Monday, February 28, 2011

Superintendent Salaries Under Attack

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has followed up on a critique he made when he unveiled his budget and proposed legislation that would limit the salaries of school superintendents across the state.
The cap, which has been introduced in the Senate (SB 3655) by Republican Charles Fuschillo, would be based upon student enrollment and could allegedly save the state $15 million.
The cap would range from $125,000 for districts with less than 250 enrolled students to $175,000 for districts with more than 6,500 enrolled students. There are currently 223 superintendents that earn more that $175,00.
"We must wake up to hte new economic reality that government must be more efficient and cut the cost of bureaucracy," said Cuomo. "Reducing back-office overhead, administration, consultants and encouraging consolidations are the best targets to find savings."
The proposal is in conjunction with a similar measure from Fuschillo, who has legislation (SB 3624) that would cap the salaries of school administrators.
These proposed administrative cuts were strongly opposed by Robert Lowry, of the NYS Council of Superintendents, when he spoke before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. He noted that eliminating every cent of spending on central administration would not fill the hole the governor's cuts would create, which meant that services would be reduced and layoffs would happen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Paladino Diagnoses Medicaid Reform

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is not happy about the Medicaid proposals adopted yesterday by the Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team of Medicaid Crusaders. Paladino alleges that the proposals ignore billions of dollars in waste, continue a flawed system and were reviewed in a secretive manner.
"Did anyone in the press notice the theater being played out by Andrew Cuomo and Sheldon Silver regarding Medicaid reform. They don't want the Medicaid spigot turned off," wrote Paladino on his Facebook page, echoing the style of failed Republican Sarah Palin.
He suggested that the commission had avoided addressing $5 billion to $10 billion in waste and fraud that are allowed to continue without reforms likes means testing, to ensure that only needy people are receiving Medicaid.
Part of the shortcomings in the proposals, according to Paladino, was that Cuomo had culled members from the wrong places. "There was no one on the commission for the taxpayers," he argued. "Cuomo's Medicaid guy was the chair."
Additionally, Paladino described Thursday's proceedings as a sham. He described the scene this way, "They showed up Thursday afternoon and were given 79 recommendations to study and then told to vote to approve all the issues at 4:00. There was no discussion, vetting or transparency. The commission of stakeholders was intimidated into voting for broad-brush recommendations for legislation to allow bureaucrats wide discretion to set out new rules."
Before ending his post, presumably to upload facebook pictures and play farmville, Paladino took parting shots at the media and Senate Republicans:
"The press just wants to hug and cuddle with him and the Republican Senate apparently just can't find the words. Will they stand tall and pursue spending and tax cuts to save jobs and start to turn the state around? Will they speak up and expose Cuomo's budget for the fraud that it is?"

McMillan for President

Did Jimmy McMillan switch parties so he could avoid a tough primary battle with President Barack Obama????

Sex & the CFE

Television and movie star, Cynthia Nixon, best known for her role as Miranda on the HBO show, "Sex and the City," can add a new title to her imdb page: Star of a commercial on the New York State budget.
Nixon, a public school parent in New York City and a graduate of New York City public schools, has spent nine years as a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, and now she's trying to go viral.
The video protests what they say are $1.5 billion in cuts to schools being proposed simultaneously with a $4.5 billion tax cut for high income New Yorkers.
“The video contest provides an opportunity for students, parents and teachers to let Governor Cuomo know the educational consequences of his dramatic school cuts,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, AQE. “Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll shows that 76% of New Yorkers oppose these cuts, meanwhile several polls show that two-thirds to three quarters of New Yorkers don’t want to see the Governor cut taxes for the wealthy.” 



The video contest offers prizes of iPads for students or $1000 donations to classrooms our youth organizations to the winners. Contest submissions are due March 8, finalists will be posted on the AQE web site and winners announced in mid-March. Details on how to enter the contest are included the Priorities video and on the AQE web site. 

Delay Special Elections

New Yorkers have been anxiously waiting for weeks to hear when Gov. Andrew Cuomo would schedule a special election to replace former Rep. Chris Lee in the NY-26, and on Wednesday he acted, but to announce a proposal that would delay the timetable for special elections. Now this idea has been introduced in the Assembly (AB 5698)and the Senate (SB 3500), with meetings scheduled for early in the week, which seems to indicate that this measure is being fast tracked through both houses.
The proposal would expand the period between the announcement of a special election and the date of the election by 40 days. As a result, the special election would be held between seventy and eighty days from its announcement, rather than between thirty and forty days.
According to Cuomo, the extension would allow county boards of elections the necessary amount of time to ensure that military ballots could be mailed and counted, in compliance with federal law.
"For years, New Yorkers serving in the military abroad have been inadvertently left out of the electoral process," said Cuomo in a press release. "This measure will rectify the discrepancy between New York state and federal laws regarding special elections, allow members of the military to have their voices heard, and ensure fair and accurate representation of the citizens of New York."
Additionally, the governor's proposal would change the date by which the State Board of Elections must certify candidate information to the applicable county boards of elections from 13 days to 53 days before a special election.
The senate bill, from Sen. Tom O'Mara, has a committee meeting on Monday in the Committee on Elections, which he is the chairman of. It's Assembly counterpart, from member Joan L. Millman, will be addressed in the Assembly Committee on Elections, which she is the chair of, on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Yorkers Speak

A Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday offered a glimpse into the minds of New Yorkers, and they seem fine with the idea of firing bad teachers to help close the state's massive budget deficit.
With the prospect of teacher layoffs now seeming inevitable in the wake of record cuts to education funding, voters are being asked to examine the old way of executing teacher layoffs. The idea of "last in, first out" is being reexamined by New Yorkers, and 85 percent would like to abandon that system in favor of deciding layoffs based on performance. Even amongst families with a union member, the idea that seniority doesn't ensure security has 75 percent support.
"By a huge majority, voters from every group oppose LIFO - last-in-first-out," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Voters, especially voters with kids in public school, want to keep the best teachers on the job, and to heck with seniority."
But while parents may like their teachers, they don't like their teachers' union, with 56 percent of public school parents having a negative view of teachers unions.
Voters also claim to be concerned with the potential that budget woes will distract from the passage of ethics reform and redistricting legislation. Yet, while voters express concern for these issues and don't want them forgotten, it would be interesting to see them prioritize and weight these issues, which would presumably show how little they actually care about things that don't impact their bank accounts.
From February 15 - 21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,457 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

New Taxes Won't Heal Medicaid

Businesses are already voicing their opposition to one of many proposals recommended by the Medicaid Redesign Team today.
Proposal 264, which would apply an HCRA surcharge to Physician Office Based Surgery and Radiology Services, has been targeted as enemy #1 by Unshackle Upstate and the Business Council of New York State. Proponents of the plan characterize it as an elimination of government barriers to quality improvement and cost, while Brian Sampson, the exec director of Unshackle Upstate, labeled the surcharge as "a tax on insured New Yorkers."
He argued that it, "has absolutely nothing to do with reforming Medicaid and will only add to the overwhelming tax burden on insured New Yorkers."
These sentiments were echoed by Heather Briccetti, acting-president & CEO of The Business Council of NYS. "This is a bad idea that has been considered and rejected before. It is simply a cost-shift to the private insurance market rather than a redesign of Medicaid," she concluded.
The Medicaid team estimates that the tax would save (or more aptly raise) $57 million in the next fiscal year and $99 million the next year.
Advocates of this plan argue that physicians have been taking away business from hospitals as the result of surcharge obligations, so this proposal would provide some equity to the competition.

SAGE ADVICE

Three Republican legislators have teamed up to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to convene a new Tech task force, which would operate under his Spending and Government Efficiencies Commission, to help the state go paperless to save tax dollars.
This move comes a week after Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, who is one of the three members advocating this move, publicly advocated for an end to automatic printing of bills, legislative digests and daily sheets.
“We can help our environment and save tax dollars by bringing in the ‘Geek Squad’ of the world’s leading IT all-star experts to help find the bottom line savings for New York by going digital and stopping wasteful printing,” said Tedisco.
His plan, which includes state Senator Greg Ball, R-Patterson, and Sen. Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island, would have the tech savvy consultants discover ways the state's more than 70 state agencies, 48 public authorities, 64 SUNY schools and 20 CUNY campuses could limit their printing costs.
In an "e-mail" (stressed Tedisco's chief of staff) to the governor, they made their case to save millions in printing costs by seeking the advice of pioneers in technology from IBM, Xerox, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube. No word yet on whether Mark Zuckeberg will handle this problem himself, or just send his understudy, Jesse Eisenberg to offer advice.
Ball noted that while the gov't was asking ordinary people to do their part in shouldering the budget pain, the state could begin to chip in by limiting their costs. "These paper reliant systems are not eco-friendly or fiscally wise, and while it may have worked for Teddy Roosevelt, it's not working anymore. Let's follow the paper trail and zoom in on the duplicative and unnecessary processes and procedures, costing taxpayers millions,” said Ball.
This announcement comes on the heels of numerous bills from this session and in the past, which would give local municipalities all the way up to state agencies the freedom to limit their required printing.
No word yet on whether the legislation announced by Tedisco last week will include a constitutional amendment to satisfy the requirement of bills on a member's desk, which currently wouldn't be fulfilled by electronic copies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anti-Sexting Bill from Nanny State

Sexting has returned to the New York State Senate, with Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky reintroducing a bill that is aimed at preventing sexting.
Senate Bill 3439 would direct the Office of Children and Family Services to establish an educational outreach effort teaching youngsters about the ramifications of sending naked or semi-naked photographs electronically. The measure overwhelmingly passed the prudish Senate in the last session, but luckily it died in the Assembly, where they're a little more liberal.
Stavisky's bill justifies its existence by claiming some danger from posting sexually explicit photographs, but it fails to actually elaborate what those consequences might actually be. There is again no Assembly version.

Redistricting a Victim of Rules?

On Friday the New York State Senate introduced Gov. Andrew Cuomo's redistricting legislation, but unlike the Assembly, which referred the bill to the Committee on Government Operations, their bill went straight to the Rules Committee. Senate Democratic Spokesman Austin Shafran lambasted this decision by the Senate Republicans as a move to impede the governor's plan.
“Senate Republicans are again backing away from their promise to pass independent redistricting and building barriers to the reforms needed to clean up Albany," said Shafran. “Senate Republicans are attempting to quietly kill Gov. Cuomo’s independent redistricting bill by burying it in the Senate Rules Committee to anonymously avoid public oversight and prevent rank-and-file members from supporting this critical legislation.
Referencing the pledge GOP senators made to Ed Koch's redistricting plan, Shafran accused Senate Republicans of reneging on their promise, which was made by every single member of their conference.
Shafran concluded, "New York needs independent redistricting now to have fair elections and a more responsive legislature where the public interest comes before political incumbency. Senate Republicans are standing in the way of reform, instead of standing behind the promise they made to all New Yorkers."

Sitdown Over Smackdown

It has traditionally been the plea of voters that politicians work together, even when the wisdom of the voters is to create divided government. On the national, President Barack Obama saw his poll numbers increase during the recent lame duck session when he reached across the aisle, and now New Yorkers are imploring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be a bridge builder too.
Slightly over two-thirds of people polled by a recent Quinnipiac survey revealed that they supported Cuomo's tactic of sitting down with individual legislators to discuss the budget, as they learned that the steamroller technique failed with Gov. Elliot Spitzer in 2007.
"Those sit-down meals with legislators in the Governor's Mansion are a good idea, voters think," said Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "They prefer Cuomo's friendly persuasion to the steamroller personality claimed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Voters prefer breaking bread to breaking heads."
Overall, Cuomo's approval rating is at 56 percent, with 15 percent of those polled viewing his tenure so far unfavorably. Interestingly enough, the governor is best received by upstate voters and Republicans, with his worst numbers, which are still over 50 percent, coming from the suburbs and Democrats. It's surprising that his biggest detractors aren't coming from New York City, where people seem to be in an uproar over their lost municipal aid and absent CFE money.
Helping the governor's numbers is the fact that 97 percent of those polled believe the budget is a very serious problem, which means he'll get more leeway to deal with it and can afford to step on the toes of some sacred cows, like health care spending and education spending.
Yet, while universally acknowledging the severity of the issue, New Yorkers are divided on how to ease the pain, with 76 percent opposing cuts to education and 64 percent opposing Medicaid cuts. These are the two areas that eat up the most of the budget, but based on this poll people fail to recognize this reality.
Instead they're focused on the growing storm around state workers and labor unions, with 58 percent supporting a reduction in pensions for state workers, 72 percent supporting a wage freeze for state workers and 56 percent supporting a furlough for state workers.
"Just about everyone agrees that the state is in miserable financial shape. But voters reject the Willie Sutton rule, to go where the money is," Carroll said. "They oppose cuts in the big budget items - school aid and Medicaid. They take aim at government workers, agreeing with Cuomo on a wage freeze and possible furloughs."
From February 15 - 21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,457 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Unshackle Central New York

On Monday the Unshackle Upstate coalition expanded its membership to include the Manufacturers Association of Central New York. The addition to the anti-tax and anti-regulation fan club represents 350 businesses and 55,000 workers under the influence of MACNY, who now amplify Unshackle's message.
“The addition of MACNY further cements our organization’s position as the leading voice for Upstate taxpayers and job creators,” said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. Of MACNY's president, Randy Wolken, who has joined the board of Unshackle, Sampson said, he has "a keen understanding of the critical issues facing MACNY’s members and surrounding communities and is a welcomed addition to our growing coalition.”
Wolken said he was honored to become a primary partner of Unshackle Upstate ad looked forward to contributing toward the goal of fostering a more effective business climate for upstate communities.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Redistricting Reformer?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's redistricting proposal was unveiled this past week to great fanfare, with good government groups fawning over the measure. The reception from politicians was mixed, with the Senate's Democratic Conference and Democratic Conference-lite expressing their self-righteous support, while Senate Republicans expressed concerns.
"A number of proposals have been advanced and we have to take a close look at what makes the most sense," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Diving into the bill, though, it's interesting to see what actually counts as reform. In this case its a multi-step process that begins and ends in the legislature's hands.
Good government groups, like the Brennan Center, argue that the change is that the process will be in the open and therefore won't be susceptible to backroom shenanigans. They argued that the secrecy in the past has ruined the process, which will be fixed by public involvement and oversight this time around.
"Governor Cuomo's proposal will open up the process and allow public engagement," said Erika Wood, of the Brennan Center.
According to the proposal's justification, the public involvement would mostly consist of the following:
The Commission would be required to hold numerous public hearings throughout the State and, prior to its first hearing, would post on its website extensive information concerning the plans under development and the data involved in order to facilitate public review, assessment, and critique of those plans, and the development of alternative plans. In particular, the Commission would be required to post its own assessment of its draft plan's compliance with and service of the requirements and principles set forth below, including the plan's protection of minority voting rights.

What has been downplayed is the actual decision making process, which begins with a nominations committee that is picked by legislative leaders and the governor. They then choose 40 people, 15 Dems, 15 GOP and 10 Blanks, to make up a nominations pool, where the final Independent Commission members will be chosen from. (Enough layers? Well baby it's cold out, so pack them on.)
Those 8 members are chosen from the nominations pool by (who? You guessed it!) the legislative leaders. Then three other members are chosen from the pool by the 8 commission members, with two of the new people serving as co-chairs.
Then we get some data and shake it all around (with public involvement!) and come up with a redistricting recommendation.
Done? Not quite. The legislature must approve the plan. If they don't, the Commission must change the plan and resubmit it. Rejected again? Then the commission submits a third plan, which THE LEGISLATURE COULD AMEND BEFORE VOTING ON! No word on another failure to pass the Commission's plan...
Apparently this is what passes for reform in New York. An open process that involves the same players who, based on the short-term memories of the voters, have no reason to respect any sort of positive changes.

Governor plugs holes with more holes

Tasked with the responsibility of closing a budget deficit in excess of $10 billion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has drafted a budget that is still lacking billions of dollars in specifics, which annoys good government groups, while some local legislators are prepared to give the governor the benefit of the doubt.
In its current form, the budget doesn’t include scheduled amendments from the governor and is still waiting on specific recommendations from task forces on mandate relief and Medicaid, which are supposed to target billions in savings.
Additionally, the budget doesn't include any information about planned prison closings that are going to be handled by a task force that won't even be assembled until after the budget's deadline passes.
“I’m trying to be easygoing,” said Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga. “The gentleman inherited a mess.”
For now, McDonald said he will be patient and trust the governor. However, he does expect details from the governor and his agency heads during the ongoing budget hearings. “You cannot expect me on April 1 to vote blind,” said McDonald.
This was also a concern for Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, who said there needs to be time for evaluation, while suggesting that the governor was trying to exclude the influence of special interests with the timetable.
Regarding Cuomo's decision to remove the legislature's influence over prison closures, Tedisco said the governor was probably motivated by the legislature's track record of avoiding hard choices.
He argued, "Sometimes there need to be an adult in the room," and maybe Cuomo is the adult forcing the legislature to do the right thing.
These tactics have not been well-received by some good-government groups and have created some awkward moments at public hearings on the budget, with Assemblyman Jeff Aubry engaging in a particularly fruitless back-and-forth with outgoing ESDC head Dennis Mullen.
After being unable to garner any meaningful answers from Mullen, Aubry asked for someone else to direct his questions to.
Lawrence Norden, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice,said the late disclosure of details will limit the ability of the public to knowledgeably add input to the budget process. He added that the ambiguities in the budget mean that the legislative hearings will be limited to generalities and broad themes on certain areas.
Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, added that this method undermines the public process.
Matt Ryan, the executive director of New York Jobs with Justice, was particularly perturbed about the ambiguity in the proposed regional economic councils. He said the state Legislature shouldn’t commit to spending hundreds of millions on economic development before it can be assured there is transparency and accountability in the system, which he argued is impossible without details.
“We’ve mostly been getting a shrug,” said Ryan about his inquiries into the councils.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Electronic Bills Pre-Tedisco

In my attempt to mirror the efforts of the Capitol Press I got caught up in the inane process that often dominates coverage at the expense of substantive issues and people with meaningful things to say.
I'm specifically referring to Wednesday's coverage of the announcement by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, referring to his proposal to save money by eliminating the automatic printing of thousands of bills that the state Legislature introduces every year. This release, which was rolled out with great fanfare, was given far too much ink by me and people of my ilk, because the assemblyman was only introducing a version of a proposal that has been floating around the Legislature for years and has been introduced this year.
A measure that would allow bills to appear before members electronically (via computer) has been in the Assembly since 2001, from Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, and in the Senate since 2003, from Sen. Joe Robach.
Their same-as proposal would allow people to get printed versions if they wanted and guaranteed a record of any deletions or additions that might be made to a bill.
The major point that their legislation made, which was never addressed by Tedisco, was the fact that the state constitution guarantees that no bill shall be passed or become law unless it shall have been printed and placed upon the desks of members. Because of this provision, their legislation was a constitutional amendment that added language that specified that a bill shall be deemed "printed and on a members' desks" if it was presented in an electronic format and met a few other conditions.
This proposal has already been introduced again this session, in the form of Assembly Bill 5274 and Senate Bill 357.
Anyway, just thought it was important to give this original proposal its proper due and so I could feel clean. Oh yeah, and Tedisco, whose proposal is more expansive, is a co-sponsor of Galef's bill this year.

Indy Dems Show Savings

On Valentine's Day the Independent Democratic Conference unveiled there new press conference room and plans to alleviate the budgetary burdens on local districts during these tough economic times.
Regarding the former development, the senators promised that the very cramped room, which uncomfortably held a dozen people, would soon be displaying more photographs. They didn't announce any future plans to make the room larger enough to hold all four of the senators that make up the IDC, as they were only three strong on Monday, with Sen. Diane Savino healing from an emergency appendectomy.
Oh yeah, then they offered mandate reliefs and cost saving ideas. Two interesting perspectives were offered by Sen. Jeff Klein during a Q&A after their prepared remarks. Klein said that the 2% tax cap would bring people to the negotiation table to make concessions. The second statement was his prediction that he couldn't envision this legislature passing an amendment to the Triborough amendment.

Tedisco's Cost Saving Future



With the New York State Legislature on pace to introduce a record number of bills this year, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, is suggesting we don't print all those bills so that the state can lower its bills.
Tedisco, who doesn't want to limit the creativity of legislators, mildly endorsed a limit on the number of bills members can introduce, but he argued that a better solution would be to not automatically print every bill that is written.
Tedisco will be introducing legislation that would eliminate the practice
of automatically printing every bill that is introduced, which includes
over 5,000 bills in the Assembly so far this year, and instead providing
digital copies to legislators that can be viewed on laptops and mobile
devices, with the option to print if they want.
“Going digital will stop the waste of taxpayer dollars on needless printing, not too mention its positive impact on our environment," said Tedisco. "With the availability of 2011 technology such as laptops, smart phones and e-reader tablets, there’s no reason why the New York State Legislature should be stuck using the same process that existed 100 years ago." He added that about 95 percent of the legislature could use a cell phone, so adapting to a new system of reading bills would be easy.
It is hard to gauge the entire amount of money wasted on the current system, as there is no detailed printing costs, which I found out after submitting FOIL requests to numerous entities. The Legislative Bill Drafting Commission has a budget in the millions, so it would be fair to say that each year's costs are at least in the millions. Tedisco estimates that the burden could be as much as $26 million.
Going forward, Tedisco said he expects bipartisan support for his proposal, citing a similar plan recently passing the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 399 to zero. He added that 18 other states have implemented a digital plan, with Ohio, a state that produces far fewer bills than New York, saving $1.5 million since they went digital.
Another burdensome printing cost singled out by Tedisco was The Legislative Digest, which he characterized as a 200 plus page pointless redudancy, because it is essentially a weekly reprinting of previously printed bills that the legislators get every week without asking for it. "That's a total waste of taxpayer dollars," said Tedisco.
To illuminate the burden of the Digest, the president of printing company IBT, John Paeglow, said that his company, which was recently stripped of the contract to print the Digest, had done it cheaper. He said that state Legislature didn't have the same printing capacity as his company, so IBT would always be able to provide the service cheaper. Based on a figure from the Assembly Majority and an estimate from Paeglow, IBT prints at 50 percent cheaper a page, which is a difference of about 1.25 cents per page.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yellow School Bus Sponsors

The era of school buses with paid advertisements on the side could be sooner than than you might have thought, with one Republican Senator hoping that New York can join a tradition started by New Jersey.
Western New Yorker Mark Grisanti has introduced a bill that would allow boards of educations to enter into contracts for the sale or lease of advertising on the exterior sides of school buses owned or leased by the school district.
The bill, which has no companion or previous version, is based on the idea that unprecedented cuts in educating fundings means that the state needs to look for alternative means for bringing in revenues.
It's not clear by the bill whether or not districts can already do this.

Second Glass of Wine in Supermarkets

While it wasn't in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the issue of wine in supermarkets returned to the forefront on Monday during the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on the Economic Development portions of the budget.
A panel from the Wine Industry Association, with Vice President Susan Hayes and Secretary Tina Hazlitt, made the argument during their testimony that selling wine in supermarkets wouldn't be a one-time gimmick to close the budget, but argued that it would serve to grow the wine industry in the state and create many new jobs.
Hayes made the argument that there aren't enough liquor stores in New York to allow the state's wine industry to grow as rapidly as it wants and Hazlitt, who spoke for grape growers, said the limited market was killing her industry.
Their position that liquor stores are already a dying industry, as local stores are being phased out by mom and pop stores, which meant that if their industry didn't want to go down with them they would need a new outlet (read as supermarkets).
The most compelling case made was when Hayes suggested that selling wine in supermarkets could attract Waterloo to open a $100 million bottling plant and in addition that the new market would generate 1500 jobs in the wine industry in the first year and over a five-year period would create 7500 jobs.
Assembly Member Dean Murray was the only person at the public hearing to take umbrage with this position (although Chair Farrell did ramble on about some outdated anecdote that applied to nothing. He countered that wine in supermarkets would kill local liquor stores, while choosing to ignore the reality pointed out by the witnesses that local stores were already being squeezed out by larger chains (like the new love of my life, The Exit 9 Liquor Warehouse).
Murray did score his first and best point with the observation that there was no guarantee that supermarkets would carry New York wines if they had an option to stock their shelves with cheaper wines from elsewhere. The argument against this, as espoused by Hayes, was that grocery stores like to stock local ware because it appeals to a growing green movement. Additionally, she said that their wines are popular, with supermarkets in Vermont placing orders by the pallet.
Eventually the heated exchange between the two ladies and Murray peaked when he began an impassioned plea for the mom and pop liquor stores, whose workers would become unemployed and be a burden on the state.
This clich├ęd contention was summarily discharged by the speakers who said that competition is good, suggested that their industry was just as important as liquor stores and reminded everyone that liquor stores in the old model were already outdated.
The debate about wine in supermarkets is definitely going to continue, but after today it seems to have moved past the benefit of a one time fee of about $250 million to close the budget deficit.

Gillibrand Speaks Savings

President Barack Obama has release his budget for the next fiscal year, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand characterized it as a good opening move in a long journey.
“While I don’t agree with every aspect of his plan, the President’s budget provides a good place to start the conversation," she said. "In the coming weeks, I hope we have a respectful debate about how to solve our long term budget problems, and fund critical priorities like our security and job creation.”
Some of her objections to the budget stemmed from the burden it placed on senior citizens, who already can't pay their energy costs, argued Gillibrand.
She added, "There are a number of additional proposals that I am advocating for that would reduce waste, fraud and abuse, and allow us to keep critical services, such as emergency heating assistance."
Regardless of how the budget process continues, Gillibrand said the current dynamic can't be allowed to continue because it is not sustainable. She said that cuts need to be made with the goal of significantly reducing the budget deficit. "But the cuts must be responsible and preserve security funding and critical investments in small businesses and economic development," concluded Gillibrand.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NYS Bills rack up the Bills

(A more expansive version of this post can be found in Sunday's edition of The Daily Gazette)
This week the New York Legislature will pass the 8,000 mark for bills introduced. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that it represents a waste of time and money, at a point when the state is facing a $10 billion budget deficit and really needs to pinch pennies.
In regards to the waste of time, which is really a secondary concern, the biggest offender is one house bills that have no chance of passing in the other house. This reality is mostly a product of divided government, which means that the Republicans in the Senate are trying to appease a different base than the Democrats in the Assembly.
So instead of addressing bills that have a legitimate chance of passing or focusing on crafting meaningful compromises, the two chambers get caught up in crafting bills that will make for good press conferences.
Worse than the one chamber bills, though, are the ones that won't even progress through the committee process. These "repeat offenders" are familiar bills from years passed that politicians introduce each year to cover their political rear end in order to please their constituents or lobbyists. One quality offender is Democratic Senator Carl Kruger, who has introduced 340 bills this session, with only five new bills. This is more of the same from Kruger, who has about 1 percent of his bills become law each year, as he continues to reintroduce the same pointless legislation each year.
But how does this impact tax payers? Well, if you trust the Democrats in the Assembly, the thousands of bills introduced each year will only cost $400,000. Their argument is that it costs 2 cents per page, with about 20 million pages printed each year.
If we accepted those numbers (which I don't), John Paeglow of Integrated Book Technology says that his company could do the printing cheaper. Paeglow said his company, which previously had many more printing responsibilities, could do the bill printing at three-quarters of a cents per page.
Therefore, based on numbers from the Assembly, IBT could cut the legislature's printing costs in half. Unfortunately, that's only if you accept this ridiculous premise floated by the Assembly...
To find a more accurate cost shouldered by the state you need to account for the people involved in the printing of bills, such as legislative staffers, lawyers and the personnel that make up the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission. If you figure in these costs then you're looking at about $2,200 per bill, according to Assemblyman William Barclay, R-Central New York. He noted that the real costs come from the man hours in printing, and not the paper or ink.
This is why Barclay has introduced a bill that would tie the hands of the Krugers, Englebrights and Pretlows of the world, by limiting the number of bills they could introduce. Besides allowing the legislature to hone its focus, this change could have the effect of saving millions of dollars. Because honestly, who wouldn't want to smoke salvia divinorum with a tax rebate in their pocket? (Too inside baseball?)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stratton Going to State

This reporter is ready to report that Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton will be heading to the arena of state politics with an appointment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Through a source knowledgeable about Schenectady and state politics, I believe that Stratton will be replacing a popular commissioner, which is why the governor's office's official position (through Josh Vlasto) is that they will neither confirm or deny.
Stratton's name has been bouncing around in the administration recently, but it hasn't been clear whether he would be heading for a temporary task force or something more permanent. It appears he will be heading to something more permanent....
Not that it means anything, but former Congressman Mike McNulty was in the Capitol on Monday, but we doubt that has much to do with anything.

NY Conservative Party Supports Campaign Disclosure

The New York State Conservative Party has come out against the public financing of campaigns today in a legislative memo that sent to every member of the Legislature. Their opposition stems from the idea that full disclosure of campaign filings is the only viable campaign finance reform and argue that forcing taxpayers to fund campaigns they do not support is not a wise use of taxpayer’s dollars.
In an interesting twist, the group argues that public financing of campaigns (as they envision it) would allow matching funds for fringe candidates, which seems to suggest that they don't view themselves as outside the mainstream of politics.
What's more amusing is that while advocating for disclosure, the party doesn't advocate for campaign limits and only supports disclosure of expenditures, while ignoring the problem of where the money is coming from.
I guess it's good that they support full disclosure, as politicians use their campaign money for all sorts of things, with the Conservative Party highlighting a campaign war chest used to purchase a car.
(Sent them an e-mail for answers on the questions I have. Let's see what happens!)

Small City School Districts Lobby...Exist?

The New York State Association of Small City School Districts has announced that state education funding is heading in the wrong direction, which is why they believe the poorest schools and children are being left behind.
They argue that the inequity is embodied by the fact that two-thirds of STAR funding, which is property tax relief, goes to the wealthiest 1/3 of districts statewide and therefore requires the poorer districts to shoulder more of their education costs.
"Even in the midst of the state's fiscal dilemma the state must find a way to target sufficient additional funding to provide small city students the education they deserve and their tax payers can no longer afford," said Robert E. Biggerstaff,
Executive Director for SCSD.
Here are some facts they want you to know:
Did you know that in connection with the State’s $750 million Race to the Top federal grant and as a result of the Regents sponsored Everson-Koretz Report (Harvard) the Regents are in the process of a massive overhaul of data systems, curriculum, assessments and the teacher/principal evaluation process?
Did you know that in connection with this overhaul the Regents have already raised the cut scores (passing scores) and, because of the large numbers of additional students now qualifying for Academic Intervention Services (AIS (in some cases the number of AIS students in small city schools has doubled) have had to waive the AIS requirements for 2010-11?.
Did you know that no one has estimated the additional cost of this overhaul to local school districts?
Did you know that half of the $750 million RTTT grant goes to the State Education Department?
Did you know that most of the other half will go to BOCES (and not to local school districts) to administer changes in curriculum, assessments and evaluations dictated by new regulations?
Did you know that in order to make the State RTTT application more competitive nationally the State approved 250 additional charter school slots?
Did you know that the stranded costs of these new charter schools will be about $600 million annually (2/3 of approved operating expense per pupil), which will be paid, not by state aid, but by the local school taxpayer in the form of higher property taxes?
Did you know that virtually all of the charter schools currently operating are located in cities?
Did you know that the RTTT one time grant of $750 million, most of which does not go to local school districts, was not such a good deal for the city districts and their taxpayers who will have to pick up the $600 million tab for new charter schools each and every year hereafter?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ahhhh....Relief

On Monday the NYS Senate passed a series of legislation that would provide local municipalities with greater authority of how they spend their limited tax payer funds. The bills authorize localities to deliver proposed local laws to members of their legislative bodies by email, allow tax collectors to send tax statements by email to homeowners who opt out of receiving paper statements and allow two or more contiguous towns to jointly purchase highway equipment.
Regarding the first provision (SB 800), which was sponsored by Republican Sen. Catherin Young, she said it created an unnecessary lag considering the available technology. “Email would be a far more cost effective way to notify board members of proposed legislation and would save money on mailing and printing costs," said Young.
She also sponsored the highway legislation that attacks a costly expenditure for local budgets. In defense of the change, Young said, “Under this bill (SB 764), two or more towns and any villages contained partially or wholly within the towns, could jointly purchase and store highway equipment and save taxpayer's dollars.”
Both proposals passed with 61 votes, but their future in the Assembly is in doubt. The second measure from Young doesn't have a companion and while the email bill has a companion, its past in the Assembly could be summed up this way: A whole lot of nothing!
As far as Sen. Charles Fuschillo's tax collection bill, it has a companion bill from Assemblyman Weisenberg that has traditionally been greeted as dead on arrival in the past in the Assembly.
This seems to be a pattern for the Senate, which seems keen on passing bills and putting the onus on Speaker Silver, as the Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo continue their game of footsie.

AIM Funds Stir Controversy

One of the recurring topics at Monday's budget hearing was the allocation of Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding, which was cut by two percent to all municipalities, except in New York City, which lost all of its money.
Mayor Bloomberg, Comptroller Liu and member of the New York City Council all struck the same note about the AIM money. They said that after being cut from last year's budget, politicians in the city had been promised that the funds would be restored for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
In his unveiling of the budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's position on this money was that the city wasn't entitled to it and that he wasn't cutting their budget because it had been previously withheld. He also noted that the city had many other sources of revenue so they would be able to absorb the hit.
This idea was reiterated by Democratic Member James Brennan, who argued that the city shouldn't have expected this money because of how bad the state's fiscal crisis was. He essentially argued that people shouldn't trust the state when things get tough, because when the goings get tough, the state basically writes checks it can't check.
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the city had to plan on getting the money, or then the state would have had no reason to even consider giving them their funds. "WE would have been chumps not to put it in," said Quinn. She went on to say that the AIM cut was just another example of the state's inequitable treatment of a city that it has taken for granted.
To this point, Quinn warned that it could get worse for the city when the Medicaid Task Force finally reports, because they could disproportionately hurt the city. She said people were talking to the taskforce on behalf of NYC, but revealed that they had no stakeholders for HHC hospitals in the room. "Unfortunately they do not have a seat at the table," she lamented.
Former Finance Chair Carl Kruger expressed his apologies for his failure to deliver on the promise he made while in the majority. "It was our intention for this to be a one-year cut," he said. "That commitment is not being honored...It is being totally ignored."

Bloomberg on the Budget

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to Albany on Monday to testify about the governor's proposed budget, which he suggested represented a valiant effort by Cuomo to tackle the state's problems.
"These times require fiscal discipline,” said Bloomberg, who noted that he strongly supported large portions of the budget, like the wage freeze, merging of 11 agencies, consolidation of prison beds and closing of juvenile justice facilities. He acknowledged that cuts to the city are inevitable and promised to carry their portion of the pain.
This did not mean that he was happy about a repeated elimination of AIM funding, which they had been told they’d receive in November of 2010. He explained that these promises are very important, as his city budgets years in advance and assumes the state will honor its pledges.
He said the city was promised a restoration of the funds for this upcoming fiscal year. “Our citizens won’t let this become the new norm,” he warned. We’re responsible for 50 percent of the state’s funds, said Bloomberg, who noted that revenue sharing gives his city flexibility and announced that they wanted equitable treatment. He said, “We shouldn’t be punished for our frugality.”
“This year more than ever we need your help,” posed Bloomberg to the committee. He said they were facing the prospect of heavy layoffs, especially to the schools. While acknowledging that layoffs were inevitable, the mayor said it was important that they could break from the "last hired, first fired" model, so that bad teachers would be shown the door instead of young ones.
Regarding the building aid formula, the mayor said it would be very painful and could contradict court rulings on class sizes. On the juvenile justice system he said the closing of certain facilities was a good first step, but argued that shifting the savings back into the failed system was a mistake and urged the committee to give the city control of their own program. Concerning the future of Medicaid, Bloomberg endorsed cutting administrative costs and cautioned against cutting services.
Bloomberg espoused his budgeting philosophy, which is that it is first essential to determine what society needs and then figure out how to pay for it. He suggested that to preserve the economic engine of the state, which is the city of New York, it needs money and the removal of antiquated mandates.
“We have alternative ways,” he said. “It’s not having our cake and eating it too.”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Skelos on the Budget

Got Your # On My Wall

The Republican controlled Senate appears determined to pass legislation that would make it illegal for a person to alter their caller identification with the intent to defraud or harass the recipient of a call.
Republican Sen. Lee Zeldin introduced the bill (SB 2909) on Thursday, and unlike thousands of other bills in the chamber, it has already been scheduled for a committee meeting. On Tuesday the Senate Consumer Protection Committee will address the bill, which was introduced in the senate last year and never was put on a committee agenda.
An Assembly version (AB 52) from Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, has already moved through the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection committee and is likely to cruise through the chamber, where it has previously been passed.
The bill seems like an intrusion that Republicans would never want to get involved in, as it limits personal freedom, but apparently they're opposed to "spoofing."
What's "spoofing" you ask? Well in the bill's justification, it is described this way:
Spoofing occurs when a person intentionally alters caller identification information to mask the true identity of the caller. The minimum effect is that the end user is deceived - the person making the call is not the person identified on the screen -and the person identified on the screen is "spoofed." This means that the person being spoofed has had caller identification information - his identity, in essence - intentionally misappropriated by the caller to achieve an end.

The bill alleges that telemarketers use this technique to encourage people to pick up the phone, as they're more likely to pick up when a call is identified as a local number.
But it's not only the recipients of calls who are harmed as people whose numbers are misrepresented could become the recipient of angry phone calls at any hour of the day from people who have received calls that seemingly were placed by the person being spoofed, but were actually placed by someone else.
Kind of hard to imagine who opposed this bill in the past. Big Stalker?

Anti-Snooki Bill

Senator Charles Fuschillo, R-Massapequa, apparently wants to kill the dreams of girls under the age of 18 that want to emulate Jersey Shore star Snooki.
Fuschillo has introduced a bill (SB 2917) that would ban people under the age of 18 from using a tanning facility.
What's amusing about this is that Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach, has introduced a companion bit of legislation (AB 1074), as he has previously done. It is ironic that Weisenberg would be responsible for the Assembly's version because he looks like he has spent half his life tanning or at the very least has stood next to Speaker of the House John Boehner for an extended period of time.
The proposal has moved from the health committee to the codes committee in the Assembly, with the bill in the Senate getting a referral to its health committee on Thursday.
Currently, people over the age of 14 are allowed to live the orange dream. Luckily, though, they still have a defender in Republican Senator Stephen Saland, who previously opposed this bill on the basis that it would intrude on traditional parental duties.
This proposal has never gained much traction in the past and it is unlikely now that the Legislature will be able to overcome the strength of Big Tanning.

Big Radar Strikes Again

On Monday afternoon the Senate is likely to bring up and pass a proposal from the Godfather, Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino, which would outlaw the use of any device that would block or jam, by either mechanical or electrical means any radar or laser device used by a police officer to monitor vehicular speed.
On its face this proposal seems to make sense, as it is a nuisance, but a potentially life saving one. It feels like an idea on par with speed cameras that are impossible to get around.
Unfortunately, the bill is flawed and slightly corrupt, as was addressed in a recent Senate Committee on Transportation. In that meeting from the middle of January, the often eccentric dresser Democratic Sen. Bill Perkins noted that the bill doesn't target the people who sell these devices to unlawful users. The Committee Chairman, Sen. Charles Fuschillo, said that this topic was beyond the scope of the legislation.
(This divide makes sense if you embrace the idea that Republicans want to foster a good business environment while being all law and order and that Democrats want to protect you with a nanny state.)
Anyway, Senator Reuben Diaz, D-Crazytown, argued that the committee was protecting the rights of big business at the expense of the little people. He was then encouraged by the chair to address his own legislation (that will be blocked by the Republican majority because it isn't business friendly).
Side note: A committee staffer suggested that the radar devices banned only includes those that are plugged into a power source, which leaves open the possibility that radar devices that run on batteries or independent rage would be legal.

Picking the President

On Monday afternoon when the Assembly comes back into session they're likely to move a bill that will alter how the state awards its electoral votes for the presidential election.
Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, D-Bronx, has introduced legislation (AB 489) that is basically an interstate agreement between willing states to award their electoral votes to whoever wins the majority of the national vote.
New York's ability to make this change stems from the fact that the Constitution allows each state to determine how it will award its electoral votes. Because of this loop hole, states can circumvent the electoral college system without actually amending the Constitution, which is a cumbersome process.
Dinowitz's proposal argues that the current system is inadequate, as it encourages candidates to focus on battleground states and fosters a dynamic where one state can be the difference. To these points the bill argues:
This interstate agreement would send a clear message to Presidential
candidates that no citizens' vote can be expected based upon party
affiliation alone. An office that is representing all 50 states should
be filled by a candidate who campaigned in all 50 states to gain the
knowledge and support of all citizens.

The legislation wouldn't go into effect until after enough states had committed to the proposal that the new coalition amassed 270 votes, and could therefore guarantee the selection of the presidency.
This idea passed the senate in the recent session, but has always stalled in the Assembly. Most likely this aversion in the Assembly, where the bill hasn't even gotten a vote, stems from the fact that the liberal base there doesn't want to risk awarding New York's electoral votes to a Republican.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Racing Surcharge Quacks like a Tax

"If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then in New York it's probably a tax," said Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, regarding a racing purse surcharge that was proposed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget on Monday.
Downplayed as a fee by the governor, Tedisco took serious umbrage with the surcharge, which he characterized as a tax.
He said that the state should be encouraging people to get involved in racing at this point, while this fee will have the opposite effect.
The surcharge in question is a 2.75 percent surcharge on purses for all horse races conducted within the state. The money is designed to eliminate the deficit being run by the Regulation of Racing account. The idea of the proposal is that that account, which is part of the Racing Board, will now be funded by the racing industry and not taxpayers. The fee is designed to generate $7.6 million in the upcoming fiscal year and $8.5 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
This proposal in the budget was roundly rejected by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, who characterized the charge as a slap in the face and counter to the governor's pledge not to raise taxes.
"Regardless of how you dress this up, this is an almost 3% tax on New York horsemen," said Richard Violette, president of the horsemen.
Tedisco concluded, "That's a tax and there's no way around it." His spokesman noted that this decision is in addition to the state again withholding VLT funding for the area.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Real Rules? Too Soon for Senate

Over strenuous objection from the Senate Minority, the chamber adopted its operating rules for the next two years. The mildly newsworthy change had the effect of silencing a meaningful proposal from Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Righteousville, that was squashed by Republicans on the Rules Committee.
Senate Resolution 357 from Krueger would have strengthened the changes made in 2009 after the failed Senate Coup. Those procedures, while meaningful, were still only a semi-success for the cause of good government. Now, though, the rules from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos represent two steps back.
In the committee meeting, Chair Tom Libous essentially said it wasn't time for these radical changes and also found a way to tie his argument back to the fact the Democrats overspent by millions on their staff when they were in the majority.
Libous added that the chamber might be exploring more rules in the future, which would be advanced through discussions that were agreed upon by Skelos and Minority Conference Leader John Sampson.
Here are some of the highlights from Krueger's rules:
1. Term limit of 8 years for the Temporary President
2. The number of committees would be reduced (I think it was like 32 to 23)
3. 8 year term limits for Committee Chairs.
4. The RUles Committee can only report a bill if it has been on a published agenda for at least 24 hours, unless there is a message of necessity from the governor.
5. There basically needs to be a heads up on all Committee activities.
6. All committee members must be present in order to vote on any bill or matter
before the committee.
7. You can only vote YES or NO in a committee. None of this "without recommendation" waffling.
8. All Senators shall have equitable access to the resources of the Senate
9. No member initiative funds shall be distributed to organizations for whom the Senator or family member serves as a board member or officer.
10. Bills shall be considered for final passage that do not appear on the active list except with unanimous consent of the Senate unless a petition for chamber consideration shall have been received pursuant to section 3 of Rule XI of the Senate rules.

Nanny State 3: No Running!

If you live in a city with over 1 million people then I hope you enjoy running with traffic for background noise, because that's the vision of State Senator Carl Kruger, D-Baldmidgetville, who has probably never run a day in his life.
Motivated by three pedestrian deaths in NYC since September, Senate Bill 1945 would restrict the use of electronic devices within a crosswalk in large New York cities.
Kruger's classification of electronic devices includes media players (think I-Pods) and cellphones, on the basis that these things make it impossible for someone to be aware of their surroundings. The bill suggests that just a few seconds could save someone's life.
Additionally, the future law mandates that using the device includes having it in the "immediate proximity" of one's ears.
For risking the lives of pedestrians and motorists, offenders will be charged with a fine of $100.
No word yet on if Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has introduced a companion bill or whether he will just be serving as a crossing guard on every block in his district...
(Look for the bill in the Senate Transportation)

Budget Bothers Breslin a Bit

"We must ask ourselves the following questions. Can our economy withstand a major influx of unemployed workers coming off the payrolls?"
That is the question from State Senator Neil Breslin, D-Albany, who is concerned about the ramifications of the state possibly laying off 9,800 workers. This potentially massive layoff has been laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the worst case scenario if the state workers don't agree to share some of the pain with cuts in benefits.
Regarding this cost saving measure, Breslin suggested that there might be increased overtime costs as a result. He added that the large number of unemployed people would add further stress to the state's budget, as these people would need some form of economic assistance. This last fear was echoed by Breslin's Republican colleague, Hugh Farley of Niskayuna.
Breslin, though, remains optimistic about avoiding this worst case scenario. "I am confident with [Cuomo's] leadership we can work together to develop a fiscally responsible approach to capture savings," he said.
"The Governor has demonstrated steady leadership during these challenging economic times. I know my colleagues and myself are anxious to work with him to develop a responsible budget that will return New York to fiscal solvency."
This somewhat mixed message from Breslin represents the hard realities of this budget. The truth about being fiscally conservative is that it sometimes requires hard choices, which is code for saying that regular people will be impacted. Savings won't just come from bloated pensions and scheduled raises, but also in the form of meaningful cuts that could represent a child's braces, a family's vacation or some jobs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Silver's Quid Pro Quo

Speaker Sheldon Silver appears to have named his price on the Senate's tax cap, with the Assembly's passage of the rent control legislation on Monday.
The varying goals of the two chambers were laid out at the beginning of the week, according to Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville. He argued that the tax cap will probably only make it through the Assembly if the Senate acts on rent control legislation.
"Our house didn't pass a property tax cap," said Tedisco. "We passed a rent control bill."
Shortly after the rent control bill was passed, Silver introduced a copy of the tax cap bill. This came after a weekend of ambiguity surrounding the tax cap's future in the Assembly, with its passage almost a guarantee in the Senate (as evident by its easy passage on Monday).
Tedisco contended that Silver was making a very overt gesture to the senate, which was that he will move the tax cap after rent control makes it through the senate. "I think they are tied together," he said.
Going forward it will be interesting to see if the two chambers continue to negotiate this way, especially with the budget, which doesn't seem to offer a lot of wiggle room.