Nick Reisman

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DiNapoli: Budget Addresses Structural Deficit

The enacted 2011-12 state budget plugs the $10 billion deficit but mid-year gaps are still possible, according to a report released by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli today.

DiNapoli’s report found the budget plan lacking specifics in some areas when it comes to cost-savings. Those include plans to redesign and consolidate state agencies, find at least $1 billion in Medicaid cuts and includes $100 million in savings for facility closures.

“While this budget sets New York on a more sustainable fiscal course, we cannot let this progress be undone in future budget years,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Fiscal reforms must be set in law now to ensure the state doesn’t fall back into its old, bad habits.”

Budgets in New York have a habit of falling out of balance over the last several years, necessitating lawmakers to return to Albany after the regular session is completed in order to plug the leak.

The approved budget includes plans to consolidate the banking and insurance departments and savings from closing prisons. Cuomo nominated his chief of staff, Ben Lawsky, to lead the new Department of Financial Services. The prison closure plan is yet to be released.

DiNapoli Budget Report

Cuomo Knocks ‘Times’ Editorial On Gay Marriage

The New York Times editorial knocking Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s decision to not introduce a gay marriage bill in the Senate without assurances it would pass is “factually wrong” the governor said on Talk 1300-AM this morning.

The Times opined this morning that Cuomo should introduce a same-sex marriage bill in the Republican-led Senate, writing that advocates want the bill put to a vote, siding with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement in Albany earlier this week.

The governor has said he would only introduce the bill if the votes where there. Cuomo said in his radio interview that the editorial was wrong to say some advocates want a vote.

“I disagree with the Times today. It was factually wrong. The meetings I’ve been in that it’s unanimous. They don’t want to take a vote unless the vote will pass. The coalition believes they don’t want to take a vote just to take a vote.”

A major part of Cuomo’s strategy — which we covered on the show last night — has been finding a way to pass the marriage bill in the Republican-led Senate while providing cover to politically vulnerable lawmakers.

The final vote — if there is one — will be a carefully choreographed affair, Cuomo’s aides have said privately.

Cuomo Sees ‘Fluidity’ To Tax Cap Talks

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Talk-1300 AM this morning that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver probably doesn’t want a property tax cap, but has been trying to reach a compromise on the measure.

“The speaker does not generally support the cap,” he said. “He is aggressively laying out the caveats and that is the ongoing articulation of his position.”

The governor wants a 2 percent cap on local and school property taxes. The Republican-led Senate approved the cap on Jan. 31 and GOP lawmakers have signaled for weeks they would not be open to negotiations that would “water down” the cap.

However, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos cracked the door a bit this week on those talks, saying he would consider changes proposed by Silver, who has said “minor” exemptions may be inserted.

Cuomo in the radio interview applauded that statement.

“That’s the intelligent position and I applaud his intelligence in handling this,” he said. “We have parties open to discussion and I applaud him.”

The tax cap has broad support in polls, but some local county leaders say the state needs to deal with troublesome mandates imposed by the state before a ceiling can be put in place.

Cuomo said the cap talks are fluid and decried the blow-by-blow in the political blogosphere.

“There is a fluidity to all of this and it can’t be defined by these simplistic snapshots,” he said.

Cuomo: Moreland Commission Is A Promise, Not A Threat

Empaneling a Moreland Commission to investigate the Legislature if lawmakers fail to approve an ethics overhaul is fulfilling a campaign promise, not a threat.

“There is very little incentive for the legislators to pass ethics reform which quite frankly only effects the legislators,” Cuomo told Fred Dicker on Talk 1300-AM this morning. “You need to generate public support for ethics reform.”

But he added it was incorrect characterize the Moreland Commission pledge as a threat aimed at recalcitrant legislators who don’t want to disclose their outside income or clients who have business before the state.

But there are some questions as to whether a Moreland Commission could even be used to investigate lawmakers and any creation could lead to legal challenges.

The ethics overhaul is part of Cuomo’s “People First” campaign, a tour around the state with the governor and members of his administration to drum up support for ethics, gay marriage and the 2 percent cap on local property taxes.

Cuomo said the ethics overhaul is needed because voters don’t trust state government and the Legislature to police itself.

“The people of this state don’t trust the system,” he said. “The people have seen scandal after scandal, year after year, sometimes month after month and they see the system guaranteeing integrity isn’t working.”

The tour has led to some tension with lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has seen shades of disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in Cuomo’s harsh rhetoric. Skelos told Liz last week he would consider an ethics bill for the executive branch as well.

Cuomo said in the interview that some tension was to be expected, but that he has a good working relationship with Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“I have a good and functional relationship with both houses,” he said. “We’re able to communicate, we’re able to function.”

Cuomo Touts Jobs Numbers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon is touting a state Department of Labor report that found more than 43,000 private-sector jobs were created last month — a sign that he said the state was getting back on track.

He also noted in the statement that the report found good news for the economically troubled upstate region as well. Upstate regions — excluding the metro New York City counties on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley — added 12,000 jobs, a .4 percent increase.

“These statistics are a sign that our state is getting back on the right track and we are creating jobs and getting New Yorkers back to work.

“While these numbers are positive news for our state, we have a long way to go. We must continue to work together through private and public partnerships and responsible economic policy to create more jobs and make this the Empire State once again.”

Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy have said the regional economic-development councils will be up and running soon. The councils will compete for state grants by developing job-creating ideas.

All Quiet On WIGS Lobbying (For Now) — Updated

Wegman’s, the Rochester-based supermarket chain, was the only entity to so far register with the Commission on Public Integrity this year in support of S897, the bill that would allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.

And the folks at Wegmans, whose owners poured thousands of dollars in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign coffers, haven’t spent that much money this year lobbying the state. Danny Wegman, the company’s CEO, was even named to one of Cuomo’s transition committees — giving rise to speculation that the issue could be pushed this year.

The company’s March-April statement posted on the CPI website shows $20,000 in compensation fees to Abraham Crown & Associates. The same disbursement was made for January and February, the company’s filing shows. They were the only shop to list the WIGS measure as their specific lobbying focus.

Other groups and lobbyists may post later this month.

But as Erin Billups reported Wednesday, the debate over WIGS will heat up. Gov. David Paterson supported the measure last year as a means of increasing revenue for the cash-strapped state. However, the pro-WIGS people will still have to convince lawmakers in both parties in the Assembly and Senate who fear it could hurt small businesses.

Update: Michael Rabinowitz of the New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets added that the proposal has broad support in polls and reminded me of the industry-backed survey that found more than 6,000 jobs being created by the measure.

“Wine in grocery stores is a common-sense solution for New York,” he said. “There’s a reason why polls consistently show a strong majority of New Yorkers support the idea, which would create 6,000 net new jobs across the state. We are hopeful more and more legislators will join their constituents in supporting it.”

Senate Bill Would Void Same-Sex Marriage From Other States (Updated X2)

A Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, would void same-sex marriage from other states and was quietly introduced today.

The bill does not have an Assembly sponsor or a bill memorandum attached.

The measure comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a coalition of advocacy groups continue to push for same-sex marriage legalization by the time session wraps up in June.

New York currently recognizes gay marriages from other states. In 2008, Gov. David Paterson issued an executive order requiring state agencies to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. The order was challenged, but later upheld by the state courts system.

The unannounced introduction of the bill comes as a Siena College poll shows 54 percent of voters supporting same-sex marriage legalization, up from the Marist College survey showing just over half of voters approved.

The timing of the bill’s introduction also comes as some in the gay community fear momentum for gay marriage legalization is faltering. Cuomo was criticized by some advocates for not introducing a bill in the Senate.

But the governor is trying to avoid a repeat of 2009, he says. That was when the bill came before the then-Democratic-led Senate and failed, 38-24.

Update: For a little more context, check out Nick Confessore’s profile of Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long. The chairman, an opponent of gay marriage, has threatened to withhold support from Senate GOP lawmakers who vote in favor o the bill. Also, it includes a great and telling quote from Golden: “That fear of God he can put into people as a party leader is important.”

Update II: Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran responded to the bill’s introduction saying, “It’s unfortunate the Senate Republicans continue to show hostility to protecting equal rights for all New Yorkers. Whether it’s on rent regulations or marriage equality, Marty Golden has proven he is out of touch with his district by once again putting the political priorities of his Republicans colleagues over the city he’s supposed to represent.”

Tedisco and Ball Plan ‘Animal Advocacy’ Day

They’ve teamed up on the gas tax holiday, now Sen. Greg Ball and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco are planning an animal advocacy day for June 1.

The event is aimed at strengthening animal cruelty laws.

“Animals are a beloved and cherished member of many of our families and play a positive role in the lives of so many of New York’s citizens,” Tedisco said in a statement. “Animal abuse, cruelty and neglect result in unnecessary pain and suffering to animals. As research indicates, violence against animals is a bridge crime that can, and has, led to violence against people.”

Tedisco was the sponsor of Buster’s Law, an animal-rights law approved in 1999 which increased penalties for people found guilty of abusing pets.

“Passing Buster’s law in 1999 was a great first step to protecting New York State’s companion animals, but animal abuse continues. We need to make sure there are laws in place that protect those who cannot protect themselves,” said Ball.

Black, Latino and Asian Leaders Mail For Gay Marriage (Updated)

A group of prominent figures in the black, Latino and Asian communities sent an open letter today in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Among them is former Gov. David Paterson, who unsuccessfully pushed for gay marriage while in office. The vote failed in the Senate, 38-24, when Democrats controlled the chamber in 2009.

City Comptroller John Liu, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and former City Mayor David Dinkins were also among the signers of the letter.

Today, looking back on the states that banned inter-racial marriage just a few decades ago, it seems so implausible that anyone would stand up to defend such injustice. Through the lens of history, people will look back on the fight for marriage equality with the same disbelief. What we learned from the civil rights movement to end racial discrimination informs our fight to end other discrimination based on who you are. It is a bedrock American value that all are
created equal. Our laws must reflect that core belief.

The letter comes as New Yorkers United for Marriage, a coalition of organizations pushing for same-sex marriage, form to get the measure approved this year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is facing criticism from some in the LGBT community for what they consider being in front of the issue sufficiently, has made the legalization bill one of his three big priorities for the end of the legislative session.

Speaking in Lake Placid on Wednesday, the governor said he is “doing everything I can” on gay marriage legalization.

(NOTE: This is an updated version of the letter. And now there’s a third version with even more signatures, which you can view here).

Leaders Letter FINAL2

Silver, Cites ‘Moral Imperative’ On Millionaires Tax

The war of words continues on the millionaires tax, with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, late this afternoon rapping Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ criticism of the surcharge’s revival.

The moral imperative is that Senator Skelos stand up for 99 percent of the taxpayers, not the 1 percent he’s protecting who are millionaires and multi-millionaires about to get yet another tax windfall in six months. I encourage the Senator and his colleagues to think about the teachers who are getting laid off, about what is best for the education of our children, what is best for our seniors, and what is best for our working families. This is the real moral imperative, not tax breaks for the super-rich.

Skelos earlier declared the tax “dead” in a statement and told reporters the debate is over.

“I don’t think taxing and now increasing spending is necessary,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said he thought the issue was laid to rest, after it was not included in the state budget. The governor wanted to close the $10 billion deficit in the 2011-12 budget without new taxes or new borrowing.

“We’ve reined in state spending. We now have to rein in local government and school district spending,” he said in Lake Placid. “And I think the message is communicated and I think you saw that in a lot of these school district budgets.”