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Silver Strikes a Conciliatory Tone

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As power point slides go, this one was a doozy. During Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech yesterday, LES Assemblyman, Speaker Sheldon Silver, was cast in a starring role. Here’s what Cuomo had to say, as this visual was flashed overhead:

The Legislature is very familiar with the budget process and we need to transform this process from partisan political theater, which is what it is today, to productive debate and compromise. Right now, the budget process is like ships passing in the night — hold on a second. Bring those ships back. I think I recognized someone. Is that — zoom in on that man on that battleship — yes it is, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. And look, it’s Commander Sheldon Silver. Oh, and there I am. And here are the special interest groups. You notice, Dean, how all of the missiles from the special interest groups went into my battleship. I would humbly suggest as the new governor that maybe, just maybe we try doing it a different way this year, what do you say?

For the moment, at least, there appears to be a “meeting of the minds.” Here’s a sampling from this morning’s papers.

In a story headlined, “Silver’s message of peace,” Jimmy Viekind of the Times-Union writes:

The man expected to be one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief political antagonists sent a conciliatory message Wednesday. “We must work hand in hand to resolve our immediate fiscal challenges and build the long-term financial stability of our state,” said Assembly Speaker “We have a budget gap to close. Difficult choices must be made. But unquestionably, we must work together to reduce state spending, just as clearly we must strive to make our state a more affordable place to live, to work, to raise a family and to own and operate a business. That means working together to cap property taxes.

Viekind noted Silver’s announcement yesterday that he would support a property tax cap, something that surprised many in the audience:

(Silver) backed two major planks of Cuomo’s platform: a cap on residential property taxes, and moving the panel that draws legislative districts to a nonpartisan format. The statement on the property tax cap was especially striking. The Assembly has passed a bill shifting the property tax burden to income taxes, apportioned so that those with higher incomes pay more. But Silver has previously not supported straight caps on increased rates — as has been proposed by Cuomo, Gov. and many in the Senate. Straight caps also are opposed by teachers unions. “I was stunned,” said Assemblyman “Shelly can be polite and cordial, but he was almost directly on point with every issue. … The speaker doesn’t like to be put in a box, let alone by his own words. So I’m interested to see how that synergy plays off as we move forward.”

The Wall Street Journal:

In his remarks, Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, called for tighter rent regulations in New York City, an issue that wasn’t raised in the governor’s speech but could become a sticking point in budget talks. But Mr. Silver suggested room for compromise on Mr. Cuomo’s signature issue, capping local property taxes.

In the Daily News, Bill Hammond observes:

Put on the spot, Silver went further than ever before in endorsing key planks of Cuomo’s agenda that he and his Assembly Democrats have resisted in the past – the need to balance the state’s record-high $10 billion deficit without tax hikes or borrowing, and the need to cap propertytaxes… (Cuomo’s speech) put lawmakers on notice that Team Cuomo – unlike Team Spitzer or Paterson – knows how to think strategically, and effectively sell a message. Silver, Skelos and the rest can try to block his reforms, as they always have before, but for once they’re going to have a real fight on their hands.

And then there was the Post, which unsurprisingly spun a different story:

Even as the more than two dozen dignitaries and guests… (paid) rapt attention, Shelly Silver acts like a petulant child yesterday, defiantly turning his head away as Gov. Cuomo delivers his first State of the State Address and brings up a very sore subject — ethics reform…  The governor’s high-octane speech and the speaker’s rude response could come to symbolize what is expected to be the central conflict in Albany as Cuomo pushes a cost-cutting, tax-capping, business-friendly agenda through a recalcitrant and spend-happy Legislature long dominated by Silver.
Photo via Capital Tonight
After the speech, Silver hosted his annual State of the State after party, complete with bagels and lox from the big city. Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin explains:
“This event traditionally took place in the Assembly parlor before the SoS, and, in my humble opinion, was always one of the best parts of the day I like to refer to as “the first day of school.” Everyone from the governor on down would come in and take a lap or two around the table, chatting and eating as they went. But since Gov. Andrew Cuomo moved his SoS to the Empire State Plaza convention center to, as he put it, send a message that change is indeed possible in change-averse Albany. I thought Silver’s reception would be a casualty of the move, but apparently he’s capable of change, too.”

One other note from the big day in Albany: State Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents the Lower East Side, introduced a resolution aimed at re-installing Senator John Sampson as majority leader. Squadron said Sampson had “maintained the good will of colleagues on both sides of the aisle.” Since the Republicans are now in control of the Senate, it was merely a gesture. The resolution, of course, failed.

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