Albany

Lottery Reccds ‘Impressive’ Genting For Aqueduct Racino

The state Lottery Division has “unanimously” and “with genuine enthusiasm” recommended the last bidder standing, the Malaysian-based Genting New York, to receive a lucrative contract to develop and operate a racino at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens.

The recommendation, which comes after an exhaustive and controversial process that started way back in 2007 and has seen several false starts along the way, “was vastly reinforced by Genting’s financial offer of $380 million as an upfront licensing fee,” Lottery Division Director Gordon Medenica wrote in a letter to Gov. David Paterson.

(That’s considerably higher than what was offered by the other, now-disqualified, bidders: SL Green ($300 million) and Penn National ($325 million)).

“Genting’s proposal was far superior, in concept, scope, detail and execution, to any we have seen in previous rounds of evaluation,” Medenica wrote.

“It is well known that other bidders, and potential bidders, found the State’s requirements too demanding to accept. They made the fatal assumption that the process was still open to maneuvering and negotiation. We acknowledge that the process was tough and the expectations were rigorous, but our requirements were crystal clear. ”

“For Genting to emerge from such a grueling process as a strong winner is a testament to the effort, skill and intelligence of their team. Every aspect of their proposal demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism and respect.”

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Skelos On Responsibility, Bipartisanship (Updated)

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos this morning criticized the Democrats for failing to get all 32 of their members to Albany for the second extraordinary session called by Gov. David Paterson in as many weeks, but also said his conference might be willing to provide enough votes to pass an FMAP contingency bill.

Skelos noted Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s absence and used that as an example of how, in his opinion, the Democrats still aren’t ready for prime time.

Last week we saw Malcolm Smith, the temporary president of the Senate, Democrat, not here,” the Nassau County senator told reporters, including Capital Tonight’s Kaitlyn Ross.

“I remind all of you that last year at the end of session, last day of session, eight Democrat senators were missing. And I just don’t believe that they understand their responsibility that they should be here, governing. We’re here, we’re prepared to govern.”

“We’re going to support a number of bills on a bipartisan basis. We want to make sure we get a school property tax cap and other legislation. But we will not be supporting, as we’ve indicated throughout this whole legislative session, we will not support any increase in taxes and fees.”

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ESPA Backs Three Senate Dem Primary Challengers

The Empire State Pride Agenda has weighed in with its second round of endorsements, which reveals the state’s largest LGBT organization is now backing three primary challengers seeking to oust Democratic Senate incumbents.

As reported by City Hall News this morning, ESPA has decided to support Lynn Nunes over Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley in spite of Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson’s push for the group to remain neutral.

ESPA is being joined in its effort to oust Huntley – one of eight Democrats who voted “no” on the same-sex marriage bill last December, by the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.

(Interestingly, the HRC has launched a pro-marriage effort here in NY that’s headed by Brian Ellner, a former Bloomberg administration official who was in line to head ESPA, but was derailed by opponents who questioned his ties to the mayor).

ESPA is also supporting Tim Kennedy’s effort to defeat another Democratic “no” vote on marriage: Buffalo Sen. Bill Stachowksi, who is widely viewed as one of the majority’s most vulnerable members this fall.

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Cuomo: ‘No Lines In The Sand’…Yet

AG Andrew Cuomo insisted today that he is not running a with-me-or-against-me campaign against the Legislature as he makes a bid to become New York’s 56th governor, but also hinted a time may come when he’s not so interested in building coalitions.

The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful called in to Talk 1300 WGDJ-AM in advance of today’s session to make a last-minute push for a property tax cap, which is a key part of his campaign platform and the subject of his first TV ads in this election cycle.

Asked by The Post’s Fred Dicker if he would be making support of the cap a requirement for lawmakers who want to land his endorsement, Cuomo replied:

“The way I’m doing this is my campaign has two goals. One: I would like to be elected in November. I think I can be part of the change that New York needs.”

“Two: I want to develop a coalition in January, and I believe the way you develop a legislative coalition is to first convince the people of the state and that’s what I’m focusing on.

“I’m not saying to the legislators at this point, Fred, ‘You have to be with me or you have to be against me.’ There are no lines in the sand. I’m talking to the people of the state to build that support. The politicians will come second if you first develop the populous.”

So, just to be clear: There are no lines in the sand…at this point. Got it?

Schumer’s Premature FMAP Optimism

Here’s US Sen. Chuck Schumer during a brief upstate swing through the Capital Region yesterday, talking about his hope that the Senate would vote on a bill that included some $16.1 billion worth of Medicaid funding for the states – including $1.1 billion New York has already accounted for in its 2010-2011 budget.

Schumer sounded a hopeful note, but as it turned out, he was overly optimistic. The Senate ended up tabling the measure after the Congressional Budget Office determined it wasn’t completely paid for.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said a new amendment with “technical corrections” could come up for a vote tomorrow, but it’s unclear whether there are sufficient votes to pass it.

Gov. David Paterson said this morning he’s still hopeful the state might receive as much as two-thirds of the cash it had budgeted for, but he also said the Legislature is likely to pass an FMAP contingency plan to prepare for the increasingly likely possibility that none of the money will arrive.

Of course, now that Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. has decided to boycott today’s session, the Democrats lack the 32 votes they need to pass anything, although Republican Sen. Joe Griffo told me yesterday during a “Capital Tonight” interview that his conference might be willing to play ball on FMAP.

Espada Opts Out Of Session

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. just announced he will not be participating in today’s session, saying he’s opting instead to remain in his Bronx district to tend to the needs of his constituents – a move he said will be “far more productive” than a trip to Albany.

“Call me when there is serious and meaningful discussion on SUNY reform, farm worker rights, immigration and affordable housing legislation, and other issues that directly impact the needs of the marginalized, poor and working class families and individuals in my district, the Bronx and the entire state,” Espada said in a press release.

“When the agenda focuses on human rights issues like greater protections for immigrant populations, when they are ready to discuss housing legislation that would freeze tenants’ rents for five years and extend affordable housing protections for eight additional years – I will return to session.”

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Paterson To ‘Cheshire Cat’ Rell: Look Elsewhere For Cash

Gov. David Paterson this morning took a swipe on his gubernatorial colleague, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, likening her to a Lewis Carroll character and suggesting she’ll have to look somewhere other than New York’s financial industry to boost her revenue stream.

The Post reports Rell met last night at a Darien restaurant with representatives of 15 NYC-based firms and urged them over crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, filet mignon and drinks to ditch tax-happy New York and relocate their HQs to the Nutmeg State.

During an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, Paterson said he had seen Rell at a recent National Governors Association meeting in Massachusetts and she “looked like the Cheshire Cat when she grinned at me a little bit.”

“But we’re probably going to do today is to pass legislation so we will not be charging out-of-state residents extra taxes who work in the hedge funds, and so now Governor Rell will have to find revenues from some other source,” Paterson said.

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Zimpher ‘Optimistic’ On SUNY Empowerment

Here’s SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher providing a rather sunny view on the ongoing negotiations on the SUNY empowerment plan, which so far have failed to produce a deal between the Legislature and Gov. David Paterson.

Zimpher met last week in the Red Room with members of the state Black, Puerto Rican and Asian legislative caucus, who have been among the most outspoken critics of the plan that would, among other things, allow SUNY and CUNY schools to raise their own tuitions without legislative approval.

The meeting failed to result in any major breakthroughs and rank-and-file lawmakers departed the Capitol without voting on any bills. Their leaders stayed behind and managed to hammer out the foundation of a SUNY deal, only to see it torpedoed by the governor.

Now it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be no SUNY agreement this week, but Senate sources insist that won’t cotinue to block passage of a revenue bill. They believe Sen. Bill Stachowski and other hold-outs can be convinced to pass a one-house bill to provide cover going into a difficult election season.

We shall see.

(Watch this whole thing through, the inadvertent sound effect at the end is – sorry, SUNY – the best part).

‘We’ll Have 32 Tomorrow’

…Those words were just spoken to me by Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeff Klein, who assured me that a repeat of last week’s extraordinary session, during which the Democrats didn’t have enough members on hand to pass any deals – had there been any, which there weren’t – is not in the cards.

“Everyone is in the vacinity,” the Bronx lawmaker told me, confidently. He was coming from the DSCC’s annual golf fundraiser, which I assume was well-attended, and so he was in a position to know.

“We’re scheduled to go into session at 10 o’clock and we’ll be ready to have 32 Democrats on hand.”

When I asked what said Democrats might be passed, Klein responded: “I can’t tell you that.” But he did say: “Everyone wants to close down the budget and move on.”

(Except, perhaps, Gov. David Paterson. But he doesn’t have a vote on the revenue bill, which is the final piece of the 2010-2011 spending plan. He can, of course, veto it, which would basically kill it dead as the Senate doesn’t have enough votes to override).

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Labor By Any Other Name

The 2.5 million-member AFL-CIO is poised to announce its early support of Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli almost two full weeks before its scheduled endorsement convention in Albany on Aug. 15-16.

The endorsement will come at an 11 a.m. press conference outside the AFL’s HQ at 100 Swan Street tomorrow that will be attended by the federation’s president, Denis Hughes, along with various and sundry labor leaders.

This doesn’t come as any big surprise, since DiNapoli has been slowly rolling out the official endorsements of many AFL members. His support is particularly strong among the public employee unions, which is interesting, considering their rather cool relationship with the party’s standard-bearer, AG Andrew Cuomo.

As I wrote in my DN column this morning, the teachers and the public employee unions aren’t sold on Cuomo – largely due to proposals that are unpopular with the leadership like spending and property tax caps, wage freezes and support for charter schools.

If they choose to actively oppose the AG, then it would be nearly impossible for Cuomo to land the two-thirds weighted vote to get the AFL-CIO nod. But that’s a very big if. A more likely scenario is that they remain neutral, which means Cuomo merely needs to get two thirds of the members who are actually voting – minus those abstaining.

That’s a much easier lift, and one Cuomo could achieve if he gets all of the private sector unions (the AFL split is about 50-50, public-private). He’s already well on his way with early nods from: The New York State Building Trades Council, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union, UFCW Local 1500 (I forgot these guys in the column, so sorry) and District 15 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Today, Cuomo added one more: The New York State Pipe Trades Association.

The Cuomo campaign is very sensitive to possibly being labled “anti-union”, and so is making a clear distinction between private unions that, as one source explained to me, “represent real working people”, and public sector unions whose expensive contracts and pensions and refusals to agree to give-backs has labled them special interest No. 1 in many minds.

NYSUT in particular has made it clear it is open to possible remaining neutral in the race. In 1994, when then-Sen. George Pataki ousted Democratic incumbent Gov. Mario Cuomo, NYSUT endorsed Cuomo. (This is fixed).

The last time the AFL-CIO was neutral was in 1998 when then-Gov. George Pataki was challenged by Democratic then-NYC Council President Peter Vallone.

NYSUT will be meeting in advance of the AFL-CIO convention – Aug. 9, 10 and 11 – in Albany to decide which way it wants to go in the race.

One thing is clear: The AFL-CIO is taking a new approach to legislative endorsements, particularly when it comes to the Senate. It will no longer ally itself with one party or the other, preferring to take a case-by-case approach.

Labor sources have told me to expect fewer-than-normal endorsements in the Senate, which stands to reason, since the AFL has already started targeting key incumbents it deemed anti-working men and woman.