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Audio from Albany: Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos

As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.


ALBANY — The Legislature's top Republican is attacking a plan by the Cuomo administration's Thruway Authority to hike tolls on trucks by 45 percent, calling it a back-door tax hike maneuver."

If you want to talk about an indirect tax and fee on people, that 45 percent is exactly that," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

SkelosIn an interview this afternoon, Skelos said the toll hike — preliminarily approved Wednesday by the Thruway's board — will end up hitting consumers in the form of higher prices on a range of products.

"The trucking industry is a vital part of our economics in the state," Skelos said of the higher shipping costs the toll hike will spawn.

The majority leader touched on a number of topics, including:

* Minimum wage hike opposition by Senate Republicans: "When the economy is good and booming then I think there's an opportunity to do a minimum wage increase then," he said during the interview, which occurred shortly before six Occupy Albany protesters — pressing for a minimum wage hike — were arrested for refusing to leave the majority leader's Capitol office.

He defined that as a period with better employment numbers and improved sales and corporate income tax collections.

* Did he ever work a minimum wage job?: In law school, he said he worked at "below minimum wages" in the college cafeteria.

* On Carl Paladino supporting a GOP primary opponent to Sen. George Maziarz: The Buffalo businessman, Skelos said, is just "attention starved" and upset that he is among the wealthy New Yorkers who did not see their taxes drop last December, as scheduled.

* Likely deals before the end of the session: A new prescription drug "real-time" reporting system and a decision on whether to make teacher evaluations public, he said. Among deals not likely: an effort to reduce wrongful convictions by, among other things, requiring videotaping of police interrogations.

* On the cozy factor between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Senate Republicans: "All I can say is I think he's very happy the way things are working in Albany. I think it's for his benefit. I think it's for our benefit. It's for the Assembly's benefit."

--Tom Precious

Listen to the full conversation with Skelos here:

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Video: Franczyk accuses Fontana of 'pandering political stunt'

Less than a week after being appointed to the Common Council, the city's newest lawmaker was tapped with a committee chairmanship.

Council President Richard A. Fontana has appointed South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon as chairman of the body's Finance Committee.

"I just have to say that I see this as a pandering, political stunt," Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk said on the Council floor this week.

Scanlon replaces Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, who held the post since early January. (Before him, former South Council Member Michael P. Kearns held it.)

Franczyk asserted Scanlon's appointment to chair the committee was an attempt by Fontana to add a sixth member to the Council majority.

"If you want to have someone to be an ally of yours, or a sixth vote, ask him for it. Don't pander to them; don't patronize them. Ask him for it and let them make up their own [mind]," Franczyk said. "But this kind of pathetic pandering for a freshman councilman, to me, does a disservice to the spirit of the [city] charter and to this council."

Watch Franczyk's complete comments:


Continue reading "Video: Franczyk accuses Fontana of 'pandering political stunt'" »

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Some 51 of the nation's 100 senators, including the two Democrats from New York, last week voted to prevent student loan interest  rates from doubling this summer, thereby sending the measure down to defeat.

That is not a typo. That is the filibuster in action.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Neighborhood parking permits pitched for medical corridor

Council Member Darius G. Pridgen today will introduce a measure calling for the city to study and implement a system of neighborhood parking permits around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The city lawmaker, whose district includes the Fruit Belt neighborhood adjacent to the medical campus, said he has heard from residents who have had trouble finding parking spots near their homes due to those working at and visiting the campus.

Pridgen's resolution also states the Council will pursue state legislation allowing the neighborhood parking permit system.

Here's a copy of Pridgen's resolution.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington, May 28, 2012


Five Questions with Patrick Gallivan

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.

State Senator Patrick M. Gallivan speaks during the Western New York Chamber Alliance's state legislative forum in February. (Photo by Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

Patrick M. Gallivan

The basics
Age: 51
Job title: State senator, 59th district
Family: Married to the love of my life, Mary Pat Gallivan; reside with our children, Jenna, 27, and Conor, 19.
Education: Bachelor's degree from Canisius College, 1982; master's degree from SUNY Albany, 1992.
Party affiliation: Republican
Previous work experience: New York state trooper; Erie County Sheriff; member of New York State Board of Parole; president of GDY Professional Investigations.
State salary: $79,500

Continue reading "Five Questions with Patrick Gallivan" »

Turner appeals to Catholic voters in Buffalo

Rep. Bob Turner brought his Senate campaign to Buffalo today, appealing to the city's significant Catholic voting bloc by evoking New York Cardinal Timothy J. Dolan and Buffalo Bishop Edward U. Kmiec in criticizing the Obama administration's health care mandates.

Turner, a Queens congressman seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand this fall, appeared at GOP Headquarters in downtown Buffalo to express his dissatisfaction with the administration requirements that religious institutions provide birth control and some abortion services for employees.

"New Yorkers should rally behind the more than 40 religious organizations across the country who have been forced to sue the Obama administration over infringement of their First Amendment rights," Turner said. "President Obama has made a reckless and unconstitutional expansion of the federal government the primary focus of his administration and this latest threat to religious liberty is yet another example.

"Trampling over the First Amendment is a bridge too far and Mr. Obama will have to account for his actions with the millions of voters who support a fundamental American right of freedom of religion."

Turner said he supports Dolan and Kmiec in a suit against the federal government's mandate.

The congressman is facing Manhattan attorney Wendy Long and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos in the June 26 Republican primary. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in the general election.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Conservatives still undecided in county comptroller race

Erie County Conservatives met Thursday night without answering one of the big questions of the 2012 political season: Whom will they back for county comptroller?

Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo said a number of questions still face his party's Executive Committee after interviewing four candidates and delaying a recommendation until next Thursday.

Democrats included interim Comptroller David J. Shenk, appointed by the County Legislature earlier this year; and George F. Hasiotis, a businessman and former Water Authority commissioner. Republicans included Stefan Mychajliw, a Channel 2 political commentator and campaign spokesman for former County Executive Chris Collins; and Todd Aldinger, a Princeton economics graduate who serves on the staff of State Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

Lorigo said all bring various strengths and weaknesses to the process, prompting the committee to request further deliberation.

In other action, the Conservatives reversed course from the March 24 special election for the Assembly and backed incumbent Democrat Michael P. Kearns. The party had nominated Christopher J. Fahey for the special election, won by Kearns.

"I reached out to him," Lorigo said. "He said he would be very proud to carry our endorsement and I am very glad."

Lorigo said the committee also backed Joseph Mascia, a Democrat, for the Assembly seat now held by Democrat Sean M. Ryan.

In another important development, Conservatives will back Christopher P. Scanlon for the South District Council seat to which he was appointed last week.

The party nominated nobody for the seat now held by Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy, but officially named Democrat Charles M. Swanick as its candidate for the seat now held by Republican Mark J. Grisanti. It also backed Republicans Gallivan and Michael H. Ranzenhofer for re-election to the Senate.

Other Assembly endorsements include Democrats Dennis H. Gabryszak and Robin L. Schimminger, as well as Republicans Jane L. Corwin and Raymond W. Walter.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Video: McCarthy discusses Lenihan's potential exit

Could there soon be a new leader of the Erie County Democratic Party? News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about Len Lenihan's possible exit.

Washington Politics Now chat with Jerry Zremski

The News features a live chat on Politics Now weekly at 1 p.m. Thursdays. Today's is hosted by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski, with the focus being on politics in the nation's capital and the resulting effect on Western New York.

The schedule for other Politics Now chats is: First Thursday of month: Aaron Besecker on Buffalo City Hall; second: Denise Jewell Gee on Erie County Hall; third: Tom Precious on Albany. The News' Bob McCarthy also joins the chats when available.


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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 |