Apr 30th - 10:27 am
From the morning memo:
Are the Senate Republicans playing a legislative version of Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope with Gov. Andrew Cuomo?
It certainly seems that way.
Consider Cuomo, assuming the bully pulpit this post-budget legislative session, has tossed out multiple fixes to public corruption and misconduct and has leftovers from his State of the State agenda such as casino siting and a women’s agenda that he’d like to see done.
But the governor has been cautious to not release the specifics of what he wants. Cuomo did not even release bill language on the seemingly straightforward proposal to tighten anti-bribery laws until late Monday, nearly a month after Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson were arrested in unrelated scandals.
Cuomo in the last month has justified in several different ways why he is playing his cards close to the vest: He doesn’t want to appear like he’s posturing, consensus is needed with the women’s groups on the equality agenda first, bill language only calcifies the various legislative factions and so on.
But also making it difficult for specifics is we’re not getting many details on what the Senate GOP actually wants this post-budget session.
The Republicans are in an enrolled minority in the Senate, but kept power through an arrangement with the Independent Democratic Conference.
Power is the ability to get things done, but it’s also the ability to say no.
And so far the Senate Republicans are saying no to major pieces of Cuomo’s spring-time efforts: the public financing of political campaigns and a measure designed to strengthen the state’s abortion laws.
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos sat down with Liz on last night’s Capital Tonight, saying in the interview the conference believes the focus needs to be kept to jobs, striping regulations and mandate relief.
“Our focus should be on how are you going to create jobs, what you going to do to keep my taxes down, how you going to have mandate relief to relieve property taxes and how are you going to rightsize government,” Skelos said.
Asked if Cuomo is to blame for perhaps losing that focus, Skelos didn’t bite.
“I think we all have to work together,” he said. “We’ve cut some taxes, but we’re still over regulated, we’re still taxing too much, and that’s what we have to look at.”
And yes, when it came to jobs, Skelos tossed out the “f” word in state politics these days, the one topic that has become the third rail for Cuomo.
“I think when you poll people, they talk about jobs,” he said. “The Southern Tier wants to know when fracking is going to start. When is the studies upon studies going to be over? Unemployment in many of the upstate communities is outrageous.”
Whether Cuomo, a solid legislative strategist in his own right, can adapt to the rope-a-dope strategy remains to be seen or if he’ll just tire himself out like George Foreman. But so far it has been Cuomo’s approach to figure out what the other side wants and try to give it to them. But when the other side starts to dig in its heels, that effort becomes far harder.
Apr 23rd - 4:51 pm
The New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women today pushed back against the claim from Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos that the Reproductive Health Act was “an extreme” measure.
“Senator Skelos’ characterization of the Reproductive Health Act as “extreme” is a misleading attempt to deny women life saving access to reproductive health,” said NOW NYC President Sonia Ossorio in a statement. “The Governor’s Reproductive Health Act would bring New York State in line with federal law so that women would be guaranteed access to abortion if their life or health is in danger. This is not about a free for all: it’s about protecting women’s lives. According to a recent Siena poll, New Yorkers agree with 80% in support of the Reproductive Health Act. It seems like Senator Skelos is the one with the extreme position.”
Skelos told reporters earlier today his conference would consider supporting nine out of the 10 points in the women’s agenda legislation, which includes workplace discrimination provisions and anti-domestic abuse measures.
But the abortion piece remains a difficult one for his conference, already facing pressure from a conservative voter base in the aftermath of the gun control law passing in January, to hold a vote on by the end of the legislative session.
NOW is in Albany to lobby for the women’s agenda as proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and in particular the effort to strengthen abortion rights.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and supporters say the measure is design to codify Roe v. Wade and update the state’s existing abortion laws, but opponents call the proposal a legalization of partial-birth abortion.
Of course, it’s difficult to referee these competing claims considering that Cuomo has not released any bill language on the abortion provision.
Apr 23rd - 2:54 pm
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos sees some wiggle room for nine out of the 10 points in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s women’s agenda proposal.
Strengthening the state’s abortion laws is not one of them.
Skelos called the push for the Reproductive Health Act “an extreme position.”
Advocates of the push say Cuomo’s legislation — which is yet to be officially introduced — would codify Roe v. Wade and merely update existing laws already on the books. Skelos and other opponents say it expands abortion to allowing partial-birth abortion.
But Skelos did say the GOP conference was willing to negotiate the other nine points in the women’s agenda.
“I think my position has been clear. There are differences of opinion, obviously, on the issue at expansion of late-term abortion is extreme in my opinion,” Skelos said. ”It’s not progressive, it’s extreme. I think there’s a lot of room with the other nine issues — nine, not non, nine issues — that we can effectively negotiate and come to a resolution before the end of the legislative session”
For a refresher, the women’s agenda includes pay equity, curtailing sexual harassment and employment, credit and lendnig discrimination, strengthening human trafficking laws, ending housing discrimination of domestic abuse victims and blocking pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
Cuomo in a radio interview today demanded a vote on the abortion component, saying he was intently focused on the Senate while applying some pressure to the Independent Democratic Conference and their coalition with the GOP.
But Skelos indicated today the governor should be willing to compromise on the proposals, just as the Legislature had to on the state budget.
“We’ve been very successful with three on time budgets by talking to each other and by also understanding you’re not going to get everything you want,” he said.
As for details on the governor’s proposal, those have not been so forthcoming.
“He’s given us a broad outline of a number of the other nine issues which we will discuss,” Skelos said. “I have not seen a specific proposal.”
Cuomo so far has not given any indication he plans to break out the abortion provision from the rest of the legislative package.
The comments from Skelos and Cuomo come today as the National Organization for Women is in Albany today lobbying on behalf of the reproductive heatlh legislation along with the broader women’s agenda proposal, holding a news conference earlier this morning and meeting with lawmakers.
Mar 24th - 5:10 pm
The budget will include an “indefinite” suspension of the enforcement of magazines carrying more than seven rounds, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos told reporters this afternoon.
The provision will also include clarifications of the state’s January gun control law that exempts law enforcement from the law as well.
The law, known as the SAFE Act, became a last-minute component of the budget negotiations, but lawmakers and Cuomo announced a tentative agreement on a $143 billion plan that did not include an agreement on making changes or clarifications, along with other policy-related matters.
The measure bans high-capacity magazines that take more than seven rounds, but firearms manufacturers generally do not make seven-round magazines.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said he wanted to clarify that the law would allow gun owners to load seven rounds into a magazine that could hold 10 bullets. Cuomo had insisted that the effort was not a whole-sale scale back of the law, which is a signature achievement for him so far this year.
That there’s no time element for the enforcement of the magazines above seven rounds suggests that the issue could be put to rest entirely and that it would not be wrapped up in additional negotiations over unrelated bills.
Mar 17th - 9:21 pm
The three legislative leaders met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for more than 3-1/2 hours Sunday evening and emerged to say no deal had been reached on 2013-14 budget.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, along with Senate Co-Presidents Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos held easily the longest of their closed-door sessions with the governor of the budget process this year so far.
A minimum wage increase remains under negotiation, as does as an extension of the so-called millionaires tax on high-income earners.
The tax code, a product a deal struck in December 2011, is due to expire in 2014, a re-election year for Cuomo and all 213 legislators.
“It is on the table. Clearly, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” Silver said. “We’re making a lot of progress toward an on-time budget and the details ultimately will be forthcoming when everything is agreed to.”
Cuomo proposed a $142.6 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, due to begin April 1.
The budget includes a $8.75 minimum wage, up from the current $7.25 wage. Assembly Democrats passed a measure that would increase it to $9, plus index future raises to the rate of inflation.
The coalition-led Senate of five Democrats and 30 Republicans approved language that was open to a minimum wage increase.
But Senate Republicans also want to include tax credits and cuts for businesses and middle-class families, proposing some $2 billion tax cuts.
“We’re discussing minimum wage,” Skelos said. “We’re also discussing tax credits and tax cuts for middle-income families.”
Sen. Marty Golden said on Friday that it was “very likely” a minimum wage increase would ultimately be included in the final spending plan.
Lawmakers are not scheduled to be in Albany past March 21 and are scheduled to return April 15 in order to accommodate the Passover and Easter holidays.
That means any agreement would have to be locked down in the next several days in order for bills to be printed and then appropriatedly aged on lawmakers’ desks.
Cuomo has said he does not believe a message of necessity would be needed to pass the budget by the end of this week.
“We’re trying to get it done by Thursday,” Skelos said.
For now the hold up in the budget process is unclear.
“It’s not a matter of sticking points,” Skelos said. “It’s technical printing and that type of thing. But I think we’re on track to having a budget this week.”
Mar 4th - 2:26 pm
With the introduction of a tax cut bill aimed at families, Senate Republicans are formally seeking more than $2 billion in tax cuts in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal as the final weeks of negotiations conclude at the Capitol.
Skelos and Republican lawmakers today unveiled a package of tax cuts and credits that at its centerpiece would fully restore the STAR property tax rebate program and boost the Child Tax Credit.
Combined with the end to the 18a assessment surcharge, Senate Republicans are seeking tax cuts of more than $2 billion, or nearly twice the deficit Cuomo’s $142.6 billion budget closes.
Asekd about paying for it all, Skelos point to the $2.5 billion pot of money controlled by Cuomo and set aside of targeted education spending and economic development, though he would not say specifically if the money should come from the pool of funds that the governor controls.
“As you know in the budget right now the governor has about two and a half billion dollars in new program spending. We’re presenting today what we believe should be part of the budget negotiations and get a result to help families that are struggling for their child care, property taxes or their own income taxes,” he said.
Skelos reiterated this concerns with increasing the state’s minimum wage, which his governing partner in the Senate, Democratic Co-Preisdent and IDC Leader Jeff Klein said ought to be in the budget.
Skelos said that Cuomo, the Democratic-led Assembly and President Obama are in a ”bidding war” over how much the wage should be. Cuomo backs a wage hike to $8.75, while Assembly Democrats would increase it to $9 to mirror a proposal made by the president in his State of the Union address.
“It just seems how high can you go with them?” Skelos said.
He also disputed some of the polling on the minimum wage hike, which has support from voters of more than 80 percent consistently in statewide polls, suggesting that most voters aren’t asked about the impact of the wage hike.
“It’s the way you phrase the question and what the end results would be,” Skelos said.
The budget is expected to pass the third week in March, making it one of the earliest budgets
So far, Cuomo has said he would keep the minimum wage hike in his budget plan, but did open the door to seeking it later this legislative session if the effort fails.
Skelos denied there would be any effort to tie a wage hike to the tax cuts.
Lawmakers and Cuomo meanwhile last week agreed that there was an extra $200 million in revenue more than what his initial spending plan had estimated.
Feb 27th - 4:59 pm
Lawmakers are back at the state Capitol today from an extended mid-winter break as a push for an early budget is underway.
And the signal that the budget dance was beginning in earnest was the four-men-in-a-room meeting between Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sens. Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
A variety of outstanding issues remain as hurdles to passing the spending plan by April 1, the start of the fiscal year, but so far there has not been overt signal that the more contentious items including an increase in the state’s minimum wage or a plan to site casinos.
Assembly Democrats want a restoration of aid to New York City schools, while Senate Republicans are pushing for the end of a surcharge on the 18a utility assessment
The leaders meeting by all accounts seems to have been a temperature-taking effort by Cuomo and one to work out the logistics of passing his proposed $142.6 billion spending plan.
Though disagreement continues on whether the minimum wage should be increased to either $8.75 or $9 with a tie to inflation, it is apparent that Senate Republicans would need some form of a tax credit or tax cut if a vote is allowed.
But Skelos, in a governing majority with five independent Senate Democrats, insisted there was no effort to package the wage hike with a tax cut.
“I’m not looking to tie anything together,” Skelos said. “We still haven’t made a decision as to whether expanding the minimum wage is doing to be counterproductive to job creation. I know I’ve mentioned the training wage and certain issues concerning waiters and other things. We’re going to discuss it and see if it’s doable.”
Silver, meanwhile, indicated that he was not open to taking the 18a assessment surcharge out of the budget plan, noting the revenue hit the state would take.
“I don’t believe we can afford the $500 million that may be involved in it,” he said.
He suggested after the meeting with Cuomo and the Senate leaders there could more revenue than expected.
“We believe there will be some more revenue, probably $00 million We have a lot of restorations to make generally and we’ll see how it works,” he said.
He added, “All of these issues — what’s important is the agreement. “When you pass it is secondary.”
Klein, meanwhile, said he was still pushing for the minimum wage increase as part of the budget, but hedged on whether it should be tied to inflation — a position he supports — or if the wage should grow to $9.
“I think the most important thing is that we increase the minimum wage,” he said.
Perhaps the most contentious power struggle remains over where casinos should be placed. Cuomo supports building three casinos north of the New York City metropolitan region, while lawmakers have said they want a greater say in where they are built.
Cuomo wants the siting to be up to a gaming commission whose members he appoints.
“The only thing we have an agreement on right now is that the commission will pick the vendors,” Klein said. “We have to see who has a say in the siting, whether or not we do all seven in the amendment, but that all has to be discussed.”
Feb 12th - 1:59 pm
The spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos this afternoon blasted former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino in a comment-without-commenting statement that resurrects a line of attack used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2010 campaign.
The statement comes after Paladino called Skelos a “bum” and that he should resign, ostensibly over the gun control law passage, but also for his working relationship with Cuomo over the last two years.
In the statement, spokesman Scott Reif calls Paladino a failed candidate “looking to extend his 15 minutes of fame.”
“We’re not going to comment on any statements from a failed former gubernatorial candidate looking to extend his 15 minutes of fame, especially one who has received millions of dollars in tax breaks from the same State government he so often criticizes. Most New Yorkers recognize that it was Senator Skelos’ leadership that allowed us to enact a property tax cap, eliminate the MTA payroll tax for thousands of businesses and all schools, rightsize state government, expand the DNA databank to help prosecutors fight crime, mandate life without parole for anyone who kills a first responder and increase penalties for criminals who use illegal guns. We’re proud of the many conservative victories that have been achieved in the last three years.”
Cuomo and Democrats knocked Paladino, a Buffalo businessman with numerous real-estate investments, for having taken tax breaks over the years from New York state.
Paladino was in Albany today to rally against the gun control law that passed nearly a month ago.
Several Senate Republicans were at the event, but backed Skelos for negotiating the measure that produced several anti-crime provisions that had languished in the Legislature.
Feb 12th - 12:34 pm
While those opposed to last month’s gun control law are clearly unhappy with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, there’s more than a fair bit of teeth gnashing that’s aimed at Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos.
Skelos, along with Cuomo, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Assembly Speaker Shelond Silver, was depicted in a sign on a podium at the rally here in Albany as an “Oath breaker Red Coat traitor.”
The added dimension to this was several Senate Republican rank-and-file lawmakers putting in appearances at the rally, including Sen. Greg Ball, who an outspoken opponent of the measure.
But Ball, a maverick in the Assembly and not the conference’s preferred candidate in a GOP primary back in 2010, said in an interview he supports Skelos.
Ball told me that the conference just needs to elect more Republicans for a clear majority. The conference is now led by a coalition of GOP lawmakers and five breakaway Democrats.
“Dean Skelos has navigated us through very tough times and we have to make sure we have a much larger majority so bills like this can’t come to the floor,” Ball said. “Right now you have a governor who pushes through bills in the middle of the night and quite honestly we don’t have the numbers on the Republican side like we did a year and a half ago.”
Without the Republican conference, the gun control law could have been much worse, Ball said.
“I understand why people are angry and upset,” he said. ”If they want to blow up the Republican conference and do so in a way that’s an attack on the Republican conference in the Senate then we’d go from the worst that’s in this legislation to the worst of the worst in legislation and that’s confiscation.”
Sen. Tom O’Mara disagreed with the criticism of Skelos.
“He did work very hard to make it little better than what the governor was trying to do,” he said. “I don’t have any discontent with Leader Skelos. We are in an extremely liberal state, it’s very tough doing business here in Albany.”
The Republican conference has worked well with Cuomo over the last two years, but in recent weeks there’s been increased challenges to his third-year agenda from GOP lawmakers, who also took issue with the governor’s first appointment to the state Court of Appeals, Jenny Rivera.
O’Mara said that the relationship with the Cuomo has certainly frayed.
“Every one of us knew it was going to dwindle over time and we’re seeing that now and it’s a difficult process, but if he’s going to push these liberal agenda items we’re going to stand up to him,” he said.
Feb 6th - 2:51 pm
Senate co-presidents Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein touted their bipartisan credentials at a Crain’s New York breakfast panel discussion this morning, declaring that just because they have disagreements doesn’t mean their experiment in coalition government isn’t succeeding.
“Jeff and I will not agree on everything and when we do disagree, it doesn’t mean the coalition is not working,” said Skelos, a Republican from Nassau County. “As Jeff has said, he’s not interested in making Republicans in Democrats and I’m not looking to make Democrats into Republicans.”
Skelos this week was critical for the first time on Tuesday of the speed with which the gun control legislation passed the chamber, saying that in hindsight that the chamber may have acted “in haste.” The lawmaker said chapter amendments to change the law may be released next week.
Today however he praised the gun control law as a “major” early victory and a sign that the coalition can work, singling out the anti-crime provisions and expansion of Kendra’s Law that Senate Republicans were able to include in the measure.
“The final bill contained a number of IDC legislative goals and many of the anti-crime initiatives for Senate Republicans,” Skelos said, adding, “In the end members were free to vote however they wished. Not everyone was happy with the bill and many of our members voted no, but it was an example of how government can work and I believe that is a positive step forward.”
Later in the forum, Skelos said he would like to see some clarifications on the gun control law to carve out provisions for law enforcement, as well as whether gun owners should surrender their clips.
Klein praised Skelos and Republicans for inserting the anti-crime provisions, reiterating that the deal was a “very important first test” for the coalition.
“I think Republicans played a very important role in something I supported: Doing something about illegal guns. Remember we passed the toughest gun law in the nation I’m not optimistic that other states or even the national government is going to do the same thing,” he said. “So we’re really subjected with illegal guns coming in from other states and the way we do that is to toughen the penalties.”
The Bronx Democrat did indicate he was open to clarify the law for retired law enforcement officers so they could keep the firearm they carried.
“Other than that, I don’t think there are really any other changes that we need,” Klein said.
It has been several days, however, of daylight between Skelos and Klein on the Reproductive Health Act, with the GOP declaring he was staunchly opposed to the measure at a Conservative Party convention. Klein, who supports abortion rights, said last week he was hopeful a women’s equality package could be passed, but has noted several Democrats in the mainline conference are opposed to abortion.
Both lawmakers are also on the opposite side of whether to increase the state’s minimum wage, though Skelos has signaled he’s willing to negotiate with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the issue, as has the governor himself.
But there were areas of agreement and, of course, mutual praise.
Both backed the governor’s proposal to allow local governments to lock in a stable pension rate now at the expense of future savings.
“I support the governor’s proposal,” Klein said. “I think it could be an important tool for localities if they choose to buy into the system. We just passed tier six, we’re just allowing local governments to buy into those savings now.”
Skelos even opened the door to being supportive of the Dream Fund to help pay for the college education of the children of immigrants, as long as it’s paid for with private donations.
“One of the things I will be discussing with my conference, I think there is support … that as long as it’s private money to educate people who are already here, I think that’s something that could pass.”
Klein didn’t necessarily agree with Skelos and the Senate GOP’s push for the 18-a assessment utility assessment surcharge should be allowed to expire, but he did say that whether the tax expires “should be something we looked at.”
A special h/t is due to Crain’s Andy Hawkins for facilitating the audio of the panel discussion.