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2020 just around the corner

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is seen Oct. 30,

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is seen Oct. 30, 2018. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Daily Point

Zeldin strikes back

When members of Congress are targeted by the opposite party as vulnerable and worthy of a serious attempt to be brought down in the next election, they often respond by shrugging it off. They may even say they’re far more in touch with their districts than Washington strategists, and have nothing to fear.

But 1st District Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, is using the targeting this week by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in its first list of GOP districts vulnerable in 2020 as a fundraising tool.

“Nancy Pelosi’s DCCC just announced their top targets for 2020 and I AM AT THE TOP OF THE LIST!” a fundraising email sent out by Zeldin’s reelection campaign reads.

Zeldin’s email says that with the House Democrats in the majority, the liberal base is more energized, and that he needs help now to “make sure we are prepared for whatever lies Pelosi has in store for us.”

Zeldin beat back newcomer Perry Gershon by just 4 points in 2018, an election where sentiment seemed to be turning against President Donald Trump and consistent supporters of him like Zeldin. In 2016, Trump won the district by 12 points and Zeldin beat Anna Throne-Holst by 16.

Asked whether he was truly worried about 2020 and changing sentiment in his district, Zeldin said: "Opinions remain strong on President Trump, both positive and negative, in NY-1, where he won the Presidential election in 2016 by over 12 points. Future events at the local, state, national and international level are just some of the many unknowns that make it impossible to predict popularity in November 2020 of the President or either major political party."

And, he added, “I always run with the mentality like I'm behind even when a poll comes back saying I'm up by several points or more. “

Lane Filler

Talking Point

A system in turmoil

Expect the troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority to take center stage during state budget negotiations over the next several months.

Some of those conversations will focus on congestion pricing, a proposed new revenue stream for the MTA that would come from tolling vehicles that enter Manhattan’s central business district.

But in an interview with The Point, Robert Mujica, the state’s budget director, noted that the proposed reorganization of the MTA - including giving Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo even more control over the authority - will have to be part of the budget discussion, too.

Cuomo has suggested he should have the majority of MTA board seats, the authority to hire and fire at the authority, and sole veto power over the MTA capital budget. Those proposed changes, Mujica said, likely would go hand in hand with making congestion pricing a reality.

“They go together,” said Mujica, noting that the only way lawmakers would give the MTA more money is if there were reassurances that the MTA would manage and spend it well.

Or, to put it more bluntly, the MTA doesn’t get more money unless Cuomo gets more control.

Of course, the governor already exerted more influence, from undoing plans for a shut down of the L subway line to most recently reportedly playing a role in the board’s decision to delay a vote on a fare hike. After that delay, however, Cuomo shifted his stance, saying a fare increase was necessary, as long as it was accompanied by “management reforms.”

And, while congestion pricing was the focus of much of Wednesday’s state budget hearing, the MTA’s leadership came up, too.

“Literally no one is in charge of it. No one is in control of it,” said MTA President Pat Foye, noting that while Cuomo has “influence,” others, like Mayor Bill de Blasio, play a role, too, leaving no one person at the helm.

That could change if Cuomo gets his way.

But amid all those moving pieces, there’s still a missing one: The MTA lacks a permanent chairman, a position that’s been vacant since November, and one that Cuomo appoints.

Any potential candidate likely will be watching the state’s budget negotiations with interest.

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Weighed down by Stone

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Reference Point

Making the case for schools

A state tax hike going almost entirely to increased school aid?

Newsday’s editorial board hit the topic 70 years ago — on Feb. 1, 1949 — when then-Gov. Thomas E. Dewey presented a state budget that directed most of its $112 million in new revenue from the tax hike go to “greater state generosity to education,” as the board wrote.

But the board also noted New Yorkers’ attitude toward rising taxes as “all sour.”

“People who in the past few years joined the chorus of demands that the state spend more and more on education are cooling off and wonder if we must neglect other worthies and overtax everybody for teacher’s benefit, and to send the kids to good schools,” the board wrote, an observation that still rings true.

The board referenced “public pressure” on Dewey to boost funding and judged that whatever the amount he chose to devote to school aid he knew that “he might stir up a fight ...”

The board’s conclusion regarding Dewey’s funding request has stood the test of time:

“So there it is, and virtually all your increased income tax money next year may go to improving teacher’s pay and the educational plants. It should end that demand. But will it?”

Michael Dobie