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DiNapoli pushes back against Cuomo administration on campaign finance

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is dismissing claims by a senior Cuomo administration official who told reporters earlier today that a pilot program for taxpayer-funded campaign that only affects the state comptroller's race was all DiNapoli's idea.

Here's the statement his office released from the comptroller this evening:

"The Governor and legislative leaders missed the chance to enact comprehensive changes in how elections are financed in New York state. Their new proposal for public financing for the State Comptroller's office was negotiated last minute behind closed doors and was never shared with my office. It is vastly different than the proposal that I have fought for the last eight years and falls short in many areas. The new proposal fails to set reasonable limitations on donations and assigns implementation to an organization that the Moreland Commission found dysfunctional. There are also questions on whether this new proposal can be fairly and reasonably implemented in such a short time frame or whether it was set up for failure. I am disappointed that in rushing to close the budget this issue was fumbled."

Casino developers to pay up to $70 million for NYS gambling license

By Tom Precious

ALBANY - The state Gaming Commission this evening issued the long-awaited Request for Application documents that sets out the terms for developers who are interested in operating the four commercial casinos the Cuomo administration is set to award later this year.
The agency said application documents will be due June 30. Besides paying a $1 million application fee, developers must, if selected, pay a minimum franchise fee to the state of between $20 million and $70 million, depending on which county is being sought for a casino license.
The 81-page Request for Application, accompanied by a separate, 52-page casino license application document, seeks an enormous amount of information from would-be developers, including kinds and numbers of gambling devices or games, individuals with direct or indirect ties to the bidder, the financial health of bidders and their partners and studies showing everything from number of potential jobs to be created to financial impact on the state's finances. Developers must also show local community support for a casino, though that provision was left somewhat vague in a state casino siting law enacted last year.
Voters in November approved seven new casinos. The first round - up to four casinos - is limited to three areas: Albany/Saratoga Springs region, Catskills/Mid-Hudson Valley and the southern tier near Binghamton running to a narrow area east of Rochester. Ares with existing Indian-owned casinos, such as Western New York, are prohibited from having any of the new commercial casinos.
More about the bidding documents and process can be found here.
UPDATE: Regarding the definition of local support, the RFA states: "As a condition of filing an Application, each Applicant must submit to the Board a resolution passed by the local legislative body of its Host Municipality supporting the Application. For purposes of this requirement, local support means a post -­‐ November 5, 2013 resolution passed by the local legislative body of the Host Municipality supporting the Application.''

 

Silver: Messages or not, budget will be timely

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says “it doesn’t matter’’ if Gov. Andrew Cuomo provides a message of necessity to ensure that two budget bills that did not make the midnight Friday introduction deadline are passed by tomorrow.

“We’re going to have a budget on-time tomorrow night. All the appropriation bills will be done on time without messages,’’ Silver said in an interview late this afternoon as Assembly Democrats were getting ready for a closed-door party conference.

While the appropriation bills that set specific spending levels for different areas of the budget were introduced before midnight Friday – thus permitting the legal, three-day aging process before Monday’s vote – two major Article VII “language’’ bills that describe how the state money is to be spent failed to make that deadline.

By any Albany standard imposed on past governors for budget timeliness, it means the budget will be late for the first time in four years unless those two bills are provided messages by Cuomo and then get passed by both legislative houses by midnight Monday.

The bills – education and health – affect more than half the state budget’s spending.

Silver disagreed about what "on time'' means, and showed no inclination, for now, to ask Cuomo for a message, saying it’s the appropriation bills that count. “It’s a matter of convenience more than anything,’’ Silver said of a possible message request. “If there are messages it will be for convenience. We’re going to be here Tuesday regardless, so it really doesn’t matter to us,’’ Silver said.

Manufacturers poised to emerge as among big budget winners

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -– The state’s embattled manufacturing industry is about to get a major boost in the looming 2014 state budget, officials said Friday.

A plan promoted originally by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give upstate manufacturers their own tax cuts has been expanded statewide and will cost the state an estimated $193 million. The tax break reduces to a portion of the corporate income tax rate for manufacturers down to zero, officials close to the budget talks say. It also changes the definition of qualifying manufacturers to restrict the tax break to true “nuts and bolts’’ manufacturers, as one source said.

State sources say still alive is a tax break for smaller manufacturers that pay their taxes through the personal income tax. While thought to be dead Friday morning, one official said a tentative deal has been struck to give about $100 million in state tax breaks so that eligible manufacturers could deduct up to 20 percent of their property tax bill on state taxes.

A state energy tax surcharge will be reduced on both homeowners and businesses; Cuomo had proposed the tax break just for businesses. And a proposal to create an independent consumer advocate to monitor the utility industry, a priority of AARP, has died.

Officials cautioned that numbers for some areas could still change as money for other programs – notably education – get resolved Friday night.

The usual Albany confusion spread through the Capitol Friday afternoon, helped along by legislative leaders.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, emerged from a private session with Cuomo to say that “as far as I’m concerned’’ the sides had reached a budget deal.

Soon after, the other Senate co-leader, Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, emerged from the same room with a different story. “I don’t think there’s a deal yet,’’ said Klein, who is still pushing for a low-income housing program. Klein appears to have abandoned his quest to increase benefits and provide up to six weeks of paid family leave for parents to take time off to care for a new child or sick family member.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, did not take part -– at least in person as far as reporters were told -– in the private meeting with Cuomo, Skelos and Klein.

At about noon Friday, the Speaker was in his full Silver-poker-face mode. “We’re at the same place we were last night,’’ Silver said of the talks. Asked if a final deal could happen Friday, he said, “I don’t know. I think so. I’m optimistic.’’

 

Albany transparency: LOB State Street doors to re-open

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- This fits into the good news category for lobbyists and the busloads of advocates who have dealings in the Legislative Office Building across the street from the Capitol.

Lawmakers say the budget deal will include about $300,000 to reopen the State Street main entrance to the nine-story building that houses lawmakers. The entrance closed due to budget cuts three years ago.
Sounds like a trivial line item, but it will significantly erase the long lines of people who have had to go through security checkpoints underground to make it into the LOB.

Lobbyists for years have said they'd be willing to pay an annual fee to bypass the security lines and get through the entrances that are used by state officials, lawmakers -- and reporters. That idea isn't in the budget deal.

Clock ticking, time for Albany's budget term to emerge: "framework"

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Legislative leaders late this morning emerged from nearly two hours of closed-door talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to – in the 58 seconds they spent with a couple dozen reporters gathered outside the governor’s office – to declare they are closing in on a final 2014 state budget deal.

Of course, they have to be, given the time on the clock, and the thousands of pages of budget bills that have to be introduced by tomorrow night if the measures are to go through the legal, three-day "aging" process for bills to be passed on Monday before Tuesday’s fiscal year start. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, did most of the talking, saying the sides are hoping for "a concluding meeting" this afternoon with Cuomo.

"We are moving toward a framework," Silver said.

"Framework" is the Albany term used to describe the situation where governors and legislative leaders come before the press to announce a budget deal. Details provided once a framework deal is announced are, typically, selective. For instance, the public will not know how much money their individual school districts across the state will be getting in state aid – a key component of how much they will pay in property taxes – until Sunday night at the earliest.

The term "framework" has become the description of choice in more recent times in Albany to characterize an agreement on broad details of the budget while staffers spend the next 24 hours working non-stop to put the final details together. "Framework" has replaced "conceptual" as the term of choice, though one year, a legislative leader described a budget deal as a "virtual" one.

Besides Cuomo and Silver, the meetings include State Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, and Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, who heads a small breakaway group of Democrats who jointly run the State Senate.

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the main Senate Democratic group who has been cut out of budget talks because her conference is in the minority in the chamber, did go into a meeting in the governor's suite of offices while Cuomo and the other legislative leaders were meeting. But she was not invited in to meet with them during her visit, instead holding a session with staffers.

Smiles outside, fights backstage in budget talks

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Legislative leaders were all confident and smiling again about the pace of negotiations over a 2014 state budget that needs to be approved by Monday to be considered timely before the start of the fiscal year on April 1.

But behind the scenes, the battles continued. Last week, it was Senate co-leader Dean Skelos who blew off some steam in closed-door budget talks. Today, it was Larry Schwartz, the secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Sources close to the talks said an angry Schwartz said he was quitting before he exited the negotiating room on the second floor.

No such words were uttered by Schwartz, Cuomo administration officials said. They chalked up Schwartz's departure from the negotiating session as part of the normal blow-ups that mark the closing days before a final budget deal is reached. Indeed, there is a long history in Albany of negotiators, many of whom are getting by on too little sleep and too much caffeine, getting into yellling matches before the handshake deals come. One year, it took a trip by legislative leaders to a nearby Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor to make amends before a budget deal.

Anti-SAFE Act rally to feature Astorino, Trump, Paladino

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Gun rights advocates will hear from the likes of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and billionaire Donald Trump in a rally outside the state Capitol next Tuesday, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino announced Tuesday.

In an email sent to supporters and reporters, Paladino said the "stand up for your rights'' rally will call for the full repeal of the New York SAFE Act, a law passed in January last year that cracks down on the sale of assault-style weapons and, eventually, will create a tracking system for all purchases of ammunition in the state.

Others expected to speak, according to Paladino, include Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard. The three-hour rally is scheduled for the Capitol's West Park. Whether Astorino and Trump will appear together is uncertain; Trump recently said he will not run for governor this year against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the author of the SAFE Act, and a number of Republican leaders are urging county GOP leaders to rally behind Astorino.


Assembly approves debt service measure

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – The first bill of the 2014 budget was adopted by the Assembly Wednesday, a measure authorizing the state to pay $6.2 billion in the coming year on past and new borrowing to pay for everything from road to park work.

The debt service alone will cost an average of more than $300 per resident of the state. Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chairman Herman Farrell told colleagues during the brief floor debate that the state’s total new and existing debt -– some of which he said goes back decades -– this year will total $57.1 billion. Of that, just $3.5 billion was approved by voters in statewide referendum votes.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, a Chautauqua County Republican, took a cue from his predecessor’s annual budget speech highlighting the concerns of mounting state debt levels. He said that, while roads, bridge and other construction programs for which debt is issued may be needed, voters should have a say.

“I believe this violates the spirit if not the letter of the constitution,’’ Goodell said, echoing years of criticism about debt by former Assemblyman Bill Parment, a Jamestown-area Democrat.

But Farrell dismissed Goodell’s claims, saying court decisions have backed the Legislature’s authority to OK borrowing without direct voter approval.

An hour after the measure was overwhelmingly approved, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo headed into closed-door budget meetings to continue talks on the 2014 budget, which is due by March 31.

 

 

Cuomo: What? Me worry?

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed the entry of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino into the governor’s race, as he did with the results of a new poll showing the governor’s job approval ratings taking a sharp decline since last fall.

“Let’s first find out who the candidate is,’’ Cuomo said today on the Capitol Pressroom, a public radio show that he regularly heads to when he wants to get his thoughts out on the airwaves.

In the Cuomo political school of how-to-ignore-your-opponent, the governor suggested Astorino might not be the Republican Party’s nominee to face him this fall. “Maybe it’s Mr. Donald Trump,’’ Cuomo said of the billionaire businessman who has been flirting with a GOP run. “Maybe it’s Mr. Carl Paladino again … or maybe it’s Mr. Astorino,’’ Cuomo said.

Cuomo also dismissed the findings of an NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll out today showing 56 percent of registered voters give him a negative job approval rating. In November, 44 percent gave him a negative rating.

Cuomo said polls go up and down and that the only major events since November in state government – his State of the State address and the release of his budget plans – contained proposals that have gotten “overwhelming support.’’

Cuomo defended his handling of the state’s economy, saying the unemployment rate is better today than at any point since 2008. “Is the economic great? No. But is the state doing better? Yes,’’ Cuomo said.

Cuomo was not asked, nor did he criticize, the portion of the same poll showing the governor with a 40 point edge over Astorino, who announced just Wednesday he is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

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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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