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Dollars and (common) sense

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Daily Point

Is stimulus help coming?

Cries of local government revenue shortfalls turning into layoffs, a lack of services and a deeper economic crash might be goosing Washington lawmakers to make a last-ditch effort for a second COVID-19 relief bill.

Democratic House members need to bring back a stimulus package for help in tough reelection battles, and the White House is looking for some good ink.

The squeaky wheels, GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin said, are Democrats elected in 2018 in districts that went for Trump in 2016. Zeldin said news of layoffs in school districts like Brentwood and Copiague and potential job slashes in Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s county budget are stories being played out in many parts of the country, rattling politicians and voters.

So Wednesday, when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time since early August, there was a sense time was running out but hope that a deal is possible.

Democratic Rep. Thomas Suozzi says what’s on the table between Pelosi and Mnuchin is a potential compromise: Pelosi has shown she’s willing to cut her $900 billion ask for states and municipalities in half, by helping those governments for one year right now instead of two, and a $2.2 trillion slimmed-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act. Those moves would be enough for legislators in safe seats to show they tried, but not enough for embattled colleagues who need to deliver, and have reportedly threatened to side with Republicans on a procedural issue related to small-business bailouts to embarrass Pelosi if she won’t deliver.

There are numerous stumbling blocks to an agreement: big gaps on the level of unemployment aid, the protection from COVID-19-related lawsuits Republicans want for businesses, and the level of funding for states and municipalities.

Then there are the issues unique to places like New York: Zeldin said that in phone conversations with President Donald Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over the past 10 days, his top priority has been fighting for money for the MTA and Port Authority, both of which are hemorrhaging cash.

For his part, Suozzi is fighting for the bipartisan approach put forward by his Problem Solvers Caucus, the framework of which would be the basis of any successful deal.

And it will have to be bipartisan, both lawmakers agree.

"Mitch McConnell has 20 GOP senators that absolutely won’t vote for any funding at this point," Zeldin said. "The only way it passes if it goes to the floor is with support from Chuck Schumer and Democratic votes."

Schumer’s office, though, is tempering any optimism, at least when it comes to New York’s needs. Wednesday his spokesman told The Point: "We’re continuing to have discussions to fight for New York needs. But Mitch McConnell and the president have a very anti-New York bias."

—Lane Filler and Randi F. Marshall @lanefiller and @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Survey says...

Long Islanders in key State Senate districts support raising taxes on the wealthy and other progressive priorities in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll from Data for Progress.

The left-leaning group did a September survey of likely voters across the state but also highlighted the findings in what it called "battleground regions" of Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Here, that included the districts represented by State Sens. Monica Martinez, Jim Gaughran, Kevin Thomas, and John Brooks.

Respondents in those districts registered some support for various tenant protection initiatives and creating a fund to bolster immigrant workers excluded from government benefits, though less support than the state average on those issues.

But the districts were right in line with the state averages and logged relatively strong support for raising taxes on the wealthiest to close budget gaps, including a lack of concern about the fear of billionaires leaving if their taxes were raised.

That includes 77% who strongly or somewhat support a tax on those making more than $2 million a year.

The poll of likely general election voters was conducted using online web-panels. The sample size for the Long Island districts in total was 344, and the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Despite being called "battleground" areas by Data for Progress, the Long Island districts didn’t include that of Anna Kaplan, who assumed office in the 2018 wave election and won by a similar 10% margin as Gaughran and Brooks. Kaplan’s district does include some of the wealthiest ZIP codes on the island. And Brooks has no opposition this year after his GOP challenger was disqualified from the ballot.

Data for Progress chief of staff Jason Ganz told The Point that party registration advantage "was the main decision point here."

The poll comes as groups like Make the Road Action, the Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change and the Long Island Progressive Coalition rally for suburban voters and legislators to support raising taxes on the wealthy.

Martinez, one of the legislators whose district was surveyed, agreed that there was some appetite for the issue.

"Many residents in my district feel there is an inequity on how income is taxed depending on a person’s wealth," she wrote in a statement to The Point. "We should use the new revenue incurred to increase our investment in education, to hold the line on property taxes and strengthen our local police departments to further assist in community policing to bridge the gap between the communities they serve."

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A tale of two presidents

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Never tell them the odds

While pundits argue about the fallout from President Donald Trump’s performance in Tuesday’s debate, some political betting markets had an immediate reaction — and it wasn’t good for the president.

The popular PredictIt website, which functions like a stock market with users buying and selling "yes" or "no" shares for a particular outcome, saw an overnight rise in the price of shares for former Vice President Joe Biden winning the presidency from 59 cents to 63 cents. That means that if Biden wins, someone would win $1 for every 63 cents he or she had invested. Trump’s shares, meanwhile, were unchanged at 43 cents, which happens to mirror his general inability to move his polling numbers.

The presidential race has added significance this year in that the vice president is the tie-breaking vote in a deadlocked U.S. Senate, and some betting markets are forecasting exactly that result. Republicans currently enjoy a 53-47 advantage.

The online sportsbook BetOnline has Republican Tommy Tuberville as a heavy favorite to defeat Democratic incumbent Doug Jones in Alabama. But it also picks four Democrats to oust GOP incumbents — Mark Kelly over Martha McSally in Arizona, John Hickenlooper over Cory Gardner in Colorado, Sara Gideon over Susan Collins in Maine, and Cal Cunningham over Thom Tillis in North Carolina. The next two incumbents most in danger, according to BetOnline, are also Republicans— Joni Ernst in Iowa and Steve Daines in Montana.

PredictIt shares differ from BetOnline only in one respect — a late surge over the past three days has Democrat Theresa Greenfield ahead of Ernst in Iowa, their shares now priced at 56 cents and 49 cents, respectively. If that is borne out on Election Day, Democrats would take control of the Senate, 51-49.

The most salient number in all of this is 34. That’s the number of days until Election Day. And that’s a lot of time for things to happen that could move the betting numbers around.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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