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Weekly podcast: News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski previews what is expected to happen this week in the nation's capital and takes a look ahead at some stories he is working on for The News:

Click here to download the audio and take it with you

Paladino says it's too soon to evaluate Cuomo

 ALBANY -- Carl Paladino says it's too soon to judge whether Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is doing a good job in office.

"Nothing's been done yet. There's been a lot of talk, so let's see how it goes," the Buffalo businessman who lost to Cuomo last fall said today during a brief stop at the Capitol.

Paladino is in town attending a state Conservative Party gathering. Paladino, who said he has had no contact with Cuomo, was asked if he had plans to return to Albany to offer his insights on the state.

 "What does a bull in a china shop do?" he Responded. The Republican said he would not run for governor again. Paladino suggested Cuomo's property tax cap -- which the state Senate will pass later today but is so far stalled in the Assembly -- does not go far enough. In his campaign last year, Paladino called for property tax reductions, not just an annual cap based on current levels.

"You can't keep this level of taxation on the people because they're moving away," Paladino said. He added, "We're a mess. Let's not forget that. We are a mess, and the only way we're going to straighten it out is by some really strong leadership, and I hope Mr. Cuomo provides that."

As for talk of Cuomo laying off possibly 10,000 workers or more, he said, "What's wrong with that?"

"You're saying that every state worker has an absolutely fulfilling job responsibility? That's not true," Paladino added.

If he were governor, he would have fired 25,000 state workers, he said.

--Tom Precious

Obama picks press secretary -- and he's not from Buffalo

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama has picked Jay Carney, a former Time magazine journalist who for the last two years served as Vice President Joe Biden's top spokesman, to serve as the new White House press secretary, sources told several Washington media outlets today.

    Carney will replace Robert Gibbs, the longtime Obama spokesman who opted to go into the private sector.

    Carney's elevation, which was expected, means Obama did not pick Bill Burton, a well-respected deputy press secretary from Buffalo.

    Several factors likely went into Carney's selection, sources said. For one thing, the new White House chief of staff, William Daley, made it clear he favored an outsider. For another, Carney is 45, while the boyish Burton is only 33.

-- Jerry Zremski


The News' State of the Union coverage

The Buffalo News provided in-depth coverage of President Obama's State of the Union address. Among the highlights:

* Post-speech audio analysis from News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski:

Download the audio and take it with you

* Zremski's two stories: Obama urges unity to rebuild the economy -- Area representatives generally approve of Obama's address

* Buffalo News editorial: State of the Union

* Live chat, analysis with The News' Doug Turner during the speech

So happy together at the State of the Union?

It's been a long time since New York's congressional delegation has been known for its bipartisanship, but lawmakers will give the concept a try tonight at President Obama's State of the Union address.

Several House members from the state -- including Democrat Brian Higgins of Buffalo and Republicans Chris Lee of Amherst and Tom Reed of Corning -- announced plans today to try to sit together if they can find seats.

The news follows the announcement that Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., will sit with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and that Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will  be seated with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

There's no word yet from the office of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, as to where she will be sitting. "She hasn't decided yet, but there's always a friend of Louise on the floor," said her spokesman, Victoria Dillon

--Jerry Zremski

Live State of the Union chat with Doug Turner begins at 8:30 p.m.

News Washington Columnist Doug Turner will be chatting during tonight's State of the Union address, which you can watch live on Join Doug beginning at 8:30, and send him your thoughts throughout the night. And look for coverage from News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski once the speech is through.

A look at what's in store

Over the weekend, The News' Phil Fairbanks wrote about the advertising war happening as Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to deal with the state budget gap and Bob McCarthy's column dealt with Cuomo's high poll numbers as he begins his term. Fairbanks and McCarthy talked about those issues, as well as 2011's big race for Erie County executive, in a video late last week:

Gillibrand to sit with Republican at State of the Union

WASHINGTON -- It's starting to look more and more like the audience at Tuesday's State of the Union address won't be divided into two separate camps as it has been for years -- and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York is helping make sure of it.

Gillibrand, a Democrat, announced today that she will be sitting with Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican.

“This is just a symbol, but it sends an important message that although we may disagree on various issues, we all stand ready to work together and do what we believe is right for the country," GIllibrand said. "The American people want this Congress to work together -– not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans.”

It's an intriguing pairing, Gillibrand and Thune. Ideological opposites, they have one thing in common.

Last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Gillibrand "the hottest member" of the Senate at a fundraiser last September.

And after that, the snarky BuzzFeed website named Thune the hottest senator -- and listed Gillibrand at No. 9.

We report. You decide:

(Photos by Buffalo News and Associated Press)

--Jerry Zremski

State Senate Democrats trim their staffs

ALBANY -– State Senate Democrats fired 130 staff members today -– another piece of evidence of the changeover of power of the Senate from Democratic to Republican hands.

Senate Republicans have claimed that the Democrats –- who controlled the chamber the past two years   -– overspent their current fiscal year budget by $10 million to $12 million.

“We’ve made significant payroll reductions to bring spending down to appropriate levels. Further reductions are ongoing and greatly depend on whether the Republicans will be as fair with the resources as we were in the majority so all members can serve their constituents equally," said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

The firings do not include those Senate Democratic staffers who left with their bosses on Dec. 31 -– such as the staff of former Sens. Antoine Thompson or Bill Stachowski –- or resignations since Jan. 1.

The Senate Republicans have not yet said how much of a budget the Senate Democrats will have to work with in the coming year. “They can’t get a final number until we make certain they reduce their payroll significantly," said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican.

Libous said the Senate is looking at running in the red for the fiscal year ending March 31 because the Democrats spent beyond their approved budget. He said the Senate Democrats overspent by up to $12 million out of a budget of $90 million.

Officials say the Democratic Senate payroll has now been reduced from about $40 million to about $27 million on an annualized basis. Officials did not immediately know how many staff members left on Dec.  31 in the few weeks before Thursday’s terminations of 130 people.

But Libous said the Republicans are awaiting confirmation of payroll costs, possibly coming this week,  from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The Albany trappings of power fight under way is fierce. Lawmakers are jockeying for bigger staffs, which can translate to more bodies to help with constituency work and also take care of patronage and prestige issues. They also are also are sparring over who gets the offices at the Capitol and Legislative Office Building with the largest square footage, best views and, as the real estate industry says, the choicest location, location, location.

-- Tom Precious

The health care debate: what local lawmakers said

    The House is wrapping up a two-day debate on the repeal of President Obama's signature health care reform law, and all four Western New York lawmakers have taken to the floor to share their thoughts on it.

    Here's what they had to say:

    Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo:  

    Rep. Chris Lee, R-Amherst:  

    Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport:   


Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning:  


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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.

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.

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 |

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 |