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Cuomo lashes out at State Legislature

ALBANY -- A feisty Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo today lashed out today at the State Legislature for failing to close at least a $315 million budget deficit and warned state employee unions to be ready for serious cutbacks next year.

After a 90-minute, closed-door luncheon meeting with Assembly Democrats at an Albany hotel, Cuomo emerged to praise the "very positive" session that touched on a range of fiscal and policy issues.

He then quickly condemned lawmakers for failing to act in a special session called Monday by Gov. David Paterson to close the current year's red ink.

"For them to come back and do nothing, I think, is very distressing," Cuomo told reporters. "The governor was right to call them back. ... They failed the people of the State of New York once again."

--Tom Precious

Paterson asked to pardon Giants wide receiver

  
   ALBANY --The imprisoned former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress and someone not even sentenced yet are among the last-minute pardon requests outgoing Gov. David A. Paterson has received.

   Asked today if any out-of-the ordinary pardon requests had come through in his final weeks in office -- akin to the posthumous pardon outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is considering for the late Jim Morrison of the Doors -- Paterson thought for a second.

   "Somebody asked me to pardon Plaxico Burress, the Giants wide receiver. Somebody asked me for a pardon and they haven't even been sentenced yet," the governor said.

   The Burress request came from some Giants fans, the governor said, and he declined to say who is asking for a pardon before being sentenced.

   "I don't want to say. It was just somebody who told me about this problem. I said,"Well, you know you could go to my office." And he says, "Well, I need this quick because I'm going to be sentenced in a couple weeks,' " Paterson said.

   He did not offer up what he would do with any pardon requests, except one. "I think I'm going to pardon the Legislature," he said of a body he has tangled with nonstop since become governor.

   Burress has been in prison since September 2009 on a gun conviction.

   Pardons traditionally are issued by governors during the month of December. Paterson has issued relatively few of them. His last one came this spring when he pardoned a Queens man -- recommended for the pardon by even the sentencing judge for a mugging committed years earlier while a teenager -- who was facing deportation.

   --Tom Precious

Tough day for Paterson

ALBANY -- It was a tough day for Gov. David Paterson trying to get his way with the Legislature.
Besides his budget deficit reduction plan fail, Paterson saw one of his longtime aides rejected for a last-minute appointment to the state Parole Board.

Seny Taveras, who has worked with Paterson in different posts since 2003, felt the rare rejection by the Senate Finance Committee of her nomination to a $101,000-a-year post to the parole board for the next five years.

In a remarkable case of how-to-alienate-lawmakers, Taveras shot down a question by Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a Republican who represents the Finger Lakes area. Nozzolio had asked her about how she might treat violent felons who came before her for parole consideration.

"Senator, with all due respect, that question is inappropriate," Taveras said. Nozzolio shot back that he would decide what line of question was appropriate or not, and that he found it "troubling" she would not address his query.

Minutes later, under questioning from Republicans and a Democratic senator, Taveras said she had graduated law school but failed in her one attempt several years ago to pass the bar exam.

Taveras was already facing obstacles with Senate Republicans, but her reaction to Nozzolio doomed any chance. For starters, Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada skipped Monday's session, which meant Taveras would need at least one Republican to vote for her if the nomination came to the floor.

It didn't get that far, though. All the Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee voted against her. Joining them was Sen. Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat.

"I don't think I've seen anything like that," Sen. George Maziarz, a Newfane Republican, of a gubernatorial nominee failing to make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

---Tom Precious

The News' Andriatch talks tax breaks, attracting businesses

Buffalo News Suburban Editor Bruce Andriatch was a guest of Joyce Kryszak this morning on WBFO-FM 88.7.

Among the topics discussed were the recent deals offered to Verizon and Yahoo! to lure them to the area.

Listen to the audio:


Click here to download the clip and take it with you

Cino eyes bid to head national GOP

 WASHINGTON … North Buffalo native Maria Cino, a longtime GOP operative, is
eyeing a possible bid to chair the Republican National Committee.

   Cino, an aide to former Rep. Bill Paxon who later served briefly as acting 
transportation secretary, could be one of several candidates to replace GOP
Chairman Michael Steele.

   Steele is running for a second two-year term despite constant controversy
and fundraising problems during his first two years of office.

   It appeared early Thursday that Cino registered a web site for her bid,
www.mariaforchairman.com.

   That website appeared to be in its beginning stages, with only a headline
that said "Maria Cino for chairman of the RNC." Later in the day, though, that
headline and the red-white-and-blue background were replaced by a tutorial
page for creating a web site.

   Former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of Clarence, now a Republican activist in
Washington,  called Cino "well qualified" and with much Washington experience.

   "Certainly, Michael Steele will have many challenges as he comes before the
committee, and Maria Cino will be one of those well qualified names under
consideration," Reynolds said. "But she has a long way to go in getting
support from 186 voting members of the national committee."

   A graduate of Mount St. Joseph Academy and St. John Fisher College, Cino,
now 53, has been active in Republican politics for three decades.

   She is a former RNC deputy chairwoman and served as executive director of
the National Republican Congressional Committee in 1994, when Republicans
gained control of the House.

   Cino also has worked on three presidential campaigns, including a stint as
political director for the campaign that resulted in George W. Bush becoming
president in 2000.

   Most recently she served as chief executive officer for the Republican
National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in 2008.

   Cino did not reply to an email seeking comment about her possible run.

   Other possible candidates for the post include former RNC Chairman Mike
Duncan, former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, and Wisconsin GOP Chairman
Reince Priebus.

-- Jerry Zremski and Robert J. McCarthy 

Voters say Cuomo must focus on jobs, jobs, jobs

ALBANY -– Like they told pollsters before the election, the burning issue for New Yorkers is job creation, a post-election poll out this morning has found.

A poll by the Siena College Research Institute found 48 percent of registered voters said the incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo, should focus on job creation as his top priority, followed by 31 percent who say it should be about keeping the upcoming budget in balance.

Down the list are two issues Cuomo has made his own priorities: establishing a property tax cap and adopting a new series of ethics laws to try to clean up the image of Albany. In the new Siena poll, only 9 percent statewide cited property taxes as the top priority while just 6 percent want the top issue to be ethics reform.

Cuomo’s favorability rating stands at 64 percent –- within the margin of error for the 62 percent of the vote the Democrat received in his gubernatorial run against Republican Carl Paladino. For the Buffalo businessman, his favorability rating has only gotten lower since the election two weeks ago, and 58 percent say he should not remain active in New York politics.

As for the State Senate –- whose control is up in the air with three contested seats facing possibly long recount processes -– 53 percent of voters believe the house should be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats through some sort of power-sharing agreement.

-- Tom Precious

GOP strategist leaving State Senate post

The top communications strategist for the Senate Republicans -- who cheerily played a "bad cop'' role with some in the Capitol press corps -- surprised many folks this morning with word of his retirement.

John McArdle, who helped mastermind what could be the GOP retaking the Senate if they win two of the three still-contested Senate seats now facing recounts, is leaving the Senate after 29 years.

McArdle, never shy about picking up the phone to give a good yelling to a reporter, goes back to the days of Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson. Working his way up the GOP ladder, McArdle would go on to serve as communications director for three Senate majority leaders: Ralph Marino, Joseph Bruno and Dean Skelos.

“I have always valued John’s wisdom, advice and support, but mostly I value his friendship,” Sen. Dean  Skelos, the Republican leader, said in a statement.  “He has truly set the standard for doing a very difficult job and, in doing so, has earned the respect of members from both sides of the aisle and the reporters who cover Albany. John is truly an institution in the Capitol whose presence will be missed. On behalf of all the members of the Senate Republican conference, I thank John for his many years of service and wish him the best of luck.”

McArdle said, “It’s has been an honor and privilege to serve the Senate for so many years and during such interesting times.  I have had the good fortune to work for four outstanding  majority Leaders and with senators and staff for an institution I truly love.  I will cherish the memories and friendships and the opportunities I have had to serve the Senate and this state for the last 30 years.”

UPDATE:

McArdle called a short while ago to say the timing of his departure is based, in part, on an early retirement program offered to legislative employees, which is closing to new enrollees next month. Also, he said he feels comfortable leaving now because he is confident the Republicans will re-take the Senate when the voting is all counted in three contested races in Erie, Westchester and Nassau counties.

McArdle rose to become one of the most influential staff members at the Capitol, with a reputation for his fierce defense of Senate Republicans against Democrats in the Legislature and even fellow Republicans, such as former Gov. George Pataki, on everything from policy to raw politics.

McArdle said he will go into consulting and public relations – he is banned from lobbying for two years – and “crisis communications,’’ a field he has known well at the Capitol. He plans to also go into business with Abe Lackman, a former top Senate fiscal staffer who is an Albany lobbyist.

And as the Democrats and Republicans toss rhetorical bombs at each other over the re-count process, the Senate Democratic spokesman called a ceasefire Monday -- if for only the moment -- to note McArdle's departure.  

“John is one of the most respected colleagues in government I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Though we usually were on different sides of most issues, there is no one I would rather do battle against because his skill and tenacity made for a better debate and a better New York. I wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors,” said Austin Shafran, a Senate Democratic spokesman.

-- Tom Precious

Democrats still talk of a "path'' to Senate victory

ALBANY -- It could take weeks, or months, of such updates before the three contested Senate races are finally decided. But here's the latest from the Senate Democrats, who insist the Republicans shouldn't be too cozy about claiming they've won back the chamber's majority just yet.

In the local 60th district fight between Democratic Sen. Antoine Thompson and Republican challenger Mark Grisanti, the sides were back in court today in Niagara County in a continuation of their legal fight over how the vote count will proceed. (You'll recall the Democrats are floating the idea of recounting every single vote -- whether cast on the new electronic machines or on paper ballots.)

Things are stalled today in Westchester County, pending another court motion that will be back before a judge next week in the race between Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer and her GOP challenger, Bob Cohen. And in the third contested race -- between Democratic Sen. Craig Johnson and Republican Jack Martins on Long Island -- the counting of absentee ballots is under way today.

“New Yorkers have spoken, and now it’s our job to ensure their voices are heard through a full, fair, and honest count of every vote. With each new tally, Democratic candidates are gaining strength and moving forward along a clear path to victory – counting every vote,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the DSCC.

No word yet from Senate Republicans on their take of things today. [See GOP update below.]

What follows is a briefing sheet Shafran sent reporters this morning. It reflects where Democrats believe things stood in the three races as of last night.

SD 7 (Johnson v. Martins):

  • After gaining 61 votes yesterday, Johnson now trails by only 427 votes.
  • Johnson gained 61 votes from the counting of just 175 absentee and affidavit ballots out of a total of approximately 4,100 absentee and affidavit ballots returned.
  • At this pace, Johnson could gain over 1,000 additional votes by the conclusion of the counting of all absentee and affidavit ballots.

 SD 37 (Oppenheimer v. Cohen):

  • Oppenheimer now leads by 504 votes following the counting of all election districts.
  • GOP lawyers reneged on a promise to withdraw their election-day order blocking additional counting in Westchester –delaying the counting of 3,328 emergency ballots.
  • Still remaining to be counted are 2,455 absentee and 1,070 affidavit ballots which were returned with a Democratic enrollment advantage.

 SD 60 (Thompson v. Grisanti):

  • Thompson trails by just 597 votes – less than 1 percent of the total votes cast.
  • There are still more than 2,700 absentee ballots to be counted, nearly two-thirds of which were returned by Democrats.
  • 3% audits to examine the veracity of the machine vote count are continuing in Erie and Niagara counties.

 

Shafran sent in a reminder to note that there are also about 2,200 affidavit ballots to be counted in the Thompson/Grisanti race -- for a total of over 4,500 paper ballots.

UPDATE: Republicans dismissed Shafran's confidence as mere spin. From Scott Reif, a Senate Republican spokesman, comes the following:

7th Senate District

Yesterday, following the counting of absentee ballots in the heavily-Democratic 13th Assembly District, Craig Johnson narrowed Jack Martins’ lead from 489 votes to 427 votes.  Democrats chose to count this district first since they knew it would be favorable to their candidate.  The fact that Johnson only picked up 62 votes, ensures that Jack Martins will win this race by hundreds of votes.

Today, election workers are counting absentee ballots in the 16th Assembly District, the Democrat base of the 7th Senate district.  With approximately 270 more absentee ballots sent in by registered Democrats than registered Republicans, and 200 from unaffiliated voters in the 16th Assembly District, Johnson should lead Martins by hundreds of votes at the end of the day.

Next week, election workers will count absentee and affidavit ballots from the portion of Senate District 7 which overlaps with the 17th and 21st Assembly districts.  This is both the Republican base of the 7th Senate District and, geographically, Jack Martins' base.  With hundreds more absentee ballots filed by Republicans than Democrats in ADs 17 and 21, this will ensure that Jack Martins defeats Craig Johnson by hundreds of votes after all legitimate absentee and affidavit ballots have been counted.

Despite the Democrats' best efforts to spin the counts from the Democrat base of Senate District 7, there is absolutely no question that Jack Martins will soundly win this contest and join the new Senate Republican Majority.

37th Senate District 

There are approximately 8202 ballots still to be counted, including 3323 emergency ballots, 3814 absentees and 1065 affidavit ballots.  Oppenheimer continues to lead by  only 504 votes.

60th Senate District

All emergency ballots in Erie County - - a Democrat stronghold - - have now been counted. Out of 443 emergency ballots, Democrat incumbent Antoine Thompson had a net gain of only one vote (208 Thompson to 207 Grisanti).  Thompson now trails Republican Mark Grisanti by 597 votes (598 after previous recanvass) and faces even longer odds than he did prior to these votes being counted.

-- Tom Precious

Cuomo names transition team

ALBANY -- Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo just announced a team of people to advise him during his transition into the governor's office over the next couple months. It includes a mix of politicians, business executives and labor leaders. His economic team includes Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and M&T Bank CEO Bob Wilmers. An economic development and labor group includes a mix of Democrats and Republicans, including embattled Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who says he is poised after last week's still-contested elections to take over the Senate again.

The list of advisors also includes a number of political supporters who opened their wallets to Cuomo’s campaign over the past couple years. A quick check of elections board filings reveals that a dozen of the transition members – from current or former heads of Avis, American Express and Wegmans to wealthy bankers and finance executives from Manhattan – donated a total of at least $500,000 to Cuomo’s political campaign.

Here's the release from Team Cuomo:

Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo today announced that Lieutenant Governor-Elect Robert Duffy will serve as Chair and Director of the Cuomo-Duffy Transition. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, former New York State Comptroller Carl McCall, and former Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corp Felix Rohatyn will serve as the transition co-chairs.

“I want to thank Congresswoman Velazquez, County Executive Mahoney, former Comptroller McCall, and Felix Rohatyn for serving as co-chairs of my transition,” said Cuomo. “Each of them brings to the transition a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of the challenges facing the State of New York. Lieutenant Governor-Elect Duffy and I look forward to working with them to ensure that we attract the best and brightest talent to the Cuomo Administration.”

Cuomo also announced the formation of his Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors, which will provide counsel on fiscal and economic issues during the transition and will continue to serve in an advisory capacity during the Cuomo Administration. The Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisers will be charged with offering the Governor objective economic advice on the formulation of economic and budget policy. It will base its recommendations and analysis on economic research and empirical evidence, using the best data available to support the Governor in setting New York's economic and budgetary policy on the transition and through the Administration. The Council is still in formation.

The Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors includes:

  • Ken Adams, President & C.E.O., Business Council of New York State
  • Mario Baeza, Founder & Executive Chairman, Baeza Group Founder
  • Pat Barrett, former Republican Chairman; C.E.O., Avis
  • Byron Brown, Mayor of Buffalo
  • Jim Chanos, President and Founder of Kynikos Associates
  • Derrick D. Cephas, President & C.E.O., Amalgamated Bank
  • Kenneth Chenault, C.E.O. & Chairman, American Express
  • Glenn Dubin , Co-founder & C.E.O., Highbridge Capital Management
  • Alexis Herman, former U.S. Secretary of Labor
  • Denis Hughes, President, AFL-CIO
  • Ken Langone, Founder, Chairman & C.E.O., Invemed Associates LLC
  • Marc Morial, President, National Urban League
  • Felix Rohatyn, Special Advisor to Chairman and C.E.O., Lazard; former Chairman, Municipal Assistance Corp
  • Rossana Rosado, C.E.O., El Diario
  • Peter J. Solomon, Solomon Company, L.P., former New York City Deputy Mayor of Economic Policy and Development
  • Martin Sosnoff, Chairman and C.E.O., Atalanta Sosnoff
  • Bob Wilmers, C.E.O.,  M&T Bank
  • Deborah C. Wright, President and C.E.O. of Carver Bancorp
  • Frank Zarb former Chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange

 

Cuomo also named his first transition committee for Economic Development and Labor. The Committee will lead the search for new talent to staff the State agencies charged with leading job creation and growing New York’s economy. The Committee will recruit, review and recommend high-level leaders. It is still in formation and will begin meeting next week. Additional committees of the Cuomo-Duffy Transition will be announced in the coming days and will also begin meeting as early as next week.

The Committee on Economic Development and Labor includes:

  • Haejin Baek, President, Barclays Structured Finance
  • Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronx Borough President
  • Jamie Dinan, C.E.O. York Capital
  • Garry Douglas, Plattsburgh Chamber of Commerce
  • Hazel Dukes, President, NAACP New York
  • Rob Dyson, Chairman and C.E.O., The Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp.; President, Dyson Foundation
  • James Francis, Founder and C.E.O., Paradigm Asset Management; Member, NYC Partnership
  • Barbarlee Diamonstein-Spielvogel
  • Jim Gerace, President, New York Region, Verizon
  • Barry Gosin, C.E.O., Newmark Knight Franks; Partnership for NYC Board
  • Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Assembly
  • John Johnson, President, Watertown Daily Times
  • Brian Kolb, Minority Leader, New York State Assembly\
  • Kevin Law, Long Island Association
  • John Liu, New York City Comptroller
  • Edward Mangano, Nassau County Executive
  • Howard Milstein, C.E.O., N.Y. Private Bank & Trust and Emigrant Bank
  • Dean Norton, President, Farm Bureau
  • Peter Rivera, New York State Assembly
  • Van B. Robinson, President, Syracuse Common Council  
  • Lisa Rosenblum Senior Vice President, Cablevision.  
  • Asheesh Saksena, Senior Vice President, Time Warner Cable
  • John Sampson, Conference Leader, New York State Senate
  • Sheldon Silver, Speaker, New York State Assembly
  • Dean Skelos, Minority Leader, New York State Senate
  • Rob Simpson, C.E.O., CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity
  • Jay Snyder, Principal, HBJ Investments, LLC; N.Y.S. Commission for Public Authority Reform  
  • Elinor Tatum, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Amsterdam News
  • Peter Ward, President, New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO
  • Danny Wegman, C.E.O., Wegmans
  • Sandra Wilkin, Founder & President, Bradford Construction Corporation; President of the Women’s Builder Council

Over the past several months, Andrew Cuomo has traveled across the State to discuss the difficult fiscal challenges facing New York and the tough and decisive measures needed to get the State back on track. Faced with budget gaps of $30 billion over the next three fiscal years, New Yorkers can no longer afford the size of government it has amassed over the past several decades, nor can we burden already struggling New Yorkers with rising taxes to pay for it. The Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors will work with the Cuomo Administration to implement the core principles laid out by Cuomo during the campaign: to get New York’s fiscal house in order, reduce taxes and get people back to work.

“As I have said throughout my campaign, fiscal reform will be a top priority of my administration. We must overhaul our government, clean it up and pare it down while simultaneously putting New Yorkers back to work and making New York once again the jobs capital of the nation,” added Cuomo. “I am grateful to the members of the Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors – who represent some of the best business minds from around the State and across the nation -  for their willingness to roll up their sleeves and provide counsel and advice to my administration on budgetary and fiscal issues. I look forward to working with them to find creative solutions to the economic challenges we face as a State.”

-- Tom Precious 

Cuomo notes need for a "functioning'' state Senate

ALBANY – Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo continued his “recalibrate" Albany theme today, saying there’s really very little to argue about over the upcoming state budget because the state's economic realities are going to cause widespread fiscal pain.

“It’s all math," Cuomo said on an interview with WOR radio in New York City this morning.

The state is facing a projected $9 billion deficit for the fiscal year beginning April 1 –- driven in part by spending demands already set in law, slower tax revenues and higher Medicaid spending because of the down economy and the end to a two-year federal stimulus aid package for the states.

“It’s not a question of ideology. It’s a question of numbers. … Government has to go through a recalibration," Cuomo said. He has not been specific about what that means for things like state agency functions, workforce size or state aid to programs like public schools or Medicaid; that will be known, for certain, when he unveils his first budget at the end of January.

Cuomo, repeating a theme in a television ad his campaign will air tonight, said he alone cannot take on the Legislature and Albany’s special interests. “The people of this state have to stay involved," he said.

With three seats still in play in the state Senate -– and the GOP on the verge of retaking the chamber after two years of being out of power –- Cuomo noted he supported the Democrats staying in control. But Cuomo also clearly realizes the potential for complete dysfunction if the power struggle is not resolved by the time he takes office Jan. 1 and neither side can claim at least 32 votes to elect a Senate leader.

“I want a functioning State Senate. These are very big choices that we have to make, and we need to actually act, so I need a body that performs and a body that can function," Cuomo said.

 -- Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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