Pardon us for the state Senate-heavy list this week, but that’s where most of the action happened. Gov. Andrew Cuomo got his tax reform plan, and the Legislature got a leg up on what was shaping up to be a difficult budget season. Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t get his taxi plan, but he did get to yuck it up with the city’s press corps at the Gracie Mansion holiday party. Here’s our weekly look at who’s up and who’s down in New York politics.
Andrew Cuomo — Only Cuomo can cut taxes across the board and have liberal groups sing his praises for finally sticking it to the super wealthy. Only Cuomo can take one of the most dysfunctional state governments in the country and turn it into a shining example of bipartisanship. Only Cuomo can thumb his nose at the billionaire mayor of New York City on the taxi plan and laugh off the complaints of a few good government groups about a lack of transparency as if they were lobbed from the peanut gallery. This is what a 70 percent approval rating buys you these days. It’s good to be the king.
Karim Camara — The popular Brooklyn assemblyman appears to occupy one of the most coveted positions in Albany – he who gets information from Cuomo before the rest of us. Note that Camara and other members of the Black and Latino caucus were apprised of coming changes to the tax code several weeks ago, and also that one of the tax deal’s sweeteners was a $25 million grant for an urban youth jobs program, a significant commitment from the governor in a time of tight budgets.
Jeff Klein — After the Senate Democrats gained the majority in 2009, Klein pushed a plan to raise taxes on the most affluent while cutting taxes for the middle class – a plan that was dismissed by the conference in favor of raising taxes on everyone making more than $200,000, dubbed the “millionaires’ tax.” That didn’t work out so well for anyone except the Senate Republicans. Now, Klein and his four-member Independent Democratic Conference are sitting pretty, with freshman Sen. David Carlucci able to tout a sharp reduction in the MTA payroll tax and more aid to a district ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene. As a conference, Klein and the IDC can brag (accurately or not) that they’ve been the key to ending hyperpartisanship in the Senate – not that they’ll need the help, with Senate Republicans promising not to challenge Klein’s members next year.
Dean Skelos — The Senate majority leader showed his preservationist side this week when he negotiated a tax reform plan with Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that not only did what is essentially anathema to his conference – raise taxes on the rich – but also took care of that pesky MTA payroll tax so loathed by suburban voters. The glee from some of his members – Lee Zeldin tweeted his joy in all caps – made it sound like Christmas came a few weeks early. But of course the real present for Skelos will likely be keeping control of the chamber after next year’s elections.
Christine Quinn — One of the largest grants awarded yesterday in the Regional Economic Development Council Awards, and almost half of what New York City received, was a $29.5 million grant for renovation of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, a renovation that both Cuomo and Quinn have said is absolutely necessary for economic growth and improved health in New York City. It’s just the latest sign the governor and Quinn are on the same page ideologically. Quinn seems to be growing closer to a more beneficial ally for her own mayoral bid: the popular governor who holds the state’s purse strings. Meanwhile, Quinn is asserting herself, overriding a Bloomberg veto, and continuing to pursue a lawsuit against the administration’s elimination of an anti-homelessness program.
Alec Baldwin — Apparently you can put your foot in your mouth on Twitter. The TV celeb always gets a bit more than passing interest when he talks about getting involved in politics, but his air rage tantrum this week shows why anyone who really thinks he might run for mayor in 2013 is in fact the loser.
John Sampson — Over in the Assembly, the minority is a united force that can push an ideology because they don’t have to make deals. In the Senate, however, the minority leader’s caucus is split into factions, mottled with alleged corruption and utterly uninvolved in the business of the day. Remind us again why Skelos is worried Democrats could take control of the Senate?
Shirley Huntley — The indictment of a top aide and several associates this week by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not include the senator herself. Still, the fact remains that Huntley both founded and funded an alleged sham non-profit – and Schneiderman says the investigation is continuing. Even more staggering than the advent of yet another New York political scandal is the concentration of those scandals in Southeast Queens, where Sen. Malcolm Smith and Congressman Greg Meeks are being investigated, developer (and close Meeks ally) Ed Ahmad has already been indicted, and Councilman Ruben Wills was recently forced to make a plea deal on a comparatively minor larceny charge. Unfortunately, the real losers here may be the people of that community.
Joe Lhota — Maybe Cuomo really is just more of a car guy. As the new MTA chief, Lhota’s already tough job suddenly got tougher thanks to the elimination of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the cash-strapped agency. Cuomo, Lhota’s boss, decided to scale back the MTA payroll tax, which was unpopular in the city’s suburbs, to help ram through the other pieces of his big tax overhaul. Though the governor has promised that the funding will be made up elsewhere, for now Lhota has even less to work with as he tries to scrape up the cash to fund the MTA’s five-year capital plan.
Mike Long — It wasn’t so long ago that the Conservative Party chairman was giving the governor props for holding the line on spending and taxes. But now that Cuomo has engineered a plan that lets the millionaires’ tax expire but also institutes another high-income tax bracket, Long is crying foul and blasting the governor for conceding to special interests and pursuing a failed “European” model. Along with the party’s failure to block the same-sex marriage law this summer, what looked like a good start to the year for the Conservatives is ending in disaster for Long.
Read the full post at City Hall News.