Nick Reisman

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Family Research Foundation Starts “Mayday for Marriage” Tour

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo begins his statewide effort to raise support for a tax cap, gay marriage bill and ethics reform the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation is starting a “Mayday for Marriage” RV tour.

The group’s president, the Rev. Jason J. McGuire, a common Capitol presence on session days, released a statement saying Cuomo was right to begin a tour on the issue.

“Governor Cuomo, I think we have finally found some common ground on the issue of ‘gay marriage’. I also believe that this issue should not be decided in the halls of Albany, but that it should be taken to communities across the state. That is why New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation is embarking on a statewide tour to remind the average New Yorker that marriage between one man and one woman matters.”

The tour starts May 6 and will hold events in Buffalo, Rochester, Staten Island, Long Island, and wrap up with a stop at the west Capitol Park in Albany.

Cuomo has said he wants a gay marriage legalization bill by the end of the regular legislative session in June.

It isn’t the first time NYFR has started an RV tour mirroring the governor. They held a “Summer for Marriage” tour in 2010 as Cuomo himself toured the state in a recreational vehicle.

Skelos ‘Pleased’ By Cuomo Tour On Tax Cap

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement his afternoon that he is “pleased” Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration will hit the road to gain popular support for his tax cap legislation.

I am pleased to learn that Governor Cuomo will soon embark on a statewide tour to call for passage of his property tax cap program bill. The Governor’s leadership on this issue will certainly be welcomed by New
Yorkers who are struggling under the weight of the highest property taxes in the nation.

The Skelos statement did not mention the other two major components of the “People First” tour — an ethics overhaul measure and a legalization of gay marriage.

Skelos and the Senate Republicans have been trying to re-assert themselves as the major supporters of a tax cap after going on the defensive following comments made by Sen. John Flanagan, who said a tax cap may not be feasible until costly mandated spending is gotten under control.

Skelos and other Senate GOP lawmakers have begun to push back against the notion that they aren’t in favor of the cap by staging an online petition drive and accusing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of holding up the bill. Silver has said he introduced his cap, but has not offered major specifics other than to say it includes a 2 percent ceiling.

As for the other two measures — gay marriage and ethics — it’s unclear how those issues will fare in the Senate. The governor is trying to build a coalition of pro-gay marriage groups to apply pressure on lawmakers seen as being on the fence. And Cuomo has threatened to use a Moreland Commission in order to get an ethics bill.

Aubertine: Gay Marriage Not An Issue For Me

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo begins to deploy his cabinet officials and agency chiefs, they’ll be pushing measures some may be personally opposed to, such as gay marriage legalization.

That includes Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine, who, as a Democratic state senator, was one of 38 “no” votes opposing same-sex marriage.

But Aubertine said the issue is “irrelevant” for him now that he heads a department that doesn’t deal directly with the issue.

“My personal stance is irrelevant at this point,” Aubertine said. “It’s a case-by-case basis and the governor certainly supports it.”

Later in the conversation with reporters, Aubertine walked back the “irrelevant” comment saying: “Maybe ‘irrelevant’ isn’t the right word to use. It just doesn’t rise to the level of importance for Agriculture and Markets.”

Aubertine, who represented a district in the North Country, was defeated for re-election last year by GOP Sen. Patty Ritchie.

Tax Cap May Be Too Rigid For Assembly, Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged today that his proposed cap on local and school property taxes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation may be too “rigid” for some in the Assembly.

“I think it’s fair to say the Assembly believes my proposal is too rigid and their should be more flexibility in it,” he said.

But he also said he still favors his original proposal as a means of controlling the highest property taxes in country.

“I believe the strongest proposal is the proposal we put forward,” Cuomo said. “Now that is different than say — I’m not saying, my idea is the best and therefore I’ll be deaf to any discussion on the proposal. I understand other people may have opinions, the Legislature may have opinions and I’m open to discussing different options.”

The governor’s proposal passed the Senate Jan. 31, but is yet to be taken up in the Assembly. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said on Tuesday that he would introduce his own separate proposal to cap taxes.

Cuomo would not say if he talked to Silver about that specific proposal.

“I have been talking to the speaker about a property tax cap proposal for a year. Those conversations are ongoing.”

Cuomo: Let The People First Tour Begin

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to barnstorm the state and deploy various members of his cabinet in an all-out effort to pass his three major agenda items by the end of June: a 2 percent property tax cap, the legalization of gay marriage and an ethics overhaul.

The tour mirrors his effort to travel the state in order to drum up support for his deep cuts in the state budget, which passed the Legislature largely intact.

Cuomo hopes that success will continue as he brings an argument to voters again.

“The budget passed because we did dozens and dozens of these events,” Cuomo said, mentioning the PowerPoint-based presentations conducted in various regions around the state.

There’s no set schedule for when the tour will begin or where the first event will be. Cuomo said the tour will include himself, Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy and other members of his administration speaking before community groups, newspaper editorial boards and other venues.

It’s clear this was long in the works. The Buffalo News reported back on April 5 the Cuomo administration planned a tour on the tax cap, but the campaign hasn’t gotten underway until now.

But the governor’s power in Albany to pass issue-based legislation is diminished compared to the broad power the office yields during the budget process – thanks in large part to the fact that he no longer wields the all-or-nothing budget extender nuclear option.

Cuomo said during a news conference this afternoon after meeting with his cabinet that the goal is to cajole legislators and convince the public to lobby their state representatives as well.

“This has been the consistent plan all along,” Cuomo said.

The issues Cuomo has chosen to push already enjoy public support – especially the 2 percent tax cap. Gay marriage still faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The governor has threatened to investigate the Legislature through a Moreland Commission if lawmakers do not pass an ethics overhaul, which most likely will force legislators to reveal more information about their outside income and attorney clients.

DeFrancisco Suggests Some Wiggle Room On The Cap

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, suggested today that Senate Republicans would be open to compromise on the yet-to-be released proposal from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on his 2 percent tax cap.

“It’s always good to compromise, you want to have results. It’s nice to have principles and stay with those principles, but if you don’t get a result, it’s not good,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has said he’s hesitant to negotiate on a cap fearing it would ultimately water down the bill.

The Assembly’s cap will have some modifications, likely to ease its passage in the Democratic-dominated Assembly.

DeFrancisco also said the he could not comment directly on the proposal until he had seen it.

“Not knowing what the unspecified changes are, there’s not much more I can say about that, but I would say that we can look at it,” he said.

Silver said Tuesday he plans to introduce his own 2 percent property tax cap, but a different version than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants and that the Senate passed on Jan. 31.

“We think that’s the best bill,” said DeFrancisco of the governor’s bill.

Collins: Cap With No Mandate Relief Would Undo Society

Erie County Executive Chris Collins today warned that a 2 percent cap on property taxes without significant mandate relief would “be the undoing of society as we know it.”

Collins, a Republican and launcher of an aborted campaign for governor last year, also said in a Talk 1300 AM radio interview that the budget agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers was largely “status quo” that shifts costs to school districts.

But he reserved his greatest concern for the 2 percent cap on property taxes that was approved by the Republican-led Senate in January. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told us Tuesday that he would introduce his own proposal with some changes, but keeps the 2 percent cap.

“We have to have mandate relief and all of us being punished by state mandates … it would be the undoing of society as we know if it passed without mandate relief,” Collins said of the cap.

He criticized the mandated spending — especially for Medicaid, a huge cost driver for his county.

“The county of Erie has the largest Medicaid burden of any of the counties outside of the five boroughs,” Collins said. “That burden is so onerous in the case of Erie County it takes up 100 percent of property values.”

Collins knocked the state for not doing enough to control the required spending on local governments.

“The finger points all the way back to Albany,” he said.

Collins, after dropping out of the gubernatorial race in 2010, was a strong supporter of Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino’s campaign.

He also said federal officials aren’t doing enough to help western and upstate New York and that too much attention has been showered on the downstate region.

“Why is the world treating Erie County and Nassau County, with all its wealth, as the same,” he asked.

No Pataki Invite To Obama’s Ground Zero Visit (Updated)

A source close to former Gov. George Pataki, who was governor on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, said he was yet to receive an invitation to President Obama’s Thursday visit to Ground Zero.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, however, was invited to the event, but it is unclear if he will attend as Maggie Haberman reported. The terror attacks were the defining moment of Giuliani’s mayoralty and Pataki’s public role in the attacks was overshadowed by “America’s Mayor.”

Obama’s trip to Ground Zero follows the death of Osama bin Laden at the hand’s of U.S. forces in Pakistan on Sunday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is yet to announce if he will attend. But sources with direct knowledge of the plans say the governor’s office is coordinating with the White House on possibly attending.

Cuomo has skipped the president’s political events and fundraisers held in New York City, but did attend Obama’s visit to General Electric in Schenectady.

During his first unsuccessful run for governor in 2002, Cuomo infamously criticized Pataki for his response to Sept. 11, saying “He held the leader’s coat.”

Most notably, former President George W. Bush is not attending the event, choosing to stay out of the spotlight in his post-presidency.

UPDATE: A Pataki source says the former governor received a call from the White House shortly after noon today inviting him to join the president tomorrow. (CapTon, getting results).

Now the question is: Will he attend? The former governor is traveling in the southwest and it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to make it back in time for the Grounz Zero event, which is taking place in the afternoon.

Silver To Introduce His Own Tax Cap

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said today he plans to introduce his own property tax cap measure that includes a 2 percent ceiling on local levies, but will have some unspecified exemptions.

“You’ll see when we introduce it,” Silver said of the changes.

Silver, D-Manhattan, said he had spoken about his new separate measure with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“He didn’t say he was in favor of it, but obviously like you he’d like to see it,” Silver said.

The Republican-led Senate already approved Cuomo’s 2 percent cap on local and school property taxes. But the measure faces a significantly tougher climb in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has said he doesn’t want the bill watered down to the point of being irrelevant.

The governor has said in recent weeks, including today, that he expects to negotiate a compromise bill on the tax cap.

Gay Marriage Advocates Optimistic For Vote

Advocates for gay marriage say the climate for legalization is becoming friendlier, making a vote in the Legislature more likely by the end of this year.

The Empire State Pride Agenda held a news conference today with a group of religious leaders and clergy urging the Legislature to approve gay marriage this session — a measure that has the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Pride Agenda is part of a pro-gay marriage coalition of advocacy groups known as New Yorkers United Marriage, formed at the urging of Cuomo.

But with the Republican-controlled Senate, however, it remains unclear if a vote would be successful, or if the measure would go down in another defeat, as it did in 2009 when Democrats were in control of the chamber.

Executive Director Ross Levi said he was encouraged by the increasing support in the polls for same-sex marriage legalization.

“We believe the environment for marriage now is very strong,” he said.

As for cajoling various members of both parties, Levi said all lawmakers were being lobbied.

“Right now the count we are focused on is the count of New Yorkers who are in support of marriage. We are thrilled that the people are with us. We have legislators are our side, we have business leaders on our side, we have religious leaders on our side,” Levi said.

Cuomo said at a news conference earlier today that he was more concerned with the strategy of passing gay marriage than he was of the timing of the vote.

“At this point it’s sort of binary,” he said. “We’re talking, we are discussing these issues, but the question is will they pass or not or will they pass in the next six weeks.”

Levi also said that another defeat would not necessarily mean the end of the issue.

“The only time table we’re working on is working every day,” he said. “We know the end of session is June, the clock is ticking. We are working as hard as we can everyday.”