* There is a lot of great stuff on Albany reform. Cuomo is promising to veto any gerrymandered redistricting and also a reform of campaign finance. I hope he sticks to his guns when the pressure mounts on this, as the Legislature is not going to accept this without being dragged kicking and screaming.
* There are some things in here that are going to not please the public employee unions, like a wage freeze for all state workers. The public employee unions are going to have to make sacrifices along with everyone else in the state in these dire economic times, but they aren’t going to take it easily. Although I applaud Cuomo’s willingness to ask for sacrifices from his own base, I personally disagree with a wage freeze and a new pension tier. A smarter move would be to to pay state employees more upfront and not give any kind of pension. Public employees can contribute to their own retirement accounts out of their paychecks like private sector workers, and in compensation for the removal of pensions, those paychecks should be substantially increased. There’s a reason why NY is going bankrupt and that reason is pensions. And pensions also contribute to lower up-front pay, which discourages attracting young talent and discourages mobility in the public sector labor market. Need evidence? Only 14 percent of the state’s workers are under 35.
* Cuomo is also calling for a constitutional convention to fix a lot of the structural problems with the way the state operates. This is a good idea.
* I’m very glad that Cuomo is running on municipal consolidation. Everybody agrees that the vast number of local government bodies are the driving force behind the inexorable rise in property taxes, and it would be good to build upon last year’s municipal consolidation statute. Cuomo also wants to clean house with the redundant state agencies and authorities, and more power to him.
* I would have liked some more specifics on the environmental agenda, but I doubt Cuomo could be worse than Paterson in this regard.
As expected, Eric Dinallo won the straw poll for attorney general here at the Democratic Rural Conference with Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice finishing second and Sean Coffey finishing third. Dinallo had the support of 21 county chairs entering the straw poll, and earned 166 votes. Rice earned 79 votes, Coffey 52, Sen. Eric Schneiderman 33 and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky 22 votes.
[A] multistate settlement, just announced by the office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, includes 11 other states and affects operations at 13 cement plants — including the Ravena facility that’s been the subject of controversy for years.
According to the Attorney General’s press release, the settlement requires LaFarge to take the following steps:
* Eliminate a total of over 9,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 26,000 tons of sulfur dioxide each year from its plants, including those in upwind states whose pollution impacts New York.
* Either construct a new Ravena plant – as the company has proposed – or retrofit the existing facility with aggressive air pollution reduction technology. In either case, Ravena’s air pollution emissions will be cut by roughly 2,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide each year – equivalent to reductions of more than 30% and 80%, respectively.
* Pay a civil penalty and provide funding for environmental benefit projects totaling $5.07 million, with $3.38 million of that amount going to the federal government and the coalition of states receiving $1.69 million. Of that amount, New York State will receive $490,000 to fund energy efficiency and pollution reduction mitigation projects in communities near the Ravena plant.