February in New York has produced a blizzard of political upheavals as rumors swirl around Gov. David Paterson, two politicians’ careers may be finished, and a special election cements a political dynasty.
With the state facing a $7.4 billion deficit in fiscal 2011, Paterson has been distracted by rumors of a bombshell story from the New York Times that appears to have fizzled and questions about his selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group to operate a video lottery terminal facility at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The state expects to receive a $300 million up-front payment from the company that would help balance the current fiscal year budget.
Meanwhile, Paterson released his 21-day amendments to his fiscal 2011 executive budget proposal that counts on $1.06 billion of federal money included in President Obama’s budget proposal. It would alter an unpopular payroll tax on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to increase the burden on New York City employers while lowering it on suburban employers.
In special elections on Tuesday, a city Assembly seat remained in Democratic hands while three others — in the suburban counties of Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau — were won by Republicans who picked up two new seats.
Former City Council member and New York City comptroller candidate David Weprin won a special election Tuesday to fill the Queens Assembly seat vacated by his brother Mark Weprin and formerly held by their father, the late Saul Weprin. Mark Weprin was elected in November to his brother’s old seat in the City Council. Assemblyman-elect Weprin, a banker at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., had chaired the council’s finance committee, a post now filled by Brooklyn City Council member Domenic Recchia Jr.
In addition, Paterson on Tuesday announced a special election to replace Sen. Hiram Monserrate after the State Senate voted 53 to 8 to expel him. Monserrate plans to appeal. The Queens Democrat was convicted last year of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend. Monserrate briefly joined with Senate Republicans last summer in a short-lived leadership coup that temporarily brought legislation to a halt. If the expulsion sticks, the Democrats’ 32-to-30 majority in the Senate narrows by one.
Also Tuesday, City Council member Larry Seabrook pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges that included money laundering, fraud, and extortion. Prosecutors charge that the Bronx Democrat used his influence to secure a contract for company to install boilers in the new Yankee Stadium in an alleged kickback scheme to net $50,000.