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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tensions Cool But NYRA Impasse Remains

- The rhetoric has cooled in Albany on the heels of the Governor's State of the State address, and the death of Senator Bruno's wife. "I am in a frame of mind that I just want to be nice," Bruno told an Albany luncheon last week, his first political public appearance since Bobby Bruno's funeral on Monday. "Speaker Silver--we have a love/hate relationship. Presently, we're in the love relationship." [Business Review] And the Senate Majority Leader has even spoken to Spitzer directly on the phone.

But Bruno's "nice" phase has not quite halted all of the partisan sniping. He feels that the Governor's proposals for upstate development leaves out the city of Albany.

"It is OK when it [money] comes to the Capital Region," he said. "Is there something wrong with that? ... I am going to be there through the budget process to make sure we are not overlooked."
And he reminded the audience of what he perceives as Spitzer's bluster and bullying during his first year in office.
"Historically, the governor has made very bad judgments in governing because he has favored the politics over governing, and that's what started the whole problem -- the governor wanted to be the only game in town." []
Additionally, there's tension over an upcoming special election for an upstate Senate seat being vacated by a Republican; a crucial race given the GOP's sparse two seat majority in that chamber. Spitzer told a local TV station that he would stay out of the race this time; Bruno was infuriated by the Governor's active campaigning for the Democratic candidate in a similar situation last year. But the NY Times' City Room blog reports:
According to the New York Public Interest Research Group, of the $232,026.03 that [Democratic candidate Darrel] Aubertine raised in the filing period ending last week, $200,000 came from the state Democratic committee, which is essentially controlled by the governor. Much of that went to pay for the slick new commercial produced for Mr. Aubertine by Mr. Spitzer’s ad guy, Jimmy Siegel.
That prompted Bruno to reply: "I think that his active involvement out in that special, that he's just really exacerbating a problem that he created last July." [NY1]

And then there's the franchise matter, which remains at an impasse according to the latest report filed by Tom Precious on The issues - the length of the extension, VLT's at Belmont, and the makeup of the NYRA board - remain the same; except that there's a new player in town.
Officials with the New York Off-Track Betting Corporation were also on the scene at the Capitol Jan. 18, one day after the release of an internal report that sets the stage for the shut-down of the OTB June 16. OTB officials say a variety of state-imposed conditions are making the entity a money-loser. The OTB wants its concerns addressed in the franchise discussions, leading some negotiators to theorize the talks could lead to some sort of new model to end the decades of fractured relations between the OTB and NYRA. [Bloodhorse]
Of course, such a new model is something we've been hoping for all along; it took OTB's threat of closure to bring the matter to Albany. Like the horsemen's plea for a higher cut of VLT revenues, OTB's bid for more money comes well after the original Dec 31 deadline, which, in retrospect, nobody really seemed to take too seriously.

Now, according to the Bloodhorse report, attention has turned once again to another temporary extension, one which could, this time, coincide with the annual March 31 budget deadline drama.
Such a course could make for easier deal-trading involving the franchise and other, unrelated matters. But it could also prove dangerous if, as some in Albany fear, Gov. Eliot Spitzer and lawmakers are unable to reach a budget deal before the fiscal year starts April 1 and the franchise gets spun into disputes involving health care, education, and other spending priorities.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Buying More Time With NYRA
Albany Times Union
January 21, 2008
James M. Odato

Look for an announcement today on how the state will be giving the New York Racing Association a second temporary extension to run racing at Aqueduct through about mid-February. NYRA’s first and current temporary extension is supposed to expire on Jan. 23.

In late December, the state gave NYRA three weeks in January to run racing because legislative and Spitzer administration officials couldn’t work out a permanent resolution to the racing franchise by the end of 2007, when NYRA’s hold on the three state thoroughbred tracks was set to end.

Sticking points on getting another long-term deal with NYRA, several insiders say, include NYRA’s resistance to a proposal to shrink its board of trustees and reduce its control of the board. Another problem: Senate Republicans continue to push for authorization of video lottery terminals at Belmont Park, and Assembly Democrats continue to disagree on such gambling expansion.