Mar 24th - 12:17 pm
As I reported earlier today, the legislative leaders are pushing to have a handshake deal on the 2011-2012 budget before the end of the day tomorrow in hopes that the bills will be printed and ready to vote on by early next week.
And that, of course, would be a big win for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who would be able to say he not only got an on-time budget, but managed to wrangle an early agreement from the traditionally slow-footed Legislature.
After meeting with Cuomo behind closed doors late this morning, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver both emerged – separately, with the senator coming out first – to say that they are moving toward an agreement tomorrow.
According to CapTon’s Mike Whittemore, who staked out that leader’s meeting, Cuomo did not emerge to speak to reporters, so it’s difficult to say where he stands on this.
Skelos said he will be keeping his majority conference members in Albany through tomorrow, even though the Legislature is not scheduled to be in session.
” Staff members will be working through the evening, we would like to have conference tomorrow at some point and an agreement by mid-afternoon,” Skelos said.
“As you know the speaker observes the Sabbath so we’re hopeful we can get it done before the speaker observes the Sabbath.”
A number of Senate Democrats, however, are already headed back to NYC, I’m told – not that it matters all that much, since no bills will be either printed or sufficiently aged for voting on until next week.
Silver was not asked whether he’ll be keeping his conference in town. He and Skelos both said that neither the rent laws nor the property tax cap will be in the budget deal.
On the millionaire’s tax, Skelos reiterated his no-how, no-way stance, while the speaker was a bit evasive, saying only: “We’re talking about a lot of things.”
“That’s gone,” the majority leader insisted. “It’s off the table. It’s gone. It’s dead. It’s not going to happen.”
Quotes and video on their way. UPDATE: Some quotes added throughout.
Mar 24th - 9:31 am
Assembly sources are predicting at least a handshake deal on the 2010-2011 budget before lawmakers leave Albany tomorrow, despite the fact that the Senate and Assembly remain some $150 million apart on an agreement and considerable consternation remains over what’s likely to be left out of the agreement.
One highly-placed Democrat said it’s possible budget bills could start being printed as early as Saturday, which would allow legislators to start debating and voting on these measures when they return to the Capitol next Monday.
That would give Gov. Andrew Cuomo a big win by enabling him to say that he changed the culture of Albany and presided over a budget that wasn’t merely on time, but early – a nearly unheard of occurrence at the Capitol.
Cuomo has made it clear he won’t be providing any messages of necessity to circumvent the three-day aging requirement, and would not hesitate to force the Legislature to choose between passing his budget and a government shutdown by using the extender method employed with great success last year by then-Gov. David Paterson.
CLARIFICATION: Cuomo has never publicly said anything one way or another on messages, but legislative sources tell me he has indicated a disinterest in providing them. It’s possible, though, if they’re thisclose to a deal, that it would make sense for the governor to help make that happen with messages.
The Assembly Democrats were told during a closed-door conference last night that Speaker Sheldon Silver is intent on shutting down budget talks by tomorrow, a legislative source said.
The basic message was: If it’s not agreed to tomorrow morning, it’s not likely to make the cut – and that includes the so-called millionaire’s tax, which it appears all-but dead at this point thanks to staunch opposition by the governor and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
This is not to say that lawmakers are happy about the state of affairs in which they find themselves – more or less over a barrel, thanks to the extender bill option Paterson pioneered. There’s fear the Legislature will be significantly neutered going forward unless legislators can figure out how not to be maneuvered into this corner again.
The final deal also won’t likely include either the rent laws or a property tax cap, as Cuomo said earlier this week. Assembly Democrats are still holding out hope for a post-budget deal on the rent laws, although Skelos is taking a hard line on that particular issue at the moment.
Another noteworthy development: The Long Island senators are now saying a tax cap is unlikely not only in this budget, but in this entire session due to the lack of mandate relief to soften the blow for school districts and local governments.
Mar 23rd - 6:57 pm
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver just released the following statement after the mothership met – for a whopping 25 minutes – and then called it quits for the night with no major budget accomplishments to report:
“Extending and strengthening the rent laws that allow millions of New Yorkers to stay in their homes is a top priority for me, Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez, and the majority of our conference, and I believe it should be included as part of the budget.”
“As a recent report released by the Assembly documents, more than 10,000 rent-regulated apartments are lost in our city each year. We must act to save our threatened stock of affordable housing and protect working families from being priced out of their neighborhoods.”
It remains to be seen how far Silver and the Assembly Democrats are willing to dig in their collective heels on this issue. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s shutdown warning video this morning, Silver said he didn’t understand why the governor was talking so tough, insisting the three sides are close on an on-time budget deal.
But it’s clear certain downstate members of the conference are very upset about Cuomo’s flip-flop on whether the rent laws will be in the budget, I just don’t know if they’re ready – as veteran housing advocate Mike McKee suggested during a CapTon interview today – to shut down government over it.
Mar 23rd - 3:13 pm
There’s been a lot of whispering around the Capitol over the past 24 hours about the possibility that the Assembly Democrats will dig in their heels on the rent laws and refuse to vote “yes” on a budget unless it includes this issue – something Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday is unlikely.
This is, of course, a big issue for the downstate Democrats who make up the bulk of the 99-member majority conference in the Assembly. I’ve heard now from several members who expressed dismay over Speaker Sheldon Silver’s reaction to Cuomo’s comments and said they had hoped he would push back more strongly.
So far, no assembly members I’ve spoken to have said they will stage an insurrection over rent control, and considering that the GOP conference and most of the upstate Democrats don’t have a dog in this fight, it’s unlikely there will be a showdown that forces a shutdown, as Cuomo has suggested.
Nevertheless, veteran housing advocate Michael McKee told me during a CapTon interview this afternoon that he believes it’s a possibility – however remote – that some Democrats would risk a shutdown, not to mention the voter wrath that could come with it, in hopes of getting the rent laws extended and strengthened in the budget.
“This is a question, and I think it might come to that,” said McKee, who is part of the Real Rent Reform Now coalition. “…I can’t speak to any legislator, I mean that’s a decision they have to make.”
“I want them to do whatever they have to do to make sure that not only do the rent laws get renewed, because we’re always in danger, in a sunset year when the laws come up for renewal, we’re always in danger of additional weakening amendments.”
“I want them to take whatever steps they have to take to make sure those laws not only get renewed but that we close some of the loopholes that have been put into the laws in the last 20 years that have caused us to lose 300,000 rent regulated apartments in the last 14 years.”
Cuomo said for the first time during yesterday’s Red Room press conference that he wants to both strengthen and extend the rent laws. But he also thinks that issue, along with the property tax cap that is a priority for upstate and suburban lawmakers – particularly in the Senate GOP – are too complicated to forge a deal on by the April 1 deadline.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen, as a realist,” the governor said. “It is something i am advocating for including in the budget. It’s a complex topic and there is…another feeling that it’s too complex to put into the budget at this time.”
Mar 23rd - 12:19 pm
Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ratcheting up threats to force the Legislature’s hand via extender bills if an amicable budget deal isn’t reached by April 1, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is continuing to express optimism that it won’t come to that.
“I’m not even going to focus on extenders because I don’t think there’s going to be a need for extenders,” Skelos told reporters this morning.
“And, you know, if there ever was an extender I think the Senate would certainly be more in line with the governor than the Assembly would be. Again, I think we can close some down today.”
“We’re pushing the speaker to get the general conference committee going, to make proposals. We think four or five of them, of the sub-conference committees can be closed today – general government, EnCon, transportation, mental health…the speaker is holding up some of these because of his emphasis on human services.”
ADDED, as per Jimmy V. at CapCon…Skelos doesn’t like the governor’s tone, apparently, saying:
“If you have power, I don’t think you have to flaunt it. We all understand that the governor has a tremendous amount of power…The idea is to use your power to govern and to effect a compromise and get results.”
“I don’t believe in flaunting power. I don’t believe the governor believes in flaunting power, or the speaker does. The idea of leadership is to get a result, and that’s where we are.”
Mar 21st - 7:32 pm
…just in time for the final – and often brutally long – days of the 2010-2011 budget battle!
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has named Michael Whyland, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Dan Maffei (NY-25), to be his new press secretary. (Maffei, as you’ll recall, lost to Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle in a squeaker of a race last fall).
Prior to joining Maffei’s staff, Whyland worked in ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s press office and as the Central and Northern New York Communications Director for 1199 SEIU.
He has two decades of public and private sector experience, including 10 years in communications and public relations for Blasland, Bouck and Lee Inc. This isn’t Whyland’s first go-round with the Assembly Democrats, either. He worked on upstate and Long Island campaigns for DACC back in the day.
Silver’s press office has been short-handed for some time now. His last press secretary, Dan Weiller, departed in July 2010 to take a job at the lobbying/consulting firm run by former Silver Communications Director Pat Lynch.
Mar 21st - 5:26 pm
NYC Councilman Robert Jackson is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “disavow” what he deemed a “racially-tinged” quote from anonymous administration members in today’s Fred Dicker column, saying the governor has a “special obligation” to do so given his close relationship with the Post’s veteran state editor.
The column cites “insiders” slamming Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for allegedly being “more concerned with satisfying the spending demands of this or that bloc in his conference than he is in doing what’s best for the state.”
“What has struck many people, and they find it hard to believe, is that for Shelly, it’s not about good government,” an “administration source” continues.
“It’s not about conceptualizing a vision for a better New York. It’s not about helping upstate. It’s not about making New York competitive with other states.”
“It’s all about his tribal politics, satisfying this or that group in his conference that keeps him in power – and nothing more.”
Silver called these allegations “not worth responding to,” insisting the Assembly will actually be in line with the governor for an on-time budget deal.
But Jackson, a Harlem Democrat and original CFE plaintiff who has been leading the charge against Cuomo’s proposed education funding cuts, took issue with the “tribal politics” comment, calling it “an extremely offensive reference.”
Dicker’s relationship with Cuomo has drawn scrutiny for several months now. It was highlighted during the 2010 campaign by failed GOP/Conservative gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino, who nearly came to blows with Dicker; and, more recently, by the Gotham Gazette’s David King; and WAMC President and CEO Alan Chartock.
Dicker used his TALK 1300 radio show to fire back at Chartock, saying he had “laid out a conspiracy theory so far-fetched it makes Glenn Beck look sober.”
UPDATE: Jackson’s full statement appears after the jump.
Mar 17th - 1:58 pm
Back in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shot down Speaker Sheldon Silver’s call for linking a property tax cap to rent regulation.
As you’ll no doubt recall, the governor even went so far as to call the idea of linking different bills “a mistake.”
Apparently, the governor has had a change of heart since then. Today, he appeared to open the door to the idea of linkage. While making the point that he’d like the two issues to get resolved in the budget, Cuomo said the two are “connected.”
“For example, the rent issue and the property tax cap; my position is, we’d like to see them done in the budget,” Cuomo said.
“Now you could say they are not really budget issues, property tax cap more so, but they are going on at the same time. I think they are relevant, I think they are connected, I’d like to see them done in the budget. If they are not done in the budget, can you do them after the budget. Certainly you could.”
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto clarified the comments afterwards. “The governor was not linking them to each other but expressing his preference to see them done in the budget,” Vlasto said.
(Liz B. notes: Technically speaking, the definition of “connect” is “combine, link.” Just sayin’…)
In an interview with CapTon last week, Speaker Silver reiterated his belief that rent regulation and a property tax cap should be done together, because they both deal with housing.
UPDATE: There are statements now in response to Cuomo’s comments from the Real Rent Reform Now campaign and Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Both appear after the jump.
Mar 17th - 12:11 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had some strong words this morning for school districts that are crying poor and insisting his proposed education funding cuts will force them to fire teachers and hurt kids.
Flanked by some rather uncomfortable looking legislative leaders, Cuomo insisted that his two-year education and health care funding plan is crucial, explaining:
“If we didn’t do that, first of all, the day after we pass this budget we’d have a $15 billion deficit next year, we’d be right back in the hole because these outrageous, unsustainable rates of increase must stop.”
While Cuomo reportedly is – or was? – open to entertaining the restoration of education aid proposed by both the Senate and Assembly in their respective one-house budgets (recall that just yesterday he insisted there’s “flexibility” in his executive budget proposal), he basically accused districts that say they can’t afford to cut back of playing politics with kids.
“Manage the school system. Reduce the waste. Reduce the fraud. Reduce the abuse,” said the governor, noting the average district would see a 2.7 percent aid reduction in his budget plan.
“…I was the attorney general for four years. I investigated school districts…I know there’s waste and abuse in school districts, and I know there’s 2.7 percent! They’d have to say: We’re perfectly managed. We are the Swiss watch of organizations. You can’t find 2.7 percent waste or body fat in this organization? No. It’s a threat. It’s a game.”
Look for the rather amusing moment at the end of this clip where Cuomo, after stressing that the “day where government can just throw money at the problem, and raise more taxes…are over” makes a joke that elicits the one nod of consent from the heretofore grim looking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“Because you keep raising taxes on New Yorkers, we would be here alone in this room,” Cuomo says. “Wouldn’t be so bad if we were here and some of the reporters weren’t. They will be an exodous, and that’s what has to stop.”
Mar 16th - 4:10 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo struck a conciliatory tone during his post-leaders meeting press conference, saying he and the majority conference legislative leaders – who were standing on either side of him at the time – remain “optimistic” about an on-time budget (give or take a few days).
But asked how prepared he is to go the all-or-nothing extender route if a three-way deal fails to materialize, Cuomo responded:
“Prepared. The ultimate obligation is to get the people of the state of NY a good budget, right? That is the goal.”
“The means is do it amicably in a three-way process and get it done on time. That’s what we are working towards now. I am optimitic we can get that done. My colleagues are optimistic. I’m hopeful. I have my fingers crossed.”
“…Your question suggests a note of realism.. So let’s say it doesn’t happen, what’s the contingency plan? Then there are other ways to get the budget done.”
While Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos looked on, Cuomo said there is “flexibility” in his executive budget proposal (he has already signaled a willingness to restore health care and education aid, as long as the overall $132.9 billion number doesn’t grow). He then pretty much put the kibosh on two key elements of their respective one-house budget plans.
On the millionaire’s tax, which Silver has proposed, Cuomo insisted the topic hadn’t come up today. He also said his opposition, which he has expressed repeatedly over the past several months, hasn’t changed.
Silver said he’s not drawing a line in the sand on the tax, adding:
“(E)verything is open, everything is negotiable. I think it makes sense though, and I think we still have some time to persuade our colleagues in government, that it’s what makes sense. It’s what brings us a balanced budget this year and a balanced budget next year.”
Cuomo also panned the Senate GOP’s proposal to use the $500 million worth of education aid for which he wants districts to compete to restore some of the $1.5 billion in funding cuts. He called the two $250 million competitive funds “essential.”
“I’m not willing to sacrifice performance,” the governor said. “Look, for me one of the major incentives, one of the major initiatives in the budget is moving toward performance….It’s not just more money, more money, more money.”