any public bargaining unit in the state will continue to be heavily stacked against the taxpayers,” the county executive said.

- The lack of a mandatory arbitration salary award cap. Levy would like to see a 2 percent cap, which is moedeled on an initiative by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

- A new pension tier based on a defined contribution similar to a 401K plan. (The MRRT plan does call for creation of a sixth tier).


No LIFO for you, upstate.

The NYC-only bill passed the Senate 33-27, with two Democrats – Jeff Klein and Dave Valesky – joining 31 Republicans in voting “yes.” (No link).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo upped the LIFO ante by introducing a program bill to create an “objective teacher evaluation system.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver supports creation of “an objective standard” for evaluating teachers.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez as commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Lincoln Restler did not steal NYC Councilman Steve Levin’s Honda.

State revenue estimates are increasingly wrong.

NYCLU is poised to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Sen. Lee Zeldin explains why he opposes the “oblivion pledge.”

Gotham Government Relations has a radio show.

Charles Barron vs. his former NYC Council colleague, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Meet Eliot Spitzer’s latest victims co-hosts.

Bristol Palin has a book deal.

A former Goldman director was charged with insider trading.

Is Rep. Peter King following in Sen. Joe McCarthy’s footsteps?

So much for that federal government shutdown.

Former Sen. Chirs Dodd is chairman of the Motion Picture Association.

Bravo’s Andy Cohen hated the P.S. 22 chorus performance at the Oscars.

Mandate Relief Report Released, Accepted (Updated)

There: Prohibit new unfunded mandates, “avoid the Wicks requirement by removing barriers to project labor agreements; improve the Wicks waiver,” require independent cost analysis of mandates, create a new pension tier, more flexibility to local governments to administer existing mandates.

Not there: The Triborough Amendment or the Taylor Law.

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing really earth-shattering in here, and it’s not being unveiled with anything close to the bells and whistles of last week’s Medicaid Redesign Team report, which merited a post-vote Red Room press conference by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The cover letter from the head of the Mandate Relief Redesign Team, Larry Schwartz, says well over 2,000 ideas, proposals and suggestions were submitted by members as well as “hundreds” of ideas from state agencies and the public.

Members of the MRRT told reporters today that they were totally in the dark on what this report would contain. This too is very unlike the Medicaid Redesign Team’s approach, which included public hearings all over the state.

On Triborough on some of the other, more challenging mandate issues, Schwartz said “further review, discussion and feedback are necessary.”

UPDATE: The governor has accepted – via press release – the “preliminary” MRRT report.

“Decade after decade, mandates have been piled on local governments and school districts, straining budgets and increasing pressure on taxpayers,” Cuomo said.

“In these first two months of work, the Mandate Relief Redesign Team has discussed a framework to change this system. This is a good first step in helping cities, towns and villages across New York rein in costs and help taxpayers, and I look forward to additional findings throughout the year.”

Cuomo’s press release says the MRRT met three times – on January 7, 19 and February 14. Between these meetings, Schwartz and the MRRT staff “met with every group represented on the team, as well as with legislative conferences” a total of 50 times over the past two months.


Koch Takes Wait-And-See Approach With Skelos

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is being circumspect about whether he will reclassify Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his conference as “enemies” of reform now that the Republicans are being all on-again, off-again about redistricting reform.

Koch promised to record robocalls against state lawmakers who seem to be renegging on their NY Uprising pledge.

At first, it seemed the Republicans were prime candidates for “liar, liar” Koch robos.

The former mayor met with the majority leader, who made it quite clear he not only had no plans to meet the March 1 deadline (which Koch admits is arbitrary and not included in the NY Uprising pledge) on an independent redistricting commission, but perhaps would never go that route – at least not as far as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s program bill is concerned.

But a few hours later – after the Senate Democrats and Koch delivered some verbal body blows to the Senate GOP – Skelos released a statement insisting he does indeed intend to keep his pledge. He did not, however, explain how he will be accomplishing that.

Koch stopped by the CapTon studio on his way out of town after meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who used to be lukewarm on redistricting reform and now – at least according to the former mayor – is more on board than Skelos. But Koch is willing to wait – at least a little while.

“I don’t want to push Skelos away if he’s coming my way,” Koch told me. When I asked how long he might remain in such a magnanimous mood, he responded:

“We have to decide that. I’m not the only one who decides campaign strategy. We have about half a dozen people. Some of them are smarter than I am, and I’m smarter than half of them.”