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The Public Interest

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NEW TAXES ARE CERTAIN: You’ll be hearing plenty of the following refrain from state lawmakers in the coming days: “There weren’t any new taxes in the budget!”

It’s a statement that’s true in its strictest sense, but it falls apart in the context of the $1.9 billion tax hike that the Legislature passed — with all north country lawmakers going along — in December.

The income tax hike hit New York’s top brackets — those making more than $1 million. It also provided middle-income earners with a small income tax break. The tax hike helped stave off steep cuts to education in the budget.

SUNLIGHT, FOR ONCE: Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, is the region’s sole minority member; his conference is not represented by one of the three men in the room who hash out the budget’s nitty gritty.

But Mr. Blankenbush had some kind words to say about the process this time around. Unlike the pension changes and redistricting proposals passed in the dark of night two weeks ago with little notice on the final bills, the 2012-13 budget sat on legislators’ desks for three days, and they made yays while the sun shone.

“That, I believe, was the best procedure the state has had in quite awhile,” said Mr. Blankenbush, who voted for the budget but voted against one part of it he said will allow state authorities to expand their borrowing ability.

DOHENY CONSERVES CONSERVATIVE SUPPORT: Republican Matthew A. Doheny, whose campaign has had to fight off allegations of his inappropriately kissing a woman who is not his fiancée while in Washington, D.C., has not lost the support of perhaps his most important third-party backer: Michael R. Long, the state Conservative Party chairman.

Mr. Long said he remains committed to giving Mr. Doheny his party’s line for a November rematch against Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. Mr. Long said he spoke with Mr. Doheny on Thursday and is satisfied with the response he got.

“I hope that we won’t see any kind of photos like that in the future. It’s not very helpful to himself and his private life. It’s something he could do without,” Mr. Long said. “I think it’s poor judgment, without a doubt. But he’s not a married guy; he is engaged. It displays a moment of poor judgment.”

Rumors of Mr. Doheny’s political demise, in other words, have been greatly exaggerated.

Also exaggerated? A video from the New York Post showing Mr. Doheny’s arms around two women.

Billed as a “grope,” the video would probably register as rather PG for all but the most sensitive viewers.

Donald G.M. Coon III, the Jefferson County GOP chairman, was unimpressed by the photos and the videos.

“The ‘gotcha’ photo/video is just that, and really deserves no consideration,” he said in an email message. “Matt has my full support going forward. It is clear that the left considers him to be a threat, and will stop at nothing, but that may be unfair, this may be just a case of a ‘journalist’ trying to make their rep by bringing someone down.”

GOOD NEWS FOR GREENE: It was a decidedly good week for long-shot congressional candidate Kellie Greene, a Republican of Sackets Harbor.

While Mr. Doheny’s campaign was explaining photographs on a gossip website, she pulled in her first endorsement — the acting Conservative Party chairman in Fulton County, who wrote a letter in support of her to Mr. Long on Thursday.

Though Mr. Doheny has already secured the Conservative Party’s endorsement — and still has it, Mr. Long said — Wayne Brooks said he was just voting his conscience. The Conservative Party doesn’t actually have a constituted committee in Fulton County, but Mr. Brooks has been its de facto head for 16 years, he said.

So he generally sends requests for endorsements on local races to the state party, which can accept or reject them.

Over the weekend, Ms. Greene’s campaign had a booth at the Home Show, an event in Watertown showcasing home improvement companies.

Mr. Doheny was in Saratoga Springs on Friday for a GOP fundraiser.

To submit a possible political news item, email bamaral@wdt.net.

And for more on north country politics, visit The Public Interest at www.wdt.net/tpi.

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