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Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said yesterday that she wants the city to control the Metropolitan Transportation Authority which is currently run by the state. "The MTA chair is appointed by the governor. The mayor has a minority of the appointments on the MTA board. The majority of the new members are appointed by the governor and county leaders outside of our city," Quinn said. "This has resulted in an MTA that doesn't respond quickly enough to the needs of New Yorkers and the changing face of our city." Transportation advocates have criticized Quinn's plan. Quinn also said that by 2023 no New Yorker should have a commute of more than an hour in any direction.

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Bronx State Sen. Gustavo Rivera says he officially endorsed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her mayoral bid earlier today because she "has been there" for the people he represents.

I asked Rivera what brought about his endorsement so early in the race before any other state legislators have made tipped their hats.

"First of all I respect all the candidates but I had to make an assesment on who is going to be best for job," he said. "We need a leader to bring people together with common interests. She is a proven leader knows how to bring interests together in the City of New York. I was not looking to endorse someone I agree with 100 percent of time."

Rivera said that he has had a good working relationship with Quinn and that she has responded quickly on issues, such as getting properties in the Bronx away from absentee landlords.

"Whenever we have reached out she has been there," Said Rivera.

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Council Speaker Christine Quinn has landed the endorsement of Sen. Gustavo Rivera. An endorsement from anyone who hangs out in Albany might not seem like a good thing given the recent federal corruption indictments of Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson but Rivera has a reputation as a reformer.

Rivera defeated former Sen. Pedro Espada in 2009 and has allied himself with reform elements in the State Legislature since then. Rivera provides Quinn with a major Latino endorsement and support from the Bronx.

Quinn praised Rivera, calling him "a breath of fresh air for the people of the Bronx and his colleagues in Albany."

Here is Rivera's statement:

Speaker Quinn, throughout her career, has consistently fought for New Yorkers from all walks of life – particularly working class and low-income families. She has made it her mission to expand access to quality education, child care and after-school services, as well as to expand and prioritize affordable housing projects. Simply put, Speaker Quinn has delivered on those issues most critical to my constituents and my community.

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Keeping the SUNY Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn solvent was a major focus of the budget debate in the Senate last night. The budget bill as passed calls for the financially troubled institution to come up with a "sustainability plan" by June. Sen. Kevin Parker and a number of his colleagues from Brooklyn don't feel that is enough.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said earlier this year that Downstate is losing $8 million a year and needs over $150 million to survive another year.

Parker introduced a hostile amendment to the budget health bill that would have given Downstate $150 million and required the legislature have oversight over any restructuring plan. The amendment was ruled out of order and Democrats did not have enough votes to overrule.

The current budget language requires SUNY to submit a sustainability plan by June and implement it in two weeks. It also loosens up the bidding process on contracts so the school can save money.

Sen. Gustavo Rivera questioned Sen. John DeFrancisco at length about the budget language on SUNY Downstate. Sen. Daniel Squadron also spoke passionately about preserving the hospital.

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The budget is by no means finished yet but a minimum wage deal that will incrementally increase the wage to $9 an hour by 2016 has been pretty steadily floated by leadership over the past few days. If the idea was floated as a trial balloon than the jury seems to be in with its verdict.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins issued a statement today asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove the minimum wage from the budget:

As details emerge it is clear that the current minimum wage proposal has some serious issues. While increasing the minimum wage to $9.00 is something that the Senate Democrats have long supported, we are disappointed that the current proposal doesn’t reach this level for three years, is not indexed to the rate of inflation and does not raise the wages of certain service workers. The Governor and the Assembly all originally proposed acceptable proposals, unfortunately the Senate Republicans have blocked these efforts. We propose removing this discussion from the budget and we stand ready to provide 27 votes for raising the minimum wage quicker, with indexing and for all low wage workers.”

Sen. Gustavo Rivera told me he supports the move and wants to vote on the bill separately on the floor of the Senate. He says all 27 Senate Democrats would vote for a minimum wage increase of $9 will indexing.

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Sen. Gustavo Rivera says he hopes to see bipartisan movement on common sense gun legislation in the State Senate but as we reported today it won't likely be easy to move gun laws through the state Senate because of partisan issues.

"This is another reason why the Democrats should in the majority. If we were in the majority we would be able to introduce legislation that would make it harder for criminals to own guns. As it is we will have to pressure the Republican led majority."

The coalition made up of Senate Republicans and the 5-member Independent Democratic Conference currently controls the Senate and Republicans have recieved plenty of cash from the National Rifle Association and have traditionally opposed stronger gun legislation.

The IDC has backed some measures like microstamping but a spokesman would not go into details with the Gazette about legislation they might support in the future. Gun legislation could be a wedge issue for Republicans and the IDC.

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