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Assembly Republicans Gear Up For 2010, Target Hyer-Spencer

Mike Long and

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the Conservative Party size up their future after NY-23

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NYSUT president

Dick Ianuzzi goes national on charter effort

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NOVEMBER 2009

Forethought

Putting An Agenda On The Agenda or months, two issues have loomed large over Albany: the budget and same-sex marriage. As is often the case when big issues come before the state’s most deliberative body, these issues have sparked debate not just to their merits but to arcane legislative process as well. But as these twin topics take center stage, it is worth remembering that there are a host of problems facing New York right now beyond same-sex marriage and the budget impasse, and they deserve a hearing. These are not civil rights issues, at least not in the way that marriage equality is, and they are not about something as serious as the state being able to continue to keep their lights on, but they are real and serious and they matter in major ways to millions of New Yorkers. There are no easy answers to them, but they require some kind of answers, and soon:

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Article X: This bill, which has already passed the Assembly, expired in 2003. It would expedite the siting of power plants, by allowing new plants to undergo the various regulation processes all at once. Only one power plant has been built in the state since the law came off the books. The plan was a priority of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and many environmental advocates who believed that it could help cut the state’s energy prices, help consumers’ pocketbooks and help meet New York’s rising demand for cheap energy. The law is opposed by those who worry that it will diminish home rule. Both sides have their points, but good-faith negotiation could yield a compromise solution. It is time for legislators to come up with one, and not let this critical issue continue to languish in legislative no-man’s land. The state’s energy situation deserves to have some long-term thinking.

Domestic Workers: The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would guarantee basic work standards for nannies, caregivers and housekeepers. It would give domestic workers sick days, vacation days, health days, prevent workplace discrimination and mandate a minimum wage. Even though some say it would be difficult to enforce, and some employers fear they will be unfairly targeted, the bill is a

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rarity in Albany in that it lacks any serious vocal opposition. The bill came tantalizingly close to passage after years of organizing by advocates, only to be dashed by the Senate coup in June. The only thing preventing passage at this point seems to be legislators’ time, space and will. If a broad agreement on this bill is in place, it is incumbent upon the governor and both houses to bring it to the floor for a vote. There are over 200,000 New Yorkers, among them our most vulnerable neighbors, who are relying on it. And if they will not get the bill, they deserve to know that so they can make decisions about where the future will take them—in New York or perhaps in another state that has taken action.

Farm Workers: Like the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, the Farm Workers Bill of Rights would provide basic workplace protection for a historically abused class of workers, and would guarantee a day of rest, overtime pay, disability insurance and right of workers to bargain collectively. The bill has 28 co-sponsors, and there are four other senators that have pledged support. Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada has been one of the bill’s biggest promoters, and pledged that it would be brought up for a vote. Under the Senate’s new rules, it should have been. But this bill has been shelved by the Democratic leadership at the apparent request of upstate senators who fear antagonizing their farm-owning constituents. If the bill will decimate the upstate economy, then fine, let the Senate have that debate and ultimately vote the bill down. But it should not be another victim of entropy, or of farmers’ being stuck in limbo as they question what the future of their workforce will be.

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Redistricting: This one cuts to the heart of both political parties’ modus operandi: how to increase their power over state government. As such, it has been the result of more studies, plans and speeches than any single issue could possibly warrant. For now, the Senate has put an admirable emphasis on simply getting New Yorkers to fill out their census forms to make an accurate count possible. No one thinks that the politics could be out of this process completely, but both parties could show they are serious about reform and about the legislature adequately reflecting the population of the state by figuring out a fair and equitable way to draw lines once the counting is complete. Two years ago, Gov. Spitzer proposed a constitutional amendment to create an 11member commission that would draw congressional and legislative lines in New York. Just because Spitzer is gone does not mean that his plan is not worth another look. If the legislature disapproves of it, then they need to come up with an alternative, and should do so before the election season begins in earnest. A delay that leaves voters unsure until late in the election cycle of who will be representing them in Albany and Washington is bad for democracy. There may be more special sessions ahead. But even if not, legislators should spend their time between now and the beginning of the next session in January preparing for a legislative whirlwind—there is far too much that is pending, far too much New Yorkers need their government to do, for these and other critical issues to remain stalled.

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With Nassau Losses, Some Democrats Sing Blues For Jay Jacobs Cuomo seen as empowered by stumbles of Paterson pick, may re-elevate O’Neill

BY SAL GENTILE he election returns from Nassau this month were bad for Tom

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Suozzi. But they may have been even worse for Jay Jacobs. Jacobs, the Nassau Democratic chairman, was installed as the leader of the state party in September based largely on the impressive gains he had masterminded in his home county. Now, some Democrats are wondering if Jacobs is up to the task. “I don’t understand what the hell happened there,” said one Democratic county chair who did not want to be named. “It’s definitely going to be a tough thing for him to fight against.” When Jacobs was chosen to lead the state party in September, he had a sterling record in Nassau. Under his watch, Democrats had taken control of the county legislature and all but one countywide office. But in his first electoral test since being elevated to the top post in the state party, Jacobs saw almost all of those gains reversed. And now party insiders are pointing to an embarrassing series of missteps and tactical blunders that led to those losses, which they say may weaken the faith of rank-and-file Democrats— not to mention donors and potential candidates—in Jacobs’ leadership. For months, Suozzi and Jacobs dismissed internal polls showing the county executive and his ticket-mates hovering just below 50 percent, according to people who have spoken with them. And the Democratic get-out-the-vote machine seems to have faltered as well, with

most precincts reporting Democratic he now had experienced first-hand what Supporters of Andrew Cuomo also turnout at one-third less than that of happens when voters are angry with suggest that the attorney general and allthe beleaguered Republicans. but-declared gubernatorial candidate may elected officials. Perhaps the most humiliating He said he intended to relay that be one of the unintended beneficiaries mistake, many Democrats say, was message to Democratic leaders in of the Nassau Democrats’ losses, given the decision by Suozzi and Jacobs Albany. that Jacobs is seen as a fierce ally of the to leave more than $2 million tucked “I assure you that, having suffered governor. away in Suozzi’s campaign account, this loss … it gives me a certain measure “He’s clearly a Paterson guy,” said one anticipating a statewide run next of credibility in saying, ‘I have seen Cuomo supporter. year. Meanwhile, he is trailing in what happens when we have an angry Jacobs’ defeat in Nassau and the loss of an ongoing recount and several electorate,’” he said. “We have to prepare his close ally, Suozzi, may make it easier for marginal county legislators Cuomo’s operatives to push were kicked out, including back against Jacobs. Some one who lost by just a Perhaps the most humiliating Democrats even speculated handful of votes. that Cuomo could re-elevate mistake, many Democrats “They ran a sloppy Jacobs’ predecessor, June say, was the decision by and lazy and unfocused O’Neill, who is now the campaign,” said Larry Suozzi and Jacobs to leave party’s second-in-command. Levy, the director of more than $2 million tucked O’Neill is a confidant and the National Center for away in Suozzi’s campaign supporter of Cuomo, and Suburban Studies at seen as sympathetic to his account, anticipating a Hofstra University. gubernatorial ambitions. These are the kinds statewide run next year. “She’s got strong ties to the of missteps that county Cuomos,” said one Democrat leaders were used to seeing for 2010 in ways that are going to ensure close to O’Neill, adding, “It’s only a stone’s from the state party, but that we don’t see this kind of result throw to the election.” many hoped were precisely again.” sgentile@nycapitolnews.com what Jacobs’ arrival would bring the end of—for a party that has seen its once powerful machinery largely collapse. In an interview, Jacobs said that he hoped the results would not discourage Democratic activists and donors from trusting his leadership of the state party. “I don’t think that I was selected necessarily because I had a great track record,” he said. “Hopefully nobody is expected to have a multitude of perfect seasons. There are going to be setbacks.” He added that the results would make him a better state leader in one respect:

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A MESSAGE TO THE GOVERNOR & LEGISLATURE FROM NEW YORK’S FAITH COMMUNITY We are compelled by the faith traditions we represent to express our grave concerns regarding proposals in Albany to drastically cut Medicaid funding for long-term care services. One stroke of a pen will destabilize vital healthcare funding and jeopardize essential healthcare services and supports for New York’s seniors and disabled people. The extreme Medicaid cuts proposed on October 15th would exact a severe human toll, one that is inconsistent not only with society’s moral obligation to provide care for the old and infirm, but one that flies in the face of our State constitution, which affirms, “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state.” The ethical responsibility to protect the old, the frail, the chronically ill and the disabled is a matter of conscience that is part of the bedrock of our State government. Shamefully, the state has cut healthcare for seniors six times already in the past three years, taking more than $2 billion out of our healthcare system. Jobs are lost; facilities and programs are closing. We should be upholding the moral and constitutional imperative to care for our weakest citizens. Instead, we face once again a plan that skewers healthcare with no apparent regard for the human cost. We call upon the Governor and every member of the legislature to seize this moment and breathe life into our state’s promise to its neediest citizens by rejecting any and all cuts that threaten the care of the old and disabled, and deferring health payment reforms that could undermine the quality and integrity of long-term care services. It is often said that a test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. Let us not fail to meet this test. Let us step forward at this critical time to protect essential services to this most vulnerable group of citizens and restore Medicaid funding to ensure their care. RABBI JOSEPH POTASNIK, NEW YORK BOARD OF RABBIS

THE FEDERATION OF PROTESTANT WELFARE AGENCIES

NYS CATHOLIC CONFERENCE – CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE COUNCIL

MONSIGNOR CHARLES J. FAHEY, PRIEST OF THE DIOCESE OF SYRACUSE

REJECT ANY AND ALL CUTS THAT THREATEN HEALTHCARE FOR THE ELDERLY & DISABLED. Text of Open Letter from NY Faith Community Leaders Reprinted with Support from the Healthcare Education Project.


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Assembly Republican Target Number One? Staten Island’s Hyer-Spencer Kolb touts plan to run in every district, but so far mostly focused on one Democrat BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS o hear the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee tell it, two-term Staten Island Democrat Janele Hyer-Spencer is responsible for all the dysfunction in New York, from joblessness to soaring energy costs to the state’s overwhelming tax burden. “Staten Island Assemblywoman voted to allow drug dealers who sold to kids to apply for re-sentencing and possibly be freed from state prison,” screams one press release. “Staten Island, Brooklyn jobless rate near 10 percent, as Assemblywoman Hyer-Spencer hikes taxes, spending,” wails another. Unsatisfied with their position as a permanent minority, Assembly Republicans, down to a new membership low, are determined to capitalize on what they believe is an anti-incumbency mood among voters by winning as many seats back from the Democrats next year as they can. Minority Leader Brian Kolb went a step further recently, declaring the ambitious goal of running a Republican candidate in each of the 109 districts held by Democrats in 2010. But so far, most, if not all, of their attention appears to be focused on HyerSpencer. “I’m really livid,” she said of the Republican attacks. “It has nothing to do with me or my legislative career. They want the seat and that isn’t going to change.” Hyer-Spencer said that she will always be a target for Republicans as long as her district represents such a narrow margin between Democratic and Republican voters. “It could be me or Mother Teresa holding the seat,” she said. “It’s not the person they give a shit about, it’s the seat they want back.” Hyer-Spencer narrowly won the seat vacated by Republican Assembly Member Matthew Mirones in 2006, beating her opponent by less than 1,000 votes. Two years later, buoyed by an intensive doorto-door campaign, a strong-looking legislative track record for a freshman legislator and the Obama-Democratic momentum, Hyer-Spencer beat Joseph Cammarata by more than 3,000 votes. But Republicans are still encouraged by the large number of registered independents in the district—over 15,000—and say they will be looking for any opportunity

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to tie Hyer-Spencer to a deeply unpopular Democratic governor and a general level of disgust among voters with Albany. “Her last races were closer than she

would have liked for an incumbent,” said John Friscia, chair of the Staten Island Republican Party. “She may even be target number one next year.”

As for the progress of Kolb’s grand strategy to run a candidate in every district in 2010? Kolb says things are going swell so far. “There’s been a great influx of people that are interested and feeling now they have a reasonable chance at running,” he said. Kolb declined to discuss any particular seats he had hopes of flipping, but said he believed the results from the 2009 elections, where Republicans made huge gains in Westchester and Nassau counties, portend a strong showing in 2010. But he stressed that he is also a realist, noting that the odds in New York have never been in the GOP’s favor. “You know I usually just tell it like it is, but I think right now I’d like to just be saying: I’m very, very optimistic,” he said, when asked to predict how many seats his conference will pick up next year. “It’s going to be more than a handful.” Friscia and Brooklyn GOP chair Craig Eaton recently met with Kolb to begin plotting a strategy for 2010, with Hyer-Spencer’s seat presenting the best opportunity for a pick-up. “Matt Mirones did a great job bringing back resources to the district,” Eaton said. “We want to return that seat to a Republican.” But Hyer-Spencer’s district, which covers the eastern coastline of Staten Island and a small portion of Brooklyn, may have moved far beyond the Republicans’ grasp. Working Families Party-backed Council candidate Debi Rose’s solid victory against Kenneth Mitchell, a moderate Democrat and former staffer to Rep. Michael McMahon, shows how parts of the district are trending leftward, Hyer-Spencer said. “The district went overwhelming for Debi,” she said. “For the first time in a while, this district is voting for the person, not the party.” She countered criticism that she rarely attends rallies, steers clear of giving interviews with the borough’s main newspaper and is a close ally to Speaker Sheldon Silver by talking up her attributes. “I am the quickest, I am the best and I am the brightest,” she said, sounding every bit like the former beauty queen she is. “[Republicans] should come up with something original. I’ve been very vocal about what I support. I don’t owe them bullshit press releases.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com

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Michael Fitzpatrick’s Secret, Relentless Plan To Save The Pension System Most conservative Assembly member pushes radical proposal on every pol he meets

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about government: That politicians game the system, securing lavish rewards for themselves at the expense of taxpayers. And once they deploy their tentacles, they never leave. “Why, in Albany, does everyone take the path of least resistance?” Fitzpatrick said. “The strongest reason is the desire not just to keep the job, but more importantly, to maintain the defined-benefit plan going forward.” Witness the patronage mills at work in municipalities like Smithtown, Fitzpatrick says. There, term limits have been the law for years. But most elected officials hop-scotch from one government job to another, as in the case of Suffolk County’s chief financial officer, who, at 60, just left to work for the Long Island Power Authority at a higher salary. If he stays there for three years, he will retire with a guaranteed, taxpayer-funded compensation package of hundreds of thousands a year.

“I would say, ‘He’s a relentless advocate’ would be an understatement,” said Brian Kolb.

Michael Fitzpatrick has a plan to change state pensions he pitches to nearly everyone he meets. BY SAL GENTILE verywhere Michael Fitzpatrick goes, he carries a message. The Suffolk assemblyman has made it his mission to speak to every single elected official in the state of New York about his plans to reform the state’s pension system by taking away lawmakers’ generous retirement benefits. “I would say, ‘He’s a relentless advocate’ would be an understatement,” said Brian Kolb, the Republican minority leader in the Assembly. Fitzpatrick dogged Kolb for weeks until finally reaching him by phone on a recent Saturday morning. “I said, ‘Hello, Mike,’ and then, 40 minutes later, I said, ‘Mike, I know you can’t see this, but I’m waving my white handkerchief. I give up,’” Kolb recalled. “I was supporting the bill, and I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise.” Fitzpatrick’s plan would wipe out an entire class of the state’s retirement system by altering the way lawmakers’ pension benefits are determined. Currently, politicos’ retirement plans— often valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars a year—are guaranteed for the rest of their lives. Fitzpatrick’s plan would take away that guarantee and bring public officials’ pensions more in line with standard 401(k) plans, in which benefits

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fluctuate depending on the market. Fitzpatrick’s bill would affect every public official in the state, from the governor on down to the superintendent for sanitation in Hempstead. He estimates that it would save the state and localities hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of several years. Politicians throughout New York have gotten the Fitzpatrick treatment at one time or another. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was Fitzpatrick’s most recent mark. After a speech in Nassau on local government consolidation, Fitzpatrick elbowed his way through a crowd of admires to deliver a crisp 14-word sermon: “Taxpayers should no longer fund the defined benefits of elected officials or political appointees,” he said. “I just kind of button-holed him for fifteen seconds and told him about my bill—A6932—for pension reform. I said, ‘It’s a great idea, check it out,’” Fitzpatrick recalled, adding: “I haven’t heard back from him.” Cuomo was the latest on Fitzpatrick’s list, which already includes David Paterson, Rudy Giuliani, John Faso, Ed Cox, Tom DiNapoli (whose aides suggested the plan might be unconstitutional) and George Pataki. Fitzpatrick has aggressively sought press attention, traveling to meet with the

Buffalo News, calling Newsday repeatedly and e-mailing Fred Dicker and even Sean Hannity (neither has responded). “Everywhere I go—political functions, civic functions—I talk about this,” he said. “I call it ‘fiscal carbon monoxide,’ this pension issue. People don’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, until they have to pay for it.” Not everyone agrees that Fitzpatrick’s plan is the most effective way to cut costs or prevent pension abuse. “If you’re going to do a political lift for defined contribution, and get defined contribution done somehow in the state, I wouldn’t start there,” said Elizabeth Lyman of the Citizens Budget Commission. “There are other ways of dealing with the burrowing-in phenomenon of political appointees … defined contribution is just more radical and probably less politically doable.” Understood solely in ideological terms, the plan could be dismissed as the latest in a series of protests from the angry right, elevating the wealthy taxpayers of Fitzpatrick’s North Shore district over those who seek and rely on government service. But Fitzpatrick cautions against this interpretation and de-emphasizes the cost-savings to avoid just that perception. Instead, his plan stabs at the heart of what seems to frustrate many people

“Term limits only treat a symptom and not a disease. The disease is the definedbenefit pension system,” he said, adding that his plan “stops double-dipping, it stops pension spiking, it diminishes the attractiveness of patronage.” The spiel has been finely tuned and calibrated for all sorts of occasions. Each of Fitzpatrick’s colleagues seems to have a story. “I was at the same meeting with members of school boards,” said Assembly Member Michelle Schimel, a Democrat from Nassau. “And we were talking about different types of reforms and language. And we were actually working on plans going forward, because obviously on Long Island a big concern is property taxes. And he proceeded to go on about his bill.” Schimel expressed a glimmer of interest, unaware that doing so would only encourage Fitzpatrick. He has since given her the bill number, faxed her a copy, called several times to followup and expressed hope that she might, improbably, be his first majority cosponsor. “I don’t think we’ve ever voted the same on any issue,” said Schimel, who said she agrees with Fitzpatrick on exactly nothing. Fitzpatrick admits that his advocacy has, perhaps, attracted an enemy or two. But the system needs a radical jolt, he argues, and someone to stir the pot. “I’ve been beat up for it. I’ve had the robo-calls in my district,” he said. “The years I’ve been in Albany, the issues are still the same … What’s that definition of insanity we’ve all been taught?” sgentile@nycapitolnews.com


NOVEMBER 2009

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THE

Long WALK By Sal Gentile

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DANIEL S. BURNSTEIN

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Was Doug Hoffman’s candidacy a renaissance for the Conservative Party or the beginning of the end? IKE LONG was sitting in his office at Conservative Party headquarters, a converted one-bedroom apartment above a Greek diner in Bay Ridge, when Mitt Romney’s people called. The former Massachusetts governor and want-to-be-darling of the right wing was offering to record a robocall for Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party’s candidate for Congress in upstate New York. Long said no. The line of Republican stars waiting to voice support for Hoffman was already too long. And besides, Long reached out


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to Romney back when Dede Scozzafava, the GOP standard-bearer, was still in the race. Romney, unlike other marquee Republicans like Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson, had demurred. Now, with Hoffman’s loss, it is Romney’s aides who are sniffing. “I don’t think the rallying cry going forward to 2010 or 2012 is going to be, ‘Remember 23,’” one Romney supporter said. With the wreckage of Hoffman’s campaign still smoldering, many Republicans have begun to question the political acumen of the 69-year-old Long and the relevance of his conservative foot soldiers, who just a few weeks ago seemed on the verge of seizing control of the state GOP. “I think there’s going to be a backlash right now against the Conservatives,” said former Nassau State Sen. Michael Balboni, a moderate Republican who supports same-sex marriage. “If they continue to make it difficult for candidates to get on the ballot, the Republican leadership might sit there and say, ‘Moderates need not apply, because we can’t get them elected.’” Some have even celebrated Hoffman’s defeat. “It’s good for the party, because it sticks it to Mike Long and those guys,” said a Republican allied with Rudy Giuliani, whose relationship with Long has been rocky. “They have an important role to play, but they can’t overplay their hand. And I think they did overplay their hand. They got really cute, and it backfired on them really big.” If the race was a referendum on the ideological soul of the Republican Party, it was also a referendum on the power and influence of the Conservative Party, and an indication of the role Long and his band of agitators will play in next year’s elections. The small-c conservative uprising is real, most Republicans agree. But the big-c Conservative insurrection, and Long’s ability to handpick or veto Republican candidates of his choosing, is now in doubt. As evidence of the brewing conflict, Republican and Conservative leaders have interpreted Hoffman’s loss in different and contradictory ways. Republicans feel their defeat in the North Country demonstrates the need to select candidates with cross-party appeal—the very motivation for choosing Scozzafava in the first place. Without winning the votes of blue-collar workers and union members, for example, Republicans say their grasp on upstate New York may continue to slip. “The lesson of this, in the end, is that you do have to reach out to the other side,” said Ed Cox, the new state Republican chairman. “If you’re going to win a majority, you have to be able to appeal beyond just the base of the party.” The Conservatives, by contrast, have

been emboldened by the chaos they stirred in the North Country, which they take as proof that the Republicans cannot afford to nominate a candidate who does not satisfy their ideological litmus tests. The Conservative Party, they say, should be the institutional arbiter of who is sufficiently conservative and who is not. “The Conservative Party becomes a big player inside the Republican nominating process,” said John McLaughlin, Hoffman’s pollster and a longtime Conservative operative. “When they make their endorsement, they pick the primary winner.” Whatever the other lessons from the North Country congressional race, the campaign reaffirmed Long’s sole and imperious rule over his ballot line, which may give him virtual veto power over Republican candidates for statewide office in 2010. For hopefuls who are Long antagonists, this could prove problematic. “If Mike Long said to me, ‘Ed, I don’t like Giuliani,’ my answer would be, ‘I’m with you, boss,’” said Ed Walsh, one of the party’s vice-chairs.

campaign did, Long admits. Those pressures are likely to come to a head in the coming months, as the Republican Party sets about choosing candidates for everything from State Senate to governor. In the aftermath of the North Country race, Long has promised a sweeping review of the Republican Party’s legislative candidates, arguing that some GOP lawmakers have only maintained the Conservative line out of apathy or convenience, not an adherence to principle. “They take our endorsement and do what they want to do. And this race up here is going to help me bring them back,” he said. As a result, Conservatives are already gearing up to influence policy by playing hardball with their line. The first item on the party’s agenda: gay marriage. “You go voting for gay marriage, and you’re one of these state senators up for re-election down by me, you’re done,” said Walsh, the Suffolk chairman, ticking off the names of vulnerable Republicans, such as Owen Johnson. “There’s no gray area.”

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of the race. The party could award its line early to a candidate Long prefers, maybe Lazio, as a way of discouraging Giuliani from running, or galvanizing a conservative insurrection against him. In 2006, for example, the Conservatives essentially torpedoed Bill Weld by coming out early for John Faso. Long would also not rule out running a third-party candidate against the GOP nominee. “If the Republicans pick a liberal candidate for governor, a Democratic-like candidate, I submit to you that we will run our own candidate, and we will do very well,” he said. “We may not win the election, but we will do very well.” Giuliani’s lieutenants insist that they would not be muscled out of the race by Long. “At the end of the day they can do whatever they want to do, but people that are conservatives in New York will vote for Giuliani anyway,” one said. Nonetheless, Giuliani supporters warn the GOP would have to be willing to lose the Conservative line. “If the Conservatives came up and said, ‘We’re not going to endorse Rudy,’ and Rudy said, ‘I want to run,’ I think what the Republicans would have to say is, ‘How many votes will we lose?’” said Assembly Member Bill Reilich, the Monroe Republican chairman and an enthusiastic Giuliani booster. “Somebody who is far to the right is still going to have a hard time winning the governor’s mansion.” Such a split would likely pit two hardcore factions of the Republican Party— Rudy boosters and Tea Party diehards—against one another in a potentially crippling intramural battle. It would also put Long in serious jeopardy of losing his statewide ballot line, especially if Giuliani proved popular enough to rally the bulk of conservative voters to the GOP line. By giving his line to Giuliani, Long would undoubtedly win more votes than he has in at least eight years, possibly vaulting him over the Independence Party and back to Row C (the Conservative line is currently Row D on the ballot). But doing so would delegitimize the conservative agenda he used to rally GOP celebrities to his cause in upstate New York. The question would be one of pragmatism versus principle. In deciding that question, Long said he would continue to use his Conservative imprimatur as a wedge to force candidates to the right, while keeping in mind a longstanding maxim: “I don’t want to be the Republican Party.” “I don’t have to appeal to 51 percent of the voters all the time. I just want to have an effect on policy,” he said. “The best way to have that effect is using the political pressure that I have.” sgentile@nycapitolnews.com

The real question for the Conservative Party, as one longtime GOP operative put it, is this: “What happens if it’s Rudy Giuliani?” Long’s candidate preferences are, to some degree, inscrutable, as they come down in many cases to his personal likes and dislikes. Hoffman, for example, won Long’s blessing because he paid due deference to the chairman, requesting a meeting and subsequently inviting him into internal campaign talks before deciding outright whether to run. Scozzafava, by contrast, lost the Conservative ballot line years ago because she no longer put any stock in the party’s litmus tests, ranking lower even than some Democrats on Long’s annual legislative scorecard. At the same time, Long does not go out of his way to recruit candidates. “I didn’t say, ‘Doug Hoffman is the guy,’” he explained. Had Hoffman, who already had connections to GOP operatives in the North Country, not come along, the Conservative candidate would likely have been Jim Kelly, a brash party operative who ran John Spencer’s 2006 Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton and promised to “trash” the GOP for nominating Scozzafava. But a Kelly campaign would not have gained the kind of traction Hoffman’s

That all-or-nothing ethos now permeates the highest ranks of the Conservative Party’s leadership. Senior party officials have hinted at retribution for the GOP candidates that did not endorse Hoffman, such as Rick Lazio, who was pressured to make a decision weeks before the election. As one of Long’s lieutenants has put it: “Lazio was asked to endorse Hoffman weeks ago. He didn’t. He’s going to pay a price for that.” The price, most likely, will be a show of deference to Long and his agenda, perhaps a statement opposing same-sex marriage, if a bill reaches Gov. David Paterson’s desk. But many say that the immediate future of the Conservative Party is inexorably tied to the fate of one man who has been a thorn in the side of Mike Long for years. The real question for the Conservative Party, as one longtime GOP operative put it, is this: “What happens if it’s Rudy Giuliani?” If Giuliani runs for governor—a prospect most Republicans regard as less likely by the day—the Conservatives may decide to employ a bruising tactic they deployed in the Hoffman campaign, to great effect: muscling candidates out

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Building On A Manufacturing Legacy BY DENNIS MULLEN s someone who has spent an entire career in the private sector, it is my belief that the state’s lead economic development agency, Empire State Development, must be run as a business. The same rules that apply in the private sector apply in economic development. We must have that go-to-market strategy as we work towards securing our economic future. To that effect, I’ve traveled across the state and held hundreds of meetings with community, political and business leaders as well as college and university professionals to discuss my core values and vision of a better New York—and I have seen the positive outcomes when we all work together. But, as we know, much work needs to be done. Our state has seen some of its key sectors take a hit as a result of the recession—small businesses unable to keep up, manufacturers forced to close their doors. It is with the governor’s vision of New York leading the emerging “new economy”—an economy based on knowledge, technology and innovation— that we can and will move forward, continuing to see the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

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At ESD we’re forging ahead, looking at the bigger picture, thinking outside the box and investing in technology. We believe the new economy is being driven by innovative industries such as nanotechnology, green clean energy and biotechnology—industries that yield tremendous returns with respect to job growth and investment in our state. As research and development initiatives associated with this new economy develop, we are actively working to vertically integrate facets of this master plan with traditional manufacturing.

Manufacturing may be challenged, but it isn’t going away. In fact, over the last year, Empire State Development has worked with manufacturing companies that will invest almost one billion dollars into our economy, with a resulting job impact of 3,185. In upstate New York for example, we’ve assisted major global companies like CVS and the Raymond Corporation, a division of Toyota, to not only remain open for business, but expand. We’ve also supported the emergence of new companies like GlobalFoundries who have chosen New York State to do business. We will continue this forward momentum and build on our manufacturing legacy, by employing creative solutions that will bring us full circle and support the products of the new economy. We will accomplish that by engaging in public/private partnerships and building synergy around nonoperational manufacturing facilities. New York State is home to many of these sites, now vacant and unused— plants like Magna in Syracuse and Massena Castings in the North Country—that were once major community employers. It’s behind those walls that we see potential. Photovoltaic cells, wind turbines and fuel

cell batteries are just a few innovative products that require the space and fixed assets these off-line plants have to offer. We are aggressively working on fostering these public/private partnerships, acting as matchmakers to pair potential newcomers with these vacant facilities. ESD has already established the inventory of available locations. We have taken the steps to partner with key stakeholders, exploring opportunities for investment and marketing of these locations for reuse and redevelopment. As we continue on this path and begin to pave the way for new companies to operate in these old manufacturing facilities, we must not forget to support the existing companies that have been the heart and soul of this great state for decades. It is with our focus on maintaining our core businesses while simultaneously growing our emerging businesses that we will find success. I believe the answer is in doing away with individual sandboxes, opening our minds to a new way of thinking and working together to secure economic prosperity in our state now and for the future. Dennis Mullen is Chairman and CEO of Empire State Development Corporation.

Manufacturing A Balanced Recovery BY SEN. WILLIAM STACHOWSKI ound investment in economic development is key to our fiscal solvency. A balanced and sustainable economic recovery will require greater investment in manufacturing, research and development, capital equipment and workforce development. Every manufacturing job supports as many as four other jobs. This multiplier effect is far greater than what we find with service sector jobs and provides a boost to local economies, even to businesses and workers not directly involved in manufacturing. The recession has taken a drastic toll on New York manufacturing. Industrial employment in New York has fallen 7.6 percent since 2007, with 47,810 jobs lost just from July 2008 to July of this year. The number of manufacturers has fallen too, with more than 1,100 shops shutting their doors forever. The global scope of the recession hits New York particularly hard. Industrial machinery and equipment is the second largest manufacturing sector in the state, so when manufacturing slumps anywhere, orders at New York’s

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tooling and equipment shops slip. The State Senate and the Committee on Economic Development have undertaken a comprehensive review of state programs and policies that impact manufacturing. The number-one cost for manufacturers is energy. That simple fact explains why the majority of the state’s economic development programs are under the jurisdiction of the New York Power Authority. NYPA administers nine separate programs that leverage low-cost power for economic development. Some use hydropower from NYPA, others use power purchased on the open market. Some programs are limited to specific regions, while others operate statewide. But these programs, some of which overlap and even conflict, have never been given a rigorous, comprehensive review. As we undertake the necessary reform of low-cost power programs so they deliver the maximum benefit, we must make certain that manufacturing has access to the power it needs. We also must ensure industry has access to the research and innovative breakthroughs that are the foundation for new products, technologies and

industries. We have initiated a statesupported program that enables our universities to share their libraries, advanced research and development and other resources with industry. This will help fuel new inventions, new enterprises, new industries and new jobs. We are also undertaking reform of the Empire Zone program, which is scheduled to expire next June. While the original intent of the program was to encourage businesses to relocate into blighted areas of the state, it grew into an expensive and unfocused enterprise . As we consider how to craft a new Empire Zone program, there are certain basic principles that will make it work better. The program should not be geographically based, though there should be incentives for businesses that choose to locate in distressed areas. Rather than offer a “one size fits all” approach, the new program should be flexible and offer incentives tailored to specific industries, whether it be lowcost power, workforce training, or tax incentives. Most important, the replacement program should be simple—businesses should not need to hire financial and legal help to determine potential benefits.

The program should also be consistent, predictable and straightforward. Companies often field competitive offers from several locations and need to be able to evaluate their alternatives. The recession we are suffering through resulted from Wall Street speculation and policies that favored the financial services sector at the expense of manufacturing and other useful economic activities. Reform of our economic development programs and other policies must correct this imbalance and reward investment in productive, wealth-producing assets rather than financial speculation. William Stachowski, a Democrat representing parts of Buffalo, is the chair of the Senate Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee.


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ISSUE FORUM

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MANUFACTURING

Helping Manufacturing Make It In New York BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER ROBIN SCHIMMINGER espite predictions of a post-industrial economy taking center stage, manufacturing remains an essential component of New York State’s economy, particularly in upstate New York. Whether it’s automobile components or chemicals, or “new economy” computer chips or biomed, products must be manufactured somewhere before they can reach their intended market. Manufacturing accounts for 5.7 percent of all private sector jobs in New York State, and double that percentage—11.6 percent—upstate. Depending on the region of the state, those jobs pay anywhere from 20 percent to as much as 60 percent more than the average private sector non-manufacturing job in that region. And economists tell us that each industrial job indirectly creates two or more other jobs in supplier firms and in companies that sell goods or services to workers and their families. No other sector performs more research and development, drives more innovation, exports more or contributes more to our economy or security. However, manufacturing jobs have been steadily declining across the nation, and New York has been losing manufacturing jobs at twice the national rate. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data

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reveals that from 1997 through 2007 New York’s manufacturing employment declined by 30.6 percent, compared to a national average of 16 percent, ranking New York 48th among the 50 states in manufacturing employment growth. Those numbers have likely worsened during the deepest recession since the Great Depression. We in the State Assembly have long recognized the importance of the manufacturing sector of New York State’s economy. The Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation Commerce and Industry, which I chair, understands that technological innovation is the driving force behind economic growth and high-value, highwage job creation. We’ve advocated for more investment in programs, like Technology Development Organizations and the Industrial Technology Extension Service, that support increasing competitiveness and enhancing production processes in both traditional manufacturing and high-technology. We have also supported high-tech-specific initiatives like Centers for Excellence and Centers for Advanced Technology, as well as tax incentives aimed at emerging technologies, which can help position New York ahead of the competition for cuttingedge technology breakthroughs and, to the extent possible, ensure that these new technologies are commercialized

and manufactured right here in New York State. I and many others believe that the best economic development program is one that makes the cost of doing business here in New York more competitive with other states. In 2000, the Assembly initiated the transformation of the state’s former Economic Development Zones into Empire Zones to provide significant corporate, sales and property tax relief to qualified companies that would locate or expand operations in state-designated zones across the state. With the Empire Zones program now scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2010, our committee recently held public hearings to gain input on the

future direction of economic development in New York State. The suggestions we received for any new program that emerges to replace Empire Zones focused on the need to target manufacturing and make some accommodation for existing businesses that will be able to retain existing jobs but not necessarily create new ones. It’s also critical that New York become more competitive on the cost of energy, with electric power costs 40 percent above national averages for industrial and commercial businesses. The state’s Power for Jobs and Economic Development Power programs were extended this year for another 10 and a half months, but a long-term commitment to providing competitively priced power to energy-intensive manufacturers and other businesses is essential. The manufacturing economy in New York State employs nearly half a million people and is central to our state’s economic prosperity. It’s incumbent upon us to join with manufacturers to meet the challenges facing this sector and help New York State make the most of the opportunities that await us. Robin Schimminger, a Democrat representing parts of Erie and Niagara counties, is chair of the Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry.

Cut Taxes, Lower Energy Costs To Save Manufacturers Money BY STATE SEN. DEAN SKELOS he most pressing issue facing New Yorkers from every region of this state is the lack of jobs. The business community understands that. Middle-class families understand that. Inexplicably, Democrats in Albany don’t seem to. Simply put, state government hasn’t done enough to create an environment where businesses— including manufacturers—can succeed and prosper. What are the two biggest factors standing in the way of the creation of good jobs? New and higher taxes, approved during the budget, and runaway spending. Instead of tightening the state’s fiscal belt and helping businesses compete and grow, the budget included $8.5 billion in new taxes and $12 billion in new spending, and made things worse. These tax and spending increases— opposed by all 30 Senate Republicans— came on the heels of a sweep of the New York Power Authority that diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from the successful Power for Jobs Program. In

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addition, these tax hikes were particularly damaging to the manufacturing industry, especially the approval of higher utility taxes that raise the annual assessment on a small manufacturer from $333 to $2,000. While some defended the enacted budget as the only solution in difficult times, we introduced the “Better Budget for New York,” a realistic spending plan that contained no new taxes or spending, and provided $500 million for job creation. Since businesses are also hurting from overregulation, we called on the governor

to create a Berger-style commission to conduct a top-to-bottom review of every regulation in New York to determine whether or not there is demonstrated evidence that a specific regulation protects taxpayers or creates jobs. If not, we argued, it’s time to take down that hurdle to doing business in New York. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans passed legislation to implement a state spending cap so government would be forced to live within its means. Make no mistake about it, the lack of spending restraint in Albany is having a direct effect on our ability to create jobs. The budget passed in April is approximately $3.2 billion out of balance, and requires us to reduce spending. If we don’t, many manufacturers will be forced to close their doors, sending New Yorkers fleeing for other states. In fact, a recent report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy shows more than 1.5 million people have left the state since the decade began. It’s time to reverse the job-killing taxes imposed in the budget, to put the brakes on wasteful spending, and to do more to create jobs and end this harmful outmigration.

My colleagues and I are committed to changing the climate so businesses can succeed, and we will continue to be a strong voice for manufacturing. One year ago I addressed the Business Council’s annual meeting in Buffalo. New York’s manufacturing sector was dealing with a national economic recession and increased overseas competition, and as a result, many long-time manufacturers were struggling to keep their doors open. My message was simple: If we don’t cut taxes and lower energy costs so manufacturers can use the resulting savings to create jobs, some may never recover. I urged state lawmakers to pass a jobs plan that would cut taxes in half for all businesses and eliminate taxes for small manufacturers. However, our plan was ignored. If Democrats continue to ignore the calls of the business community and outof-work New Yorkers to take dramatic action, they will have no one to blame but themselves. Dean Skelos, a Republican representing parts of Nassau County, is the Senate Minority Leader.


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NOVEMBER 2009

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THE WAITING

How the inevitable campaign gets from this Novemb

he status quo has remained the same since the beginning of the year: Paterson has low approval ratings and struggles to find traction. Cuomo plays the top cop, and denies he has his sights set on anything else. Political players see Cuomo lurking though, and say it is only a matter of time before he comes out of the shadows. But on January 15, when the next campaign finance filings go public, the game may be up. “That is a bit of a precipice for the governor,” said Scott Levenson, a Democratic political consultant. “Everything is kind of held up until that point.”

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RUSS TUDOR

n Election Night 2009, New York City Democrats gathered at the Hilton in midtown Manhattan to celebrate Bill Thompson’s loss to Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The party was raucous. The night went late as Thompson supporters waited for final results, stunned at how well their underdog candidate had done. The mood felt like a family reunion, with statewide officials like Comptroller Tom DiNapoli sharing the stage with first-term City Council members and Democrats slapping shoulders and pledging unity, progress, victory. But no one gave a more fiery speech than Gov. David Paterson. “I want to congratulate Bill for not giving up because of what the polls said, for not giving up because of what people thought, for not giving up on his city. When everybody else ran away from this fight, Bill Thompson stood his ground. To all Democrats—Fight! Regardless of the polls—Fight! Regardless of the chattering classes—Fight! Regardless of what people say—Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight for working people and don’t give up!” Democrats behind Paterson on the lectern punched the air, shouted, clapped. Andrew Cuomo, though, had spent the evening a few blocks away at the Sherry Netherland at a fundraiser hosted by supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis. Despite a perfunctory endorsement and retail walk through the Bronx with Thompson a few days earlier, where he deflected questions about the governor’s race by saying everyone should only focus on one race at a time, he was out of public view for the end of that race. Nor was Cuomo behind Paterson the next week, when the governor addressed a joint session of the legislature, a speech in which Paterson subtly reminded voters that he was one of the first major officials in the country to sound the alarm about the economy falling apart. Cuomo’s November was not completely empty, though. He held a telephone press conference about an antitrust lawsuit against Intel Corporation. He announced that three Oswego County men were going to jail after pleading guilty to installing faulty septic systems. He won a lawsuit against a Newburgh antique dealer accused of selling bogus jade carvings. As 2010 looms ever closer, Cuomo finds himself with Democrats across the state urging him on and expressing tepid, at best, support for the governor. He finds himself with a 50-point lead over Paterson in a prospective primary. He has a double-digit lead over his nearest Republican rival. The most recent filing showed him with twice the money on hand as Paterson. He can spend his time playing the state’s top cop, catching financial frauds and Facebook fiends, until Paterson figures out that his time is up. “He is in the perfect position,” says Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who worked on Carl McCall’s 2002 gubernatorial run when Cuomo challenged him for the nomination. “He can prepare for his own re-election, raise money, put an organization together and not get involved in any of the chaos in the Senate or with the budget.” But as anyone who watched the premature demise of Eliot Spitzer and the presidential ambitions of Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and Mike Bloomberg—along with the end of the Republican Senate majority, the Democratic Senate majority, the temporary return of the Republican Senate majority and, eventually, maybe, David Paterson—knows that crystal balls in the Empire State have a way of going haywire. And so it is with Andrew Cuomo. He faces a governor determined to stay in office. He faces a party increasingly restive about its chances. He faces his own inner demons, and his own past. He faces a handful of pols who may not wait around for Cuomo to make his next move. And at some point, the man who appears to have gotten even the White House to join the chorus of people coronating him as the next nominee will have to begin running, facing all the hurdles that will come with that. Yes, Andrew Cuomo is in the driver’s seat. But he is not in control.


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G GAME

ber to the next

By David Freedlander

NOVEMBER 2009

Few are willing to say what kind of dollar figure vaults Cuomo past Paterson, or what keeps Paterson hanging around. Cuomo had twice as much on hand as of last summer; if that figure increases to three- or fourfold, most expect the voices calling for Paterson to step aside to grow much louder. Paterson could have emerged by that point as the adult in the room, the one willing to stand up to the Senate and the special interests during the budget process. He already has had some people giving him credit. “The governor, in our opinion, has done a good job,” said Jack Kittle, political director of DC 9, the painters’ union, who said that there was no guarantee his union would support a Democrat in 2010. “He’s handled a lot of the budget problems the way a governor should handle it, dealing with it in a real way and spreading the pain around.” A well-managed campaign roll-out and a series of effective television ads that have now begun could paint the governor as sympathetic, as someone unfairly targeted by the political pile-on-ers here and in Washington. His numbers could begin to creep up from the abysmal to just the terrible. But what if, as is more likely, the budget issues are not addressed and the deficits hang on into the start of the next session, along with continued stalling on signature Paterson issues like gay marriage? Editorial boards are howling. Continued bad budget numbers send the warring factions of Albany into death mode. Paterson appears committed to sticking around still. He very well could, several Albany insiders say. Being a lame duck through what promises to be a difficult legislative session will be no fun, and will make the job that much harder. And he is someone who has stretched a career beyond what anyone imagined by thumbing his nose at those who told him that he could not. “You talk to a number of people around Albany, and they will tell you that there is no doubt in their minds that David Paterson is running,” says one prominent North Country Democrat. “I think there is a feistiness coming back to him.” Then the status quo remains: Paterson is the governor, and Cuomo is the AG— “the awaiting governor.” Another round of budget negotiations ensues. The half dozen people waiting to run for Cuomo’s spot get antsy. The several dozen waiting to run for the spots of the half dozen waiting to run for attorney general get antsier still. Democratic officials, faced with only one settled candidate in the race, will begin to start making up their minds. County leaders, worried about their own

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candidates and fundraising, will begin to agitate for some answers. Political talent could begin to migrate towards the governor. People close to Cuomo think there is a good chance that Paterson remains in the race. If they are right, things could begin to get harder by the week. The activists and reporters will be looking for Cuomo to say something about the budget, and whatever he does will earn him some enemies. Health care workers, teachers, business interests, local governments—eventually he will have to pick sides, and the ones he does not pick will grumble. Loudly. Challenging an incumbent within the party is never easy. For Cuomo, the difficulties are double. Raw feelings remain from his 2002 race against Carl McCall, despite his statewide victory in 2006, and, even after publicly mellowing, Cuomo has never been quite able to shake the reputation of a politician tooambitious-by-half, one who places his own aspirations over the party’s or the state’s. Republicans say that despite the Cuomo’s camp recent run of discipline, there cannot be another incident like the one when Cuomo’s old ally Patrick Gaspard, currently the White House political director, asked Paterson to step aside. “The whole thing was not handled very well,” says one GOP strategist. “It shows an overzealousness on his part, or his staffers’ part, and in delicate situations like this they have poor track record. They are just not good at handling these things.”

At some point, the man who appears to have gotten even the White House to join the chorus of people coronating him as the next nominee will have to begin running. But if Cuomo does not make his intentions clear by then, Democrats will begin running up against the state party convention in the early summer. But Cuomo could run into trouble if he waits until the last minute to throw his name to the nominating convention. While he would almost surely get the 25 percent of the delegates necessary to run in a primary, races for the other seats could turn into a free-for-fall, leaving voters to decide who runs alongside Cuomo as lieutenant governor. Democrats would like to have racial and geographic diversity, but if left to a nominating convention or the voters of the state, a likely Democratic ticket would be Cuomo at the top, DiNapoli for


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NOVEMBER 2009

comptroller, and probably another white politician for the new attorney general— a problem regardless, but an especially large one if the state’s first blind, AfricanAmerican governor is drummed out of the race. The problems for the Democrats may even grow worse depending on decisions made by the man whose election night party Cuomo skipped: Bill Thompson. He has been mentioned as a possible state comptroller candidate against DiNapoli, and Rep. José Serrano has suggested that he could challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a Democratic primary. If that happens, Cuomo will again be in an awkward spot, where he will be forced to choose between supporting the incumbent after he challenged an incumbent, or supporting Thompson to make up to African-American voters. Going against DiNapoli would infuriate Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. Going against Gillibrand would infuriate Sen. Chuck Schumer. For Republicans, a long, drawn-out contest for the Democrats is their best hope. “There is so much energy and anger and money going to be spent on arriving at a Democratic nominee,” said Kellyanne Conway, a GOP strategist. “We can sit back with a tub of popcorn and let political opponents destroy each other. There is no way to avoid the bloody internecine race if Cuomo enters it.” And Republicans, sensing that there is a decent chance Paterson hangs on and becomes the nominee, are suddenly rushing to the governor’s defense, wailing that the poor fellow has been mistreated by the Democratic establishment. “I give the current governor a lot

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him just enough to hang on for just long enough. Their game plan may seem transparent—prop Paterson up long enough to scare away Cuomo, then pounce on the weak nominee in the general election—but they believe their best chance to derail the Cuomo juggernaut is now, before the deal is done. “It’s not a hand-off,” said one GOP official. “It’s an interception. Depending on how this plays out, it could be very damaging to the Democrats.” n the meantime, Cuomo finds himself in a peculiar position. As the state’s lawyer, he is removed from the major issues roiling the state. This redounds to his benefit—for now. Cuomo does not—and in fact cannot—reveal his stance on most policy questions, from the commuter tax to gay marriage to just about anything else. But Lazio, the only announced candidate so far, has started churning press releases and earning media attention by lambasting Albany. If Cuomo is going to be taken seriously, say political professionals, he will soon need to get into the muck of the details and describe how he would fix things. “At some point in this race he is going to have to credibly articulate what he would have done better in this environment,” says one Democrat strategist. “How would he have dealt with a dysfunctional State Senate and with Shelly Silver? When he starts talking about cutting public employees’ pay for health benefits, or increasing taxes in certain areas, or eliminating services in certain areas, then people say, ‘Wait a minute? What have we got here?’” Although Cuomo has studiously avoided Albany, and though his prosecution of Ray Harding and of the two Capitol employees, who turned an area of Capitol garage into a “man-cave” from which they dealt marijuana and shirked their jobs, allows him to credibly cast himself as a reformer, Republicans will try to paint him as someone who grew up in the governor’s mansion, and whose family’s fingerprints are all over

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“It’s not a hand-off,” said one GOP official. “It’s an interception. Depending on how this plays out, it could be very damaging to the Democrats.” of credit for the situation he has been in,” said Ryan Moses, a GOP strategist who has been advising Rick Lazio’s gubernatorial campaign. “And I’m a Republican saying that, but he has been in as tough a situations as any governor has been in and he has tackled it in a respectful way—he’s not sitting on the sidelines throwing bombs. He’s trying to address the problem.” Meanwhile, Republicans in the State Senate especially can give Paterson some significant legislative victories that give

the mess the state is in. “He’s tried to stay out of Albany, but he’s been there his whole life,” said Moses, the Lazio advisor. “You can try to distance yourself from it for political reasons, but this guy is a creature of Albany, and if there is one thing we have seen, it is that people are fed up with Albany.” Even though Cuomo could credibly lay claim to being the only person in the state who has tried to reform government over the past several years, Republicans will remind voters of the last hard-charging attorney general who was anointed by the press and the pundits before the election, and how much worse shape the state found itself in, even before the Emperor’s Club. The state’s financial shape is too dire for another sheriff whose mission has been to hamstring banks and insurance companies, especially for someone whose last name is synonymous with taxand-spend liberalism, they will charge. GOP officials say they are already searching for someone who can make that kind of argument against Cuomo, someone outside of the political class—a candidate in the mold of Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman, wealthy entrepreneurs who are both running for statewide office as Republicans in California. Bad economic news is likely to continue through the next year, and will likely, Republicans say, diminish enthusiasm for Democrats around the country, especially in New York, where the party controls all the levers of power and has witnessed a catastrophe occur on their watch. “There is a credibility gap between the Democratic Party and the voters in this state,” said one GOP official. “We’ve got an unelected governor because of moral corruption. We have an unelected comptroller because of financial corruption. We have an unelected senator who is out there voting for ACORN, and you have a state Senate leadership that is corrupt, and a Democratic caucus that finally came into power and is at each other’s throats.” This will reverberate through next year’s elections, the official predicted. “There is a perception out there that the voters made New York a one-party state and the Democrats botched it in a

THE CAPITOL big way,” the official said. “Some of that is going to stick to Cuomo.” Plus, they add, there may be key parts of the Democratic coalition that will stay home. Women, for one, have been largely shut out of the top tier of the party’s establishment, and will be more so if Gillibrand loses in a primary. Latinos are under-represented as well, a fact brought forward by the Senate coup. African-American voters are likely to stay loyal to Paterson, as are LGBT voters, who have seen the governor as a champion of their civil rights while Cuomo has, by professional necessity, remained silent, even as some continue to nurse old suspicions over rumors about Cuomo’s tactics on behalf of his father’s mayoral campaign 30 years ago. But Republicans say that Cuomo’s biggest liability may be Cuomo himself. Though the attorney general has been a model of discipline and calm as attorney general, they believe the demons lurk. In 2002, Cuomo got into some trouble on the stump, calling George Pataki Rudy Giuliani’s coat-holder during Sept. 11 in a remark he never lived down for the rest of the campaign. Even while serving as surrogate for Hillary Clinton, he ran into trouble, telling a radio station that, “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference,” which was widely interpreted as a racially coded slight at Barack Obama. (His aides insisted that it was not.) And those sharpening the knives say his messy divorce with Kerry Kennedy, complete with the public airing of her infidelities, remains fair game. They believe they will be able to get under his skin. “I think that if Andrew Cuomo is the nominee, it will be a very different Andrew Cuomo out on the campaign trail than people see now,” said Lazio, thinking ahead in a September interview. “He’ll be under pressure, and there are unexpected things that happen in the course of a campaign. How people respond to that matters.” In the meantime, expect Republicans to be sensitive to any move Cuomo makes that looks like he is trying to replace Paterson at the top of the ticket. Any slight shift of language. Any leak of bad news, or poll or endorsement, they will harp on to point out that the Cuomo who served as his father’s political fixer is back, and that voters are not getting the unsullied top cop that they think they are. And as the calendar ticks closer to September 2010, if Cuomo wants the job, he will have to make some of these moves. It is enough to make even the most confident Cuomo boosters less than sanguine about what the next year will hold. “You know, there are worse things in the world than for Andrew to wait for years to run for governor,” says one former advisor. “All of a sudden, it ain’t ideal.” dfreedlander@nycapitolnews.com


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Interests, Mechanics, Plans And Hopes Convene In Constitutional Convention Effort BY JOHN DORMAN AND SAL GENTILE

set rules for the convention. That process, some say, would purge Albany’s most corrosive elements, and empower citizen-legislators to govern themselves. “We need to get back to the basics regarding how to effectively manage a basic government,” said Assembly Member Mark Schroeder. “Right now, the leaders in the Assembly haven’t been forced to talk about this, and it’s disgraceful.” But critics caution that a constitutional convention would likely be a one-time opportunity for special interests across the country to etch into stone the policy changes they have failed to win through elections. “The people that are experienced in running for office and raising money and actually have the time to go to a constitutional convention will be the political elite of New York,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which has offered tepid

orty-four years ago, the State Legislature passed a bill authorizing a Constitutional Convention in New York. Voters approved the idea, delegates were elected and, for close to half a year, citizens, legislators and legal experts huddled in the Capitol to produce what former State Sen. Franz Leichter called “a fairly serious document.” The voters rejected it. And a twoyear electoral and legislative process— involving a specially appointed expert commission, three statewide campaigns and tens of millions of dollars—was reduced to a historical footnote. “And that was that,” Leichter said. Now, some lawmakers want to try again, saying the state’s primary governing document needs a full rewrite, top-tobottom. And they are backed by some of New York’s most prominent political eminences, from former Gov. Mario Cuomo to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “A constitutional Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has been leading convention is not a magic the charge in the Legislature, bullet, and at worst it arguing that a so-called “people’s could be a gun that blows convention” is the only effective up in your face,” said way to correct the state’s tangled legislative process and Blair Horner of NYPIRG. cure Albany of its legendary support for a constitutional convention. dysfunction. “Some members of the Legislature “A constitutional convention is not a have just completely lost touch with the magic bullet, and at worst it could be a people they represent,” Kolb said. “Those gun that blows up in your face.” Horner and others point to the special who shun accountability want the typical congressional election in New York’s business-as-usual in this chamber.” The procedures for calling, structuring 23rd Congressional district, where and operating a constitutional fiscal hawks, organized labor and even convention are partially laid out in the opponents of abortion and gay marriage current constitution itself—a mammoth spent millions of dollars to win an document of close to 60 pages that has outcome favorable to their cause. The been muddled with amendments on same could happen in a constitutional everything from civil pensions to judges. convention, they say. National opponents In total, the document is 12 times as long of gay marriage, for example, could pour millions into the campaigns of delegates as the federal constitution. The Legislature would first have to and send armies of lobbyists to Albany to pass a bill putting the question of whether secure a victory for their agenda. Labor unions, too, worry that the to hold a constitutional convention to voters. If voters approve the idea on next pension guarantees they have won year’s ballot, another round of elections through constitutional amendments over would be held in 2011 to choose three the years could be eroded in an open delegates from each Senate district, as convention. In 1997, for example, unions well as 15 delegates-at-large, for a total of funded a massive ad campaign against 186. They would begin their work at the a constitutional convention, and voters earliest in April 2012, and take as long as roundly rejected the idea when it reached the ballot. necessary to produce a final product. Still, Horner said, one argument seems Delegates would be subject to the same campaign finance laws that to prevail over all others in the debate currently regulate state elections, over whether a constitutional convention unless the Legislature votes to enforce is worthwhile. “It’s so horrible now in Albany that more stringent rules governing political contributions. Once elected, the delegates it’s worth it to just roll the dice,” he said. would earn a base pay of $79,500 and have “Because, how could it get worse?” broad authority to hire staff members and sgentile@nycapitolnews.com

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In Effort To Abolish Board Of Regents, Resting Hopes In Hoped-For New Regime Schroeder predicts controversial bills would fare better under Cuomo governorship BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS ssembly Member Mark Schroeder, a Democrat from Buffalo, has a plan to reform the education system in New York that has nothing to do with charter schools, merit pay or the federal Race to the Top fund. Instead, Schroeder would like to abolish the New York State Board of Regents. “I’m done with the word ‘reform.’ We are beyond reform in this state,” Schroeder said. “The Regents, in my view, are something we can live without.” Schroeder, who introduced the bill last May only to see it languish in committee for months, acknowledged that his efforts will likely go nowhere without help from above. That help, he is hoping, will come at the hands of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Down the road we will have somebody who can understand transforming the government and turning it upside down, and starting all over again,” Schroeder said. “I’m hoping to partner with Mr. Cuomo and others so that we can look closely at the education system.” Schroeder, who said he was inspired in part by the attorney general’s twin plans to reform the pension system and consolidate local governments, believes that he would find a better partner for reform under a Gov. Cuomo than under a Gov. Paterson. “It has no chance under a Paterson administration,” Schroeder said. “It would have a fighting chance under a Cuomo administration,” he said. The Board of Regents consists of 16 members elected by the Legislature to five-year terms, 12 of whom represent the State’s judicial districts and four of whom are at-large. The Regents, who serve without salary, are responsible for oversight of state colleges and the State Department of Education, and have the authority to create statewide education policy. They are charged with regulating any profession that requires accreditation, including everything from architects to beauty technicians. Last month, under the new chancellor Merryl Tisch, the

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If some members of the legislature have their way, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch could be out of a job. Regents chose Hunter College’s School of Education dean David Steiner to replace departing education commissioner Richard Mills.

“Down the road we will have somebody who can understand transforming the government and turning it upside down and starting all over again,” Schroeder said. Schroeder’s bill, which has eight cosponsors, would strip the board of its power to nominate the state education

chancellor, rendering it all but useless. “I think it’s a great idea,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who is a cosponsor. “The current structure is not working. We don’t have accountability. We’ve got group think rather than innovative ideas in education.” He added: “Education is too important to be left to a political appointment.” Neither Tisch nor Cuomo’s offices returned requests for comment. Schroeder’s effort to abolish the Regents is not without precedent. In the mid-’90s, then-Gov. George Pataki proposed streamlining the Department of Education and getting rid of the Regents, with an eye on assuming more direct control over education policy in the state. In a sense, Pataki was seeking a protoversion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral-control system of governance. But even after gaining the support of many of the state’s editorial boards, Pataki

was unable to get rid of the Regents. Education analysts predict a similar fate for Schroeder’s effort. “This was originally tried by George Pataki when he first took office in 1995,” said Steven Sanders, a lobbyist and former chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “It got nowhere then and it will get nowhere now.” Sanders said that the Board of Regents works in New York because it prevents education policy from getting overly politicized, which could happen if the governor were allowed to appoint the commissioner of education. “This state has a tradition to keep education decisions at an arms length,” Sanders said. “If education had been in the hands of the governor, I don’t know if we would have tackled some of the thornier education issues that the Regents tackle.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com

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Ophthalmologist Eyes GOP Congressional Primary Against Ball Social moderate wins Sue Kelly’s backing in race to take on John Hall BY SELENA ROSS or nearly a year, Republican Assembly Member Greg Ball has been crisscrossing the Hudson Valley in his effort to unseat incumbent Rep. John Hall. He has raised money, assembled a staff, and met with GOP operatives in Washingon. But the sudden entrance into the race of Nan Hayworth, a wealthy ophthalmologist from Mount Kisco, has upended Ball’s trajectory. Hayworth has never run for office, but has raised more than $300,000 and has hired a veteran campaign team. “She already had significant momentum, not just with people in the district, but with people in Washington, people willing to give money,” said Tory Mazzola of the National Republican Campaign Committee, which does not take sides in primaries. But in an era where hard-right conservatives seem to be having a resurgence, Hayworth could become a target of the movement. She is pro-choice and her OB-GYN husband has himself performed abortions. But even as she runs against the outspoken, hard-line Ball next year, those who support her say it would be foolish to underestimate her ability to win. Hayworth, 49, graduated at the top of her class from Princeton, then Cornell, and received numerous awards for her medical practice. She has carried out several public service jobs on the side of her private practice, attracting the attention of Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos for a position at the Hudson River Park Advisory Council and doing volunteer work for the state health department. For the congressional race, Hayworth has also won the support of Sue Kelly, the former seven-term Congresswoman who was defeated by Hall in 2006. “She’s a lot smarter than I am,” said Kelly, who first met Hayworth years ago when working with her husband. NRCC representatives referred to Hayworth as a Kelly recruit, but both women say Hayworth called Kelly out of the blue a few months ago to pitch her plan to run. Kelly gave her enthusiastic blessing. Observers note that Kelly showed that the district looks for a centrist, which may benefit Hayworth, who said her views largely lined up with Kelly’s—though she shied away from calling herself a moderate. A strong fiscal conservative, she decided to run because she sees an opening in the district’s resentment over taxes and White House spending—and because she is angered by the same things.

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Nan Hayworth, right, took in a huge fundraising haul to emerge as a primary challenge, against Assemblyman Greg Ball in the race to unseat Congresman John Hall. Hayworth has put $150,000 of her own money into her campaign already, and raised almost as much as Ball on top of that. (Both still have less than Hall.) Most local politicos have written her off as a neophyte, regardless of the money. Two out of five local GOP county chairs said they would be supporting Ball, while the remaining three could not be reached for comment.

“I think she should start out at a lesser position and work her way up.” The two candidates promise to be an odd couple on the primary trail. Ball, at 32, is an attention-grabbing campaigner who unseated a seven-term incumbent in 2005. He has made a career of scolding Albany for its dysfunction, and has been a player in a number of bizarre incidents, from a dead goat left at his doorstep to a restraining order placed by a girlfriend. Hayworth’s supporters, meanwhile, say she is a natural fit in a white, wealthy suburban district, while Ball may come across as too strident. “I’ve seen it in the way that she’s greeted with people,” said Jay Townsend, Hayworth’s campaign advisor. “There is a level of maturity that people in this district expect from their member of Congress. I don’t think they’d be comfortable with someone who is a rhetorical bombthrower.” While most politicians come from careers in law or business, Hayworth insists that her decades of medicine will give her an advantage. In Congress, it will help her understand policy on small businesses (she opposes the

Observers note that Sue Kelly showed that the Congressional district currently represented by John Hall looks for a centrist, which may benefit Nan Hayworth. “She’s a nice lady, but she brings nothing to the table,” said Anthony Scannapieca of Putnam County. “They’ve got lots of money, but you need more than money to run a race.” “I think she should be looking at a State Senate seat, a State Assembly seat,” said Vincent Reda of Rockland County.

stimulus plan, starting with the Bush administration’s passage of TARP) and on health care (she believes in deregulating the insurance industry). And as a candidate, it gives her nerve. “When you’re a surgeon, you walk into the operating room and you have a plan,” she said. “You have to never lose your nerve, and keep your calm and make sure that everything turns out as it’s supposed to.” She faces a bruising primary against Ball, who once paid someone to follow his opponent around in a chicken suit when he declined a debate and showed up to events with trash bags to accuse him of shady links to a trash magnate. “Nan has a lot to learn,” said Westchester Assembly Member Joel Miller, who thinks she will attract voters’ interest nonetheless. “The primary is going to be very interesting.” So far, Hayworth’s campaigning has been limited, though she did sheepishly admit to making an appearance at a local country club to hunt for votes and funds. “I’m not arrogant. I make no assumptions,” she said. “I have a set of attributes that are rather different than Greg’s. The plan is to continue to make friends.” sross@nycapitolnews.com


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In Race To The Top, Iannuzzi Seen As Both Help and Hindrance

LAUREN LONG

NYSUT president tries to shape White House education program

Richard Ianuzzi, center, says he has the ear of the White House, including Vice President Joe Biden.

BY CHRIS BRAGG n early September, Richard Iannuzzi boarded Air Force 2 and took a seat next to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Iannuzzi, president of the powerful 600,000-member New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT), had been invited to the vice president’s plane to make the case that New York was committed to the secretary’s vision of education reform. He said the state deserved a major slice of the $4.35 billion in federal stimulus funds which Duncan will soon dole out to states who appear to be implementing his agenda. By the end of the flight between Washington, D.C. and Syracuse, Iannuzzi says he was convinced that Duncan had gotten the message. “I left confident that the secretary understood my explanation and he indicated that there would be no barriers for applying for the funds,” said Iannuzzi. Since then, Iannuzzi has been beating a constant path from Albany to Washington, hoping to help shape the parameters of the White House program, known as “Race to the Top,” whose standards are expected to come out in a matter of weeks. Yet despite Iannuzzi’s lobbying efforts, others remain concerned about the union’s—and the state’s—approach to winning the funds. Back in June, Duncan singled out

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New York as an example of a state that could miss out on the funding if it did not change two laws. One of those laws caps the number of charter schools in the state at 200; the other disallows the use of testing data in determining teacher tenure. Duncan said that states that have caps on charter schools or restrictions on using testing data to judge teachers will be frowned upon. With Race to the Top money expected to only go to 12 to 15 states, a number of other legislatures are now trying to change their laws to meet Duncan’s standards. Yet New York is not among them. And Iannuzzi opposes a bill recently introduced by Assembly Member Sam Hoyt that would likely alleviate Duncan’s concerns. Hoyt says he hopes that in the coming weeks he can negotiate with Iannuzzi to find common ground. “Not in my wildest dreams did I expect NYSUT to accept the legislation as proposed,” Hoyt said. “My expectation is that it will be debated, and ultimately Mr. Iannuzzi and I will have a very open communication. It very well may be that with Iannuzzi at the helm, NYSUT has turned a new page.” Iannuzzi spent 34 years teaching elementary school in one of the poorest school districts in Long Island. Given that experience, Iannuzzi says he is committed

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to Duncan’s reform efforts. “To me, a union has to have a social justice agenda,” Iannuzzi said. “Certainly, a teacher’s union needs to strongly advocate for equitable funding for rich and poor districts—an advocate to help students overcome the ills of poverty by closing the achievement gap.” Iannuzzi added that he is open to using testing data to evaluate teachers, but that this should not be the lone factor in judging performance. He also notes that the state law banning the use of testing data in making tenure decisions will sunset in June 2010, well before Race to the Top funding would actually be distributed. As for the charter school cap, Iannuzzi said he would one day consider lifting it if greater standards of accountability for the schools are put into place. Yet charter school advocates remain skeptical of Iannuzzi. Last January, they note, NYSUT advocated for budget policies that ended up cutting $50 million from statewide charter school funding. NYSUT also opposed a 2007 bill to raise the cap on charter schools from 100 to 200, though the law passed over the union’s objections. Peter Murphy, policy director for the New York Charter Schools Association, said the state was missing an opportunity by not proactively reforming its laws to fit Duncan’s criteria, especially in light of $700 million in education cuts proposed by Gov. David Paterson. “They’re not spreading this money like peanut butter across 50 states,” Murphy

said of the White House. “They’re planning on giving substantial amounts of money to states that have shown a commitment to reform.” The first round of Race to the Top funds are likely to be disbursed in January. A second round will likely be distributed around April. Murphy speculated that Iannuzzi was banking on the influence of Sen. Chuck Schumer and the union’s own power to try and win funds without actually reforming its policies. Murphy predicted that Iannuzzi will only prod the Legislature to reform the state’s education laws if it comes up dry on the first round. “He’s playing an insider’s game, saying he has the ear of the administration,” Murphy said. “What the state should be doing is playing both cards—playing the insider’s game and actually making the reforms.” Iannuzzi, however, countered that he is simply trying to push the best policies possible for the state’s students—and that he has already faced some pushback from union membership for embracing reform as strongly as he has. He spends much of his time crisscrossing the state in his Ford Edge, trying to explain to his union’s members why accepting some of the reforms will ultimately also lead to better contracts for union members. “The greatest challenge is finding time to explain that these things are in their interests,” he said. cbragg@nycapitolnews.com


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Opponents of $426 Million in ‘Sweeps’ Say State’s Long-Term Interests Ignored Renewable energy, affordable housing funds easily tapped by Gov. Paterson BY CHRIS BRAGG s unions and business interests battle over the $3.2 billion budget gap, there does appear to be at least one area of consensus: both sides support the one-time transfers of funds from public authorities’ surpluses—known as “sweeps”—that comprise $426 million of Gov. David Paterson’s gap-closing measures. The funds, which are generated by public authorities such as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the New York State Thruway Authority through taxes or fees, are supposed to go to a specific economic developmentrelated purpose. Fees charged to MTA riders, for instance, go back to the MTA to cover operating expenses. Because the boards of these quasipublic agencies are controlled by Paterson, the governor can easily direct these public authorities to transfer surplus funds to the state’s general fund. Unlike other funds in his deficit-reduction package, the money from these sweeps is not under the purview of Legislature. But those affected by the loss of authority funds—including a wide range of affordable housing and environmental advocates—complain that the sweeps are shortsighted, arguing that the raids hinder economic growth while enabling the continuation of out-of-control spending. Jackson Morris, of Environmental Advocates New York, argued that one of the sweeps, a $90 million raid from a program to create green jobs and promote renewable energy research, would hurt the state’s economic interests, harm the environment and damage the state’s longterm fiscal health. “This is like sticking your finger in a dike to stop Hurricane Katrina,” he said. Union leaders seem to find the sweeps preferable to cuts in education and health care spending. Business groups, although philosophically opposed to the transfers, argue that the one-time raids are preferable to another hike in the personal income tax. “These are extraordinary times. We’re doing a lot of things we don’t want to do,” said Ken Pokalsky, legislative director of the Business Council of New York. The $90 million for green energy research were generated through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a joint cap-and-trade program New York has entered into with nine other northeastern states. Earlier this year, Assembly Member Robert Sweeney, the chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee,

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Affordable housing advocates are fighting a $300 million sweep from the Battery Park City Authority introduced a bill to put this money out of the governor’s reach and instead in the hands of the Legislature, anticipating that they could be used to plug general fund gaps. But while his bill passed the Assembly, it was rebuffed by the State Senate. Sweeney said that using the funds to cover a budget shortfall would set a bad precedent for the nine other states collaborating with New York on the cap-and-trade program. “There were promises made that are being broken,” Sweeney said. Although Paterson does not need legislative approval for the sweep, he is expected to include the transfer in his final deficit-reduction bill, in an effort to share responsibility with legislators. Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said environmental advocates should

not forget that spending for renewable energy programs has doubled under the governor’s watch.

“This is like sticking your finger in a dike to stop Hurricane Katrina,” said Jackson Morris of Environmental Advocates New York. “Every portion of the budget, including environmental expenditures, needs to contribute to the shared sacrifice necessary to address New York’s historic fiscal difficulties,” he said.

Meanwhile, Paterson has also proposed sweeping $300 million in funds from the Battery Park City (BPC) Authority in Lower Manhattan. That money is generated through property taxes and fees put on BPC developers. The money is intended to be used to build affordable housing, which helps spur the city’s private sector economy and offers long-term benefit to its residents. Now, the proposed sweep has housing advocates outraged. “The city did a tremendous amount to fund the building of Battery Park City,” said Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development. “The quid pro quo and the public benefit was supposed to be affordable housing.” The sweep from the BPC Authority would include a practice that fiscal hawks find especially repugnant: only $50 million would be plucked from the authority’s current surplus, while $250 million would be bonded out. This practice, often referred to as “backdoor lending,” has helped create a $140 billion debt among public authorities statewide. Here, however, Paterson, is facing some pushback. Unlike for many other state authorities, both the mayor and city comptroller have to sign off on any sweep of the BPC Authority funds. So far, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appears reluctant to give the money to Albany. Meanwhile, the consequences of a raid in April to help fill the then-$16 billion budget gap are being felt in the economy of Niagara County, according to local legislators there. Earlier this year, the state took $550 million from the New York Power Authority. Before the sweep, in a partnership with NYPA, the county could offer cutrate power to businesses interested in coming to Western New York by tapping some of the huge surplus, which is generated by fees paid by users of the authority’s power. Largely due to the cheap local power, Yahoo! recently broke ground on a $175 million data center in Niagara. After the raid, however, local legislators say they no longer can offer that incentive. The county has since filed a lawsuit to try and recover the funds, saying that they produced the surplus and that they, not Albany, should reap the rewards. “It’s frustrating,” said Richard Updegrove, the majority leader of the Niagara County Legislature. “We can’t provide low-cost energy anymore.” cbragg@nycapitolnews.com


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Advocates Look Forward To Green In Pockets From Green Jobs Program Concerns remain about role of ACORN, future of 10-state cap-and-trade program BY ANDREW COTLOV AND CHRIS BRAGG t is not often that a member of the New York Assembly gets the attention of the President of the United States. But the confluence of a green energy president and the state’s recent passage of a sweeping new green energy program meant that in September, when Barack Obama was in town to speak at Hudson Valley Community College, Assembly Member Kevin Cahill got a chance to get close with the commander-in-chief. “The president said, ‘We’ve been following what you’ve been doing in New York and you’re doing great work,’” said Cahill, an Assembly sponsor of the legislation. “The president told me so, personally.” After months of political wrangling, the Green Homes/Green Jobs program signed by Gov. David Paterson in October represents a major coup for environmental advocates, a lobby that had grown frustrated as one of their major initiatives had been bottled up in the State Senate. The new law will provide $112 million to retrofit one million homes and small businesses within the next five years. The funding will be parceled out to homeowners and commercial property owners in loans, between $13,000 and $26,000, which are meant to be paid back with the money saved from becoming more energy-efficient. Lawmakers around the state are lauding the measure, predicting it will

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create thousands of new green-collar jobs while also saving billions in energy costs for consumers. This helped the bill win bipartisan support. “We need jobs, period,” said Assembly Member Tom O’Mara. “Whether they’re green, red, white or in between, that’s the bottom line: we need people to get to work.” State Sen. Darrel Aubertine, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, agreed. “These are jobs that cannot be outsourced,” Aubertine said. “All the decision makers out there recognize the green economy is going to play a major role in the state and national economy going forward.” Aubertine’s spokesman, Drew Mangione, explained that the program could be especially helpful in areas of the state that have seen economic decline in recent years. “We certainly expect many of those jobs to come upstate, where we have older housing stock and colder winters,” Mangione said. When the Senate was mired in chaos in July, the Independent Power Producers of New York, a trade group that represents energy suppliers, managed to kill the bill. This time, however, the Working Families Party, which has also grown frustrated as a divided Democratic Senate has been unable to pass many elements of their aggressive agenda, helped push the bill through by an overwhelming margin. Yet some business groups remain concerned about its effects. The money

for the program was pulled from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade program consisting of 10 northeastern states. Since 2003, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has been meticulously planning with the energy industry how to run the program, as they have sought to strike a balance in the rates charged to businesses for carbon credits that then go to fund specific energy-efficiency programs.

Environmental advocates note that ACORN is not actually mentioned anywhere in the legislation and that other groups could instead be tapped to implement the program. Ken Pokalsky, legislative director for the Business Council of New York, said Green Homes/Green Jobs could now make RGGI a cash cow for the Legislature and had strayed far from its intended purposes. “This program has morphed into a revenue producer rather than a regulatory program,” he said. But advocates of the program argue that Green Homes/Green Jobs fits well into the spirit of how the RGGI funds were

supposed to be spent, since the money will still go to making homes more efficient. Cahill, the Assembly sponsor of the bill, dismissed concerns from the energy industry. “Its appropriate for those people in the business of selling more power to object to a program that calls for using less power,” he said. There also remain questions about who will actually get to share in the $112 million windfall. On the Senate floor, Republicans railed that the money could go to the parent organization of the Working Families Party, ACORN, which in recent months has come under scrutiny for potentially using state money earmarked for foreclosure relief programs instead for political purposes. Environmental advocates note, however, that ACORN is not actually mentioned anywhere in the legislation and that other groups could instead be tapped to implement the program. Paul Steidler, of the NY Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said that the state should consider setting up a website similar to that used in the federal stimulus bill to track where all the funds are going. He said that this should be done if only to assure the public that the money is not going to ACORN, given all the controversy swirling around the group. “There are plenty of other proven folks with an expertise in these areas,” Steidler said. cbragg@nycapitolnews.com

HEALTH

State Experts Offer Advance Prognosis Of Effects Of Federal Legislation BY SELENA ROSS n the pavement of 47th Street in midtown Manhattan, below the offices of Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, toddlers waved balloon animals in the air, signs reading “Senator Schumer, Stand Up for Children’s Health” strapped to their strollers. “We need to reward the states like New York that have done well,” said Marian Wright Edelman, the director of Children’s Defense Fund, during a slow moment at the rally. “How can we conceive that in the richest nation on earth they are talking about reform legislation that would leave children worse off?” Federal health care reform legislation goes back to the Senate this week, where it awaits another round of furious debate and will emerge reshaped once more, while in New York, local health experts look on warily as they expect potential massive changes to the state’s health system. S-CHIP, the public children’s health

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plan, faces elimination if its current provisions expire after 2013, as currently planned in the House. The Senate must choose between an expiration date of 2013 or 2019 for the program. But Medicaid coverage is perhaps the biggest issue for New York, a so-called “do-gooder” state that provides far more coverage than the federal government requires. [State Senator Tom Duane, the chair of the Senate Health Committee, has said for months that the state will lose out if the federal government does not provide funding to help support New York’s extensive coverage, a possibility that the Senate may take up.] Medicare funding is also threatened by proposals to introduce geographic variations in pricing, a system of rewarding areas like the Midwest that spend less, according to William Van Slyke of the Healthcare Association of New York State. He said that punishing New York for its high spending on Medicare did not take the state’s extra costs into account: it has big pockets of poverty, especially in New York City, and prioritizes certain needs that are

considered frills in other states, like prescription drugs. “The whole state will be heavily penalized,” said Van Slyke. “That’ll affect every provider and every hospital, especially in New York, where we have a large aging population.” The cost of private insurance is almost as much a concern. Most experts say that the Senate bill as it stands will not make insurance cheaper for New Yorkers who buy their own plans or employers who provide group coverage, and the bill is expected to make Americans legally required to buy coverage. Judy Wessler, the director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, an independent advocacy organization, says that a higher cost of insurance will drive more people to public hospitals, but the reforms threaten to reduce these hospitals’ funding without looking at demand, in the name of shifting funding to community-based primary care. These cutbacks are largely an urban issue but will also affect some hospitals upstate. Meanwhile, Paul Howard at the

Manhattan Institute has also been tracking how New York will maintain its services, but he argues that universal coverage should be held off or abandoned to prevent the kind of squeeze that experts describe. “You’re going to put millions of new people into the system when we already have a lack of primary care,” he said. “My concern is that in the name of expanding coverage you could wind up creating headaches for access to care for people lower down on the economic ladder.” A final concern was noted by Van Slyke, who said he has watched to see if the legislation would follow up on President Obama’s reference in a speech earlier this year to reforming medical malpractice law. But medical malpractice has not been addressed, which Van Slyke said continues to drive up costs and deter doctors from maintaining private practices in New York. “They’re really not doing anything,” he said. “We have OB-GYNs who are leaving New York in droves because their medical malpractice insurance is $175,000.” sross@nycapitolnews.com


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hen Dede Scozzafava endorsed Democrat Bill Owens for Congress in upstate New York, most of her voters went with her. The returns from the North Country, where Owens narrowly defeated Conservative Doug Hoffman, provide a few valuable takeaways about the strength of the Republican base, and the Democrats’ ability to win competitive elections in traditionally conservative upstate New York. Scozzafava’s endorsement also proved crucial in swinging GOP votes from 2008 to the Democratic column in 2009. The maps below provide an illustration. Owens exceeded expectations in conservative strongholds that were represented by Scozzafava and went heavily for John McHugh in 2008. The largest swing from 2008 to 2009 was in Saint Lawrence, where McHugh beat his Democratic opponent last year by 11,339 votes. This year, Owens bested Hoffman in the county by 3,820 votes, a swing of 15,159. If Hoffman had made up just a fifth of that difference—a feat that would have been much easier had Scozzafava, who represents Saint Lawrence, endorsed him or remained neutral—he would have won the race. Oswego also swung heavily for Owens, a surprise considering that the county provided the healthiest margin of victory for McHugh in 2008, when he won by close to 15,000 votes. This year, Hoffman narrowly edged out Owens there by 1,748 votes, a swing of more than 13,000 votes. Again, if Hoffman had been able to hold onto just 3,000 of those votes, he would have been the victor.

W

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THE CAPITOL

www.nycapitolnews.com

NOVEMBER 2009

Democratic, Bill Owens: 66,698 CANADA Conservative, Doug Hoffman: 63,672

Saint Lawrence Franklin Essex Jefferson

Lake Ontario

21

VERMONT

Lewis Hamilton Oswego N

Oneida Fulton Madison ALBANY

MASS.

2009 Election Republican, C A John N AMcHugh: D A 143,029 Democratic, Michael Oot: 75,871

Clinton

Saint Lawrence Franklin Essex Jefferson

Lake Ontario

20

Clinton

VERMONT

Lewis Hamilton Oswego N

Oneida 22

Fulton

19 1 2-18

Madison ALBANY MASS.

2008 Election


THE CAPITOL

www.nycapitolnews.com TC: Did you specifically go into broadcasting to cover sports? RA: I started a public access television show when I was 15, a high school sports show, and then I was announcing football games and basketball games on cable. And from there I took it to Fordham, when I was on WFUV, and then got my job. TC: So now you are going from interviewer to interviewee. RA: It was kind of surreal, the day after the election, to step outside my house and see this bank of television cameras, reporters from New York City who wanted to hear what I had to say.

R

TC: What is the takeaway from your victory? Are there implications beyond Westchester? RA: This is the first opportunity for voters to scream very loudly at all elected officials who are in office. The voters have had it. They expect a lot more from their leaders. In many ways it was a throwthe-bums-out movement. But they were looking for people they connected with, and I think I did that, because I represent what most people are going through. We’re all just struggling and just keeping our heads above water right now, because of the economy and these runaway taxes, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to stay in Westchester.

The Capitol: How much longer will you be working at Sirius Radio? Rob Astorino: I’ll be here a day or two a week for the next several weeks.

TC: Have you felt the consequences of the economy and rising property taxes personally? RA: My taxes on my house, which we bought five years ago, have doubled. In five years. And people in our neighborhood and throughout Westchester, for the most part, cannot keep up with that, especially if you have a family, and you’ve got bills, and you’re not set for life. Like everyone else, I get up early in the morning, go out to the car, drive to the train station, and head into Manhattan, work a long day, come home and, if I’m lucky, I get to see the kids before they go to bed and tuck them in. And I think a lot of people do that and then they realize that these long hours are just to stay the same. It’s sort of like a gerbil on a wheel. It’s very frustrating.

Radio Head ob Astorino knows how to communicate. The radio host and sports enthusiast has just delivered an unequivocal message to incumbents everywhere: Beware the wrath of the voters. Astorino was propelled to the Westchester county executive’s office earlier this month by a wave of voter frustration, defeating three-term incumbent Andy Spano in their rematch by close to 15 percentage points. The last Republican to hold the office was Andrew O’Rourke—who, notably, was the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate in 1986. Astorino built his career in radio while serving part-time as a town council member and county legislator in Westchester. He helped found ESPN Radio in New York, where he produced The Michael Kay Show, among other programs. He hosted a show on the Catholic Channel with Cardinal Edward Egan and is currently program director at Sirius Radio. Astorino’s talent for communicating will be put to the test in the next four years, as he tackles an ever-rising property tax bill in Westchester and tries to cut through the tangles of bureaucracy that have driven up costs in the county. He took a moment out of his job at Sirius to discuss those challenges as well as the transition from radio to government. What follows is an edited transcript.

TC: You built your career in broadcast. Will it be difficult not having radio in your life? RA: It will be, although I’ll have it in my life in a different way, in that I’ll be interviewed. And I like that. I think that’s an important tool for me to use to communicate directly with the residents of Westchester. I won’t be using spokesmen as much as the current county executive has. I think it’s important for people to hear directly from me about how I feel about issues and why I’m doing what I’m doing. But I love doing TV, I love doing radio, I love talking to the press, and I think I’m comfortable doing that, and it’s important for our message to get out.

TC: Mayor Bloomberg does a weekly radio show in New York City. You could do something like that. RA: I know. I would love that, if there were that specific outlet. There are smaller stations, but I would even love if a New York City station allowed me to do that, even on a monthly basis or something. TC: How have radio and politics intersected in your career? RA: They’ve always been dual tracks, because politics—public service—was always part-time, whether as a town board member or county board. So at one point they intersected and I had to decide whether I wanted to do it full-time or stay in my broadcasting career. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, whether it’s being with the Pope for a papal visit or being on the field after the Yankees win the World Series.

TC: Property taxes are only partially controlled by the county. You can keep the county’s share of taxes down, but state taxes will continue to rise as local schools and municipalities grow, and require more aid from the state. What can you do to reverse that trend? RA: I can really scale back the size and scope of county government, which I can control, which is not going to cut a property tax bill in half. But you know what? It’ll set the example. And if the county portion of the property tax bill doesn’t go up, then that’s a good thing, that’s a good first step. The other thing is to use the bully pulpit as effectively as we can. I heard from a lot of legislators

NOVEMBER 2009

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that they took this loudly and clearly. Will they go back to their same old habit of taxing and spending and letting them be controlled by special interests? Or will they actually try to make some fundamental differences in the budget process? TC: Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi suffered at the polls despite cutting the county’s share of property taxes and chairing the state’s property tax reform commission. How can you be sure, if taxes continue to rise, that voters will not hold it against you four years from now? RA: Everyone has their own little fiefdom and they don’t want to give it up. One of the first things I did when I first got elected councilman in 1992 was to do a study to see if we could merge the town police department in Mount Pleasant with the Village of Pleasantville police department, which was in the town. It showed that we would save a lot of money, but it wasn’t accepted by the village. At the end of the day, people have to decide what they really want. TC: Local political systems thrive on patronage. And no one wants to give up their local police department or sewer district. Politicians have promised to cut taxes for decades, only to be stymied by those two problems. What can you do differently? RA: We have to make the case stronger and stronger each year that it’s just unnecessary to have all these layers. I think people like scapegoats, they like to complain, but they like the problem to be solved for them, and so maybe it takes an act of courage from Albany to actually start deciding on a macro level to reduce things at a lower level. TC: You will take over in January from a 12-year incumbent. There must be some uneasiness among entrenched county employees. What is your message to them? RA: We’re going to do things differently, but they don’t need to be scared. They should embrace that, and once they understand what my mission is, I want everybody on the same team. They have to play a vital role in this, and those that accept and contribute will continue, and those that don’t buy into it or don’t want to stay will be asked to leave. TC: Do you get to take a vacation at some point? RA: I don’t know. Probably not, although I’m trying to maybe go away for a few days in December, just to get away from it all. But for the most part it’s just a lot of work to do. It’s 5,000 employees and 40 different departments, and you’ve got everything grinding to a halt because nobody knows what’s going to happen in January. —Sal Gentile sgentile@nycapitolnews.com


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The November 16,2009 Issue of The Capitol