January 27, 2009
NEW YORK BUDGET DEFICIT(S) DOMINATE EARLY SESSION
With a combined $15.4 billion in deficits in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2008-2009 and SFY
2009-2010, the Governor and Legislative Leaders are currently consumed with Budget
Hearings considering the impact of the proposed Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP) and the
proposed Executive Budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins on April 1, 2009.
The DRP may be considered for passage early in February, with about $1.5 billion in
cuts to state spending.
Joint budgetary public hearings conclude on February 4, 2009, and then Joint Budget
Conference Committees will be set up between the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways
& Means Committees to consider the Executive Budget submittals, testimony received
and lobbying by various stakeholders. The Legislature is scheduled to meet for four
Session Days each week from mid-February through March, in order to try to achieve
passage of the state budget by April 1st.
Legislators are already predicting adoption of a late budget on or about May 1st, as
economic conditions in the state and the nation continue to deteriorate, taking state
revenues down with them.
One item that hasn’t yet been mentioned in any serious fashion is a personal income tax
(PIT) surcharge or permanent increase on the wealthy. And, the definition of “wealthy”
is different; some say it’s a millionaire, while others like the New York Working
Families Party (dominated by organized labor activists) insist it can be as low as a
combined tax return of $100,000.
Federal Stimulus Plan – New York is also waiting in breathless anticipation for any
federal monies that may be made available to the several states for infrastructure
investments and additional Medicaid reimbursements. Governor David Paterson is
expected to utilize any such federal monies to mitigate new taxes and assessments
proposed in his Executive Budget or to restore some of the spending reductions.
State budgetary watchdogs are saying that New York State must not squander this rare
opportunity to make structural changes in its unsustainable spending patterns, rather than
use temporary federal funds relief as a simple substitute for state tax revenues.
NEW STATE SENATE DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY SETTLING IN
The Senate Democratic Majority is moving offices, hiring staff and trying to change
Senate rules and policy all at once. As such, things are occurring incrementally and
One change that has been noted though, is the Senate Rules Change to allow minority
members greater sway over discharging bills from Committees. A number of
Republican-sponsored bills were considered on committee agendas and reported from
various standing committees this week. Whether or not this trend will continue as a
permanent rules change, or whether this is an early Session anomaly, remains to be seen.
NEW SENATE MAJORITY STAFF APPOINTMENTS
Angelo Aponte head of Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith’s (D-Queens)
Transition Committee and a former Commissioner of the NYS Division of Housing and
Community Renewa, has been named Chief of Staff to the Majority Leader. Aponte
joins General Counsel Shelley Mayer as a senior advisor to the Senate Democratic
SELECT SENATE MAJORITY LEADERSHIP AND COMMITTEE CHAIRS
Senate President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens)
Senate Vice President Pro Tempore David Valesky (D-Syracuse)
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx)
Senate Finance Chair Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn)
Senate Agriculture Chair Darrel Aubertine (D-Watertown)
Senate Banks Chair Brian Foley (D-Suffolk)
Senate Codes Chair Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan)
Senate Commerce & Economic Development Chair Bill Stachowski (D-Erie)
Senate Consumer Protection Chair Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens)
Senate Environmental Conservation Chair Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo)
Senate Energy & Telecommunications Chair Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn)
Senate Health Chair Tom Duane (D-Manhattan)
Senate Insurance Chair Neil Breslin (D-Albany)
Senate Judiciary Chair John Sampson (D-Brooklyn)
Senate Labor Chair George Onorato (D-Queens)
Senate Transportation Chair Martin Malave Dilan (D-Brooklyn)
Senate Homeland Security Chair Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn)
EXECUTIVE BRANCH CHANGES
Governor David Paterson announced that Frank Murray will be the new President and
CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Murray replaces Paul Tonko who was recently sworn-in as U.S. Representative for New
York's 21st Congressional District, which encompasses most of the Capital Region.
I have known Frank since he was a policy advisor for energy & environment to then
Governor Hugh Carey.
Governor David Paterson also announced that Deputy Secretary for Public Safety
Michael Balboni has resigned, effective Monday, February 2, 2009, to enter the private
sector. No word yet on where Balboni is headed. Balboni will be replaced as Deputy
Secretary by Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Denise
O'Donnell. O'Donnell will retain her post as DCJS Commissioner.
O'Donnell, a former U.S. Attorney for Western New York, ran unsuccessfully to obtain
her Party's nomination for NY Attorney General in 2006, dropping out before
the Democratic Primary, which was won by Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo went on to defeat
Republican Jeanine Pirro in the General Election.
CHANGES AT COMMISSION ON PUBLIC INTEGRITY
John Feerick recently announced his intention to resign as Chair of the New York State
Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), which oversees and regulates both ethics and
lobbying in the state, effective February 12, 2009, Feerick said that he felt that his
personal health and energy levels, at age 72, were not sufficient for him to continue to
adequately discharge his duties.
Some news reports quote good government groups (goo-goos) as being supportive of
bringing back former NYS Lobbying Commission Executive Director David Gradeau to
head up CPI. Gradeau was known for his aggressive style of lobbying enforcement,
earning him the enmity of then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, then Senate Majority
Leader Joseph Bruno and current Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER JOE BRUNO INDICTED
A federal grand jury in Albany has handed down an 8-count indictment, charging former
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno with public corruption. Bruno allegedly ran a
consulting office out of his home while serving as Majority Leader for various clients that
may have also been lobbying him as a public official. Bruno is charged under federal law
with having benefited from over $3 million in consulting fees during his 13-year reign as
Majority Leader, where he effectively controlled all legislation passing the State Senate.
Bruno was also one of the “three men in a room,” along with the Assembly Speaker and
the Governor that decided on the passage of the State Budget and other major legislation.
Unfortunately, Bruno joins a long line of state legislators, such as Assemblymember
Tony Seminerio (D-Queens), former Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D-Queens),
former Senator Efrain Gonzalez (D-Bronx), former Assemblymember Diane Gordon
(D-Brooklyn), former Senator Guy Velella (R-Bronx), and former Assemblymember
Clarence Norman (D-Brooklyn), to name a few, who have been indicted or convicted of
various public corruption charges, involving financial misconduct while in public office.
And let us not forget “Client 9” – former Governor Eliot Spitzer who was “hoist on his
own petard” for patronizing high-priced call girls while Governor and Attorney General.
Federal charges against Spitzer have never been filed.
NEW JUNIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW YORK
After much soul searching and deliberating, Governor David Paterson has named U.S.
Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Hudson) from New York’s 20th Congressional
District, a largely rural District circling the Albany Region, as the new Junior U.S.
Senator from New York, to replace former Senator and now U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gillibrand is the granddaughter of the late Dorothea “Polly”
Noonan of Albany, a confidante of then Albany City Mayor and Albany County
Democratic Leader Erastus Corning. Gillibrand’s father is Douglas Rutnik, a lobbyist
with ties to both former GOP Governor George Pataki and former GOP U.S. Senator
Gillibrand is known as a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, and an NRA member. Her
choice by Paterson has thrown the liberal branch of the Democratic Party into a tailspin.
U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-Nassau) from New York’s 4th Congressional
District, who won election as an anti-hand gun activist, after her husband was massacred
with others on the Long Island Railroad by a mad gunman, has promised a Primary
challenge in 2010, when Gillibrand must face a Special Election. (If Gillibrand wins that
election, she would also have to run again in 2012, for a new 6-year term.) Another
liberal Democrat has said he’d consider a Primary against Gillibrand too, former
Assemblymember and current Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
A group of Hispanic legislators recently came out in opposition to Gillibrand’s
appointment as U.S. Senator, although she has already been officially sworn into office.
Gillibrand may also meet U.S. Representative Peter King (R-Nassau) from New York’s
3rd Congressional District in the Special Election in 2010, or maybe even former GOP
Governor George Pataki.
Meanwhile, Governor Paterson has earned the enmity of the media and a number of
Democrats for the way he waffled publicly over his choice for the open U.S. Senate seat.
He was dubbed “Hamlet on the Hudson” for his indecisiveness and many changes of
mind, which may have weakened him in his own reelection efforts for the governorship
in 2010. Some reporters have speculated that if the Governor does not fare well with
closing the record Budget Deficit this Session, he will be mortally wounded politically,
inviting potential challengers in both a Democratic Primary (AG Andrew Cuomo,
Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi?) and the General Election (Ind. NYC Mayor
Michael Bloomberg & GOP Rudy Giuliani?).
Moreover, has he declined to pick from such public and political favorites as Attorney
General Andrew Cuomo, family scion Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Representatives Steve
Israel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler or Brian Higgins, Assemblymember Daniel
O’Donnell, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown or
United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
In the end, Gillibrand prevailed, because she was female and from upstate New York, and
possibly, also, due to the urging of her main backer, Senior U.S. Senator from New York
Chuck Schumer. Some pundits claim that Schumer didn’t want to trade one superstar
Junior Senator (Clinton) for another (Cuomo or Kennedy). The Governor steadfastly
maintained that he chose the best person for the job.