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Video: McCarthy previews some possible County Hall contests

The Erie County Legislature could be ground zero for some lively political races this season. News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy chats with Brian Meyer about some potential contests:

Friday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

NPR tells us that finally, there's a factory comeback -- all because of fracking.

Worried about government spending? The Iraq and Afghanistan wars left us with more than $4 trillion of it.

Is it finally time for Medicare reform? The New York Times says: maybe.

P.S.: I am on vacation next week, so this will be the last set of must-reads from Washington until April 9, when I return.

Cuomo administration takes a budget bow

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The Cuomo admininistration wasted no time in taking a victory lap for provisions it got through in the new state budget.

Besides the various and usual items Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been talking about publicly for weeks, a senior Cuomo admininstration official noted with some delight that legislative efforts to give the governor less control over economic development spending was not part of the final budget.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that items like state incentives for "innovation hot spots'' around the state, which Cuomo proposed in January but were not included in the Assembly and Senate one-house budget bills earlier this month, did end up in the enacted budget given final passage by teh Assembly at 11:59pm Thursday.

"The whole program that we laid out in the State of the State we got,'' the senior official said in a meeting with a few reporters, including The Buffalo News, in his Capitol office Thursday.

The official sought to beat back various criticisms about the budget, whether a provision giving taxpayer subsidies to employers of certain teenage workers to help them cover the costs associated with a minimum wage increase or big tax hikes on wealthy people down the fiscal road. [As for that minimum wage tax credit, the official said he knew of no specific corporations that pushed the idea and said it was the work of the governor's office and Senate negotiators; earlier in the day Thursday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he did not like the idea, but agreed to it as a compromise to get a minimum wage hike through.]

Critics have also complained about a program to give $350 checks to taxpayers with at least one child and household incomes of between $40,000 and $300,000. The program will not begin until the fall of 2014 -- just before election day for the governor and lawmakers -- in a move that fiscal watchdogs have said gives Albany's elected officials a handy political calling card to use with voters.

The Cuomo official said the matter of timing about when the checks would go out in 2014 was never a topic in closed-door talks between the administration and legislative leaders. "When you state it in the context of a campaign, obviously that's not what it's about, but (it's about) giving the middle class a tax cut,'' the official said.

The official stressed the importance of the budget getting adopted on time for the third year in a row, something not accomplished in three decades. "It was the symbol of dysfunction,'' the official said of the years of late state budgets, sometimes into August. "And don't underestimate that. It was the longest running play for 20 years. It's what everyone knew about their state government ... and it was a window through which they saw their state government and it exposed the ongoing gridlock and fighting and fingerpointing.''


2013 NYS budget gets final passage

By Tom Precious

Albany -- A state budget is born. With a few days to spare before the deadline, the Assembly at about midnight gave final approval to the 2013 state budget.

For historians, it appears they got the last bill done with a minute to spare. So March 28 adoption date.

UPDATE: For real historians, official time from Assembly: 11:59pm.



Big budget = big debate

By Tom Precious

Albany -- When it comes to running his chamber, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver isn't often wrong in his predictions of its operations.

But when he said this morning he thought the state budget debate would be over in his house before dinner tonight, even optimists felt that was a tad optimistic.

Right now, they have three bills to go before the 2013 budget is complete.

But democracy does not come cheap. Lawmakers, and there are 150 of them in the Assembly, get per diems of $171 a full day and $61 a half day, and a new day starts in 45 minutes.


God for some, food for others

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The Assembly is getting ready to come back to the chamber in a bit to finish the final handful of 2013 state budget bills.

They broke about an hour ago, officially, so that some members could go to a nearby Holy Thursday mass.

Let's just say there was not a stampede to church. "How about the Rodeo Burger at Elda's?'' one Assembly member said to a half-dozen others heading to an elevator. Absolutely was the consensus.

For the record, the Rodeo Burger ($11) at the nearby Lark Street hangout for many lawmakers has for toppings: onion rings, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. The perfect food choice for a long night of budget debate.


Thursday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

Everyone's talking about how to cut the federal budget, right? The Washington Post explains why this talk usually goes nowhere.

President Obama may be dealing with a difficult Congress, but the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, finds that he's exercising executive power in subtle ways.

Just as the issue of lucrative executive pay has faded from the national conversation, USA Today finds that CEO salaries are skyrocketing again.

Video: New option emerges at Supreme Court to overturn DOMA

Justice Anthony Kennedy, seen as the Supreme Court's swing vote, seemed to be looking at another possible option for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act during today's arguements. Here's more from Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski.

Upstate newspaper editorial condemns budget deal for Bills

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The nearly $54 million in capital aid contained in the 2013 state budget to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York isn't going over well in some parts of the state. While the editorial in today's Glens Falls Post-Star newspaper raised a number of concerns about the fiscal priorities of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers, we bring you the parts about the state aid for the NFL franchise.

The editorial starts out:

''New York will shell out millions to improve the Buffalo Bills’ stadium, while cutting services for disabled people, but that’s OK, according to the Cuomo administration, because the state will be able to use a luxury box at the stadium to promote upstate to employers.

We suggest, instead, the box be reserved for disabled people, since the budget paying for it is being balanced on their backs.

As details leak of the budget being mixed together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders, the choices they’re making are raising questions.''

Continue reading "Upstate newspaper editorial condemns budget deal for Bills" »

Senate Dems complain, but mostly support budget bills

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Senate Democrats spent hours on the chamber floor debating and railing against the 2013 budget deal crafted, in part, by Senate Republicans and their five breakaway Democratic allies. But, when all was done, most Democrats ended up voting for the major budget bills.

Blame the way the budget is put together, one Senate Democrat, Michael Gianaris, noted during the early morning debate in the wee hours this morning. While there is, in the eyes of Senate Democrats, plenty of bad in the budget, it ends up being hard to vote against things like state aid for schools or funding for local governments contained in the bills that can total hundreds of pages apiece.

Thus, the votes on the last round of budget bills in the Senate:

Continue reading "Senate Dems complain, but mostly support budget bills" »

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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 |