Each day we typically tackle between three and four topics on The Capitol Pressroom radio show, with guests rotating in and out of our third floor faux studio every 10 minutes or so. During budget negotiations, the flow of guests increases, as does the number of topics. It’s like an issue monsoon.
Because of the deluge, we have heard from more than a few provocative guests over the past few weeks, both on and off the air. Here is a selection of moments, conversations and quotes that I hope will provide you with a taste of life in Albany during the Season of the Budget.
BEST DESCRIPTION OF BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS: “They’re on the thruway, on cruise control, headed to Budgetville, Exit 143,000,000,000.”
—Kyle Hughes, NYSNYS.com
BEST EVIDENCE THAT TRUE BELIEVERS WALK AMONG US
The Breezy Point summer home of Conservative Party chairman Mike Long went up in flames in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. I asked him if the tragedy led him to rethink his conservative ideology, since he and his family would now be depending on government help.
Pressroom: You are a victim. It’s not easy to be a victim. Has this changed at all your perspective on issues that the Conservative Party has traditionally backed?
Mike Long: Well, I’m not a person that believed that what caused Sandy was climate change. It was the perfect storm. I can’t say it’s changed my view or my philosophical beliefs.
Pressroom: What if it happens again, though?
Long: Hopefully it won’t happen again.
“F-BOMB” APOLOGY, Part 2
During one of the gun rights rallies at the Capitol recently, Syracuse-area Democrat Assemblyman Al Stirpe invited gun rights advocates from his district to his office to discuss their criticisms of the NY SAFE Act. As you may have read in City & State, after a heated conversation the lawmaker let loose with a couple of “F-bombs” when the group challenged him on his vote. He joined me on The Capitol Pressroomto explain what lead up to his “moment of frustration.”
Al Stirpe: Instead of doing what a lot of other members did, which is let their staff talk to these [gun] groups, I said, “Let ’em come in.” … I mentioned I had all these town hall meetings and one guy said, “Sure. Your meetings. Where you didn’t tell anybody about it because you were afraid we’d show up.” That was the end of the line for me at that point. … I have spent lots of time since the bill was passed. Lots of people coming to my district office. Had four town hall meetings, which all lasted an hour and a half longer than they were supposed to. … I’ve been in front of lots of people, heard lots of criticism. But for one second I let it hang out for a little bit. You know, I’m only human.
MORE FROM THE BATTLE OVER EDUCATION AID
The New York State School Board Assocation issued a report a few weeks ago showing that the cost of paying for teacher evaluations outpaces the money schools receive from the Race to the Top grant. The average gap schools face according to NYSSBA is around $50,000.
It was one more criticism thrown at the state’s education establishment during a season of growing discontent. Here are a few more:
ON AID INEQUITIES:
“Do we need a Rosa Parks to sit in the front of the school yard? What do we need? This is shameful. These kids are crying out for equity. This is the civil rights issue of our time.”
—Rick Timbs, Executive Director of the Statewide School Finance Association
“I think that is a dramatic statement. … I don’t think that all of a sudden, today, education became a civil rights issue. I think it’s been around a long time.”
—Sen. John Flanagan, Chairman, Senate Education Committee
ON WHY EDUCATION IS TOUGH TO FIX:
“…[O]nce the budget is done, by the time mid-April comes, you tackle the next issue. And then nobody talks about school aid until the next budget. I’m not sure that anybody knows how to start that process. Even better—not only start it but complete it.”
—State Sen. Tom Libous (R-Binghamton)
MOST POINTED CRITICISM OF GOV. CUOMO
The governor made few friends with his comments to Gannett recently chastising pro-fracking groups for focusing more on “hallway chatter” than on educating the public about fracking risks. The following day Karen Moreau of the New York Petroleum Council appeared on The Capitol Pressroom. I asked her to react to the governor’s comments.
Karen Moreau: I think the governor should focus on improving the climate of upstate New York, in particular the Southern Tier, which has record-high unemployment. The statistics coming out just today and yesterday—11.2% unemployment in Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler counties combined—the highest since 1990. At a time when the rest of the nation is seeing a decline in unemployment, New York has gone up in unemployment.
Pressroom: Sounds like you’re irritated with the governor.
Moreau: You know? I just like to work at what I have to do every day, and I think everybody should do the job they’re supposed to do. He doesn’t like the job we’re doing? Well, I guess we take issue with the job he’s doing.
Tags: Al Stirpe, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Weidman, John Flanagan, Karen Moreau, Kyle Hughes, Mike Long, New York State School Board Association, Padma Lakshmi, Rick Timbs, SAFE Act, Susan Arbetter, Tom Libous