With Local Officials, Cuomo Pitches His Property Tax Plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to push the needle forward on Monday for his plan to freeze local property tax increases but pressuring municipal governments to cap property taxes and then slash spending.

Cuomo was joined by local elected officials from around the state, including Democratic Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, at a Red Room news conference in the Capitol to make a renewed push for the proposal, which state lawmakers have balked at.

The governor acknowledged he is fighting a two-front war, not just with the Senate and Assembly, but also with some local leaders who oppose the plan.

To that end, he released a list of 150 endorsers of the freeze proposal.

“No, this is not easy, with the Legislature,” Cuomo said. “There are not a lot of easy with the Legislature, I might add.”

He added, “If this was easy getting local governments to cooperate, this would have been done 20 years ago.”

Cuomo again has pegged the cost of property taxes on the proliferation of local governments and special taxing districts.

“The point is to recognize the problem: We have too many governments,” Cuomo said. “We really do. Point two, is to get them to work together in a way they haven’t done thus far.”

Cuomo insisted the proposal is about finding ways to make the local governments more efficient by sharing services.

“Forget just the special districts, there are just a lot of levels of all these districts,” he said.

Compounding the effort, Cuomo’s re-election campaign released a third TV ad in support of the proposal, just before the news conference at the Capitol got underway.

The state Senate’s one-house budget modified Cuomo’s proposal to essentially put less pressure on local elected officials.

The Democratic-led Assembly, meanwhile, jettisoned the idea entirely, but kept a circuit-breaker mechanism.

Still, during a question-and-answering session with reporters, the local elected officials fell silent when asked if there was a special district they would eliminate or had tried to eliminate in order to save money.

Colonie town Supervisor Paula Mahan acknowledged the cost driver wasn’t necessarily the governments or the districts themselves, but the services.

“If you eliminate any logically, you have to pay for the water system — the sewer system.,” Mahan said. “You have to be able to collect a fee some way for the usage which goes back in to their budget. Their operating budget. One way or the other you have to provide that service and that service is costly. Whether you do if through the property tax or the district fee, it’s the same thing. Residents have to be able to pay for that service.”

Cuomo circled back to the topic, noting the effort wasn’t about shedding the state of the districts themselves, but cutting waste.

“That’s not the question we’re proposing,” he said. “We’re not saying eliminate entities. It’s shared services. It’s cooperation. You have silos and fiefdoms in local governments. We’re saying shouldn’t there be a crosscut to find functional efficiencies.”

Cuomo 2014 Pushes Property Tax Plan

As state lawmakers question Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to “freeze” local property tax increases, the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign has released a third TV ad to boost the proposal.

Meanwhile, Cuomo plans a 1 p.m. Red Room news conference with the issue being none other than property taxes — signaling a renewed effort to raise public support for the proposal.

In TV spot, the claims that the state has too many local governments is the reason for high property taxes is repeated.

“Our local property taxes are the highest in the nation. Why? Too many local governments, too much waste and duplication,” the ad’s narrator says.

The Buffalo News on Monday noted that many of the local governments and districts Cuomo cites don’t necessarily cost taxpayers money, but were set up for a specific reason in mind, such as paying for a new sewer district.

The Democratic-led Assembly’s one-house budget bill rejected the property tax plan entirely in favor of the circuit-breaker approach.

The state Senate, led by coalition of Republicans and five Democrats, replaced it with a plan called “freeze plan” that lawmakers say is more straightforward but still seeks the reductions in spending on the local level Cuomo wants.

Previous TV ads from Cuomo 2014 have aired both downstate and upstate.

Local Prop Tax from Local Prop Tax on Vimeo.

Buscemi Trains de Blasio For Inner Circle

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is getting some help — sort of — from Broadwalk Empire star and Brooklyn resident Steve Buscemi to get into shape for the rookie mayor’s first Inner Circle Show.

In the video, de Blasio and Buscemi in matching sweatsuits go through some acting drills and pump some iron — in between the mayor signs labor contracts.

“You are in crisis mode, my friend,” the actor tells him.

“Who do you think got Dinkins to sing? Who do you think got Bloomberg to dance? Who do you think got Rudy in that dress?”

This year’s Inner Circle Show is March 22.

Consultant Firm Pushes Back Against Effort To Reveal Common Sense Super PAC Donors

Court documents filed late last week by lawyers for a political consultant firm hired by a GOP-aligned super PAC argue Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission hasn’t made a convincing case for them to reveal the group’s donors.

The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption last year sent a subpoena to the firm Strategic Advantage International, a vendor for the group Common Sense Principles, in order to gain more information on who funded the group’s efforts during the 2012 campaign cycle on behalf of Senate Republicans.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office argued in court filings last month that more sunlight on who funded the group’s activities would give the anti-corruption panel a better understanding of how the organization functioned.

The organization, designated a 501(c)4 non-profit, spent millions in the 2012 political campaign blasting three Democratic candidates for Senate: Sens. Ted O’Brien, George Latimer and Joe Addabbo.

Strategic Advantage helped develop a website for Common Sense Principles.

Common Sense Principles filed a disclosure report last year with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics that showed a single contribution from an apparent shell organization.

But in a filing in state court meant to quash the Moreland Commission’s subpoena, lawyers for Strategic Advantage argue that Common Sense Principles followed the law in disclosing what it did, while also filing the proper paperwork.

Strategic Advantage also took aim at Schneiderman’s filing last month, which it says included “an irrelevant polemic against ‘dark money,’ highlighting the Commission’s bias against an out-of-state organization that has chosen to express opinions and support policies of which the Commission and the Governor disapprove.”

Indeed, the firm argues that is precisely that negative-sounding language that threatens the identities of the donors to the group.

“The high-profile, inflammatory nature of the Commission’s investigation heightens the risk of reprisal against Common Sense’s donors,” the filing says.

The company also argues the press bias against Common Sense Principles is biased and would give contributors unfavorable attention in the media.

“If the names of Common Sense’s donors were to be publicized, the media scrutiny of those donors would surely be intense – and the prevalent media view of the organization is not favorable,” the filing says.

Finally, the company makes the case that if the Moreland Commission members are so upset with the current political disclosure laws, they should take their case to Congress.

“If the Commission believes that the privacy protections granted by the IRS undermine accountability in the electoral process, then it should lobby Congress to make changes, but the Commission’s charge does not pertain to reevaluation of those federal laws and policies,” the filing says.

Document by Nick Reisman

Pushing for Parks

And item No. 3:

Advocates for the state parks were among those disappointed by the one-house budget resolution passed in the wee hours of the morning by the state Senate last week.

Deep in the Senate’s plan was the elimination of $92.5 million worth of New York Works capital funding that had been allocated for the third year in a row to pay for much needed park repairs and improvements.

The money was apparently scrubbed from the executive budget because the governor had failed to line out in advance exactly where it would be spent.

There has been a $1 billion backlog on work at the state’s parks and historic sites, which saw their busiest year on record with more than 60 million visits in 2013.

And that was despite the fact that some of the most popular parks were forced to close for repairs following Superstorm Sandy.

The Senate approved the previous two years worth of funding, which went to pay for everything from high-profile projects like the overhaul of Niagara falls State Park (the oldest state park in the US, by the way) to more mundane – but necessary – efforts like upgrading the electrical systems at Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes.

“By slashing $92.5 million from the New York State Park’s capital budget, the Senate is jeopardizing the future of New York’s state park system,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks.

“With more than a billion dollars in documented repairs, upgrades and improvements needed at our state parks, we are deeply disappointed that the Senate put these funds at risk,” Kulleseid continued.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and the state Assembly for standing up for state parks and urge the Senate to restore this critical funding.”

Then There Were Three (In NY-21)

Item II from the Morning Memo:

A little news this morning out of the 21st Congressional District.

An email that arrived in my in-box at 5:15 a.m. revealed one of the four Republican candidates vying for their party’s nod to run for the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Bill Owens has decided to drop out of the race.

GOP consultant and former US Marine Jamie Waller says “the time is not right” for him to run, and so he has decided to withdraw from the race and back businessman Matt Doheny instead.

This was a fairly abrupt decision. As recently as last week, Waller was preparing to circulate petitions for his congressional run.

“Matt has the strongest work ethic, the proven experience and the record to be a great representative for all of us,” Waller said.

“As a true fellow resident of the North Country, I know Matt shares my values and understands the truly dynamic needs of all communities within the 21st.”

Waller expressed disappointment with Doheny’s main opponent, former Bush administration aide Elise Stefanik, saying she “fails to be truthful” with radio ads that claim she’s the “only conservative” in the race.

Stefanik landed the endorsement of the majority of the NY-21 GOP county chairs before Doheny, who ran two unsuccessful campaigns against Owens, decided to throw his hat into the ring a third time.

Now the two Republicans are battling for support from both GOP and Conservative Party leaders. Joseph Gilbert, a retired U.S. Army major and Tea Party leader from St. Lawrence County, is the third GOP candidate.

The Democrats have selected Brooklyn documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who owns a house in Elizabethtown, to run in Owens’ stead.

But Woolf faces a primary from Macomb Town Councilman Stephen Burke, a former St. Lawrence County Democratic chairman.

Bit O’ The Green

From today’s Morning Memo (Part I of III):

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, NYPIRG is out with its semi-regular list of fundraisers held in Albany by rank-and-file state lawmakers, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo while the Legislature is in session.

Between Jan. 13 and March 26, there have been 126 political campaign cash events held within the shadow of the state Capitol, by NYPIRG’s count.

During that period, the Senate was scheduled to be in session 31 days and 20 nights, while the Assembly was scheduled for 32 days and 21 nights.

One of the events listed has a question mark next to it, because it’s unclear if it took place in Albany – or even within the state of New York.

Actually, no one – except the exclusive group of people who attended – knows exactly where the high-dollar “dinner & conversation” was held.

The $15,000-a-head get together with Cuomo featured cocktails and a “seated” dinner. It took place on Feb. 26, according to an invitation obtained by NYPIRG.

The location was kept secret until an interested attendee RSVP’ed – something I can’t recall ever seeing before.

But, according to the invite, it was quite an intimate affair, since seating at the unknown venue was “very limited.”

Here and Now

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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

At 7 a.m., Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on the Tom Sipos Show with guest host Assemblyman Kieran Lalor, 1450 WKIP.

At 7:30 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in the ballroom at Gracie Mansion, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

At 8:30 a.m., de Blasio attends St. Patrick’s Day mass, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 460 Madison Ave., Manhattan. Astorino will also be there, as will many other elected officials.

At 10:30 a.m., DREAM Act supporters hold a rally to protest the failure of the Senate to include the act in its one house budget bill, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., members of community, gay rights and law enforcement advocacy groups protest NYPD officers marching in the 253rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade; Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the SUNY Board of Trustees Charter Schools Committee meets, Board Room, State University College of Optometry, 33 West 42nd St., Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., de Blasio delivers remarks at a hearing for the Paid Sick Leave Bill in the Blue Room at City Hall, Manhattan.

At noon, the New York Labor-Religion Coalition holds weekly vigil and march, outside the state Senate Chamber, the Capitol, Albany.

At 12:15 p.m., Astorino will march in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade with the Police Emerald Society of Westchester, kick-off location 45th Street and Sixth Avenue, Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., the “mothership” (joint budget conference committee) meets in Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 1 p.m., paralyzed police officers, Capital District veterans and top state lawmakers including Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous; Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon; and Sen. John Flanagan appeal for restoration of a state program that funds pioneering neurological research, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., the Public Protection/Criminal Justice/Judiciary, Mental Hygiene, Higher Ed budget committees meet in Hearing Rooms A, B and C, respectively, LOB, Albany.

At 2 p.m., the Environment/Agriculture/Housing, Transportation and Human Services/Labor budget committees meet in Hearing Rooms A, B and C, respectively, LOB, Albany.

At 2:30 p.m., the Economic Development, Health, Education and General Government/Local Assistance budget committees meet in Hearings Rooms A, B and C, and the Assembly Parlor, LOB/state Capitol, Albany.

At 4 p.m., de Blasio holds a photo-op with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Governor’s Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 4:30 p.m., LG Bob Duffy will speak at Manufacturing Alliance Day, The Hilton Hotel, 40 Lodge St., Albany.

At 5:30 p.m., members of the city Panel for Educational Policy’s Contracts Committee meet; conference room, second floor, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Sen. Patty Ritchie holds a fundraiser at The University Club, 141 Washington Ave., Albany.

From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein, Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco and Assemblyman Will Barclay all have fundraisers at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 6:15 p.m., Astorino will attend the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick dinner, Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 52nd Street at Seventh Avenue, Manhattan.

Headlines…

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio sharpened his criticism of his predecessor Michael Bloomberg’s superstorm Sandy recovery efforts, saying the city “needs to do better.” The mayor said he plans to announce changes to relief programs within days.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reportedly stunned and “furious” with former state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs call for gubernatorial candidates to reject the state Independence Party line. Astorino has pledged to do so, Cuomo hasn’t yet responded.

Hundreds of gun rights activists showed up for an anti-SAFE Act rally in Wilton yesterday, and dozens burned NYS Police Assault Weapons Registration forms in a barbeque grill set up for the purpose.

The New York Times says the next two weeks are where de Blasio “can make the hard turn from campaigning to leadership” in Albany, and still has a lot going for him, despite getting repeatedly outmaneuvered by Cuomo.

Republican governor candidate Rob Astorino received a warm welcome at a gun show in Saratoga Springs yesterday, accusing Cuomo of attacking constitutional rights and vowing to repeal the SAFE Act if elected.

De Blasio’s relationship with New York City’s dwindling, yet still significant Irish community is not good, thanks to several early missteps. His aides are scrambling to make amends.

Labor activists and their allies are questioning the leadership of the CFB, which they believe might harbor an anti-union agenda.

Michael Kink, executive director of the union-backed Strong Economy for All Coalition, pulls in at least $183,000 a year, which is more than the $179,000 Cuomo makes, sources close to him say.

An aide to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is raking in $82,992 a year for working only 21 hours a week — and spends the rest of her time heading a taxpayer-fueled nonprofit that pays for her frequent jaunts to the Caribbean.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo griped that the 24-hour news cycle has made governing more difficult than it was in his father’s day.

Westchester County Executive/GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino panned the SAFE Act during a visit to the Saratoga Arms Fair, saying it has not made New Yorkers safer.

Chris Cillizza says there will be “chaos” in the Democratic Party if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run in 2016.

Cuomo tried to get IDC Leader Jeff Klein to reduce the amount of pre-K funding in the Senate one-house budget resolution, and later blamed the inclusion of all the money de Blasio sought on politics and the possibility Klein will face a primary from Oliver Koppell.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito took a swipe at Cuomo on Twitter for his “silence” on the East Harlem explosion.

Mark-Viverito asked the media to give the community some “space,” because people are finding coverage of the explosion and its aftermath “overwhelming.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, were among the mourners at two different church services held in memory of the explosion victims.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, said on ABC’s “This Week” that so far “there’s nothing out there indicating it’s terrorists” responsible for the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have rejected the $40 million “transit raid” in Cuomo’s budget.

Sen. Mark Grisanti lashed out against a group that’s putting pressure on him to change his mind about public financing for elections, saying the effort won’t alter his position opposing the use of taxpayer dollars to fund political campaigns.

The governor and AG of California are fighting over mortgage settlement funds, much like AG Eric Schneiderman and Cuomo did here in New York.

Cuomo attended a citizen disaster preparedness training this weekend in Binghamton.

De Blasio selected a new Sanitation Department chief, Kathryn Garcia, who immediately made news by saying she would expand former Mayor Bloomberg’s composting program.

Phil Reisman says Astorino has to weigh his LG pick carefully, though finding someone willing to seek the job might be a challenge.

The Republican Party of Saratoga County endorsed state Sen. Hugh T. Farley for another term, and supported District Attorney James A. Murphy III as its candidate for county judge.

The Schenectady Gazette wants Cuomo to call special elections for the 12 empty seats in the Legislature.

The Daily News calls on Cuomo to follow Astorino’s lead and promise not to run on the state Independence Party line.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are pushing the Senate to be a place of more bipartisan comity and less unintended comedy.

Langworthy Calls For Party Unity Following Trump’s Exit

It was an unmistakable condition of his candidacy: no primary.  While Donald Trump’s flirtation with a run for Governor came to an end Friday his call for a united Republican Party did not.

“He wanted the nomination without a primary.  I think many party leaders around the state are in the same boat. They don’t want to see a primary,” said Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.

The effort to convince Trump to run for Governor began in Western New York last summer.  Langworthy himself held several meetings with the real estate mogul encouraging him to see the process through all the way to the State Republican Party Convention in May.

“I think he was confusing to some extent the way we nominate in New York for somewhat of a presidential primary system. They’re very, very different. New Yorkhas very arcane ways to nominate our candidates and as he got more educated in that process he gave serious, serious consideration in the last two weeks and going to the convention,” Langworthy said.

When Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino officially entered the race it seemed to have little impact on Trump’s candidacy.  But after Astorino’s week long tour of the state Langworthy believes Trump concluded a “clear path” was impossible.

“I think he came to a realization that this would not be an uncontested nomination fight. He thought a primary was inevitable and right from the beginning he said, ‘I don’t want a primary,” said Langworthy. 

Still some Trump supporters are pointing the finger at State GOP Chairman Ed Cox.  One of the State Assemblyman who helped hatch the “Draft Trump” movement believes his exit makes Cox a marked man.

“It’s disappointing that the Republican Party is so inept in New York State. We will support Rob Astorino. This is Mr. Cox’s play, this is what he wanted, and if Astorino doesn’t win for some reason, Mr. Cox will have to answer to that,” said East Aurora Republican David DiPietro. 

Langworthy admits the initial skepticism from the “senior party leadership” about Trump’s sincerity may have turned the real estate mogul off.  But he believes Cox had come around to the idea of a Trump candidacy and was encouraging him to go to the convention.

“Ultimately the decision was going to lie with Donald Trump whether or not he was going to run for Governor. He’s a super successful businessman, someone that’s achieved a lot of his goals in life. If he wanted to move forward with this, I think we showed him a way where he could’ve achieved it,” Langworthy said. 

With Trump seemingly out of the way, there’s just one unresolved issue.  Former Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino’s threat to run for Governor on a fourth party line could derail any plans for party unity.  

“Really as Republicans, we’re down 3-million votes in New York State. We haven’t won since 2002 statewide. If we’re going to fight amongst ourselves we’re not going to have an opportunity to win the election,” said Langworthy.   

Ironically it was a primary challenge Langworthy helped author in 2010 that made Paladino a statewide figure, and Langworhty a rising star in the party.  Now, it appears, Langworthy will have the unenviable task of asking Paladino to stand down, and get behind the party prefered candidate.

“I would hope Carl could find a way to unite behind the Republican nominee and help us win the election. He’s a dear friend of mine. I know that he desperately wants to see a change in leadership in this state and he definitely wants to see Andrew Cuomo replaced as Governor,” Langworthy added.