Winners and Losers 04/03/15
The state budget got done on time—or maybe it didn’t. Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerged victorious—or maybe he didn’t. Some measures that were dropped will be taken up later—or maybe some won’t. What we do know is who were this week’s winners and losers.
Ruben Diaz Jr. - The MTA was left in the lurch after receiving just $250 million of the $6 billion windfall from bank settlements in the state budget, despite a gaping $15 billion hole in the agency's capital plan. But Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. must be smiling: That $250 million is to go toward an expansion of Metro-North service in the Bronx—a proposal the BP has been championing for a couple of years now. And why might all that money go toward that one project alone? It probably didn't hurt that Bronxites Jeff Klein and Carl Heastie were both in the room with the governor during the final budget negotiations, and that Diaz co-chaired Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign.
Amy Loprest – When the New York City Campaign Finance Board denied millions of dollars in public funds for City Comptroller John Liu in 2013, it was the final blow to Liu's mayoral bid. But Liu, whose associates had been nabbed for fundraising fraud, didn’t give up easily, blasting the CFB’s decision and taking it to court. This week the CFB was vindicated when a federal judge ruled against Liu—a vote of confidence for Loprest, the board’s executive director.
Ydanis Rodriguez - The Manhattan city councilman scored a $30,000 settlement with the city after he was arrested during Occupy Wall Street protests and filed a suit contending police knocked him to the ground and beat him. Rodriguez touted the payment and announced he would donate it to the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Charles Schumer - New York's senior U.S. senator is poised to assume the chamber’s Democratic leader position, with the retiring leader, Harry Reid, naming him a likely replacement. He even locked in support from across the aisle when former GOP mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis invited supporters to a fundraiser benefiting Schumer. The senator also drummed up $3 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance—the largest award in FEMA history—for Superstorm Sandy-ravaged housing developments.
Chris Squeri – There’s usually a few surprises found in the final budget agreement each year and this year was no different. New York legislators gained national attention this week when they included a major sales tax break on yacht purchases worth more than $230,000 and private jets—a top priority for Squeri and his New York Marine Trades Association. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos defended the tax break, insisting it is a “job creator” for the state … minutes before he said he would not support a minimum wage hike because more information was need to make sure it would be a job creator.
Timothy Dolan - State lawmakes didn't answer the Cardinal's prayers for an Education Tax Investment Credit, which would have given residents a break for donations to scholarship funds that could be used at all schools. It's something the Catholic Church has been pushing for for years in hopes it could help reverse the trend of students leaving their parochial schools, which has forced them to shut more and more of them down. Dolan was generous with his blame for all parties and chambers, yet still hopeful this could be revisited in the final months of the session.
Bobby Hurley - Even when he wins, he can’t win. The University at Buffalo men’s basketball head coach will need to defy his bosses, and risk being seen as insensitive to gay and lesbian causes, in order to cheer on his alma mater Duke in person in the Final Four in Indianapolis this weekend. Cuomo issued an executive order banning all state-funded travel to Indiana after lawmakers their passed a law many feel allows discrimination based on sexual orientation and Hurley’s superiors publicly backed Cuomo, saying SUNY students and staff should avoid visiting Indiana for the tournament altogether. As one of the highest paid state employees, Hurley may want to think twice before boarding a plane to Indianapolis International.
Jose Peralta and Francisco Moya – Once again, the DREAM Act did not make it into the state budget. And while the two sponsors of the bill remain hopeful that Cuomo will work his magic and live up to his campaign promise to pass it before the end of session in June, they have to know it's an uphill battle. State Senate Republicans are dead set against it, and haven't indicated that there is anything they want enough to trade for it in coming months.
Karen Magee and Michael Mulgrew - It's pretty clear that these teachers' union bosses are not happy with the education reforms that ended up in budget. Mulgrew tripped during a premature victory lap on Sunday, claiming Cuomo had caved on several points, while his NYSUT counterpoint Magee was basically yelling, "What are you doing?" The two are now trying to regroup by calling on parents to have their kids opt out of mandatory testing, meaning this fight is far from over. However, many school districts are likely to adopt the mandated reforms and collect their cash bonus to make sure their budgets are balanced.
Sheldon Silver - The bad news just keeps coming for the man who spent two decades as one of the most powerful politicians in the state. The feds are still looking for the nearly $4 million Silver allegedly netted as part of an influence peddling scheme. And this week, there were reports that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is broadening his search to include more bank accounts and other assets, some not even held by Silver. All the while, he had to sit on the sidelines for the budget battle in Albany, which we know can't have been easy.