Feb 15th - 2:09 pm
Here’s Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, chair of his chamber’s Corrections Committee, expressing his frustration on last night’s CapTon with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approach to prison closures, which is one of the big question marks in the governor’s 2011-2012 budget.
Aubry, a Queens Democrat, noted the governor has proposed giving the DOCs commissioner the power to unilaterally close facilities if the prison closure commission can’t agree on recommendations or the Legislature rejects its proposals.
“I think it’s a clever ploy to find their way through a very difficult process, and we know it’s going to be difficult,” Aubry told me. “But to, in a sense, use the idea that you’re going to be involved to ultimately get what you want anyway seems to be disingenuous.”
Aubry said he’s hoping the Legislature will be able to “find common solutions” with the administration on the budget.
The assemblyman said he would be “happy” to give communities slated to lose prisons extra economic development aid, as Cuomo has proposed, but he’s concerned about the lack of a plan at ESDC for administering that cash.
The governor this morning said he’s open to letting state lawmakers decide which prisons to close and include that in the budget, but added: “My mechanism would allow the decisions to be made on the merits, without the intense politics surrounding the budget vote.”
My full interview with Aubry can be viewed here.
Feb 15th - 1:12 pm
Sensitive to the class warfare criticism of its effort to assist Gov. Andrew Cuomo that has emerged in recent weeks, the business-backed Committee to Save New York is trying to diversify its membership by employing the services of a well-know lobbyist for the small business set: Richard Lipsky.
CSNY spokesman Bill Cunningham confirmed that Lipsky has indeed been retained by the committee, but said he won’t be lobbying. CSNY already has an in-house lobbyist – Allison Lee, who, like Cunningham, works for DKC – and also registered itself with the Commission on Public Integrity.
“He’s got a network of people around the state that have a lot of experience with the taxing policies of the state of New York – the small business guys, people who are trying to make a living running small businesses and they run up against the policies they think make life difficult for them,” Cunnginham explained.
“…He’s going to fill that niche for us. He’s helping us sort of activate that network of small business owners.”
Lipsky, who has a blog called The Neighborhood Retail Alliance (with posts conveniently blast e-mailed to reporters and other potentially interested parties during the week hours of the morning), has been defending Cuomo’s budget proposal in his writings of late.
He told me this new collaboration with CSNY is “a labor of love to some degree.”
“I certainly agree with the governor’s agenda and have been blogging consistently, I don’t know how many years, about reducing the size of government,” Lipsky told me.
“A lot of my clients – particularly all the small business groups believe the same. I thought it was a natural fit as far as that’s concerned…There have been a lot of ‘fat cat’ attacks. The fact is there’s a lot of skinny kittens that are affected by government regulations and the tax environment in New York.”
A number of the so-called special interests that Cuomo and CSNY have assailed as the root of the problem in Albany, including AQE’s Billy Easton and HANYS’ Dan Sisto, have denegrated the committee has a bunch of self-interested fat cats who simply want to protect their respective bottom lines – namely by preventing the extension of the so-called millionaire’s tax.
Sisto went so far as to rename CSNY the “Committee to Protect New York’s Wealthy” during a recent CapTon interview.
Easton today called the committee “nothing but a hit squad for millionaires and the largest landlords in New York City who want to take money out of the public schools to finance a tax cut for themselves.”
Lipsky said he has already started reachining out to small businesses, community and civic groups and recruited a few to sign on with Cuomo’s plan.
“Hopefully, they will give the committee the more diverse appearance that is reflective of the 77 percent of people who support the governor in the latest Siena poll,” he said.
Feb 15th - 12:49 pm
Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, an Upper East Side Democrat appeared on “Fox & Friends” this morning to speak in favor of repealing “last in, first out” policy of laying off public school teachers – a position that has earned him the ire of the powerful NYC teachers union.
The UFT actually backed a primary challenger – a teacher, no less – against Bing last fall in retaliation for his introduction of a bill that would five principals authority over layoffs.
But the assemblyman won with about 85 percent of the vote. He received some assistance from a prominent constituent: Mayor Bloomberg, who is now lobbying the Cuomo administration to do away with LIFO.
Bing has become something of a darling of the anti-LIFO set, including the Post, which prominently featured him in a recent article in which the assemblyman called the policy “discriminatory” and said his overwhelming victory in the primary is proof that he took the right position on a controversial issue.
Bing was somewhat more muted during his TV appearance, declining to take a shot at the union, but explaining he had taken his anti-LIFO position because his district was “due to lose four times as many teachers as other districts in the city,” adding: “As any representative of a community of a community that was going to get hit hard by ‘last in, first out,’ I did what a representative should do: Fight for my constituents.
“I’m very proud to have won the election by a significant margin,” Bing said. “But I’m happy to work with anybody to try and improve the system.”
Feb 15th - 11:42 am
After losing the November 2010 election to Republican Richard Hanna, former Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri has landed a new job in the private sector.
Arcuri, who was the longest-serving Oneida County DA prior to his election to a formerly GOP-held seat in 2007, has joined the Syracuse-based law firm of Hancock Estabrook, LLP, where, according to the press release announcing his move, the former congressman will focus on “litigation, government affairs and corporate law.”
“(Arcuri) will utilize his diverse experience and years of public sector and economic development work to provide counsel on administrative and regulatory matters or issues that require interfacing with the New York state or federal government,” the release adds.
Arcuri fended off a challenge from the largely self-funding Hanna in 2008, but wasn’t so lucky in 2010, thanks in part to the lack of support from the WFP and progressive labor unions, which punished him for his “no” vote on health care reform.
The former congressman said he chose to join Hancock Estabrook both because of its upstate focus and its stable of “extremely talented and diverse” attorneys, “whom I find to be both engaging and friendly.”
“Hancock Estabrook offers me the perfect platform to transition from the public sector back into the practice of law with an excellent firm where I can continue to serve my individual and business associates,” Arcuri concluded.
Arcuri seems to be handling the 2010 loss well. He told a local newspaper back on Nov. 14, 2010 that he felt “pretty good about things” and was looking forward to spending more time with his family. His wife is expecting another baby in March.
Feb 15th - 11:40 am
Governor Andrew Cuomo whipped out the analogies to sports and games today, as he talked to Talk 1300 AM’s Fred Dicker about his budget, and talk of an ethics bill in the works.
On Ethics, Cuomo says he is “closer” with the legislative leaders.
“It’s not horseshoes. I put this out very clearly in the campaign. There are two issues on this front. It’s disclosure, and it’s an independent commission to do the policing because self-policing is an oxymoron.”
Cuomo continued. “Closer doesn’t matter to me. It’s very easy to get close to the goal line. What they excel at is getting close to the goal line, but not stepping over it.”
Earlier in the interview, Cuomo used the “horseshoe” phrase to talk about whether or not the budget will be on time. He says negotiations are going well, but that the only mark is whether they get the budget passed by April 1st.
The Governor also continued his effort to re-frame the argument over education cuts, which began in today’s New York Times. A recent Siena Poll showed that 64% of New Yorkers are opposed to school funding cuts, Cuomo has countered with a new message. He says he is for cutting fat, and building muscle when it comes to education.
“The argument we have in Albany is that, ‘clearly there are no savings to be found in the bureaucracy of education.’ The premise of the argument is, the education system and these 700 school districts are finely tuned swiss watches, that are operating at peak efficiency.”
He continues, “We can’t find 2.7% in waste or inefficiency. I reject the notion.”
In the interview, Cuomo also made an interesting appeal to the state lawmakers when it comes to prison closures. Many lawmakers have raised concerns over Cuomo’s plan to cut 3500 budgets without knowing what prisons would be closed. Cuomo says he is not locked into his plan.
“On the prison task force. If somebody wants to name prisons to close and put it in the budget. If the senate wants to do that. It is an alternative that I’d be open to also.”
Feb 15th - 11:33 am
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is out with his assessment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 budget proposal, which the comptroller “begins to address the state’s structural deficit by bringing recurring expenses into better
alignment with recurring revenues,” but also relis on more than $4 billion in yet-to-be specified actions.
“For the past four years, I have called for the state to live within its means. This proposal is a solid step in that direction,” DiNapoli said in a press release.
“But the plan includes more than $4 billion in placeholder savings. Without knowing the details of many of the deficit-closing actions, it is difficult to determine if they will produce the projected savings. With uncertainty
Cuomo’s wait-and-see spending plan has frustrated state lawmakers, who have slowly come to the realization since the governor’s Feb. 1 budget presentation that he’s boxing them into a corner by dramatically shortening the time frame with which they have to come to an agreement.
Both the Medicaid and mandate relief task forces aren’t slated to release their recommendations until March 1, while the prison closure and SAGE commissions aren’t mandated to make any proposals prior to the April 1 budget deadline.
DiNapoli identified several areas of “risk” in Cuomo’s proposal, including the assumption of $2.85 billion worth of savings from Medicaid and $1.4 billion in state operations reductions without any details of how that will be achieved.
In addition, the comptroller said, the governor is relying on “optimistic tax receipt projections,” noting the expected revenues from the PIT increase (AKA the millionaire’s tax that Cuomo wants to let sunset at the end of the year) were overestimated in the current budget by more than $1 billion.
Also, like former Gov. David Paterson, Cuomo is assuming the state will start collecting sales tax on cigarettes sold on Indian land to non-Indian customers, which isn’t something the tribes intend to let happen without a fight. Here’s DiNapoli’s entire report:
Feb 15th - 8:53 am
In preparation for the March 1 deadline set by his PAC, NY Uprising, for the so-called “heroes” of reform to co-sponsor a redistricting reform bill, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is retooling his Website to demonstrate which state lawmakers have kept their word to date, and who’s falling short so far.
Koch has threatened to travel the state for a “liar, liar pants on fire” tour to make an example of legislators who reneg on their reform pledges, is so far holding out hope that everyone who signed will make good on their respective promises.
“Many New Yorkers are cynical that their legislators in Albany will keep their word – I disagree,” the former mayor said.
“I believe that most are honorable, and look forward to celebrating their successes with them. And for the few that see fit to break their word, New York Uprising is gearing up to put that on full display for their colleagues and their constituents.”
The revamped site does the following:
- Re-labels any “hero” as an “enemy of reform” if he or she fails to step up and support key legislation, as promised during the 2010 campaign.
- Designates “heroes” based on support for key legislation – even for lawmakers who did not take the NY Uprising pledge.
- Makes the actual pledges signed by the legislators available for download.
- Continues to display the full roster of “heroes” and enemies” in the state.
As you’ll recall, the entire (then 30-member) GOP Senate conference signed Koch’s trio of redistricting, budget and ethics reform pledges, but Majority Leader Dean Skelos has been noncommittal since his party returned to power.
Skelos has said he remains supportive of taking the politics out of the redistricting process to the extent that’s possible, but also has been making vague statements about the need for a constitutional amendment – not something that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was the lone legislative leader not to sign Koch’s pledges last year, mentioned “reforming the redistricting process” during his pre-State of the State comments, but he was speaking very broadly and hasn’t said anything about details since then.
Feb 15th - 8:32 am
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who won her first statewide election last fall and has seen her national profile rise in recent months, had just $614,593 on hand at the end of the fundraising period that ended Dec. 31, 2010.
The former Democratic congresswoman spent almost every penny she raised, taking in $13,419,824 during this election cycle and dropping $13,007,755 on her successful effort to retain the seat she inherited from former Sen. Hillary Clinton, compliments of then-Gov. David Paterson, in January 2009.
Gillibrand has no campaign debt. She did very little fundraising between the November 2010 election, in which she easily defeated her GOP opponent, former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, and the end of the year, bringing in just $19,634 while spending just short of $290,000.
The senator spent much of the end of 2010 focused on lobbying – successfully – for the passage of two key agenda items: The 9/11 Zadroga bill and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She hit the national TV circuit following the shooting for her good friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, and has seen her approval rating steadily rise.
Yesterday’s Siena poll showed Gillibrand with her highest approval rating since she took Clinton’s seat – 57-18, up from 50-24 just four months ago.
The poll also found 52 percent of voters, including a plurality of Republicans, say they are prepared to re-elect Gillibrand, who must run again in 2012 – this time for a full six-year term.
Gillibrand is a prodigious fundraiser and has more than enough time to replenish her campaign coffers before the 2012 cycle starts in earnest. She’ll be helped in that election by the fact that President Obama will again be atop the ticket, drawing out Democratic voters who generally don’t come out in off-year elections.
Next year might well be the Republicans’ last chance to take Gillibrand out, and even then it will be an uphill battle. So far, both DioGuardi and another of her 2010 GOP challengers, David Malpass, have indicated an interest in a potential re-match. There has also been some very nascent talk of a potential primary, but so far nothing has materialized.
Feb 15th - 8:04 am
On tap at today’s joint legislative budget hearing: Education aid for both elementary and secondary schools.
The Cuomo administration’s new argument for education aid reductions: “Cut the fat, build the muscle.”
Bill Hammond says the 2007 agreement in response to the CFE case was unrealistic and education advocates should quit arguing for more cash.
“It’s an old form of torture, putting a wet rope around your neck and slowly torturing you,” Purchase College President Thomas Schwarz said of Cuomo’s proposed funding cuts to public colleges.
The New York Insurance Association is challenging Cuomo’s reliance on what it contends are about $300 million in “improper” assessments to fund an array of programs beyond what state law obliges the insurers to fund.
Cuomo’s approval rating is sky-high, in spite of his painful budget cuts.
The rise of Rep. Pete King, suburban juggernaut.
There’s a corruption “crime wave” in Albany, according to Citizens Union.
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn will call for parking relief in her State of the City address today.
Feb 14th - 6:36 pm
President Obama released his FY2012 budget.
Former Gov. David Paterson says he was out of his time.
Hillary Clinton on her now-infamous hair clip: “I didn’t think it looked that bad, but…what do I know?”
It took an emergency appendectomy to get Sen. Diane Savino to quit smoking again.
Former Gov. David Paterson praised Sen. Mike Gianaris on WOR this morning.
Lobbyists offered state lawmakers some love on Valentine’s Day.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says her friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, is making “remarkable progress.”
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s State of the City address tomorrow will be viewed through the lens of 2013.
The Senate Democrats unveiled an ethics reform package.
Azi Paybarah is returning to the NY Observer.
Ben Smith tries to read Roger Stone’s pushing of Donald Trump in 2012.
Outgoing ESDC Chairman Dennis Mullen regrets not being able to create more jobs.
Rep. Pete King thinks his fellow House Republicans are trying to have it both ways.
Shirley Sherrod sued Andrew Breitbart.
Bristol Palin is not poor.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley won’t run in NY-26, but is backing Assemblywoman Jane Corwin. (No link).
North Country schools say they can’t cover Cuomo’s education aid cuts with reserve cash.