Tag Archives: Albany New York

Governor Cuomo Moves to Phase 2

20 Jul

There’s nary an Albany special interest group that is particularly pleased with the Cuomo administration. He is leading from the center, as good leaders should, alternating between conservative fiscal policies and progressive social policies. There is no question that Cuomo has pushed a dysfunctional Albany legislature into implementing meaningful change. Whether it be reworking union contracts, SUNY 2020, balancing the budget, passing same sex marriage, or passing big ethics reforms, most of what Cuomo’s “New New York” plan for the first half of the year has been focused on getting Albany back to work.

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo revealed his plan for the second half of the year, and it’s going to be focused on the rest of the state – specifically, he is focusing on reworking local governments to make them more efficient and regionally focused. Creating jobs and a comprehensive review and reinvention of government(s) will be front and center, helping to make New York less of a byzantine nightmare and more competitive with other states.  Here’s video that Politics on the Hudson shot:

[HTML1]

If Cuomo can resurrect local discussions about regionalism and government consolidation, then filling in that dot for Cuomo may very well prove to be the best vote I ever made.

 

 

 

Call Your Albany Gerrymanderers

7 Jul

Last year, many state legislators running for office in New York made a big deal out of a pledge being pushed by former New York Mayor Ed Koch’s “New York Uprising“. The full text of the pledge is available here, and the signatories are pledging to push and vote for ethics reform, more transparency in financial disclosure, and independent redistricting. Signatories were touted as “heroes” of reform, while those who didn’t were labeled “enemies” of reform.

The redistricting piece is up for discussion now in Albany, and it’s not happening independently. It’s happening with as much self-righteous and entitled partisanship as the current, broken process in Erie County.

The Buffalo News’ Tom Precious wrote a story about it and a handful of Albany pols were quoted. For instance,

“Ed Koch is pretty irrelevant to the process, in my opinion,” said Assemblyman John J. McEneny, an Albany Democrat who is the other co-chairman of the redistricting task force.

Yes, he is technically irrelevant, but the good government group he leads pressed lawmakers throughout 2010 to sign the pledge for independent redistricting. Here’s McEneny’s page at NYUprising:

So, he signed the pledge and is now reneging on it. Regardless of what you think about Ed Koch or NY Uprising, that’s pretty despicable behavior.

And another:

“We’ve long since run out of time for that process,” said Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio, a Finger Lakes-area Republican and co-chairman of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment.

Here’s Nozzolio’s signed pledge. It appears that he was called an “enemy” due to his refusal to release information about his outside income.

Redistricting is important because it’s been used as a political tool through gerrymandering to guarantee incumbents’ re-election. The incumbency rate in Albany of over 90% is the net result of a politicized process. The despicable joke that is the redundant Erie County Legislature has placed on full display the perils of a hyperpoliticized redistricting process. This stuff is important – it happens once a decade and has much to do with how your government behaves, and what it does in the ensuing years.

Call your legislators in Albany – in both the Assembly and Senate – and demand independent redistricting. Tell them you’re paying attention and that you support Governor Cuomo’s threat to veto any redistricting that results from a politicized gerrymandering process.

It’s Done.

24 Jun

The same-Sex Marriage Bill, S1545, passed 33 – 29 around 10:30 pm on Friday June 24, 2011. This is an historic date that saw some great courage, not least of which coming from State Senator Mark Grisanti – a Republican who had adamantly been opposed to same-sex marriage just three short years ago, and had a change of opinion and heart in recent weeks.

A good 3 1/2 hours before the vote, I Tweeted this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84387092926435328″%5D

I can hardly wait to find the video of his brilliant speech on the floor of the Senate explaining his vote, but here are some quotes I live-Tweeted (and a bitter reaction from someone with very limited political capital):

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84444283612049409″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84444618644652033″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84444932433133568″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84445092257079296″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/NickLangworthy/status/84443916119707648″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84450245416718336″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84450014880993280″%5D

Thanks also to Senator Tim Kennedy, who was a consistent voice in favor of same-sex marriage from jumpstreet.  Thanks also to Governor Cuomo, who was a steady supporter of this throughout the campaign last year, and pushed for today’s vote.

It’s late, and I’ve had a long day, so I’ll just say that today is an historic day and all New Yorkers should be proud.

UPDATE: Let me add this. Senator Grisanti has guaranteed his re-election in SD-60 with this vote. He got his own ass elected, with little (really, no) help from the Republican machine or the Conservative Party. They didn’t help him, and he doesn’t owe them a damn thing. His is a very Democratic district, and he won in large part because he wasn’t Antoine Thompson. Now that he has so thoughtfully changed his opinion on same-sex marriage, the wrath he incurs from the Republican and Conservative Party apparati can safely be ignored.  Grisanti did the right thing morally, ethically, and legally – but more importantly, he underscored the fact that he didn’t owe Nick Langworthy or Ralph Lorigo a single. fucking. thing.

UPDATE 2: Here is the roll-call vote. Still looking for video of Grisanti’s statements on the floor.

[HTML1]

Gov. Cuomo on Budget “Sham” and “Permanent Law”

1 Feb

This editorial piece penned by Governor Cuomo was published yesterday by several newspapers statewide.  It could very well be the most important and informative pieces every written about the Albany budget process, and how broken the system has become.  Cuomo’s aggressive efforts procedurally and substantively to bring genuine change to Albany are something that makes me proud to have supported for him and voted for him.  Even Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo released a statement yesterday saying that, although he “can’t stand” Cuomo,

I must admit the Governor’s early fiscal moves are conservative, responsible and absolutely necessary.

…I am a die-hard Republican who fought in the trenches for Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Carl Paladino. I’m as conservative as you can get, and last year I spent most of my time criticizing Andrew Cuomo.”

It is starting to look like I may end up eating a few of my words. But I would happily sit for that meal if the Governor delivers real fiscal reform. In fact, I am writing to tell you I will work to push Cuomo’s fiscal agenda.

Right away, I will contact my legislators and ask them to vote for the two percent property tax cap, but only if it includes mandate relief for local governments. I’ll ask them to cut spending, not raise taxes, to balance the budget. And I am writing to encourage you to do the same.

Caputo’s message was sent to the email list of Paladino supporters, and was accompanied by a form letter recipients could use to contact their legislators.  – BP

By Gov. Andrew Cuomo

As attorney general, I uncovered schemes by lenders to exploit students, plots by insurance companies to defraud patients and attempts by Wall Street to deceive homebuyers. In the past 30 days, as I have prepared the state’s budget, I was shocked to learn that the state’s budget process is a sham that mirrors the deceptive practices I fought to change in the private sector.

The budget process is a metaphor of Albany dysfunction: special interests dominate the process with little transparency; programs continue with no accountability and the taxpayers get the exorbitant bills. The greatest challenge — and opportunity — in this year’s difficult budget is to expose this chronic problem and reform it once and for all. Here’s how it works.

This year it is widely accepted and often reported that the state has a $10 billion “deficit” (I myself have often repeated this number). What does that mean? It is the difference between state revenues and the state’s growth in spending in next year’s budget. The next question is: Who is responsible for setting the growth in the state’s budget? The answer is, shockingly, no one.

It is dictatedby hundreds of rates and formulas that are marbleized throughout New York state laws that govern different programs — formulas that have been built into the law over decades, without regard to fiscal realities, performance or accountability. The formulas operate year after year, generating liabilities that when totaled define the state’s budget growth. The one thing the rates do well is increase year after year. These formulas (predominantly in education and Medicaid funding) are often inserted into the law by pressure from well-connected special interests and lobbyists. When a governor takes office, in many ways the die has already been cast.

Unbelievably, this year these rates and formulas in total call for a 13 percent increase in Medicaid and a 13 percent increase in education funding next year. A 13 percent increase, in this economic climate, is wholly unrealistic. Wouldn’t you like your salary or savings account to be based on a formula that gave you a 13 percent increase even though inflation was under 2 percent? The world doesn’t work that way — except in Albany.

Besides dictating numbers, this process frames the dialogue around the budget and biases the political discourse. First, the rate of increase is rarely discussed. The 13 percent increase this year is close to a state secret. I spoke with numerous experienced Albany hands who had no idea the programs increased 13 percent.

In Albanyspeak, “deficit” means the amount needed to fund the 13 percent increase (as opposed to a normal rate of increase). For example, if one assumed these programs would increase at the rate of inflation (instead of 13 percent) the $10 billion deficit is really a $1 billion deficit. A “cut” is then defined as anything less than a 13 percent increase. By forcing the debate to start with such a large hike — the final budget ends up spending much more than the year before — even after the governor attempts “cuts.” For example, what is called a 7 percent cut in spending is actually a 6 percent increase over the prior year.

The expression used to explain this budget process is that the rates are in “permanent law,” and thus, cannot be changed. “Permanent law” is a term to suggest differentiation from the state’s annual budget bills, which are “temporary” as they only exist for one year. This “permanent law” is really the way the “permanent government” of lobbyists, special interests and political friends manipulates the entire system and misleads the public in the process.

This is the system that has brought New York to the brink, and it is why we are the highest “spending-and-taxing” state in the nation with programs that fail to perform for the people.

This all must end. We need fundamental reform in the budget system that allows us to recalibrate spending this year to a sustainable level and replace “the special interest protection program” of automatic, unrealistic increases. There is no such thing as “permanent” laws and they must all be reviewed and replaced or modified when necessary. The state budget should increase based on objective, fair criteria such as the rate of inflation, enrollment, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or personal income growth. Programs should be reviewed for effectiveness and terminated if they are not working well. Reimbursement rates should be negotiated to get the best bargain. Performance should be measured.

Albany must give up its insistence on pleasing the special interests rather than serving the people. This is the real budget battle that I will wage this year. We must balance this year’s budget, but we must also reform the process so that the cycle finally stops. This year’s budget is not merely about the numbers. It’s about our values and our future.

State of the State: Crisisy

6 Jan

Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his first state of the state address in Albany on Wednesday, and it’s been received quite well by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

For instance, Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin writes,

I was pleased to hear Governor Cuomo echo many of his campaign promises in today’s State of the State Address, particularly in terms of tackling state spending, limiting budget growth and working toward meaningful property tax relief.   While these measures will help move our state toward fiscal solvency, we also must make economic development and job creation a vital component on this year’s legislative priorities in order to ensure our state has long-term and prosperous fiscal health. I look forward to working together with the governor and my colleagues in both houses to accomplish these necessary goals and get our state back on track.

Newly minted Republican state Senator Mark Grisanti said,

Governor Cuomo delivered an inspiring and moving State of the State Address this afternoon. Governor Cuomo has my support on reducing wasteful spending in New York, creating jobs and putting the people, not special interests groups, first. The people of the 60thDistrict should be excited and motivated for changes that will put money back in their pockets.

If nothing else, it’s Albany’s most Espada-free day in two years.

Instead of making you sit through a 47 minute-long video or mp3 of the speech, I’m going to cherry-pick quotes from it that I found interesting, hopeful, inspirational, and noteworthy.  I’ll tell you that today, for the first time since January 2006, I’m hopeful that something positive may happen in Albany that will move New York forward.

And not just parts of New York, but all of it.

What is the state of the state? This is a time of crisis for our state, a time when we must transform our government to once again become the progressive capital of our nation, and to seize the moment of opportunity that is before us.

What we do today, January 5, 2011, will determine the course of this state for decades to come. For New York, it is time to change my friends and that’s what today is all about. This convening itself is a metaphor for change. This convening itself says that change is possible in Albany, believe it or not, and I say ‘Amen,’ because we need change in Albany.

It seems as if unfinished business will finally be addressed.  First, the Governor addresses the heart of the issue:

The economic recession has taken an especially hard hit on the State of New York. In 2009, we had a twenty-six year high in unemployment, roughly 800,000 New Yorkers are now unemployed, hundreds of thousands more are under-employed. We have the worst business tax climate in the nation, period. Our taxes are 66% higher than the national average. Upstate is truly an economic crisis. In real GDP, from 2001-2006, upstate New York grew about 1.7% per year while the average in the nation was 2.7%. The costs of pensions are exploding, 1.3 billion in 1998-1999, projected for 2013, 6.2 billion – a 476% increase and its only getting worse.

The State of New York spends too much money, it is that blunt and it is that simple. Our spending has far exceeded the rate of inflation. From 1994-2009, inflation was about 2.7% per year; medicaid when up over 5% per year and education went up over 6% per year. We just can’t afford those rates of increase. State spending actually outpaced income growth. State spending increased just under 6%, personal income growth was only 3.8%.

And most damaging, our expenses in this state far exceed revenue.

He went on to explain that this year’s $10 billion deficit is a big problem, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and the projects look even worse going forward.  But we’d feel better about spending so much if we got our money’s worth.  But we don’t.

Not only to we spend too much, but we get too little in return. We spend more money on education than any state in the nation and we are number 34 in terms of results. We spend more money on Medicaid than any other state in the nation and we are number 21 in results. We spend about $1.6 billion per year in economic development and we are number 50 in terms of results. We are spending more, and government is growing more. We now have more than 600 Executive branch agencies.

He goes on to point out that government isn’t just ineffective, but that there are too many governments, and the special interests are too influential.  He says that we need “radical reform” and “we need it now”.

We currently have a government of dysfunction, gridlock and corruption – we have to transform it into a government of performance, integrity and pride. It is time that we speak to these issues and actually get results for the people of the State and stop offering rhetorical solutions.

Cuomo stated that he’d be submitting a budget shortly, and warned that it isn’t going to be just another “exercise”.  To the contrary,

We are going to have to reinvent government. We are going to have to reorganize the agencies. We are going to redesign our approach because the old way wasn’t working anyway, let’s be honest.

We need literally a transformation plan for a new New York and we have four principles that will guide our new government. Number one, we want a government that pays for performance. No more blank checks. Number two, we want a government that actually gets results in real time. Number three, we want a government that puts the people first and not the special interests first. And number four, we want a government that is an icon for integrity where New Yorkers can be proud of their government once again.

Pledging to make New York a “business-friendly state”, Cuomo proposes ten economic regional councils throughout the state, chaired by Bob Duffy.  They will be private/public partnerships to help create jobs in each region using the unique resources in each region in conjunction with ESDC and SUNY.  This will be one-stop-shopping for business development and incentivization.  Importantly, the councils will compete against each other for funding.  The best ideas win.

Cuomo pledges to address the property tax problem in the state by enacting a tax cap.

But what of reorganizing government on a more fundamental level?

We must transform our state government. The last time the state government was reorganized was 1927 under Gov. Al Smith. 1938 a reform was passed, a constitutional amendment, that said there could be only 20 executive departments – 20 – so what has happened since then. Well we couldn’t create any more departments but the law didn’t say anything about creating councils, advisory panels, working groups, facilities, offices, task forces, institutes, boards and committees. So what do we now have?  The Department of Health, only one department in compliance with the law, however there are 87 other organizations that have been added to the Department of Health, 46 councils, 6 committees, 17 boards, 6 institutes, 2 task forces, 5 facilities; it’s time to organize the government make it professional make it efficient make it effective. To undergo a comprehensive review lets eliminate transfer and consolidate the funds.   I propose setting up SAGE, a spending in government efficiency commission, it would be styled like a Berger Commission where the commission would come up with a reorganization report that is submitted to the Legislature and the Legislature has 30 days to reject it otherwise its passed. The charge to the commission would be operational improvements metrics and targets a reorganization plan due in 6 months and it would consist of private sector experts who could come in and advise us on how to do it and incorporate members of the Legislature.

The budget process is similarly broken. Cuomo proposes an emergency plan to stabilize finances, instituting a spending cap, a wage freeze, and halt borrowing.

We need to transform the budget process that we use in this state. The Legislature is very familiar with the budget process and we need to transform this process from partisan political theater, which is what it is today, to productive debate and compromise. Right now the budget process is like ships passing in the night; hold on a second. Bring those ships back, I think I recognized someone. Is that, zoom in on that man on that battleship, yes it is, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. And look, it’s Commander Sheldon Silver, oh, and there I am. And here are the special interest groups. You notice Dean how all of the missiles from the special interest groups went into my battleship. I would humbly suggest as the new governor that maybe, just maybe we try doing it a different way this year, what do you say?

The video of the ships:

[HTML1]

We need to try a different approach. And think of it this way, there are basically three flashpoints when it comes to the budget: it’s the education funding, medicaid and state and local mandates. We want to try a new approach. The State of Wisconsin actually used an interesting model. The governor had announced across the board cuts on the medicaid program, the industry said they couldn’t live with the cuts, and what Wisconsin actually did was basically brought everyone in. It was a hybrid alternative dispute resolution meets binding arbitration process and it actually worked fairly well in Wisconsin. The industry came in, they worked with the government, they accepted the budget target and then redesigned the program to meet those targets. Remember, this is not going to be a budget cutting or trimming exercise. We need to redesign the medicaid program. I can also tell you this. As the Attorney General, I audited the medicaid program for four years, even without this budget problem, the medicaid program needs a desperate overhaul. It is dysfunctional on many levels, so this process has to be done anyway. Our suggestion is to take a crisis management approach and put together a Medicaid Redesign team.

An arbitration panel sounds a lot better than a steamroller. He went on to promise mandate relief, and rewarding excellence in schools. He promises fundamental ethics reform and independent redistricting.   He promises investment in green jobs, green markets in urban areas, a more positive vote on marriage equality.

When I hear your leaders speaking about your cooperation in a positive vision and change and doing things differently, I am so excited. Because the people of this state desperately, desperately need it. They need the government to work in a way they haven’t needed the government to work in 20 years. They’ve seen the ugly, they’ve seen the gridlock, they’ve seen the corruption. Let them see how beautiful the government can be when it cooperates and it’s enlightened and it’s functioning and it’s performing and it’s putting the people above the special interest. Let this legislature be the legislature that stands up and says yes we’re democrats but we’re New Yorkers first, yes we’re republicans but we’re New Yorkers first, yes we’re from downstate but we’re New Yorkers first, yes we’re from upstate but we’re New Yorkers first, and that matters most. And we’re here as New Yorkers not as democrats not as republicans not as independents we’re here as New Yorkers to serve the people of the state of New York and help this state through this crisis.

Let this 234th legislature stand up and write a new page in the history book of New York State government. Let this 234th legislature solve these problems at a time of crisis and bring this state to a place that it’s never been. We’re not just going to build back we’re going to build back bigger stronger than ever before. That’s what we’re going to do together. Thank you and God bless you.

The speech was accompanied by pointed, sometimes humorous, PowerPoint slides.  It was a unique speech in that it was equal parts entertaining, inspirational, and wonky.  Governor Cuomo has a lot on his plate.  Much more than “Day One” Spitzer did – we’ve literally lost five years’ worth of progress and momentum, wasted on scandal after scandal.

New York has become remarkably dysfunctional and is in desperate need of fundamental change.  What Cuomo did was rather unique in that he didn’t sugarcoat anything.  He told it like it is, and explained to every stakeholder that things would have to change quite dramatically, whether you like it or not.

Good luck, New York.  Good luck, Governor.

(If you want to watch the whole thing, here it is).

(If you want the mp3, click here or listen here):

[audio:http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/audio/10052011_StateOfTheState.MP3%5D

Carl Palindino

4 Jan

I think it’s interesting that Carl Paladino has singled out Elizabeth Benjamin to hector with his semi-literate Facebook rants.  They amount to little more than a madman’s shouting, replete with unsubstantiated, borderline libelous accusations, and a laundry list of slights, real and perceived.  Apparently reveling in his notoriety as a nasty, offensive crank, Paladino has become western New York’s Sarah Palin – his political relevance is thin, maintained only by Facebook status updates.

Despite the fact that Benjamin is but one of many reporters covering the Albany beat, he’s singled out the prominent young female for his screeds.  Not only does he know they’ll get maximum attention, but I think it reveals a latent misogyny.  It also reveals the fact that he blames his loss on the press, and it is now his sworn, mortal enemy.  Right down to the billboard on the side of an empty rusting hulk of a Paladino-owned building – an example and metaphor if ever there was one.

If he doesn’t like the way she conducts her YNN show, then he should get his own. He can call it “Mad as Hell with Carl & Friends”.

(HT Marquil at EmpireWire for the cartoon)

Grisanti Wins in the 60th Senate District

1 Dec

Antoine Thompson will not be the State Senator for the 60th Senate District next session.  Still trailing by 527 votes, and losing the financial support of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, his campaign withdrew its challenge and the court case was dismissed.

On election night, I predicted that this race would go to a recount.

Republican Mark Grisanti will go to Albany, and I wish him well.   He says that Thompson has not called him to congratulate him or concede, nor did Thompson mention his successor in his press release yesterday afternoon.  Sore loser.

Although this result may end the Democratic state senate majority, that’s ok.  That majority was rife with corrupt people doing corrupt things, led by tone-deaf dummies.  Among them was majority whip Antoine Thompson.

The last two Buffalo mayors had basically used the 60th District senate seat as their stepping stone to City Hall.  It had widely been anticipated – and feared – that Thompson may do the same; that he was the Mayor-in-Waiting until Mayor Byron Brown found a better gig.  With a big Democratic enrollment advantage in that district, Thompson should have easily held on to that seat barring some horrible scandal.  That he let this get away from him is a massive failure, and underscores how dissatisfied his constituents were with him and his “service”.  He was pilloried constantly for his profligate spending on mailers and turkey giveaways and other palm-greasing.  He was the very embodiment of the sleazy Albany pol. Although he was a proponent of gay marriage and the environment, that hardly made up for his self-aggrandizement.

[HTML1]

Mark Grisanti has done the entire region a huge service.  By possibly putting an end to that despicable Democratic failure of a senate majority, he may have also done the state a huge service.

The Complete Dicker/Paladino Confrontation

30 Sep

CBS 6 from Albany has the complete video of Carl Paladino going from slow burn to volcanic in mere seconds; this adds much more context to what happened than the cell phone video from last night.  It shows Dicker asking Paladino a very simple question.  Specifically, Dicker asks Cuomo what evidence he has that Cuomo had had extramarital affairs while married to his ex-wife, and whether or not making that accusation is going into the “gutter”.

Paladino refuses to give a straight answer – because he has no such evidence.  Instead, he changes the subject to the as-yet unproven suggestion that NY Post reporters and photographers invaded the privacy of Suzanne Brady and her 10 year-old daughter by Paladino.

[HTML1]

Carl responded today with Liz Benjamin on Capital Tonight:

[HTML2]

Frankly, Carl doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Fred Dicker isn’t complicit with Cuomo or working in concert with the Cuomo campaign, and for Paladino to suggest that is absolutely insane.  Apart from the quiet Buffalo News, the New York Post is potentially the best media friend Paladino could expect to have in this state.  But because Paladino is too busy fighting with everybody and everything, he’s just throwing around accusations blindly.  When the whole thing blows up in his arrogant face, Carl backs up to “I’m not politically correct”.

Sometimes, it’s not about being politically correct.  It’s about being an adult and responding like an adult to adult questions from reporters.

And I don’t buy the photographs-through-the-window story for a second.  What possible value would those photographs have to the New York Post?

Anyhow, here are some cute bears having the same argument:

[HTML3]