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NYPA chief Richie Kessel may get unplugged.

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VOL. 4, NO. 7

The real state budget no one knows about gets scrutinized.

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Jane Corwin talks about running against the clock.

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APRIL 11, 2011

New Sheriff In Town

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

The unexpected transformation of Eric Schneiderman page 10


Bob The Builder Budget Director Bob Megna and the power of the extender bills By Jon Lentz

www.nycapitolnews.com Publisher/Executive Director: Darren Bloch

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N.Y. Governor’s Office

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ormer Gov. David Paterson says he came up with the idea. Then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reportedly nudged Paterson into trying it out. And Larry Schwartz, who was Paterson’s top adviser, is getting some credit for it too. But insiders say the real mastermind behind the parliamentary maneuver of putting budget cuts in emergency spending bills may be Robert Megna, New York’s professorial budget director. Not that Megna would take credit for the cost-cutting budget extenders, which Cuomo used as a negotiating tactic to help get his first budget passed on time. Asked where the idea came from, Megna answered with a single word: “Desperation.” In spring 2010, with the budget overdue, Paterson was worried that the state was losing out on potential savings the longer his cost-cutting budget was delayed. “We’ve always known that it was a strong executive budget process,” Megna said. “We finally came up with the idea of including big chunks of the budget in the extender bills, and going to the Legislature with bills that looked more like that.” The genius of the idea is that the extenders offer the Legislature a stark choice: Adopt the bills or allow the state government to shut down. At the time, Paterson attributed the strategy to Megna, though the former governor has recently taken a bit more credit for himself. Megna deflected questions about his own role, saying that he worked with Paterson, Schwartz and Peter Kiernan, Paterson’s chief counsel, as well as others in the counsel’s office and the budget division. “Last year was a team effort, and I think it’s wrong to assign any particular person [as if] they thought this up,” Meg-

The real mastermind behind the parliamentary maneuver of putting budget cuts in the emergency spending bills may be Robert Megna, New York’s professorial budget director.

Asked where the idea to put budget cuts in extender bills came from, Megna answered with a single word: “Desperation.” na said. “We went to the governor with a lot of options about how to proceed and get the budget done, and to maintain the savings that we had in place. He decided eventually on the policy that we came up with.” An Albany insider familiar with last year’s budget discussions said that while Megna probably deserves most of the credit for coming up with the idea, Paterson deserves kudos for going ahead EDITORIAL Interim Editor: Phillip Lentz plentz@manhattanmedia.com Managing Editor: Andrew J. Hawkins ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com Reporters: Chris Bragg cbragg@nycapitolnews.com Laura Nahmias lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com Jon Lentz jlentz@nycapitolnews.com Photography Editor: Andrew Schwartz Interns: Ismail Muhammad, Candace Wheeler

with it. “I think it was either his idea or an idea hatched out in discussions with Larry Schwartz and Peter Kiernan,” the insider said of Megna. “If it was Megna’s idea, it was Larry’s political mind, and Kiernan who did the legal legwork.” Megna, who became budget director in June 2009, has a long history in government finance. He was previously commissioner for the state’s Taxation and Finance Department, headed the Budget Division’s economic and revenue unit and also worked on budget issues for the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. “If you look at the budgets over the last two years, you’ll see a lot of things done differently,” the insider said of Megna’s impact. “I think he deserves a lot of

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that credit.” Robert Ward, the deputy director of the Rockefeller Institute, said the threat of a budget extender strengthened the hand of Governor Cuomo, who also was emboldened by high approval ratings. “It’s a very significant addition to the governor’s budget powers, which were pretty strong even before,” Ward said. Megna said in June 2010 that the strategy is “not the way to do a budget,” but added that “we felt we had to move in this direction” to close a shortfall that was still above $2 billion. Since Cuomo came into office and kept him as budget director, Megna has embraced the governor’s more aggressive—and more involved—approach. “I think Governor Cuomo saw this in a different way this year,” Megna said. “He didn’t want to go weeks without a budget, period. So he was going to condense this whole process if he needed to. But I think the more important thing was [that] he had a good working relationship with the legislative leaders. We had a good working relationship with legislative staff.” That good working relationship may be tested by the time the next budget rolls around. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently questioned the extent of the governor’s budgetary powers, suggesting that legal questions about the budget extender strategy had yet to be resolved. “It seems unlikely the Legislature will want this situation with the extenders to go on forever,” said Ward. “They already had big problems with the way the executive budget process works.” In fact, a challenge to the governor’s use of the extenders is embedded in a recent lawsuit filed against the prison gerrymandering law. Still, legislative staffers and other government employees say that Megna’s expertise and ability to listen make him a good partner, even when political differences arise. Since wrapping up the state budget on time, there have been fewer all-nighters for Megna, but he has yet to take a day off. “This job, you find yourself getting sucked into implementation issues almost right away,” Megna said. “We have to put out an enacted budget report that comes out at the end of the month. We have our tax-filing season in the middle of April, and we also have to solidify our plans for how we implement the budget. We have a lot still to do.” jlentz@nycapitolnews.com

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Can NYPA CEO Richie Kessel survive efforts to oust him? By Chris Bragg

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ohn Dyson has only been a board member of the New York Power Authority for few weeks. But already he seems to be running the show. At an emergency NYPA board of trustees meeting on April 4, Dyson updated the board on the status of a controversial proposal to construct an $850 million cable that would bring electricity to midtown Manhattan from New Jersey. Dyson told the board that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had asked him to personally intercede. “I have done that,” Dyson said, sitting at the head of the table at NYPA’s pristine 16th-floor conference room in a White Plains, N.Y., high-rise. To Dyson’s left, NYPA CEO Richie Kessel sat silent, slumped in his chair. Dyson, who was appointed by Cuomo in January, is widely seen as someone brought on board to keep the flamboyant Kessel in line, if not to fire him. Kessel

has recently angered NYPA trustees by undertaking a number of costly initiatives without their prior knowledge. He is also under investigation by the inspector general. “People have been talking about Richie Kessel’s future more than they have been talking about Charlie Sheen’s,” quipped one industry lobbyist. But Kessel has proven to be a survivor. For more than two decades, he has been a leading figure in New York’s energy industry, forging alliances on both sides of the aisle and surviving both Democratic and Republican governors. Kessel was appointed by Mario Cuomo in 1989 to run the Long Island Power Authority, and remained there until he was removed in 2007 by Eliot Spitzer. A year later, Kessel was picked by former Gov. David Paterson to run NYPA. He retains the strong support of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, as well as other politicians from Long Island. “One thing I’ve learned is to never, ever count out Richie Kessel,” said one industry insider. During Mario Cuomo’s administration, Dyson and Kessel clashed while Dyson was serving as chairman of NYPA and Kessel as executive director of the

NYPA

Power Plays

NYPA CEO Richie Kessel has recently angered trustees by undertaking a number of costly initiatives without their prior knowledge. Consumer Protection Board, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. Dyson acknowledged that there has been tension between them. But he said the disagreements occurred so long ago that he could not recall their source. “I can’t even remember—it was 25

years ago,” Dyson said. “We’ve been to ball games, gone to lunch since then. I consider him a friend.” Their personal styles are also very different. The always-vocal Kessel made plenty of enemies running the Long Island Power Authority. Dyson, a former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani as

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well as a former state agriculture commissioner, has a quieter, behind-thescenes approach. Dyson is expected to serve as a fulltime watchdog over the huge authority. In fact, he and a phalanx of highly paid NYPA staffers were the only ones present at the most recent trustees’ meeting; rather than actually make the trip to White Plains, the other trustees were piped in to the boardroom through a scratchy teleconference system. Most insiders believe that Dyson did not rejoin the board simply to serve as a rank-and-file member, and that he will eventually be elected chairman. But Dyson was not elected as the new chair at the recent meeting. He will likely wait until the term of the current chair, Michael Townsend, expires in May. Dyson’s return to NYPA also comes at a time of particular weakness for Kessel, whom The New York Post has savaged in a series of editorials condemning his desire to donate more than $25 million in NYPA money to non NYPA-related organizations, a practice that Coumo had previously warned Kessel about as attorney general. NYPA board members had been kept in the dark about the grants until a letter from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman came to light. The state inspector general’s office has opened an investigation into the donations as well as Kessel’s granting of no-bid contracts. The IG has subpoenaed Kessel’s e-mail and cell-phone records. Dyson said the NYPA board’s threemember audit committee would also be looking into these matters. A NYPA spokesman said Kessel was cooperating

“I can’t even remember—it was 25 years ago,” John Dyson said of Richie Kessel. “We’ve been to ball games, gone to lunch since then. I consider him a friend.” fully with investigations. Approached by a reporter at the NYPA board meeting, Kessel declined to comment. Kessel has also weathered criticism for a failure to keep trustees abreast of a number of costly proposed projects,

including solar and wind initiatives and, most recently, the power line from New Jersey to Manhattan. An initial vote on the deal, which Kessel had spent 18 months crafting, was tabled the morning after the Senate confirmed Dyson’s appointment to the NYPA

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board. In his first week on the job, Dyson significantly reworked the agreement, following criticism from Senate Energy Committee Chair George Maziarz alleging the plan’s cost would cause a spike in Western New York power rates. After four 14-hour days spent reworking the agreement, Dyson’s less-costly proposal was approved. Following the vote, Dyson and Kessel held a closed-door meeting in Kessel’s office. They did not emerge for some time. cbragg@nycapitolnews.com

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2010 State Senate Districts 48

section who left in 2005. “The challenge is keeping partisan politics out of the administration of the law. It’s tempting.” Republicans counter that the department’s review process has consistently been nonpartisan. If anyone has a bias, it’s the staff attorneys in the Justice Department, they say. “To put it in concrete terms, the voting rights section had a very liberal, activist view of how to apply the Voting Rights Act,” said Mark Braden, a Republican redistricting lawyer. “A lot of times, the Supreme Court didn’t agree.” Still, some experts say they have

45 47

56 62 54 60

61

55

50

44

49

58

51

43

59

“I do think it’s a very different ball game than it has been in any other previous cycle,” said Richard Emery, a Democratic redistricting lawyer.

46

57

53 52 41 42

Population is 5 percent or more above the average district size Population is within +/- 5 percent of the average district size

39 40 38

35 1

37

Population is 5 percent or more below the average district size

2

5

36 7 6 9

8

4

3

SOURCE: CENTER FOR URBAN RESEARCH, CUNY GRADUATE CENTER

Many of New York’s upstate State Senate districts are underpopulated based on 2010 Census numbers, while some downstate districts have larger than average populations. Some experts say the lines are unfair to minority groups concentrated in New York City, and that the Democratic-led Justice Department could block any redistricting plans that continue the disparity.

Voting Fights For the first time in almost 50 years, a Democratic Justice Department will review the state’s redrawn legislative districts BY JON LENTZ

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or the first time since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, a Democratic-led Justice Department will be in charge of reviewing the redrawing of voting district lines to ensure minority groups are not disadvantaged. The department’s political leadership could result in New York’s legislative district lines being drawn in a way that benefits state Democrats, given what some experts say is a less partisan approach under U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “I do think it’s a very different ball game than it has been in any other previous cycle,” said Richard Emery, a Democratic redistricting lawyer. In New York, the department will have to review redistricting plans that impact

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APRIL 11, 2011

the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The most controversial redistricting is expected to come out of the State Senate, where the Republicans have a narrow majority over Democrats, and where redistricting could tip the balance either way. Of course, the Justice Department is always expected to be impartial in carrying out its reviews under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents any changes to the voting process that would put African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic groups at a disadvantage. Spokeperson Xochitl Hinojosa said the department, which weighs redistricting plans based on decennial census figures, “will apply the statute in a fair, nonpartisan and evenhanded manner.” But after the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses, the department’s voting rights section was accused of allowing politics to

creep into its rulings on redistricting. The controversy reached a high point in the 2000s under the second President Bush, who was criticized for politicizing the entire department. One of the most controversial cases was in 2003 in Texas, where Rep. Tom DeLay pushed through a redistricting plan that boosted the size of the state’s Republican delegation in Congress. It also broke up a Hispanic voting bloc into several districts, weakening its strength. DOJ staffers complained that political appointees overruled their recommendation to reject the Texas plan, though Republicans denied that politics had anything to do with the decision. “That’s an example that was pretty clearly partisan,” said William Yeomans, a veteran of the department’s civil rights

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seen signs of partisan Republican influence not only in Texas but in New York as well. If Obama’s DOJ continues to be nonpartisan, Democrats could benefit, they say. “In New York State it could have an effect, because the current State Senate lines are screwy,” said Andrew Beveridge, a redistricting expert and sociology professor at Queens College. New York State Senate districts upstate have too few people in them, while downstate districts generally have too many, Beveridge said. That’s due in part to the 2002 redistricting plan, which maximized disparities between the regions to benefit Republicans. Sen. Dean Skelos, now the Republican majority leader, drove the creation of the plan. Where the Voting Rights Act comes into play is that most of the state’s minorities live in the overpopulated downstate districts. “It’s going to be like a holy war this time in New York,” Beveridge said. “Even though it didn’t grow as much as it has in the past, the population shifts are still going the same way, which means the Republicans will lose their power, or lose control of the State Senate.” State Sen. Michael Nozzolio, the Republican co-chair of the legislative redistricting task force, argued that party politics plays no part when it comes to protecting minority voters. “There certainly is no room for partisanship in this issue,” Nozzolio said. “It’s to ensure the voting rights of minority members. They’ve been important to prior redistricting. That is an embedded right that is absolutely fundamental.” jlentz@nycapitolnews.com

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Paper Trail In push to go paperless, total cost of bill printing in dispute By Laura Nahmias

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his is like Area 51,” says Assembly staffer Adam Kramer, waving his arm toward the floor-to-ceiling stacks of gray metal cubbies that hold every bill printed by the New York Assembly this year. “You may not find any aliens in there, but you may find some pretty bad legislation.” But it’s not the content that Kramer’s boss, Republican Assembly Member Jim Tedisco, is crusading against, rather the printing process itself. He has introduced two bills designed to force the Legislature to go paperless, arguing that millions of dollars are wasted every year on superfluous legislation. In the Assembly document room, Kramer has more than a few examples he can point to. “You know, the state spent money to print a bill to make the cupcake the official children’s snack of New York,” he said. Depending on whom you ask, the cupcake bill, which was tabled three years ago, cost the taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 to $2,200, including the cost of personnel associated with printing it. The numbers vary because there is little agreement between the minority and majority parties in both houses on the actual amount. Bill printing is mandated in the state constitution and is estimated to cost about $8 million a year in printer maintenance, ink, paper and toner, according to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group. Last year, for example, the state printed more than 11,700 bills, about a tenth of which were passed into law. That is more than twice as many bills printed than in Illinois or California. In his office, Tedisco fake-weight-lifts two white

dictionary-thick digests, the bound 500-page volume that all 212 legislators and their aides receive at the beginning of every week. “Having one of these legislative digests printed after the first week is like you or I every week getting a telephone book placed on our front porch because five people moved into our neighborhood,” he says. Assembly Democrats dispute Tedisco’s cost analysis. They estimate the total costs of printing in the Legislature at approximately $400,000. That figure was arrived at by multiplying the cost of each piece of paper ($0.02) by the number of pages printed each year (12 million). “Recognizing that technology is evolving, many members have proposals to make changes, including moving to a more paperless environment,” said Assembly Democratic spokesperson Mike Whyland, who noted that a steering committee is currently investigating the process. Tedisco scoffs at that figure, which doesn’t take into account the money both houses spend on paper and associated printing costs, such as ink, toner and salaries for staff whose jobs are specifically tied to bill printing. “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem to be pooh-poohing this,” Tedisco said. “Even if I used the lowest possible savings, it’s like the old saying: ‘A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.’” Fifteen states and the U.S. Congress have gone digital, Tedisco says, brandishing his BlackBerry like a wand. Tedisco’s plan calls for all legislators to read bills on e-readers, laptops or iPads. A Kindle (price tag: $139) would be even cheaper. Casual math tallies the total cost of buying iPads for all 212 legislators at $84,588. That’s still less than a quarter of the lowest estimate of what the state spends on printing every year, according to Democrats. Some senators already have such devices. Sen. Tom Libous, a sponsor of the bill, can often be seen from the Senate gallery with his iPad, coaching other senators on how to use the device or reading news clips while the Democratic conference members speak on the floor. Tedisco’s plan also calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to convene a volunteer task force of tech employees from Google, Facebook or Xerox—a so-called “geek squad” that could audit the state’s paper usage. A spokesperson for Cuomo declined to comment. Tedisco’s bill joins two other paper-reduction plans sponsored by Assembly members. One, proposed by Democrat Assembly Member Sandy Galef, would allow for bills on members’ desks to be considered “printed” even if they’re being read off a laptop. Another plan, sponsored by Republican Assembly Member Will Barclay, would limit the number of bills each legislator is allowed to propose per session to 125 in the Senate and 50 in the Assembly. Tedisco said he did not care if his bill were co-opted by the Assembly majority and his name taken off, so long as it passed. The humor in all this was not lost on him.  “The irony is,” he said, “I have to do a bill and have the whole thing printed to get rid of printing bills.” lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com

Barry Sloan

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem to be pooh-poohing this,” said Jim Tedisco. “Even if I used the lowest possible savings, it’s like the old saying: ‘A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.’”

Last year, the state printed more than 11,700 bills, about a tenth of which were passed into law.

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New York Controlling Its Own Destiny By: Jerry Connolly

Labor acrossAmerica America recently vigils and rallies Labor unions unions across recently heldheld vigils and rallies advocating for workplace dignity, protection of the right to advocating for workplace dignity, protection of the right to organize organize and collectively bargain for fair wages and better and collectively bargain for fair wages and better working working conditions. conditions.

In 2011 union members across America and right here in New In 2011 members across America andand right here under in NewatYork York areunion finding their workplace rights future are finding their workplace rights and future under attack. tack. Special interests interests working Albany are fighting to to Special workingthroughout throughout Albany are fighting outsource union jobs, dimming our state’s prospects for economic outsource union jobs, dimming our state’s prospects for ecorecovery. Their plan is not to send to China, or Mexico, nomic recovery. Their plan is notjobs to send jobsIndia to China, India rather places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and orbutMexico, but rather places likeConnecticut, New Jersey, Connecticut, Canada. Pennsylvania, and Canada.

Here’s Considerthe theplight plight highly skilled BoilHere’s how: how: Consider of of thethe highly skilled Boilermaker, ermaker, Millwright, Carpenter or Electrical Worker who Millwright, Carpenter or Electrical Worker who build and maintain build maintain in of New York. some of powerand plants in Newpower York. plants As some these trade As unionists these trade unionists encounter 50 percent unemployment, the encounter 50 percent unemployment, the powerful Albany powerful Albany environmental lobby beenand agitating environmental lobby has been agitating to has legislate over to legislate and over regulate against in-state power production. regulate against in-state power production. Their shortsighted energy plan includes closing down vital Their shortsighted energy plan includes closing down vital power power generation facilities we depend on for power and jobs, generation facilities we depend on for power and jobs, replacing replacing them with imported electricity. This includes a 385 them with imported electricity. This includes a 385 mile extension mile extension cord bringing 1,000 MW of electricity from chord brining 1,000 MW of electricity from Canada andManhat660 MW Canada and 660 MW coming from New Jersey to coming from New Jersey to Manhattan, which would make New tan, as well as making New York the end user of gas extracted York the end user of gas extracted from the Pennsylvania side of the from the Pennsylvania side of the Marcellus Shale. Marcellus Shale.

Each of these examples screams out that New York needs a Eachpower of these examples that energy New York needs aare newcirnew plant sitingscreams law, as out major investors powerNew plantYork, sitingbut law,won’t as major energy investors circling New cling invest their dollarsare here due to red York,In butorder won’ttoinvest dollars herequickly due to red tape. Inaway, orderwe to tape. retaintheir jobs that are slipping need common New York away, State we energy that mainretaina jobs that aresense quickly slipping needplan a common sense tains sources the Fitzpatrick Indian New vital Yorkenergy State energy planincluding that maintains vital energy and sources Point nuclear power plants, and which facilitates theplants, building including the Fitzpatrick and Indian Point nuclear power and ofwhich new facilitates base loadthe power. building of new base load power. The maintain New York’s ability to control its Thechallenge challenge isistotomaintain New York’s ability to control its own own energy and economic future. Otherwise we will continue energy and economic future. Otherwise we will continue to stand to stand still while our neighbors pass us by and become the still while our neighbors pass us by and become the masters of New masters of New York’s destiny. York’s destiny.

Jerry Connolly is the retired Business Manager of BoilermakJerry Connolly of Boilermakers ers Local 5 andis athe40retired year Business veteran Manager of the labor movement.Local He 5 and aas 40spokesperson year veteran of for the labor movement.ofHe servesfor as Energy serves the Coalition Labor spokesperson for the Coalition of Labor for Energy and Jobs. For and Jobs. information For additional information visit additional visit www.coalition4energyandjobs.org www.coalition4energyandjobs.org S P E C I A L

S P O N S O R E D

S E C T I O N

New York AREA’s membership includes some of the state’s most vital business, labor and community organizations including the New York State AFL-CIO, Business Council of New York State, Partnership for New York City, New York Building Congress, National Federation of Independent Business and many more. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G April 11, 2011

7


The Other Budget Book By Jon Lentz

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ast year, when Assembly Member Steve Englebright learned that the 2010 budget would slash funding for the New York State Council on the Arts, he set out to block the cuts and prevent staff layoffs. But when he approached the Assembly leadership about reversing the “terrible changes” Gov. David Paterson had proposed, he discovered there was little to be done. Even if the spending were restored in the budget, the governor could get the cuts anyway by simply holding on to the cash. “I was told that we’ve done that in the past and the governor doesn’t pay attention to our appropriation,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development. “He just lets the money sit there and makes it a savings.” Englebright’s experience reflects the preliminary nature of an approved budget, as well as the governor’s tight grip on spending even after a budget agreement has been hammered out with lawmakers.

appropriations in the budget for a number of reasons. Capital projects, for example, are often unfunded in the first year of an appropriation because of the time it takes to break ground on a project. Unsurprisingly, emergency appropriations are used only for emergencies. And some programs take longer than expected to get off the ground, pushing spending into future budget years. (When that spending is approved in subsequent budgets, it’s known as “reapprops” or reappropriations.) And governors can move some money around for their favorite programs. Cuomo has already shifted around some money to fund his regional economic-development councils, the centerpiece of his plan to spur job growth. The governor scrounged up $100 million to help fund the councils by scrapping a massive data center that had been appropriated but never built. “He said, ‘I’m never going to build that, so I’m going to claim that money,’” Krueger said. “That kind of reapprop happens constantly.” What can befuddle or frustrate lawmakers is when a governor fails to pay for state agency staffers, supplies or even some grants or programs they thought were fully funded. “We end up wishing that we had not wasted the opportunity to make the best use of that appropriation,” Englebright said. “So in the following year, we don’t even try.” In many cases, such changes are made to keep the state’s finances in balance. When the financial crisis slammed the state and revenues plummeted in late 2009, the Paterson administration delayed school aid payments and scaled back other expenditures. “In the past few years, Paterson has enacted across-the-board cuts to state agencies midyear,” said Tammy Gamerman, a senior research associate at the Citizens Budget Commission. “The governor has the most control over state agencies.” The governor is restricted from scrimping on state aid to local governments, such as Medicaid or school aid, Gamerman added. “They can’t hold back wages to their workers,” she said. “They still have health insurance for their current employees. They have a little flexibility on paying off

“It’s an oversimplification to believe a government budget is simply a list of appropriations that then match cash spent,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger. An overlooked yet critical piece of the puzzle is the state’s financial plan, which lays out actual spending levels, often set below the amounts appropriated in the budget. While the budget gets plenty of publicity and is seen as a final product, it is better described as a set of spending guidelines that serve as the basis for the $132.5 billion financial plan, which is released to little fanfare a few weeks later. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s power over budgeting, which he demonstrated this year by wielding the threat of a government shutdown to get his proposals passed with few changes, also extends to portions of the financial plan, which is subject to tweaks and shifts by the governor throughout the year. “It’s an oversimplification to believe a government budget is simply a list of appropriations that then match cash spent,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. The actual cash disbursements in the financial plan are often set below the

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April 11, 2011

Marc Anderson

The “real” state budget nobody knows about

An overlooked yet critical piece of the puzzle is the state’s financial plan, which lays out actual spending levels, often set below the amounts appropriated in the budget. debt service as it comes due. They have a little more flexibility with the timing of payments to school districts or localities, within a few months.” Robert Ward, the deputy director at the Rockefeller Institute, said the governor may even have the power to cut education spending midyear, despite the popular perception that it is untouchable. “The conventional wisdom is that the governor can unilaterally cut appropriations or refuse to spend aid for state agency operations,” Ward said. “There’s an understanding that he does not have the ability to cut school aid, but that also is not written into the law at any place.” In office only a few months, and with his budget only recently approved, Cuomo has had little time to tinker with spending levels. Governors typically tweak and move around cash so regularly that Cuomo will undoubtedly rile lawmakers sooner or later by failing to fully fund a cherished program or project.

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“I don’t think you could find any governor in the history of New York State where you couldn’t find some examples and some legislators who were not pleased with what happened,” Krueger said. The dynamic could be different this year, because Cuomo’s enacted budget puts the state’s spending commitments more in line with expected revenues, reducing the need to pare back spending below appropriation levels. But Gamerman noted that several expected revenue sources are uncertain, including savings from labor negotiations, prison closures and Medicaid. “The state is still projecting a fairly optimistic revenue for next year, and there’s still a risk that the economy will not perform as they’re expecting it to do,” Gamerman said. That suggests some turbulent fiscal seas ahead for New York’s other budget book. jlentz@nycapitolnews.com

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Performance Anxiety Applying for Cuomo’s new education grants may be tough for struggling school districts BY CANDACE WHEELER

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he governor giveth, the governor taketh away. Struggling school districts reeling from steep budget cuts will soon have the opportunity to apply for $500 million in education performance grant money, thanks to a new proposal included in the final budget agreement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. First proposed in the governor’s State of the State speech in January, and modeled on the federal Race to the Top grant program, two grants, each worth $250 million, will reward school districts that make improvements to academic performance and invent creative ways to cut down on administrative costs without affecting students in the classroom. The process will begin with a request for proposals sent out to all 800-plus school districts across the state. Following that, a peer review panel will evaluate each school’s response, using a scoring rubric to select the winning districts. While some are wary about the effects of switching from a formula-based model of school aid to an incentive-based one, Morris Peters, spokesperson for the state budget division, insists impoverished school districts stand to gain the most. “Schools with traditionally underserved students are the target for this pot of money,” Peters said. “Those schools that are towards the end of the wealth spectrum are a priority.” Peters added that during the competition, each school would be placed into one of three categories: high-need, average-need and low-need. While com-

peting for the grants, schools will be judged only among peers. But education advocates and Cuomo critics like Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, aren’t swayed by such promises. “Governor Cuomo’s first budget takes back almost every dollar delivered under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, and reduces future increases to an inflation factor, thus undoing the state’s CFE commitment,” Easton said in an e-mail. “Rather than seeing improvement in their schools, students will be waving goodbye to teachers and programs in every region of the state.” There is no question that school administrators are now faced with the daunting task of maintaining education programs and keeping teachers on staff with less funding. On top of that, administration officials acknowledged that struggling schools may find it burdensome to apply for the new grant money, given administrative cutbacks and layoffs. But despite these challenges, some administrators, like Syracuse Superintendent Daniel Lowengard, are excited about the opportunity. “We will certainly compete for one if not both of the grants,” Lowengard said. “We see this as an opportunity to spur innovation and creativity.” Syracuse schools have faced extreme financial difficulties in the wake of state budget cuts, which have led the superintendent to propose multiple school closings and a salary freeze for all employees. “The governor talks about his cuts only being 2 percent of the state budget. In Syracuse, our cuts were 6 percent. That’s three times the state, in a district that is already underfunded,” Lowengard said. “These grants are an opportunity to help us through this difficult fiscal time.” editor@nycapitolnews.com

“Schools with traditionally underserved students are the target for this pot of money,” budget division spokesperson Morris Peters said. “Those schools that are towards the end of the wealth spectrum are a priority.”

Building Is The Blueprint For Economic Recovery By Mike Elmendorf With nation slowly emerging from Withthethe country slowly coming outthe theworst worstrecession recessioninindecades, many are rightfully wecan canbejumpstart economy. decades, many areasking askinghow what done to our jumpstart our Investing in our infrastructure is one important route. economy. Investing in our infrastructure is one important route. Our entire infrastructure system is aged, antiquated and in need of As we construct vital projects such as the 2nd Avenue Subway/ significant investment. As we construct vital projects such as the East Side access, rebuilding the World Trade Center as a 2nd Avenue Subway, East Sideof access, the complete reconstruction destination, and Thruway, high speedupgrading rail, we need also invest in ofmajor segments on the NYS majortowater treatment the construction of newupstate power rail plants. facilities and revitalizing facilities, we also need to also invest in the construction of new power plants across our state.

It’s a fact that our economy is tied directly to the availability and

It’s a fact that our economic well-being is tied directlySociety to the availaffordability of electricity. in 2009, the American of ability affordable energy.graded The American Society of infrastructure Civil Engineers’ Civil of Engineers (ASCE) America’s energy (ASCE) grades America’s energy infrastructure a D+. The report a D+ and noted that projects aimed at solutions for increasing published in 2009 says energy projects aimed at solutions for increassupply consistently meet red tape and opposition. ASCE says ing demand have met much red tape and opposition while demand for America needs to $1.5 trillion in energy improvements by 2030 power continues increase.

just to meet growing demand.

Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) “Building a The U.S. Department Energy estimates electricity demand Stronger Future” reportsof that there are 30 power plant applications pending at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission while ASCE asserts will increase by 24 percent by 2035. New York State, which has that needsenergy $1.5 trillion improvements 2030 just third highest costs in in energy the nation is must leanbyheavily theAmerica toon meet demand. It transmission is time to act.system. In many parts of the an antiquated

state, electricity demand outstrips supply, causing prices to

According Ken Simonson, Chief climb andtoraising the potential forEconomist blackouts.at AGC of America, “The unemployment rate in construction was 20 percent nationally in March, higher than any other industry. If New York waits, skilled As our nation seekswill to break dependence on foreign a construction workers have its moved to other states, otheroil, industries first step in New York State is for the legislature to pass a orvital retired.”

new power plant siting law. The construction of new nuclear

andYork otherState, base which load power facilities in New Yorkcosts Stateinwill New has the third-highest energy the nation, is over-reliant transmission In a vital boostontoan theaged, stateoutdated economy, while also system. making us provide many parts of theon state, electricitystates demand supply, causless dependent neighboring for outstrips power generation. ing prices to climb. Maintaining existing base load generation, and facilitating the construction of new nuclear andand other baseMile loadPoint power Existing nuclear plants such as Indian Point Nine facilities in New York State will provide a vital boost to the state in Oswego have become economic cornerstones of their economy.

communities, and should continue to play a major role for many to come. It’s a be factforthat nuclear facilities Ayears vital first step would theNew stateYork’s legislature to pass a new are power safe,siting cleanlaw, andreplacing affordable electricity, and have plant thesources expiredofArticle X statute. New been York’s nuclear for decades. Without power New York’s facilities have long beenthe safe, cleanfrom and affordable sources of elecplantsforelectricity rateshave would go through the cornerstones roof. tricity decades and become economic of their communities. We must facilitate the opportunity to expand our state’s energy capacity. New York faces extraordinary economic challenges. Expanding

and rebuilding our state’s energy infrastructure provides an

New York faces economic challenges. immediate shotextraordinary in the arm that is needed now andExpanding for future and rebuilding our state’s infrastructure provides an immediate shot in the generations. arm and stability for future generations. Mike Elmendorf is the New York State Director of the National Michael Elmendorf is President and CEO of Associated General Contractors Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), New York’s leading small ofbusiness New Yorkadvocacy State (AGC), New York’s largest statewide contractor associaorganization. tion. AGC provides advocacy and education for contractors and affiliated firms helping grow the State’s economy and constructing its $30 billion annual building, transportation, civil and environmental infrastructure. S P E C I A L

S P O N S O R E D

S E C T I O N

The publication for and about New York State Government www.nycapitolnews.com The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G

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www.nycapitolnews.com

APRIL 11, 2011

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New Sheriff In Town ANDREW SCHWARTZ

The unexpected transformation of Eric Schneiderman BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

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ate last March, as legislative leaders were scrambling to put the finishing touches on the first on-time budget in years, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was in his 25th-floor office in lower Manhattan having an intense discussion about an unsung hero of the civil rights movement, Charles Hamilton Houston. “Have you read this?” he asks, holding a copy of the book Groundwork by Genna Rae McNeil, the Houston biography that Schneiderman has lately been handing out to friends and new hires like party favors. Schneiderman’s interest in Houston’s life seems odd. Houston was an African American lawyer and scholar whose impact on the civil rights movement was not fully appreciated until decades after his death. Schneiderman is a former state senator from

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the Upper West Side with a reputation for grabbing the spotlight and annoying colleagues on both sides of the aisle. But Houston’s life exemplifies the challenge that lies before Schneiderman: how to bring the attorney general’s office out from under the shadow of his two powerhouse predecessors—Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo—and make it his own. It hasn’t been easy. Early reviews of Schneiderman’s first 100 days in office can be summed up in two words: unusually quiet. Gone is the brash senator who irked the Albany establishment with his liberal, partisan zeal, replaced by a methodical consensus-building statewide official who is traveling around the state, slowly building his name recognition beyond his Manhattan base. Schneiderman’s low profile is not entirely his own fault. While all eyes were on Cuomo and the budget

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fireworks, Schneiderman has been building a strategy around three key issues: taxpayer protection, mortgage fraud and, the granddaddy of them all, public corruption. He brushes aside the idea that he is laboring in quasiobscurity, preferring to focus on the task of orienting himself in his new job. “It’s even better than I anticipated,” he says of his first 100 days in office. “This is as perfect a job as I can imagine.” There is no mistaking the glee in his voice as he describes his vision for the AG’s office, a position that has risen in national prominence thanks to Spitzer and Cuomo. And even though his aides politely decline a photographer’s request for a posed shot or two, Schneiderman jumps at the chance. Perched on the edge of his desk, arms crossed, a determined look on his face, the state’s new attorney general cannot help but let slip a little bit of the old Schneiderman. “The ‘badass AG’ shot,” he says, as the flash goes off.

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n the morning of Nov. 19, a few weeks after the general election, the Partnership for New York City had a surprise visitor at its annual membership meeting. Schneiderman, fresh off his hard-fought race against Staten Island district attorney Dan Donovan, popped in to introduce himself to the assembled titans of business and finance, many of whom had not supported his campaign. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who co-chaired the meeting along with News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, introduced Schneiderman, who proceeded to describe his background in private practice and his plan to recruit topflight lawyers for the AG’s office. And to set any worried minds at ease, Schneiderman made it clear that when it came to investigating Wall Street, he did not intend to pursue punitive measures, but rather preventative ones that would hopefully root out the bad actors and help the financial sector restore its tarnished image. This came as a shock to some of the people in the room, who were certain that Schneiderman would be more antagonist than ally. After all, he was one of the most liberal members of the State Senate; he campaigned on continuing Eliot Spitzer’s aggressive crackdown on the financial services industry and regularly blasted Donovan for refusing to take up the mantle of “sheriff of Wall Street.” “It came as a pleasant surprise to our board,” said Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership. “I think he bends over backwards to ensure the business community, for the good actors, that they have nothing to worry about.” The Partnership wasn’t the only out-of-the-box visit Schneiderman made on his post-election victory lap. He also met with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who, as a strong opponent to same-sex marriage and abortion, is not exactly of like minds with Schneiderman. These stops were not by accident. Schneiderman’s staff realize that coming off the campaign there was a need to transform the liberal Upper West Side senator into a more inclusive, statewide figure. In the Senate, Schneiderman was known for being a bit of an egghead, a Harvard grad with an eye for strategy, but one who could be equal parts brash and combative when the occasion arose. As chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in the early part of the decade, he fought a bare-knuckled battle to win control of the chamber from the Republicans. His failure made him a target of one of the more brazen gerrymandering attempts in recent years. During last year’s primary, in his rush to lock down the support of the city’s potent labor-backed political machine, he had his fair share of gaffes, including a promise to give Rev. Al Sharpton’s House of Justice an “annex in Albany.” Cuomo supporters confided to Post columnist Fred Dicker that they were concerned that Schneiderman’s blue streak could derail the incoming governor’s efforts to reform Albany’s lax ethics laws. They feared that in four years the state’s political establishment and entrenched special interests, enraged by Cuomo’s push to slash spending, would quietly press Schneiderman to take a run at Cuomo from the left. (Schneiderman denies any interest in running for governor, saying AG is as good as it gets for him. But if Cuomo eventually decides to run for president, there are few who believe that Schneiderman would pass on the chance to run for the top spot.) And his problems did not end with the election. A little over a month after taking office, Schneiderman was forced to recuse himself from an investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing by Kelli Conlin, the former head of NARAL, who was a prominent booster of his during the election. Now, with the campaign over, the strategy is to turn attention away from the mudslinging and toward build-

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DAN BURNSTEIN

Despite no personal animus between the two, tensions continue to pop between Coumo and Schneiderman’s respective offices. ing accomplishments as AG, his aides say. That’s why he picked taxpayer protection, mortgage fraud and public corruption as his top priorities. One of his first major steps was to create a Taxpayer Protection Unit within his office, designed to target tax dodgers, corrupt contractors and “pension con-artists,” while bolstering the powers of his office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

A quiet beginning for a once brash senator. “People are in no mood to hear that their taxpayer dollars are being wasted or that there are contracts where people are ripping off state and local government,” he said. “No one has really focused on this area before.” His second step was to push back against the Obama administration’s effort to strike a deal with the banks on mortgage fraud. At meetings in Washington, D.C., Schneiderman raised concerns about the bank settlement being devised by state attorneys general relating to improper loan-servicing and foreclosure practices, arguing against a deal that would preclude his office from pursuing claims against the banks related to their mortgage practices. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the effort, said that Schneiderman’s concerns are being considered. “We’re working to address them,” said Geoff Greenwood, a spokesperson for Miller. “Attorney General Miller’s intent is to try to preserve the claims that attorneys general believe need to be pursued separately from the multistate settlement we’re working on.”

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Schneiderman’s third priority is to attack public corruption and prove wrong those critics who said that he, as a former member of the Legislature, would turn a blind eye to Albany wrongdoing. If anything, Schneiderman says, his time in Albany gave him a better understanding of the roots of public corruption. “It is a tremendous help to understand how the system works,” he said. “And I think it’s clear I have not hesitated to go after crime and corruption wherever it occurs.” Specifically, Schneiderman says he is directing the charities bureau of his office, which has jurisdiction over nonprofits and, some say, languished under Coumo, to be more aggressive in ferreting out abuses. To that end, his office was recently reported to be targeting several nonprofits that receive funding from Sen. Shirley Huntley, a Queens Democrat. Huntley is the first public official to be targeted, but sources close to the office say that she most certainly will not be the last. His former colleagues in the Legislature are said to be nervous about who else may fall within Schneiderman’s sights. Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat who served along with Schneiderman as a top deputy to Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, said that Schneiderman has a reputation as a legislator for being fair-minded, which he hoped would continue as attorney general. “That’s all one could ask of an investigator, not to go into an investigation with a preconceived notion to try to solidify public opinion,” Adams said, “but to go in to seek the truth.” APRIL 11, 2011

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n his first 100 days as AG, Eliot Spitzer delved into controversial subjects like “stop-and-frisk” allegations, legal protections for gay state workers and accusations of wrongdoing in the Internet trading industry. Four years later, Andrew Cuomo kicked off his term as AG by suing Exxon Mobil, launching Project Sunlight and putting his foot down on legislative member items. Schneiderman’s introduction has been decidedly more modest. He filed a petition with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission over fire-safety regulations at Indian Point. He announced his intent to look into—not investigate—the forthcoming merger of AT&T and TMobile. And he has gotten involved in a lot of small-bore consumer protection items, like recovering membership fees from shuttered Curves fitness centers, indicting a shady plastic surgeon who allegedly left several female patients disfigured and suing a Troy-based wedding photographer for scamming happy couples.

“I think he bends over backwards to ensure the business community, for the good actors, that they have nothing to worry about,” said Kathy Wylde. “He’s had a very low profile, which is unusual,” said former Mayor Ed Koch, who endorsed Donovan during the general election. “I don’t know what he’s planning, but I’m sure its all for the good and that the public will benefit from it. But I honestly don’t know what he’s up to.” Schneiderman’s under-the-radar start might be a result of Cuomo’s vacuum-like ability to suck up all the good press and media attention. Another might be the natural tension that exists between their respective offices. Some say that Cuomo is the type of governor that probably wants to be attorney general in addition to his current job. Even though both are Democrats, Cuomo and Schneiderman have not gotten off on the best foot. Cuomo was said to favor Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice for the spot, but eventually endorsed Schneiderman after a squeaker of a primary. After the election, Cuomo attempted to slip into the budget a provision that would have co-opted some of Schneiderman’s power to investigate the financial-services industry. And even though that provision was ultimately removed, Schneiderman’s backers give him credit for not taking the bait. “Eric is not the AG we’ve seen in the last two office holders, in that he does not perceive himself as an aspiring governor,” said one source close to both Schneiderman and Cuomo. “He’s played it just right in terms of not stepping on the toes of the governor, making sure they’re playing on the same team.” But tensions keep popping up. Before taking office, when asked whether he would sign an executive order to give Schneiderman the power to investigate the Legislature, Cuomo hedged, even though he had told the New York Times editorial board that he would do just that if he did not achieve ethics reform within his first six months in office. Now, while the clock is ticking, Cuomo is thinking of creating a Moreland Commission, controlled by his office, to investigate corruption in the Legislature. Schneiderman is not even Cuomo’s top pick to defend the state in a lawsuit filed by Senate Republicans challenging a law, sponsored by Schneiderman while in the Senate, that changed the way prisoners are counted in the reapportionment process. At a press conference in Albany last week, Cuomo said that even though Schneiderman “would normally defend an action like this,” his role in this particular lawsuit would still need to be sorted out. (A spokes-

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Andrew Schwartz

person later walked back that statement, saying that Schneiderman should ultimately decide whether there was a conflict or not.) Schneiderman said he anticipated a challenge to the prisoner-redistricting law. “If there’s a challenge to the prisoners-of-the-census law, which obviously was a bill I cared a lot about that’s part of law now, I will be defending that,” he said. James Tierney, director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School, said tension between the offices of the governor and attorney general is commonplace, and in New York practically written into the constitution. “Every governor wants to be attorney general, especially the ones who used to be attorney general,” Tierney said. “It’s just the way it is.” Schneiderman says he is confidant that when and if the time comes, the governor will do what’s right — on redistricting, on public corruption or any other issue that may come between their respective offices. “We’ve known each other a long time, we’ve done good work together already and I think we’re going to

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collaborate on a lot of reforms,” Schneiderman said. With Alan Hevesi, Carl Kruger and Pedro Espada determined to keep Albany’s dysfunction in the headlines, the moment has never been riper for a fundamental shift in how state government operates, he said. “This is something I take very seriously,” Schneiderman said. “In hard economic times, there are people who try to take advantage, and you need state government to be operating at its peak to [get] through this type of recession.” With budget season now over, expect Schneiderman to make a grab for the spotlight more often—on mortgage fraud, on investigations into his former colleagues and on other issues. After all, you can take Eric Schneiderman out of the State Senate, but you cannot take the state senator out of Schneiderman. “I understand the private sector; I understand the securities industry. You can be progressive on issues like choice and marriage equality and still understand economic policy,” he said, a grin spreading across his face. “Being progressive and being smart and well-informed can all go together.” ahawkins@nycapitolnews.com

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Both Marty Golden, left, and Frank Padavan, right, served in conservative districts that have grown gradually more Democratic.

Golden Opportunity By Laura Nahmias

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ast October, days before the fall election, the young Democrat challenging State Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, was prepping to watch the election returns from his parents’ basement. Mike DiSanto, a 29-year-old business school grad, had raised just $14,000 for the race, barely enough to buy a low-end sedan, much less take out an entrenched incumbent. DiSanto wasn’t optimistic about his chances. “It’s not really a party,” DiSanto said then. “We’re just ordinary, regular people.” Golden spent $850,000 in 2010 to defend his South Brooklyn seat, which covers parts of Bay Ridge, Gerritsen Beach and Bensonhurst. He won with 66 percent of the vote. But Democratic operatives saw something in the return numbers, high by any reasonable standard. They wondered why Golden hadn’t won by a higher margin, given the amount of money he’d spent, his status as an incumbent and the extreme inexperience of his opponent. If the Democrats could nominate a more formidable candidate, they realized, the seat could be up for grabs. Democrats are hoping to advance the narrative that Golden’s circumstances echo those of former Sen. Frank Padavan, who was ousted last year by Democrat Tony Avella. Both Golden and Padavan served in conservative districts that

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have grown gradually more Democratic with time. Both are close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Padavan’s defeat was a carefully orchestrated multiyear effort by unions and Senate Democrats. To beat Golden, Democrats are organizing a similar effort, more than a year in advance of the 2012 election.

and relationships in the borough necessary to mount a formidable challenge. “It’s flattering,” Scissura said. “I’m being urged by so many community and political leaders to run for the seat. However, I’m not going to make a decision on my future until the fall.” Golden would not comment on Scissura as a challenger. He did say, however, that he is more finely attuned to his district than Democrats may believe. “I have made it my business to know how people in my community are thinking,” Golden said in an e-mail. “It’s that commitment to my community that has resulted in my running unopposed, or my winning by comfortable margins.” Often mentioned in the same breath as Scissura are Joanne Seminara, a Southern Brooklyn District Leader, and Gentile. Seminara doesn’t have broad name recognition, Brooklyn operatives said, and Gentile won’t be term-limited out of the Council until 2017. If he ran and won, Gentile would be taking a pay cut, relocating to Albany and potentially serving in a relatively powerless Senate minority. These factors make it unlikely he’d risk a challenge to Golden’s seat. But Golden faces some unique challenges in 2012. His district has grown in Democratic registered voters, while numbers of registered Republicans dropped. And many of the new residents

Democrats see Marty Golden as vulnerable in 2012, just as Frank Padavan was last year. But others say the similarities end there. Padavan was in office 40 years, while Golden has only been a senator since 2002. And Golden is well-liked and recognized in his district, an ex-cop with a sizable war chest. Democrats and Republicans agree he’s a savvy politician and an expert campaigner. And he has a nine-year head start on any challenger wading into the discrete and sometimes impenetrably close-knit communities in his district. His only competitive race was in 2002, when he ran against now New York City Council Member Vinnie Gentile. In that race he spent $3 million and walked away with 56 percent of the vote. The man Democrats think can challenge Golden next year is Carlo Scissura, chief of staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Golden. Brooklyn politicians said Scissura had the name recognition

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Andrew Schwartz

in Golden’s district are first-generation Asian immigrants, less likely to vote than the middle-class Democrats who helped shift Padavan’s Queens district into the Democrats’ column. Democrats hope they can keep up the thrum of negative press Golden has received recently. Pro–millionaires’ tax activists protested him in his district, and plan to continue their protests against his votes with the Republican conference on the budget. Golden’s supporters say that he has been singled out because of his isolation as a Republican in a solidly Democratic area. “I do believe he gets unfairly targeted,” said Nicole Malliotakis, the freshman Republican Assembly member who shares both a district and office space with Golden. But the Democrats said Golden had lost touch with his constituents. “By failing to protect the interests of children, workers and tenants, Marty Golden has proven time and again that he chooses his conservative Republican colleagues over the people of the city he’s supposed to represent,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Conference. One union planning to canvass against him is UFCW Local 1500, the groceryworkers’ union that also targeted Padavan in 2010. “I will give credit to the Republican party that they do know how to have some type of real discipline in voting, but will that discipline hurt folks in more middle-class types of districts?” said Pat Purcell, political director for the UFCW Local 1500. “It caught up with Frank Padavan, and I think it will catch up with Golden, as well.” lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com APRIL 11, 2011

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TAP Dance With Skelos’ push for tuition assistance for rabbinical students, a promise on Kruger’s seat By Chris Bragg

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or the past five years, lobbyists for Agudath Israel, the state’s most powerful Jewish social-service organization, traveled from New York City to Albany to urge lawmakers to allow rabbinical college students to receive statefunded tuition-assistance grants. And year after year, they went home empty-handed. Agudath’s prospects for securing the grants looked especially bleak this legislative session, with the state facing a $10 billion deficit, and public colleges and universities facing 10 percent cuts. But then Agudath found a powerful champion: Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. In the final days of budget negotiations, Skelos insisted that any deal with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Gov. Andrew Cuomo include $18 million in new and recurring Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding for rabbinical students. Neither Cuomo nor Silver had this funding in their budget resolutions, yet Skelos got it through. In a conference call last Friday morning with about 50 of the organization’s supporters, Skelos was described by Agudath top Albany lobbyist Schmuel Lefkowitz as the key figure in securing the money.

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“He said, ‘I’m going to make this happen for you guys.’” Lefkowitz recalled. “Without the three men in a room agreeing, this wouldn’t have happened. But it was Dean Skelos that put it in.” It turns out that education funding has not been the only recent topic of conversation between Skelos and Agudath Israel officials. Days before the budget was passed, Skelos met with Lefkowitz and other Agudath Israel officials to discuss not only tuition-assistance funding but also the prospective special election to replace indicted State Sen. Carl Kruger, if and when Kruger vacates his Brooklyn Senate seat, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting. At the meeting, Agudath officials agreed to support a Republican candidate in a special election. They also agreed to support a Republican if there is simply a regular, post-redistricting election for Kruger’s seat in 2012. One possible candidate discussed was Fred Kriezman, who works for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Community Assistance Unit, the sources said. Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif did not deny that the meeting took place, that Kruger’s Senate seat was discussed or that Agudath officials agreed to support a Republican candidate. But in a statement, Reif disputed the idea

that Skelos’ insistence on securing the funding had anything to do with political support. “This has been a long-standing priority for both Senator Skelos and the conference,” Reif stated. “In fact, Senator Skelos introduced legislation in 2008 to include rabbinical colleges in the TAP program, and the bill was approved by the full Senate. The decision to include this funding in the budget was made on the merits.”

“Without the three men in a room agreeing, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Agudath’s top lobbyist, Schmuel Lefkowitz. “But it was Dean Skelos that put it in.” As a tax-exempt nonprofit, Agudath Israel cannot legally endorse candidates for office, or support them. But the organization nonetheless often plays a key behind-the-scenes role in South Brooklyn elections, with endorsements by leading members seen as tacit support by Agudath. Leaders of the organization, who have extremely close ties with powerful Democratic Assembly Member Dov Hikind, often hold fund-raisers for favored candidates.

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Agudath Israel

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, right, Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, center, and Agudath officials, at a meeting in Kiryas Joel, N.Y., after the passage of the budget deal.

Lefkowitz did not return a phone call seeking comment. David Zwiebel, the executive vice president for government and public affairs for Agudath Israel, said he was unaware of any meeting with Skelos. New York City Council Member Lew Fidler is seen as the most likely Democratic candidate for Kruger’s seat, if and when it becomes vacant. But Fidler is a supporter of gay marriage. Though Fidler and Agudath have a close relationship, this could give the organization a reason to back a Republican. Agudath’s political allegiances have often shifted to the party in power. In the 2010 elections, many of the organization’s top officials supported efforts to keep Senate Democrats in the majority. The conference endeared itself to Agudath by passing a budget last year that contained funding for rabbinical-college student aid. The funding was ultimately vetoed by then Gov. David Paterson. Late last October, just a week before the election, a number of people closely associated with Agudath, including Hikind, gave heavily at a Renaissance Ballroom fund-raiser for Democratic conference leader John Sampson. Sampson raked in nearly $115,000, but it was Skelos who ultimately delivered the funding. To celebrate the inclusion of the new funding stream in the budget, Skelos appeared as a guest Saturday evening on Hikind’s radio show, a popular program in the Orthodox community. Hikind heaped praise on the Senate Republican leader. Skelos, meanwhile, spoke of how the good relationship he has developed with Agudath’s top lobbyists, Lefkowitz and Shiya Ostreicher, helped pave the way to a deal. “Fortunately, with their strong advocacy, this became a reality,” Skelos said. cbragg@nycapitolnews.com

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healthcare issue spotlight: TRANSPORTATION and Infrastructure issue spotlight: Racing, Gaming and Wagering

Point/Counterpoint

The state’s racing, gaming and wagering industry has faced a number of challenges recently, from the closure of New York City’s OffTrack Betting parlors to the scandal surrounding the Aqueduct racino. While new proposals are in the works, The Capitol asked racing, gaming and wagering committee chairs Sen. John Bonacic, a Republican, and Assembly Member Gary Pretlow, a Democrat, to size up the various issues so we could see how their answers compared. Pretlow: With the demise of New York City OTB and the revenues it generated, I think the overall health of racing has gone down. There will probably be some increased interest, and it will grow, but it was sort of like coming off a cliff when OTB went down. Bonacic: We can grow the sport of racing. We have to dedicate some of the revenue from racing to promoting the sport. That means ontrack promotions, it means educating people about the sport and it means working as an industry together to grow the sport. I am concerned that New York’s horse-racing industry spends a lot of time fighting over crumbs, rather than trying to make more bread as a team. Gary Pretlow

Pretlow: There are definitely opportunities for

growth. The advent of VLTs at Aqueduct will increase the overall purse structure of the thoroughbreds, which will then bring in more horses, and better horses. Interest is perked [up] by the quality of the races. The larger the purses, the higher the quality, and the higher the quality, the more viewership or interaction with the public. Bonacic: Senators [Andrew] Lanza and [Marty] Golden have proposed a very sensible plan to reopen the former NYC OTB using private funds. It is not reasonable to believe the state should pay to reopen the NYC OTB operations.

Pretlow: At this point, I don’t think [OTB] can be brought back under the old structure with the parlors. More than likely, if anyone takes it on, look toward opening teletheaters or restaurants with the availability to bet on horse races. But as far as the straight OTB parlor where you only place bets, I don’t think that model really works anymore, and it will be difficult to revive it.

Bonacic: [Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to increase] fees will be a burden, and I am sure some will call the fees worse than a “burden.” It is hard to predict their impact unless and until they are implemented for a while. Pretlow: I think it’s a negative. The governor is proposing a 2.75 percent tax on purses. That money is to go to the Racing and Wagering Board, which oversees all of the gaming in the state of New York. And the reason he’s doing this is because the Racing and Wagering Board basically overspent their budget over the past couple of years. I personally don’t think it’s fair to get all this money back from one area, which is purses, when they also oversee other gaming enterprises in the state. They’ve also had the responsibility to collect money from the Native American casinos.... But they’re going to try and get $8 million a year out of those who win on horse races in the state of New York.

Bonacic: The first lesson [from the Aqueduct scandal] is that two-party government is necessary in New York. The method [by which] the Demo-

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cratic leadership attempted to award the Aqueduct deal was alarming, even by Albany standards. When the inspector general calls the actions of the Democratic leadership, in awarding a very lucrative contract, nothing more than a “political free-for-all,” it is the best evidence yet of the need for checks and balances in state government. The second lesson is that if any privatization of lucrative state assets or rights given by state statute is to occur, you need to have clear standards and transparency. Secret contracts being awarded by political leaders, particularly when all are from the same city and all are from the same political party, is an invitation for corruption, and the Aqueduct bid process showed that quite clearly.

John Bonacic

Pretlow: I don’t know if there are lessons to be learned.…They’re looking to the ethical behavior of some senators, and probably some assembly people. I don’t think the assembly people had any lapses of ethical behavior at all, and I can’t speak for the senate. I had said, prior to AEG getting the award, that the process as devised by former Governor Spitzer was flawed. It was a bad process that he set up. That same process was carried on by David Paterson, and it was still bad.… So I think we’re moving on. Genting seems to be a good organization capable of doing what they said they were going to do; they’re in the process right now of doing their build-out, looking to open before August, and the rest will be history. Bonacic: Unifying and growing together as a sport is key. Saratoga is a national fixture in racing; it is internationally recognized. Goshen (Orange County), N.Y., is the birthplace of the trotter, and the third leg of the Triple Crown is on Long Island at Belmont. What is most frustrating to me in my three months as racing chairman is seeing these assets not unified [and] working to promote racing. It is very troublesome that I hear near-constant bickering between NYRA, track operators, OTBs, horsemen, breeders, and to a degree fans are left out, even though they are what makes the sport successful. I have reached the conclusion that we need to give the State Racing and Wagering Board a direct mandate to promote racing, and make such orders as necessary to grow the sport. The strength of New York racing is tremendous, but we will only succeed if we grow the sport together.

Pretlow: I think the real challenge is youth—getting youth more interested in a slower sport like racing. It just seems like now we’re all looking for “quick action,” so to speak—craps, slot machines, that kind of thing, where it’s sort of like instant gratification. Unless the prize is really big, like in a Lotto; then they’ll wait three or four days to see if they’ve won that. So the challenge is to get younger people involved in the sport. That’s the only way it’s going to grow. If you don’t attract them, you’re basically seeing a lot of senior citizens, and the only young people you see there are family members of the owners of the horses that are running. April 11, 2011

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issue spotlight:

Racing, Gaming and Wagering

New York City OTB Faces An Uncertain Future

A

fter the closing of their doors last December, the future of New York City’s Off-Track Betting remains unclear. State legislators, along with racing and gaming industry stakeholders, are hoping to revive the struggling franchises. But despite their optimism, legislators are still struggling to find ways to solve the OTB’s financial and structural issues. Following a failed attempt to pass a rescue bill in the Senate by 29–21 last winter, hope for the racing-and-gaming entity dwindled. The closure left more than 800 employees without jobs and placed $500 million additional debt onto the state budget. This March, Senate Republicans made efforts to revive the OTB by proposing a bill that would use a private company to run the now-defunct betting operation. Sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza, the bill failed to gain enough support before the completion of the budget. Undeterred, state leaders are continuing to talk about potential ways to resurrect the former billion-dollar business. Assembly Member Gary Pretlow, chair

of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, held a hearing last November to discuss the possibility of consolidating all of the OTBs in New York State.

number of branches from 12 to 6 and expanding Internet betting operations. While state OTB centers are focused on the future, many of the workers laid

“The workers who did not qualify as retirees were left with nothing when the OTB closed,” Leonard Allen, president of Local 2021, said. “Most of them are scrambling, attempting to find temporary work.” “I thought consolidating was a good idea because there is so much duplication with these places,” Pretlow said. His proposition didn’t gain much traction, but he’s hoping to bring up the issue again in a new proposal. “I’m putting a report together that will look at some ways to sort out this situation, and that will be out soon,” he said, declining to discuss the specifics of the plan. New York City’s OTB isn’t the only one in trouble. Last month, Suffolk County’s OTB was granted permission by Long Island officials to begin bankruptcy proceedings. Currently, the Suffolk OTB has developed reorganization plans that include 16 employee layoffs, cutting its

off from OTB shops last December are still struggling to recuperate. Leonard Allen, president of Local 2021, the union for OTB employees, says that the closure of OTB has created an unending struggle for its former employees. “The workers who did not qualify as retirees were left with nothing when the OTB closed,” Allen said. “Most of them are scrambling, attempting to find temporary work.” Retirees are not having an easy time either, as the future of their health benefits remains unclear. The union has filed a restraining order against the city, which has been upheld by the State Court of Appeals, to continue retiree benefits until a final ruling can be made. The restraining order re-

Andrew Schwartz

By Candace Wheeler

State leaders are continuing to talk about potential ways to resurrect the former billion-dollar OTB franchise. mains in effect until May, but Allen hopes that the fate of retirees can be decided in the Legislature. While awaiting the final verdict, the union is considering its own plans for reviving the city’s OTB. “The union is hopeful that we can bring back the NYCOTB,” Allen said. “We are doing everything we can politically and legally to get workers back to work.” editor@nycapitolnews.com

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APRIL 11, 2011

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THE CAPITOL


issue spotlight:

Racing, Gaming and Wagering

Sound-bites Michael Speller, president, Genting New York LLC When it comes to games and taxation, the New York casino industry needs parity with other states. New York is surrounded by other states with full gaming—tables and “real slot machines”—while New York is only permitted video lottery terminals. On the tax side, New York and its 65 percent tax rate are competing with states like Connecticut (0 tax on table games and 25 percent on slots), New Jersey (8 percent casino tax plus 1.25 percent for redevelopment) and about 40 percent in Pennsylvania (55 percent in slots and 16 percent on table games). These dual issues lead to an uncompetitive playing field that leaves New York lagging behind. New York should address the introduction of full table games and slot machines in racetrack casinos, and begin the referendum process to permit them. Full commercial casinos employ 10 times more employees than facilities with only VLT machines.

Kathy Guillermo, vice president, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Horse racing is a dying sport that is now being artificially kept alive by casinos. NewYork officials need to take horse racing off life support and let gamblers bet on games that don’t end in broken bones and slaughterhouses.

New York officials should stop talking revenue and start discussing what happens to thoroughbreds on and off the track: They’re raced too young, pumped full of legal and illegal drugs, viciously whipped, forced to run when they’re sore and lame, and have a good chance of ending up in a Mexican or Canadian slaughterhouse. New York can choose to embrace gaming and gambling – just leave the horses out of it.

Michael Amo, board of directors chair, ThoroFan From the racing perspective, I think the real challenge is to rebuild the racing fan base in the state of New York. The amount of money that people spend betting is decreasing, and I think that is directly related to the fan base. Sometimes people try to mask the financial issues with short-term solutions, but the real solution is getting people interested in racing again. Senator Bonacic and the racing and wagering committee are starting to address this issue. A few months ago, I proposed an “I love New York” horse-racing campaign to the Senate because I really think it’s important that people start to see racing as more than just a vehicle for betting. What we forget when we look at Aqueduct

and other places is that there are thousands of jobs and farmland depending on the racing industry. Racing is bigger than just betting, but we have to educate people about that, and find ways to provide additional entertainment for them.

John Signor, president and CEO, Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation I believe that racetracks and OTBs need to work more closely together to promote the “Sport of Kings.” Last year, Capital OTB and Vernon Downs agreed to a marketing plan that proved successful as Vernon Downs’ handle increased by 18 percent. It was a win-win for both the track and the taxpayers. To build on that example, the tracks and OTBs should create a marketing arm where they have staff working in tandem to promote racing in New York State. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the impact that out-of-state Internet sites are having on the racing industry. Hundreds of millions-of-dollars that were once wagered through New York OTBs and racetracks are now being wagered through these sites, which resulted in tens-of-millions of dollars in lost revenue for State and local taxpayers, as well as the NYS Breeders.

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THE CAPITOL

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April 11, 2011

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City Hall, The Capitol and TD Bank present

SPEAKING SOCIALLY Part of an ongoing speaker series on critical social issues impacting our city and state

Wednesday, April 20th

AFFORDABLE HOUSING Brian Lawlor

Chief Operating Officer of NYS Homes and Community Renewal

Alison Badgett Executive Director NYS Association for Affordable Housing

Location & Time

TD Bank 317 Madison Avenue(corner of 42nd St) 8:00am Networking Breakfast 8:30am - 9:30am Program

Go to cityhallnews.com to RSVP Questions? Email: JChristopher@manhattanmedia.com or Call: 212.268.8600

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APRIL 11, 2011

Perspectives

By Richard Brodsky

Whither Are We Tending

I

n 1858, as his campaign for U.S. Senate began, Abraham Lincoln addressed a convention of Republican Party activists. The speech he made has come to be known as the “House Divided” speech. In it, using the combination of hard logic and biblical vocabulary that Lincoln had perfected, he began with a simple assertion: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.” While civil war is not on the horizon, signs portend a dramatic shift in American society. Our relationship to the state, our prosperity, our ability to lead ourselves and the world, our politics and our values are being challenged by a social and political ideology that rejects much of the political consensus of the last 75 years. Since the New Deal, there has been recognition that government’s role was to assure the conditions for peace and prosperity, and to express American values at home and around the world. Our economy expanded because the government invested in the education of all Americans, built an unparalleled system of road, rail and air transportation, heavily subsidized agriculture and manufacturing and taxed sufficiently to pay for these things. The government also stepped up to end distortions and injustices in our economy and our communities. Taxes were progressive; the rich paid proportionally more. Government confronted and reduced racial, religious and gender discrimination. Government required a decent respect for the health and safety of our natural environment. Subsidies were provided that created a dynamic and accessible middle class. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few was avoided. And the conditions of life for the poor and middle class were bettered, by the availability of Social Security, direct assistance and most recently, by the provision of health insurance to all Americans. There was always a challenge to that consensus. There was strong opposition to the New Deal, the intellectual and political stirrings of Goldwaterites in the 1950s, the fierce opposition to desegregation by law and the genial challenge of Ronald Reagan, who first successfully articulated the strange notion that government was the problem, not the solution. Now there is the Tea Party, which for all its rough edges and excesses has inherited the mantle of “government as the problem,” and carried it to a kind of electoral success that has brought America to a genuine crossroads. In New York, our politics and policies have mirrored the national tendencies. Our last gubernatorial campaign gave us

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a choice between a candidate with the eccentricities and the policies of the Tea Party and a candidate with enormous political skill, experience and policies quite close to those of the Tea Party. Our state budget adopted the “cut spending/services, reduce taxes on business and the rich” policies to a degree that no Republican had seriously thought possible. And so, as a nation and as a state, we near a crossroads, a set of choices so profound as to remake the notion of who we are as a people, and which will bind future generations to policies and institutions that may or may not serve them well. And this has come to pass with little or no serious debate. The Great Recession created an atmosphere of anger and fear that intensified during a debate about how to provide for the health of all Americans, and that has intensified again around the persona of the first African-American President. On our TV screens we saw and heard things said that often had little to do with ideas or facts, but which challenged the legitimacy of institutions and persons. The genius of American politics has always come up short when issues are presented, not as right versus wrong, but as good versus evil. While the Right struck hard and sure, the Left was dazed and confused. Issue was not joined, argument was not made and we suffer the consequences now. None of this presumes that the Right or the Tea Party is all wrong. Those conclusions can only be reached after a vigorous and healthy national argument. What it does is recognize what Lincoln recognized: We need a better understanding of “where we are,” and of “whither we are tending.” Then and only then can we begin to agree on “what to do.” This page will heed Lincoln’s call and attempt an understanding of both where we are and whither we are tending. I bring my own values and analyses. With luck, much of what will come in the next columns will be the subject of disagreement and modification. That was Lincoln’s point. It may be useful to recollect that the “House Divided” speech was viewed by Lincoln’s supporters as a great political mistake which led to his defeat. A key Lincoln supporter said, “Nothing could have been more unfortunate or inappropriate; it was saying the wrong thing, yet he saw it was an abstract truth, but standing by the speech would ultimately find him in the right place.” If a great national shift is in the wind, if the accepted truths of a generation are being challenged, if the health, safety and prosperity of the nation and state are in play, then, as Lincoln knew, they must be talked of openly and without an eye toward the next election. Next, Part II: “Where We Are.”

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h

FACEBOOK

th

Blue JayRun See Jane A

ssembly Member Jane Corwin, a 47-year-old Republican from Erie

and Niagara counties, has vowed both to stay away from Craigslist and to keep her shirt on if she is elected to the congressional seat left vacant by Chris Lee, who infamously failed to do either of those things. Corwin is mounting a strong challenge for the seat, even though it could be dismantled in the next redistricting process. She talks about her plans if elected, her thoughts on the looming redistricting process, her opponents (including prankster Ian Murphy) and what Washington can learn from Albany. What follows is an edited transcript. The Capitol: So, thoughts on former Congressman Chris Lee? Jane Corwin: I’ve been in the district talking to lots of people, and the general feeling and my own opinion is that he was a very good representative. I think that he did a great job representing his constituents and he worked hard, and I think a lot of people recognize that. It was certainly a good decision on his part to step down and spend time with his family. TC: Is there work Lee was doing that you would want to continue? JC: Absolutely. With the Salaried Workers Association, we are trying to reinstate some of the losses that we experienced in the [General Motors] bailout. I certainly want to do everything I can to help that group. The families of Flight 3407 have been pushing very hard, and Chris was working very hard, to institute new safety rules for pilots, and I will absolutely be working towards making that change as well. And in terms of agriculture, the farm bill is coming up in 2012. Agriculture is the number one industry in this district. I’ve already reached out to the farming community to get their input and to make necessary changes in the farm bill that will help the farmers in this area. TC: New York will probably lose two congressional seats in the next redistricting, and the seat you’re running for could be one of them. Why gamble on a seat that could vanish in 2012? JC: To be honest, I haven’t thought a whole lot about that. The people in this district have gone a couple months now without a representative, and there are certainly a lot of important things being addressed in Washington. In my mind, it’s all about representation now. We need to have a representative in there speaking on behalf of the people on these important issues. Beyond that, after the lines are drawn, my house is going to be somewhere in a congressional district, so there will be a congressional seat somewhere.

&

TC: But you must have a plan beyond that. If your seat is cut, would you try to go back to the Assembly, or are you hoping you can run for another office or congressional seat?

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every day in terms of being able to be successful, grow and create jobs. I don’t believe the other candidates take that position; I don’t look to government to solve all of our problems. I don’t look to government to create jobs; I think it’s much better done in the private sector. So as I said, there are very clear choices for the voters to make their decisions. TC: What about Ian Murphy, sort of a minor celebrity candidate for his prank against the Wisconsin governor. Any thoughts on him?

JC: Like I said before, at the end of the day I will be residing in a congressional district somewhere. At that point, I will assess the situation and see where I am. I really can’t predict where that’s going to be in 18 months.

JC: This is a democracy, and I think it’s always good to have choices for the voters. He will make his case for what he believes he can do to help this country, and that will be up to the voters to decide.

TC: What do you think about the standoff between parties in Washington right now? How closely aligned are you with some of the freshman Republican members on the necessity of these massive spending cuts?

“After the lines are drawn, my house is going to be somewhere in a congressional district, so there will be a congressional seat somewhere.”

JC: I can’t really speak about the freshman, because I don’t know exactly where everybody in Congress is on the issue right now. But certainly we don’t want to have a government shutdown. I don’t think anyone wants a government shutdown. I believe that the speaker, the Senate and the president are working very hard to come up with a compromise. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that we’re talking about cents on the dollar in terms of cuts relative to what we’re going to be facing with the budget. This country’s been moving in the wrong direction fiscally, and we need to start making some significant changes. To me this is just a side step to what we need to start talking about. TC: What do you think of the way the budget was handled in New York this year? JC: I was in the Assembly for the past two years, and I have to say, those were two of the worst budget negotiations I’ve ever seen. So certainly what happened with Governor Cuomo’s budget was a vast improvement over the recent past. I give him a lot of credit, because we really need to make that change…. In Washington, the people involved are working very hard towards a solution, and I support that process. I think that they’re doing what they can. TC: Can you talk a little bit about the strategy you’ve taken with your main opponent, Democrat Kathy Hochul? Why should voters choose you over her? JC: I think in this election there are some very clear choices amongst the candidates. My background is that I’ve spent 36 years in the private sector in a family business where we created close to 700 jobs by the time we folded in 2004. I understand what it takes to make a payroll. I understand the challenges that businesses face

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TC: What do you think about the prospects for re-election for Chris Collins, Erie county executive? JC: My own personal opinion, I feel he’s done a good job in the county. It’s a very challenging role to be a county executive in New York State. I believe 88 percent of his budget is determined by federal and state mandates and 96 percent of the county tax bill is going towards Medicaid, so to a large extent, his hands are tied. It’s very restricting in terms of what he’s able to do. I think he’s done a good job given what he’s had to work with. TC: What is something essential about you as a candidate that the rest of the state is not aware of yet that you would like to put out there? JC: People know that I come from a family business and they understand that I believe in private-sector job creation. What a lot of people may not understand is that when we started this business, and we grew this business, we started with very little. My parents didn’t have college degrees; I went to public high school and public college. We worked very hard and we took risks, and that’s how we were successful. I lived the American dream, something that this country was founded on. TC: And the most important question: Your district is very rural. Do you have a position on the onionversus-sweet-corn debate going on in the Legislature? JC: No. [Laughs] I didn’t get involved in that. We have a lot of dairy farmers in this area and a lot of specialty crops, so my perspective will be from that standpoint. —Laura Nahmias lnahmias@nycapitolnews.com MARCH 14, 2011

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“My daddy’s working up there.” Construction workers—and their families—are counting on our state leaders to help them stay safe on the job by strengthening New York’s Scaffold Law. According to the most recent federal data available, on-the-job accidents took the lives of 29 New York State construction workers. Compounding the tragedy: devastating accidents like this can be prevented, but too often prevention takes a back seat to corporate profits. When irresponsible contractors cut corners on safety because they know they can get away with it, it’s not just their employees who pay the price. We need to work to make sure New Yorkers are kept safer from construction accidents.

New York State’s Scaffold Law was designed to protect construction workers—and their families—and to keep the public safe. It holds contractors and owners accountable for enforcing work site safety rules and regulations. Unfortunately, some builders, contractors, insurers and other special interests are trying to dodge their responsibilities by pressuring the State Legislature to erode the Scaffold Law. For all of our sakes, state leaders must continue to protect workers and all New Yorkers by keeping the Scaffold Law strong.

Tell state legislators to protect worker safety and support the Scaffold Law

New York State trial l awYerS aSSociatioN Protecting New Yorkers Since 1953

April 11, 2011 Issue of The Capitol  

The April 11, 2011 Issue of The Capitol. The Capitol is a monthly publication, targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and is...

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