Pro-Gun Rally To Feature Trump, Paladino, Astorino

Well, next Tuesday should be an interesting day at the state Capitol.

A rally for gun rights featuring mogul and reality-show host Donald Trump, Buffalo businessman and 2010 GOP nominee for governor Carl Paladino and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will be held at the West Capitol Park on April 1 starting at 11:30.m

The moment could be one of unification for the state party, as well as conservative advocates, who have questioned whether Astorino can mount a credible challenge to Cuomo.

Trump, of course, had flirted with the possibility of running for governor this year before ultimately declining.

Trump has said Astorino, who declared his intent to run for governor last month, won’t win against the better funded and better known Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Paladino, meanwhile, has seemingly put aside a plan to run on a separate ballot line for governor this year and is instead launching a “Draft Trump” movement.

Despite the various internecine squabbles over who will be at the top of Republican ticket this year, conservative activists in New York remain united in their opposition to the SAFE Act, a gun control measure championed by Cuomo last year.

A Siena College poll this week found 63 percent of New York voters support the measure, while 32 percent oppose it.

Top Donors Urge Cuomo, Lawmakers To Pass Public Financing

Advocates for the public financing of political campaigns on Tuesday released letters sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the top legislative leaders in the Assembly and senate urging them to include a public financing program in the state budget.

The letter, sent also to Sens. Dean Skelos, Jeff Klein and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, includes the signatures of Jonathan Soros, who has contributed to a well-funded public financing campaign, as well as the founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark.

A third of the signers are New York residents.

The letter was circulated by the Public Campaign Action Fund, which has also aired TV ads urging Cuomo to focus on campaign finance issue.

The campaign earlier sent mailers to the districts of Republican Sens. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo and Jack Martins of Nassau County (Grisanti responded by publicly re-stating his opposition to the program).

“In federal and many state and local elections, and even elections for state courts, extraordinarily wealthy individuals and powerful corporations exercise vastly outsized influence,” the donors write in the letter. “We urge you to fix today’s broken campaign finance laws. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”

Cuomo had proposed a public financing system with a donor-matching program based on New York City’s model in his 2014-15 state budget proposal.

But Republicans in the state Senate continue to be opposed to a program that uses either taxpayer dollars or even settlement money from lawsuits.

Skelos, the Republican leader in the Senate, left this morning’s closed-door budget meeting saying that all issues remain on the table during the talks, even public financing.

Lawmakers on Monday said they expected Republicans to remain opposed to public financing, but did not rule out a different ethics reform package that includes tightening anti-bribery and corruption laws.

Cuomo Donor Letter by Nick Reisman

‘Everything’s Being Discussed’

The top legislative leaders emerged from closed-door budget negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo reporting progress and gave a clear public signal that whatever disagreements between Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos arose had been patched up.

“Look how much I love Shelly,” Skelos said smiling while putting his arm around the longtime speaker.

The moment was in contrast to last week’s blow up when Skelos stormed out of the meeting claiming that “another branch of government” was pushing New York City issues in the budget talks (There is no doubt he was referring to Silver, who has confounded Republicans during budget negotiations for 20 years now).

Cuomo had met separately with the Senate leaders and Silver on Monday.

On Tuesday morning, however, Silver and Skelos, along with Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, sought to put on a unified face.

“I think we’ve had tremendous progress,” Silver said. “We’re making down the issues where staff can carry out our wishes collectively.”

An agreement on the 2014-15 budget though is not expected today.

Cuomo will be heading to Dewitt this afternoon to stump for his property-tax freeze proposal.

He is expected to meet again this afternoon with lawmakers.

“I don’t think we’re going to have an agreement today, but we’re working toward one,” Silver said.

A variety of contentious issues remain to be hashed out.

Lawmakers — including Skelos — did not rule out either including the Dream Act or the public financing of political campaigns in the budget talks.

“Everything’s being discussed,” Skelos said.

The legalization of medical marijuana, however, is not expected to be in the final spending plan (Sen. Diane Savino, the measure’s lead sponsor in the Senate, believes it will be taken up post budget).

At the same time, lawmakers must strike deals on a funding level for universal pre-Kindergarten as well as new protections for charter schools in New York City.

“We’re not apart, per se, everything’s got to fit in with everything else,” Silver said. “That’s the real key.”

The budget is due by Monday for it to be considered “on time” for the start of the fiscal year.

Realistically, an agreement would have to be in place by Thursday or Friday this week in order for Cuomo to avoid issuing a message of necessity to speed up the aging process for bills.

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The Senate Reso: A Liability, But For Which Party?

From the morning memo, the second item:

As we reported on the blog Monday evening, the Senate resolution includes a provision that would exempt the collection of sales taxes on the sale of a private aircraft while also “adjusting” the tax for the purchase of a recreational boat.

Paring back the sales tax on items like these is basically catnip to progressive lobbyists and labor-supported organizations that have stepped up their lobbying efforts on the state budget.

And a source this morning pointed out the resolution, approved by the Senate following some strained back-and-forth between the GOP and IDC over pre-K spending levels, strips away Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to require upstate gasoline stations to have back-up generators.

That provision was one Cuomo sought following a brief, but somewhat nerve-racking fuel shortage following Superstorm Sandy.

Still, a Senate GOP spokesman pointed out there is plenty in the budget resolution that could hurt mainline Senate Democrats for not voting in favor of the measure.

The spokesman, Scott Reif, noted that resolution provided hundreds of millions of dollars in additional school aid, more than what Cuomo proposed in pre-K spending and an expansion of the EPIC prescription drug program for seniors. In addition, the resolution included limits on the use of EBT cards preventing the purchase of liquor and lottery tickets while also specifically forbade the prison inmates from receiving a free college education.

The resolution also pushed an alternative property tax freeze proposal.

Keep in mind, of course, the budget resolution is not binding and is largely symbolic step in the budget-making process.

Nevertheless, the Republicans could cut a campaign ad based on these no votes, as Democrats defend so-called marginal seats held by Sens. Cecilia Tkacyzk, Ted O’Brien and Terry Gipson.

“Stay tuned,” Reif said.

NYPIRG: Cuomo Biggest Beneficiary of NY’s Mega Donors

A NYPIRG report released today on the top 170 campaign contributors (giving $50,000 or more) of 2013 found Gov. Andrew Cuomo was the biggest beneficiary of the state’s current lax contribution laws, receiving – either directly or indirectly – some 40 percent of the $28 million dumped into campaign coffers by rich donors.

The cash given by this small percentage of rich individual, businesses and labor unions represented more than half – 51.41 percent – of all the money donated by New York’s 19.7 million residents last year.

Most of the mega-donors took advantage of various loopholes in the state’s campaign finance system. For example, James Simons, number one on this list, was legally allowed to give $1 million to the state Democratic Committee’s Housekeeping account, which has no contribution limits. Number two, Leonard Litwin, made donations from 21 different limited liability companies, which are treated like individuals when it comes to contribution limits.

According to NYPIRG, donations to Cuomo’s campaign and to the state Democratic Party, which spent millions running pro-Cuomo TV ads, accounted for 40 percent of the mega-donor total.

NYPIRG and other good government groups are pushing the governor to stick to his guns on campaign finance reform – especially creation of a publicly funded system – during the budget negotiations. Cuomo included public campaign financing in his budget proposal. Cuomo has repeatedly talked about the importance of getting the big money out of politics, but he has so far failed to expend much of his considerable political capital to get that done.

In the meantime, the governor has been raising campaign cash hand over fist, amassing more than $33 million at last count (in mid-January).

The Senate’s one-house budget featured some very vague language on taking a look at a public system, but most members have made it clear they have no intention of voting “yes” on anything that is funded with taxpayer dollars.

NYPIRG's list of top donors, recipients in 2013. by liz_benjamin6490

State of Politics LIVE – 3/25/2014

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Savino Says She Has 41 Votes For Medical Marijuana

From the morning memo:

Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, is confident she has secured 41 votes in favor of a bill that would allow for the use of medical marijuana.

In a Capital Tonight interview on Monday, Savino compared her efforts on the medical marijuana bill to the stalled effort to pass the Dream Act in the Senate, the bill that would provide for tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants.

“I’ve spoken to 41 members,” Savino, D-Staten Island, said. “I’ve addressed their concerns. I’ve managed to secure their yes vote.”

She conceded that only some of those pledges are in writing.

Nevertheless, Savino insisted that her lobbying efforts on the measure, known as the Compassionate Care Act, are paying off.

“The point is, if you’re going to be a legislator, you can’t just introduce that bill and walk away from it,” she said. “You have to work that bill.”

It appears unlikely that a medical marijuana program would be included in the state budget. Savino predicted a vote sometime before the end of the legislative session.

“It will, after the budget is done, we’re going to work that bill through the traditional committee process,” Savino said.

It remains unclear what Gov. Andrew Cuomo would do if the bill comes to his desk.

Cuomo has proposed a more limited medical marijuana program based on an existing state law that would be administered through the state Department of Health.

Cuomo has been non-committal on whether he’d sign the broader Compassionate Care Act, which has been the subject of an intense lobbying effort and has successfully won over Republican lawmakers who would have been traditionally considered no votes.

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Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 8:30 a.m., Sen. Jack Martins has a fundraiser at The Albany Room, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 10:15 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli delivers remarks at the TWU Lobby Day, Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., LG Bob Duffy tours the Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium renovations, 1 Bills Dr., Orchard Park.

At 11 a.m., NYPIRG will release the names of the 170 largest campaign contributors of 2013 and renew their call for campaign finance reform in the budget, third floor of the state Capitol, between the LCA press offices and the Senate chamber, Albany.

At 11:15 a.m., NYPIRG and other advocates rally for TAP reform on the steps of New York City Hall, City Hall Park, New York.

At noon, Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush and John D. Ceretto have separate fundraisers at The Albany Room, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

From noon to 5 p.m., NOW members protest outside a Hobby Lobby in Poughkeepsie to coincide with the US Supreme Court hearing on a contraception access case involving the company, 895 S Rd #37, Poughkeepsie.

At 1:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an announcement in the Blue Room at City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb host a fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club in the library, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 5:30 p.m., Assemblyman Edward Hennessey has a fundraiser at The University Club, 141 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m., former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will host a reception and dinner for Virginia U.S. Senate candidate/former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie at The Essex House, 160 Central Park South, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Assemblyman Peter Abbate hosts a fundraiser at The State Room, 142 State St., Albany.

At 7:15 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the Citizen’s Budget Commission annual awards dinner, The Pierre Hotel, Cotillion Room, 2 East 61st St., Manhattan. US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew is being honored, and John Podesta is accepting the award on his behalf.

Headlines…

Despite optimism expressed by the legislative leaders, there was no budget deal reached yesterday. Deputy Senate GOP Leader Tom Libous said the situation is “fluid,” though there are agreements on “what needs to get done.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver shot down a compromise proposal to put both a tax credit sought by Catholic leaders and the Dream Act into the state budget.

The co-leaders of the Senate – Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein – called Cuomo’s college-for-convicts plan a “non-starter” in the budget talks.

Another disagreement between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and the governor: the Cuomo administration suggested city officials have run out of time to get state money for a new program to combat homelessness.

The wife of one of Mayor de Blasio’s top celebrity supporters — “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon — has landed a $120,000-a-year gig in the de Blasio administration. Nixon was in Albany yesterday to lobby for more public education aid.

Nixon: “This is not the Andrew Cuomo I voted for, and I voted for him. I voted for the Andrew Cuomo who said education inequality is the greatest civil rights issue facing us and how it’s the state’s responsibility to fix it.”

With much of the NYC Council ideologically aligned with the new de Blasio administration, the previously contentious budget hearings have at times turned into something like a love-in.

Under proposed legislation set to be introduced by City Council members today, stores would be required to charge customers a dime for every paper or plastic bag they use to haul goods home.

Seventeen months after Superstorm Sandy ravaged parts of NYC, the rebuilding effort is still underway – even after de Blasio promised to speed up the slow pace of progress.

Charter schools will have “new chances to grow” in the de Blasio administration — including more co-locations with traditional public schools, the mayor promised.

More >

Buying A Plane? Senate Doesn’t Want You To Pay Sales Tax

Buried in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution is a proposal that would exempt the sale of private aircraft from the state’s sales tax.

At the same time, the Senate’s budget resolution backed a plan to “maintain the vitality” of recreational boating in New York by “adjusting” the sales tax on the company or person who is purchasing a boat.

Another sales tax proposal: “eliminate the sales tax on transportation (Limousines & Black Cars).”

The resolution, approved earlier this month after some back-and-forth haggling over pre-Kindergarten spending levels, the public financing of political campaigns and the Dream Act, doesn’t go into detail as to what the sales tax exemptions and adjustments would cost in revenue to the state budget.

But ending or cutting the sales tax on luxury goods like boats and private planes would likely be a non-starter in budget negotiations at the very least.

Still, the proposals come as there is some resentment from progressives and labor-backed organizations that have protested the tax and spending cuts in the state budget.

Budget Talks Remain Fluid, Lawmakers Say

Despite some what was perhaps wishful thinking on Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos’s part for a budget deal tonight, that will likely not happen.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City for the evening (his office did not give a reason why) and no leaders meetings are scheduled.

Cuomo and state lawmakers held two separate meetings on Monday: The governor first huddled with the Senate Republican and Independent Democratic Conference leaders and then with Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Binghamton Republican Sen. Tom Libous, the number two GOP lawmaker in the Senate, called the budget talks “fluid” at the moment, though the larger framework of specific goals have been locked down.

“There are agreements, if you will, on what needs to get done,” Libous said.

One source had said earlier that lawmakers and the governor were discussing funding pre-Kindergarten for New York City at $300 million — a number that could very well change in the coming days.

“That’s the whole thing: Everything is fluid right now,” Libous said. “Everybody knows that certain things have to be done. Those of us upstate knows the gap elimination has to be closed. All those things have to be worked on.”

Libous, the conference’s floor leader, also did not rule out a potential message of necessity from Cuomo.

The governor has sought to limit exercising the power of waiving the three-day aging process for bills, though he has used them for high-profile legislation such as a gun control package and the legalization of same-sex marriage (Technically speaking, the Legislature must ask for the message).

Libous said the conference remains firm on its position when it comes to the public financing of political campaigns, though he hinted at the possibility of an ethics overhaul in the budget.

Cuomo’s trump card remains the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, a panel that is trying to use its subpoena power to pry more information out of lawmakers when it comes to their outside income.

The lawsuit challenging the commission’s subpoena power has been adjourned until April, or after the budget process is due to conclude.

“I know they’re discussing another whole bunch of options on ethics and corruption,” Libous said. “I think probably we’re going to have a package to tighten up things, they have to be done, I don’t think our conference disagrees with that.”