Mr. Independent, Mr. Self-sufficient, Mr. Keep-your-distance. Mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrión snagged the Independence Party’s endorsement this week, keeping his heart protected so that he’d never feel rejected by the Republican or Democratic parties. But what is that feeling taking over? It’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo opening the door to, surprise! A state-imposed teacher evaluation bill that’s real for New York City. But Cuomo miscalculated on a Medicaid rate change delivering a $500 million hit to the state budget, leaving us jaded. So legislators may change their misconceptions, move in a different direction, find a connection, and fall in love … with our winners and losers:
Hillary Clinton – New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry might be trying to define himself as the “un-Hillary,” but that’s just because Kerry could never compete with the Empire State’s former senator. At a time when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is basking in a record high approval rating, Clinton still bests him in a hypothetical presidential match-up by 4 points, according to a recent Q poll. The most popular politician in the United States is about to get a whole lot richer too. When she hits the speaking circuit in the spring, repped by the Harry Walker Agency—the same outfit that books Bill—Clinton will pull in six figures for every gig, making her one of the best-paid speakers in history.
Kathy Marchione – In a Legislature where “double-dipping”—taking both a salary and a pension simultaneously—has become commonplace, it was a breath of fresh air when new state Sen. Kathy Marchione announced this week that she would donate the $66,000 annual pension she earns in her retirement as Saratoga County clerk to charity. While the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon may have a point in questioning the altruism of Marchione’s motives, the bottom line is that the senator could very well have hoarded the money like so many of her colleagues and nobody would have faulted her for doing so.
Eric Schneiderman – Nailing corrupt pols and their cronies in New York State might seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but that’s because the dynamic duo of Attorney General Schneiderman and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara have been making it look easy. This week Schneiderman added more collars to his collection, getting three of Shirley Huntley’s associates to plead guilty to crimes connected to the disgraced former state senator’s malfeasance. Tack on this accomplishment to the fact that, thanks in part to Schneiderman, New York homeowners have received $1.8 billion in mortgage relief since March 2010—double what the federal government initially predicted—and the AG can close on another winning week.
Sheldon Silver – The eternal Speaker has more lives than a feral cat. It appears that Silver has avoided harsh scrutiny in the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ completed findings on Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment scandal. JCOPE’s report is confidential, but Silver believes the commission found that he made no legal or ethical lapses in handling the highly sensitive matter. So the beat goes on in the Assembly, where Silver will thrust himself into the throes of budget negotiations. Lopez, however, is taking medical leave, perhaps until the dust settles.
Gloria Steinem – Not too many non-politicos have the clout to move legislation forward in New York City, but that’s exactly what the noted feminist and author did this week with the City Council’s paid sick-leave bill. In an interview with The New York Times, Steinem threatened to withdraw her endorsement for Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her bid for mayor if Quinn continued to block paid sick-leave from coming to a vote. Well, perhaps not coincidentally, the City Council today announced a hearing on the bill in March, a positive step forward for the legislation and the numerous Council members who have been vocal about their desire to get it passed. Steinem may not have the thirst for political office, but she certainly deserves credit if this bill ends up coming up for a vote. Steinem for Council?
Peter Abbate – It takes courage to sponsor seven bills to increase retirement benefits for government workers when the state is on the verge of a pension crisis. That didn’t stop Abbate from doing just that, presumably to curry favor with labor unions, but with an estimated cost to taxpayers of $1.7 billion. In the meantime, Abbate’s bills would increase payouts to workers with more than 30 years of service, enable some employees to retire earlier and make it easier to qualify for disability payments. Even Abbate’s comments about his bill sponsorship reflect a disconnect. “No one is saying they are going to pass, but you give everybody a chance to be heard and to explain the bills,” he said. It’s safe to say these bills don’t need too much explaining. Just read the fine print.
Courtney Burke – It wasn’t just the $500 million hole in the budget that came up this week as a result of the state once again overbilling Medicaid for the care of disabled New Yorkers. What it also means is that the commissioner of the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities now has to find a way to deal with a $120 million cut to funding for her agency, which has long been criticized for billing issues as well as poor care and corruption. It looks like OPWDD isn’t out of the woods yet.
Robert Doar – It’s never a good thing when an agency designed to help individuals and families be self-sufficient is accused of wasting money. In a letter to Doar, who runs New York City’s Human Resources Administration, state Medicaid Inspector General James Cox wrote that he was concerned that the agency spent $15.6 million to crack down on Medicaid fraud but only recovered $11 million in waste, costing the taxpayers around $4 million. Cox added that the HRA’s audits have been inaccurate and missed many instances of wasteful spending, pointing to a good chunk of the state’s Medicaid expenditures that had yet to be audited. The HRA claims they have been waiting on Cox to approve completed Medicaid audits, but have yet to hear from him. This could be a classic case of “he said, she said,” but perhaps it’s time for the state to outsource its Medicaid audits, as suggested by state Sen. Martin Golden.
Allison Gollust – That was fast. We suspected the burnout rate under the Cuomo regime would be high, but four months? Gollust was touted as the communications director who could help pivot the governor from a state executive into a national force. But Cuomo’s budgetary wizardry has taken a hit from left-leaning allies such as Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and his approval rating dipped among conservatives following an expeditious gun control measure. Instead, Gollust ran into the warm, comforting embrace of … Jeff Zucker. That one’s got to hurt.
Malcolm Smith – The Independent Democratic Conference chairman has been wining, dining and lodging all over the state. Problem is, Smith has been doing it all with campaign funds—and he didn’t even have an opponent last year. Now he’s in the crosshairs of the Daily News, which has been scrutinizing his travel records and campaign expenses, as well as good government groups. Could the state comptroller be next? Hey, if this Senate thing doesn’t work out, he could always become an Albany-area travel agent.
Tags: Adolfo Carrion, Allison Gollust, Andrew Cuomo, Bill Clinton, Chris Christie, Courtney Burke, Daily News, double-dipping, Eric Schneiderman, Gloria Steinem, Harry Walker Agency, Hillary Clinton, HRA, Human Resources Administration, Independence Party, James Cox, JCOPE, Jeff Zucker, John Kerry, Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Kathy Marchione, Malcolm Smith, Martin Golden, Medicaid, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, OPWDD, paid-sick-leave, Peter Abbate, Preet Bharara, Robert Doar, Sheldon Silver, shirley huntley, teacher evaluations