New York Democratic Senators Form Splinter Group

By: - January 6, 2011 12:00 am

Four Democrats in New York ‘s Senate are refusing to back party leader John Sampson and instead are forming their own caucus, the New York Times

reports . The senators- David Carlucci , Jeffrey Klein , Diane Savino and  David Valesky -say they’re still Democrats and generally plan to side with the Democrats on issues. But the four members of the new “Independent Democratic Conference” won’t attend the regular Democratic caucus meetings. Sampson remained the Democrats’ Senate leader despite his role in a pre-election pay-to-play scandal involving bids on a state slot-machine contract. With that scandal and other Democratic dysfunction as a backdrop, Republicans won a 32-30 majority in the Senate.

After his first choice for chief of staff suddenly changed his mind, Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Corbett has decided on a fall-back option. William Ward will take the job, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

reports . Most recently, Ward was an attorney in a private law firm, but he has worked in government before. He and Corbett were assistant U.S. attorneys together, and Ward briefly served as a Corbett deputy when the incoming Republican governor was the state’s attorney general. Plus, Ward chaired Pennsylvania’s Board of Probation and Parole from 1997 to 2003. Corbett had initially tapped Brian Nutt, his campaign manager and former chief of staff in the AG’s office, but Nutt backed out last month, saying he preferred to focus on election campaigns.

As Nevada tries to overcome a budget shortfall that is proportionally one of the largest in the country, new Governor Brian Sandoval has opposed both tax and fee increases. But he’s not against using budget cuts to prod the state’s public universities to raise their own fees in the form of tuition hikes. Top higher education officials say that Sandoval has told them that major tuition increases are in order. “I think it’s important we have access to higher education, which we do, but look at how Nevada compares to other universities. Our tuition is rather low,” said Heidi Gansert , Sandoval’s chief of staff, according to the Las Vegas Sun .

Matt Mead , Wyoming ‘s new Republican governor, wants to consolidate two state agencies that serve the jobless, and he’s asking a former Democratic appointee to do it. Mead plans to bring together the Department of Workforce Services and the Department of Employment, which are responsible for job training and unemployment benefits, respectively. Joan Evans , who had been leading Workforce Services under Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal, will keep that job and also head up the Department of Employment on an interim basis as Mead asks the legislature to approve the consolidation as a way of trimming the state bureaucracy. “My intention is, if the Legislature is willing, to have something done immediately,” Mead said, according to the Associated Press . The consolidation isn’t likely to have much impact on the size of the state’s workforce right away, but Mead also thinks the combination will provide more convenient service to the public.

When Mike Beebe was elected governor of Arkansas in 2006, one of his first priorities was to reduce the sales tax on food. Now that Beebe has been reelected, he wants to do it again, the Arkansas News Bureau

reports . The 2007 cut reduced the tax from 6 percent to 2 percent. The Democratic governor now wants it to fall to 1.5 percent. Other Beebe goals include reducing the state’s prison population and controlling Medicaid costs.

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Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman helps lead research on fiscal management and place-based economic development programs as part of Pew’s state fiscal health project. Goodman has served as a primary author for Pew studies that examine how states should evaluate tax incentives and maintain budget discipline when implementing those incentives.