Monday, March 25, 2013



Lovett: Divided Albany Democrats tiff as liberals accuse party of accomplishing too little

 

At the heart of the rift is the failure to pass bills decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and establishing a DREAM Act, which would offer tuition assistance to college-age children of undocumented immigrants. Several Hispanic officials boycotted a Friday reception at the governor's mansion because Gov. Cuomo has been silent on whether New York should pass a DREAM Act.


Updated: Monday, March 25, 2013, 1:17 AM

























Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads a faction of Democrats that joined Republicans to control the Senate, is under fire from liberals despite pushing the minimum wage increase. An insider dismissed critics: “After leading the nation on marriage equality, guns, and minimum wage, there are just some on the far left who will never be happy.”

Mariela Lombard for New York Daily News

Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads a faction of Democrats that joined Republicans to control the Senate, is under fire from liberals despite pushing the minimum wage increase. An insider dismissed critics: “After leading the nation on marriage equality, guns, and minimum wage, there are just some on the far left who will never be happy.”

ALBANY — Even after winning a minimum wage hike, Gov. Cuomo and Senate co-leader Jeff Klein are coming under fire from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for not fighting harder for “progressive” issues in state budget talks.
Most of the legislature’s Hispanic members — including as many as nine out of 11 from the Assembly — boycotted a Friday reception at the governor’s mansion that Cuomo held.
The Latino lawmakers were angry that neither Cuomo nor Klein pushed to include in the upcoming budget the creation of a state DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to college students whose parents are undocumented immigrants.
“I believe the governor has the power to put his foot down like he has done for so many other things like (gun control) and same-sex marriage,” said Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Dem who boycotted the reception. “This is an equally important issue for us in the immigrant community.”
Another Hispanic lawmaker said the decision to boycott was made Wednesday night. “There’s a lot of discontent among the members,” he said.
Cuomo supports a federal DREAM Act, but has been silent on whether New York should adopt one.
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A Cuomo official said none of the no-shows informed the administration they were boycotting the event.
Things are even hotter for Klein, who heads a breakaway group of five Democrats who chose to jointly run the Senate with the Republicans. He and Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos must agree on what bills move to the floor.
With the budget talks nearly done, many on the left are claiming that more of the party’s agenda would have passed if Klein’s group had sided with the Dems to give them the Senate majority.
They cite the DREAM Act and a push to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot.
But a top Cuomo source blamed the Senate Dems — not Klein — for the pot bill’s failure, saying they could not provide enough votes for it to pass.
The Dem-on-Dem frustration boiled over during a recent closed-door meeting Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had with his members. Sources said several ripped the budget deal, with one telling Silver that “you are the only Democrat in the room” — a clear shot at Cuomo and Klein.
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At an earlier meeting, a frustrated Silver told of the brevity of the DREAM Act talks. “I bring it up, Skelos says no, Klein is with him, and the governor doesn’t have to say anything,” several sources quoted him as saying.
Klein, who was involved in his first budget talks as a conference leader, has been criticized behind the scenes for rarely speaking up during the negotiations with Cuomo, Silver and Skelos.
Publicly, he pushed hard for the minimum wage hike to be in the budget — raising it from $7.25 to $9 over three years — but some liberals have complained the phase-in is too long and the measure should have included an indexing provision to provide automatic future hikes that are tied to inflation.
Klein defended the final budget, saying it provides a minimum wage hike he pushed, a $350 rebate check to families, $300 million in business tax cuts and a balanced plan that stays within the 2% spending cap. “How do you get better than that?” he said.
A Senate source said Klein is being unfairly vilified. Indexing the minimum wage in a volatile economy would actually slow its growth, he said.
Another insider sniffed: “After leading the nation on marriage equality, guns, and minimum wage, there are just some on the far left who will never be happy.”
klovett@nydailynews.com
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