Another Paterson Commissioner Resigns

Diana Jones Ritter, commissioner of the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, has resigned her post, multiple sources confirm.

Ritter is departing to take a job as the managing director of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. She was appointed to her state post by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in January 2007 at the same time Health Commissioner Richard Daines was tapped for the job he still holds.

Prior to her elevation to the commissioner’s job, Ritter served three years as an associate commissioner at OMRDD, two years as executive deputy director in DOH’s Office of Public Health and 10 years in senior leadership positions in the state comptroller’s office.

Considering that Paterson only has just over seven months remaining in his tenure as governor, it’s a safe bet that we’re going to see an increase in resignations after the budget is finally settled as people look to jump ship prior to the start of the new administration.

Gov: Without FMAP, Layoffs And Cuts

Gov. David Paterson, who is in Washington, DC to lobby along with fellow governors in hopes of getting Congress to approve FMAP funding, said he’s “getting the signals” that perhaps some of the Medicaid cash will be approved after all, but warned: “It won’t be the full $1 billion.”

Asked what steps the state might have to take if the FMAP cash on which it (and NYC) have been counting in their respective budgets does not materialize, Paterson replied:

“Well, I can’t offer specifics because we haven’t decided where we would cut. We’re not going to borrow money to get out of this crisis.”

“We would probably have to lay off workers….In fact, we would have to lay off workers sooner than our plan of January 1, and we would probably have to have something like a one percent cut to all services across the board, which I don’t know, particularly in the area of health care, where we’ve cut over $5 billion now, and education, where we’ve cut over $2 billion, that they could sustain additional cuts to that extent.”

Here’s a link to the governors’ press conference in Washington. Paterson’s remarks start at 29:50.

Senate Approves Its Own Pay Bill

While they can’t scrape together sufficient votes to pass the revenue portion of the budget, the Senate Democrats had no trouble passing the bill that authorizes legislators and members of the judiciary to be paid.

The bill, which is the last remaining piece of the budget aside from the revenue bill, which won’t be live until just after midnight, passed along party lines: 32-29.

The lawmakers won’t get paid until the budget is officially done, and haven’t been receiving their paychecks (although they have been collecting per diems) since they blew the April 1 deadline.

The Assembly hasn’t passed any budget bills today, and will take them all up tomorrow, according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s press office.

The Senate Democrats’ press office stressed that the judiciary bill needed to be passed before midnight because the last extender didn’t include funding to keep that branch of government running.

The Legislature appropriated $219.94 million in FY 2010-11 for the Legislative Budget. This is a decrease of $1.92 million from FY 2009-2010.

Also approved was $2.656 billion to pay judges. This is a decrease of $53 million – 1.96 percent – from the proposed FY 2010-11 budget. This is an increase of $130.54 million – 5.17 percent over – FY 2009-10 levels.
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Flanagan On The Deadly Pension Sweetener

Here’s Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, railing against a pension sweetener bill that Democratic Sen. Diane Savino was forced to pull off the floor this afternoon when it became clear it did not have sufficient votes to pass.

(Apparently, Flanagan’s Long Island colleague, Sen. Brian Foley, a freshman Democrat, flipped to the GOP side and voted “no”).

“I think this is exactly the kind of bill that we will get killed for if we pass this bill and it gets chaptered into law. I can’t fathom going back to the people I represent and saying: Now somebody can buy five years worth of credit that they don’t have to work a single day to do that,” Flanagan said.

“I can just see the editorials now, it’s like air time and they’re going to be calling us airheads for doing something like this.”

“…This sends exactly the wrong message at the wrong time,” the senator continued. “I don’t see how anybody can look at this and in good conscience support it, particularly when so many of our constituents are hurting in so many different ways.”

Savino called Flanagan’s argument “nonsense,” and said she’s tired of people trying to “politicize the pension system.”

Demos: Starve Yourself For My Campaign

Here’s one of the stranger fundraising techniques I’ve seen in my 15+ years of covering politics.

George Demos, one of three GOP candidates vying to take on Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in Long Island’s NY-1 this November, is asking supporters to skip lunch and donate the money they would have spent on the meal to his campaign.

Demos has pegged the cost of lunch at $7, which seems a little arbitrary to me.

The candidate sent a message to supporters on Facebook, urging them to “Skip Lunch and Save Our Country.”

“George Demos for Congress is fighting to protect our freedoms that we are blessed to enjoy as Americans. By skipping lunch and donating only $7, you can help change the direction of our great nation.”

“If you want to elect a Congressman who will vote to stop the wasteful spending, reckless bailouts, and the outrageous takeover of our healthcare, please go to www.GeorgeDemos.com and make a donation of $7 or more. With this donation, your voice will be heard in Washington and you will propel a candidate fighting for integrity, reform and accountability!”

“Midnight marks the end of this critical filing period, and we need your support now more than ever.”

“PLEASE DONATE TODAY! Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to take a stand with you today! Every donation makes a difference, so skip lunch today and help save your country!”

Best Regards,

The George Demos for Congress Team”

Selective Memory Alert

A reader highlighted this great catch by Maggie Haberman in which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tried during an interview with a Long Island newspaper to dispel “rumors” that she kept guns under her bed.

As Maggie notes, Gillibrand herself was the source of the supposed “rumors”, which weren’t rumors at all, but rather a statement she made to Newsday while attempting to insist the pro-gun stance she adopted while representing NY-20 as a Blue Dog Democrat was in the interest of protecting hunters’ rights.

Gillibrand, who was under fire at the time from the left, which found her record too conservative to represent the entire state as the successor to Hillary Clinton in the US Senate, revealed she and her husband, Jonathan, kept two rifles under their bed to protect their upstate home.

From the report:

“‘If I want to protect my family, if I want to have a weapon in the home, that should be my right.’

The mother of two young children has taken gun safety procedures to ensure family safety, an aide later said, but declined to say what steps.”

Gillibrand’s guns are rifles, her chief of staff Jess Fassler said in an e-mail, and she won one of them in a raffle at a county fair while campaigning. He said New York does not require anyone to register rifles.”

The very next day, Newsday quoted a Gilliband spokesman saying the senator had removed the rifles from under her bed for “safety purposes.”

UPDATE: Gillibrand spokesman Matt Canter says: “The Senator did not refer to ‘rumors.’ She was discussing her anti-trafficking legislation and the report incorrectly paraphrased the conversation.”

Skelos: Gov ‘Did The Right Thing’

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos gave a shout-out to Gov. David Paterson today, saying he thought the governor “had no alternative” but to veto the spending added to the budget in the two-way deal struck by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson.

“I think the governor had no alternative,” Skelos told CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross. “If spending is out of whack, if he can’t balance the budget, then he did the right thing as governor.”

Skelos reiterated that there are “not enough cuts in this budget,” adding:

“Spending is going up, taxes are going up. Our conference from the very beginning of the budget process indicated we would not support anything that increases taxes, increases spending and increases fees.”

In other words: The GOP will vote “no” in a bloc on the revenue bill – assuming it ever comes to the floor – making Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson’s job that much harder.

All-Nighter Or Early Departure? (Updated)

Will they stay or will they go?

No seems to have a clue.

While the Assembly appears perfectly content to return to the Capitol tomorrow at a reasonable time to pass the revenue bill that becomes live at 12:01 a.m. tonight (or, technically speaking, this morning), the Senate – as usual – is completely up in the air as to what it will do.

Reporters, who are desperately trying to figure out whether they will have to pull an all-nighter, are getting mixed messages from the Senate. So far, I’ve heard yes, no and “prepare to stay, but I’m not sure it will happen” – all in the span of an hour.

At the moment, the Democrats don’t have enough votes to pass the bill. According to one highly-placed majority conference source, the SUNY empowerment plan is the biggest sticking point.

Recall that Sens. Bill Stachowski and Antoine Thompson got assurances earlier this week from Conference Leader John Sampson that he would push the issue with a very-anti Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in exchange for their “yes” votes on the two-way budget bills.

So now the Democratic leadership is scrambling to herd cats again.

UPDATE: Sen. Diane Savino just did an impromptu gaggle in the hallway outside the LCA and was asked: “Do you have 32?” Her reply: “On the revenue bill? Yes.” She insisted Stachowski isn’t a hold-out and will be voting along “yes” with his fellow Democrats.

A Senate source told NY1′s Erin Billups the majority is discussing finishing the active list of non-budget items and then departing Albany for the holiday weekend – without taking a vote on the revenue bill.

That would mean the lawmakers would spend yet another weekend without getting paid, because the budget would not be done. It would also require them to come back to the Capitol next week.

There’s also still the possibility Sampson will be able to get all his members back into the fold, let everyone take a dinner break and then call them back here at 11 p.m. for a late-night session.

Or, he could get them in line and tell them to come back tomorrow along with the Assembly.

Like I said, it’s all very up in the air at the moment.

Long On The Warpath (Updated)

To call state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long upset over the news that the state GOP is moving forward with its plan to establish a third party line for its designated statewide candidates is a vast understatement.

I am totally opposed to it,” Long fumed when I reached him on his cell phone just now.

“I have spoken to all statewide candidates…Well, I don’t know of anyone who said they want to have it, OK? And my understanding from all the statewide candidates is no one seems to be knocking the door down to get the third line, and I don’t understand what constituency they’re going after.”

“I think it’s a waste of time, money and effort, and I don’t understand why Republican leaders would try to diminish their own line.”

Long, who has been among GOP gubernatorial designee Rick Lazio’s staunchest allies and pushed hard for him to get the Conservative line (endangering his own standing with some party leaders in the process), said he has spoken to the former Long Island congressman and urged him not to run on the new, yet-unnamed line.

“I let him know my feelings,” the chairman told me. “I see no advantage for him.”

When I asked Lazio’s spokesman Barney Keller if his candidate would be running on Cox’s line, I received a “no comment” response.
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Cuomo On His Public/Private Budget Conversations

AG Andrew Cuomo told reporters today that he is talking “on an ongoing basis” to “many of the parties” involved in the budget battle, giving “advice” and answering legal questions and generally “talking to everyone at every level.”

Cuomo insisted that when he talks to people in the Legislature and the governor’s office he’s saying exactly the same things as he has been saying in public at his three consecutive press conferences this week.

But the AG bristled a little bit when asked if that means he is telling lawmakers that they “accomplished nothing” by adding spending to their two-house budget deal, only to see it vetoed by Gov. David Paterson – a move Cuomo has applauded.

(Actually, the question was whether the AG has told the Assembly speaker that the Legislature accomplished nothing “all year,” which is stretching his words considerably).

“Words are important here,” Cuomo admonished. “I said the Legislature said that they made changes to the governor’s budget the past few days when they passed their budget.”

“Their point was that they modified the governor’s budget – they put in more taxes, they restored education aid…The governor now says: I’m going to veto all the modifications they made: 6900 vetoes. I’m going to veto all the modifications and i’m going to go back to my original budget.”

“If that’s what the governor does, then what the Legislature thought they were accomplishing they didn’t accomplish. Right? By definition. They modified. He vetoes the modification. So what do we do now? We go back to the table.”