Nick Reisman

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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.”

Cuomo: Capitol Restoration A ‘Metaphor’ For Government

The restoration of the State Capitol Building is a “metaphor” for changing the way Albany operates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The governor today unveiled a new plan to end the Capitol roof construction and restoration two years and $2.3 million cheaper.

The project began in 2000 at an estimated cost of $48.7 million and was initially due to be completed in 2014.

Cuomo, who has dived into various aspects of state government’s operations, sought to draw a comparison between the project and the overall need to streamline government.

“Why can’t government perform like companies in the private sector? Now, a 15 year renovation project costs the people of the state — literally and figuratively. The construction that’s been going on in this building is operational disturbance and it’s operational disturbance of the city.”

A giant crane continues to hover over the Capitol Building, giving the impression that New York’s government is under a continuous work in progress as it has for years. Cuomo said he launched a review of the project when he took office in January and took multiple trips to the roof to view its progress.

Cuomo: Gay Marriage Is ‘Binary’ Issue

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today he’s “optimistic” that a gay marriage legalization bill would pass this year, but suggested he was less worried about when the measure was approved, but how it gets passed the Republican-controlled Senate.

“At this point it’s sort of binary. 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. Quite frankly I’m less concerned about when in the next six weeks, but whether.”

Cuomo, who wants a legalization bill approved by June, was instrumental in putting together a coalition of advocacy groups, New Yorkers United for Marriage to lobby the Legislature on the issue.

Though the measure failed in the then-Democratic-led Senate in 2009, 38-24, Cuomo and the groups believe they can flip several “no” votes in both the Democratic and Republican camps. The GOP holds a 32-vote majority, but at least one Democrat, Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, is vehemently opposed to gay marriage.

But it is likely the Senate would need more than a 32-vote majority to approve the measure. With multiple legislators in swing districts, some many note want to be the final yes vote on the contentious issue.

Cuomo Reports Good Feedback On SUNY 2020

Legislators are liking what they hear on the SUNY 2020 proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference this morning.

The governor proposed expanding the economic development program known as UB2020 — originally only for the University of Buffalo — has morphed into a grant program for the university centers at Buffalo, Albany, Stony Brook and Binghamton.

“Many good comments — universally good,” Cuomo said. “It’s rare, but that’s what has happened so far. All good.”

The governor did not say which legislator complimented the proposal.

Diaz To Hold Rally For ‘Traditional’ Marriage

Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, one of the most vocal anti-gay marriage advocates in the Senate, plans to hold a rally for “traditional” marriage on May 15 — the same day as the annual AIDS Walk in New York City.

From Diaz’s statement:

Everyone should realize that we’re not hiring Ricky Martin or Elton John or Rosie Perez to attract people to our event. There won’t be any paid superstars or celebrities to draw crowds. Whoever joins us will do so because they support traditional marriage.

It’s important to know that whoever comes to this rally will be there because they support the growing movement in New York to protect marriage and to oppose proposals to redefine the definition of marriage to include homosexual marriage.

Diaz also knocked the critics of his rally, calling their comments “disgraceful lies” and said he has allocated $100,000 for AIDS victims.

“I will continue to support the war against AIDS, and I will vote to increase funds against AIDS,” said Diaz, a Pentecostal minister.

Later today, the Empire State Pride Agenda plans to hold some counter programing on the gay marriage issue, with about a dozen clergy members holding a news conference in support of the measure.