2009-04-08 / Political Page

Dem-Created State Budget Looms As Major Issue In Coming Elections

The state budget crafted exclusively by Democratic leaders in Albany last week drew extensive criticism from Republicans and others as extravagant at a time when the state, along with New York City and the nation, is in the throes of a stagnant economy.

Following its passage, Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith issued press releases documenting the benefits and signaling that these officials are standing behind the tax and fee increases that are being attacked now and will have to be defended in the future.

However, Queens Republicans released a strongly worded denunciation of the $132 billion spending plan that will be used in upcoming campaigns and will be a major focus of efforts to try to regain seats lost by the party.

We anticipate the budget will certainly be a major focal point for Republican efforts to regain seats that could shift senate control back to the GOP.

Releases from Silver's office lauded the budget's benefits for everything from education, transportation projects, health care and anti-crime programs to affordable housing, youth services and child abuse prevention. Smith pointed out that the budget created 86,000 new jobs.

In response, the statement put out by Queens Republican Chairman Phil Ragusa highlighted "a record-breaking" $7.8 billion in taxes and fees and a $4 billion "soak-the-rich income tax hike that will surely drive capital and employers out of the state".

Ragusa also pointed out that the Democrats had eliminated a $1.5 billion property tax rebate plan that hurts middleclass homeowners and have added $2.3 billion in new and extended business taxes and nuisance fees.

Ragusa added, that to add insult to injury, Silver and Smith refused to cut one cent from the $170 million in member items in the budget.

Other Republicans groused about New York City receiving $625.9 million for education from the federal economic stimulus package while other parts of the state got much less, including Long Island, which received $86.3 million.

This argument is sure to be rehashed next year when state legislative elections come up again.

MAYOR MAKES BID FOR BLACK- HISPANIC VOTE: Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a surprise endorsement from a labor union last week when Local 100 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, with 12,000 members, announced its support for the incumbent mayor.

This came as a blow to City Comptroller William Thompson, who needs both public and private union help to pursue his campaign against Bloomberg. Thompson, who is black and has many black pols supporting him, may suffer another setback if, as expected, some public employee unions swing to the mayor. D.C. 37, the largest municipal union, with over 1 million members, is one of them. The mayor reportedly is also planning a door-to-door swing through black and Hispanic neighborhoods to bolster his support with these groups.

Thompson has lined up some support among black public officials and added an Hispanic lawmaker last week, Assemblymember Peter River (D- The Bronx) to his list of adherents. However, the mayor received lavish praise from Hispanic powerhouse labor leader Dennis Rivera while he was in Washington attending the Conference of Mayors. Rivera called Bloomberg a man of tremendous vision and an advocate of healthy living.

Rivera formerly headed the huge 1199 Service Employees International Union but now runs the national SEIU healthcare union.

MALONEY HONORED: Costa Constantinides, president of the Queens County Young Democrats, hailed Congressmember Carolyn Maloney as "a trailblazer and true inspiration" at a meeting honoring the Queens/Manhattan lawmaker during a celebration of Women's History Month.

"[Maloney's] advocacy on women's issues gives our organization renewed energy to build on her successes and highlight women's issues in our community," Constantinides, declared.

The Young Dems honored Maloney for her "exceptional service and dedication to gender equality" and made the meeting a vehicle to launch the organization's Women's Caucus, which will work to identify and draw attention to women's issues.

The Young Democrats also used the event to raise money for SHAREing and CAREing, an Astoria organization devoted to improving detection and treatment for women with breast or ovarian cancer.

Maloney paid tribute to the cancerfighting organization. "It has become an important network for women who are dealing with cancer," she noted.

The lawmaker also praised the Young Democrats for supporting SHAREing and CAREing, saying, "It shows a commitment to the community and a willingness to contribute to a very important cause."

Maloney has become recognized as a leader on women's and other issues generally during her congressional career and is drawing attention as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the new Secretary of State. Governor David Paterson drew much unfavorable comment for awarding Clinton's seat to Kirsten Gillibrand.

The weekly newspaper Crain's New York Business recently reported Maloney may be opposing either Gillibrand or Paterson when they run for re-election next year.

WEINER RECOGNIZED FOR 'MIDDLE CLASS' ADVOCACY: Several years ago, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D- Queens/Brooklyn) was prominently involved in establishing the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on the Middle Class to focus attention on this large segment of American society and legislation to provide benefits for it. Now, as co-chair of the caucus, he recently received a perfect score of 100 for his voting record on middle class issues from the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, which tracks members of Congress on their votes on middle class issues.

Responding to the perfect score, Weiner pledged to continue fighting for New York City middle class families, which he called "the backbone of our great city" as they feel the squeeze from stagnant wages, increasing health insurance premiums and rising college tuition costs.

The Drum Major Institute's accolade for Weiner came as he met recently with the White House Task Force on the Middle Class for a round table discussion about steps to improve living standards for middle class Americans. Important topics on the agenda were health care, retirement security, paying for college and housing foreclosures.

Following the meeting with the Obama administration representatives, Weiner commented: "Whether it's making housing more affordable or quality health care more accessible, this group is going to protect working Americans. What a difference a year makes!"

ACK BACKS PREZ AFGHAN POLICY: President Barack Obama's buildup of American troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan has won the support of Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D- Bayside/L.I.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

Ackerman said that under the Bush administration, the fight against extremists has been undermanned and underfunded and lacked a coherent strategy. But, he added, the president's new strategy recognizes those facts and moves aggressively to address them. "His plan will not only focus American attention on Afghanistan, but will also serve to remind our friends and allies that Afghanistan is their fight as well," Ackerman declared.

DEN DEKKER BACKS BILLBOARD AD RESTRICTIONS: Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker is supporting a bill that prohibits erecting of billboards advertising alcoholic beverages within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds adjacent to schools. The Jackson Heights Democrat noted that children are easily influenced by advertising which goes counter to lessons they learn in school about the potentially dangerous effects of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

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