It didn’t take long for the leaders of state unions to attack the proposed new state budget unveiled today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo’s proposed budget of $132.5 billion would actually lower spending by about $225 million.
The CSEA issued a statement saying Cuomo “seems out of touch with the day-to-day challenges that public workers in both state and local governments face” as a result of the Cuomo cuts.
“CSEA has no hesitation in saying that the proposal for a new public employee pension tier is an assault on the middle class and a cheap shot at public employees’” the statement continued.
The head of the PEF says that since 2008, the state workforce has been reduced by 16,000 jobs and called on Cuomo and other elected leaders to “recognize that nothing gets done without (state) workers.” The statement was issued by Ken Brynien, PEF president.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, momentarily breaking from discussions of the state budget, said earlier today that a June primary would be “chaos” for the legislative session.
“We’ve made our position very clear we believe the primary should be in August,” said Skelos, R-Long Island. “Most of the primaries are with the Democrats from New York City. Could you imagine the chaos that’s going to exist in the last five weeks of session if you have primaries going on in New York City? Shelly won’t be able to get a quorum. And then the practical part of petition signing — how do you get petitions signed in the North Country, in Watertown, in February with that weather? It’s very difficult.”
Federal District Court Judge Gary Sharpe is weighing a lawsuit by the Department of Justice against New York, saying the current September primary date doesn’t comply with a new federal law requiring military voters stationed overseas to receive general election ballots 45 days before election day. The federal law only applies to Congressional elections, but hoping to avoid duplicative voting, many officials — including Skelos just now — argue that primaries for state legislators should be held the same day.
The Justice Department asked Sharpe to move the primary to a date no later than August. Assembly Democrats have argued for a June date; Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been oddly and loudly silent on the topic.
During a Q&A with reporters, Skelos also declined to say where a 63rd Senate seat would be located (not Long Island, he said) and lauded Cuomo’s proposal for “pension portability.”
Presenting what he called “both a budget and a reform plan,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday asked legislators to demand more rigorous teacher evaluations, to restrict pension benefits for future public employees, and to slightly reduce overall state spending by consolidating the state bureaucracy.
Lavishing praise on lawmakers for capping property tax increases, legalizing same-sex marriage, and cutting the state budget last year, Mr. Cuomo urged them not to shy away from tackling more thorny policy issues this year.
“If we leave the status quo, then we will have failed,” Mr. Cuomo, surveying the lawmakers seated before him, said from the stage of a state theater near the Capitol. “We will have become part of the problem, and that’s not why we’re here.”
Mr. Cuomo proposed a $132.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1. That would be $225 million less than what the state is spending this year — a cut of 0.2 percent. The budget would be balanced in part by a revision of the state income tax, approved last month by the Legislature, that created a higher tax bracket for individuals who earn more than $1 million and married couples earning more than $2 million.
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Debt discussions are once again on the political burner after President Barack Obama requested another increase of $1.2 trillion to the ceiling, a measure that has drawn the ire of House Republicans and Congressman Tom Reed.
The issue has already divided the House of Representatives and the Senate, and Reed is against the proposed increase, stating that such an action threatens the country. He’s looking to see the President’s plan on how to deal with the debt crisis.
Congress approved raising the debt ceiling by $400 billion in August and an additional $500 billion in September. According to Associated Press reports, this is the third request Obama is allowed to make under a deal struck in August to prevent the government defaulting.
Though he voted for the debt-deal in August, Reed said he’s against the additional borrowing proposed by the president. Reed expected the House of Representatives to disapprove the measure, but believed the Senate wouldn’t “jump on” the resolution.
“We in the House recognize the threat of the national debt and the crisis it represents. We won’t let it go away,” said Reed.
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“Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey will retire from Congress at the end of 2012, according to Democratic insiders.
“Hinchey, 73, is fighting colon cancer. He underwent a second round of surgery last week, a follow-up for an earlier operation in July.
“Hinchey was first elected to the House in 1992 after 18 years in the New York state Assembly. [He] is one of the most liberal members of the House Democratic Caucus. He also holds a senior post on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
“Hinchey’s office did not respond to requests for comments.”
When New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Buffalo was going to receive $1 billion over the next five years to raise the city from its near-poverty level, local politicians were already dreaming of how to spend the money. Cuomo declared in his second annual State of the State speech, “We must address the crisis in Western New York. It’s gone on too long. It’s going to stop today. We believe in Buffalo and we’ll put our money where our mouth is.”
Cuomo failed to say where the money was going to come from, but that didn’t stop politicians from salivating. Said Buffalo’s Mayor, Bryon Brown: “I think you heard that the governor’s commitment was for the City of Buffalo. He didn’t say ‘Buffalo and other communities.’ He said a billion dollars is [coming to] Buffalo.” The director for Erie County where Buffalo is located, Mark Poloncarz, wanted it all to stay in Buffalo: “As the city goes, so goes the whole county, so we need to strengthen the city. I think if you take a billion dollars and say we’re going to invest in the City of Buffalo and then you put it in other parts of the county, you defeat the purpose of helping the City of Buffalo.”
There are many problems with Cuomo’s promise. First of all, the state legislature cannot bind future legislative spending. Second, the money wouldn’t come in all at once but would, according to Cuomo, be spread over the next five years or so. Third, the offering would consist of tax breaks, cash grants, and access to low-cost energy. Much of it is out of Cuomo’s hands because federal matching job-creation funds would be involved.
But the one problem which Cuomo can’t solve is the primary one in Buffalo: political corruption. Back in 2004 the Buffalo News estimated that the city had received more federal redevelopment money per capita than any other city in the country — more than half a billion dollars — but had virtually nothing to show for it. According to the Wall Street Journal, politicians “squandered millions granting loans and subsidies that went bust.” The Journal added:
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