Governor focuses on first-term results while pledging further efforts in a second term [OF GUN GRABBING AND DRIVING NEW YORKERS OUT OF THE STATES WITH REGULATIONS, FEES AND TAXES!]
Joseph Spector http://rochesterdemocrat.ny.newsmemory.com/
Albany Bureau Chief
IF YOU ARE PRO-LIFE, PRO-GUN, ANTI-GAY, WE DON’T WANT YOU IN NEW YORK STATE!
Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses the audience during the NY Safe Act signing ceremony at City Hall in Rochester in January 2013.
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo often talks about how government is a results business. That’s what people demand, he says.
So Cuomo is quick to rattle off his list of accomplishments since taking office in 2011.
Four on-time budgets — a first in 40 years — a property-tax cap, same-sexmarriage legalization, tax cuts, controlling spending, education reforms and improving the economy all get check marks, Cuomo says.
“If you take the list of what I said I would do and look at what I did, you just cross off every item on the list,” Cuomo told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “And I am about results because, I believe, people expect results and performance.”
As he finishes his first four-year term and is a heavy favorite to win re-election Nov. 4, the Democratic governor wants to build on his successes, expand efforts to improve the economy, reform education and adopt social policies that have stalled in the Legislature. But his opponents have criticized his record and say his re-election isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Still, if re-elected, Cuomo may have
an easier time than four years ago.
He came into office with a $10 billion deficit. Now the state has budget surpluses and a $4 billion windfall from bank settlements that can be spent on schools, local governments and infrastructure.
“Night-and-day difference,” Cuomo said. “We came in, we stepped onto the Titanic. And now we’re stepping onto a cruise liner.”
He also may get a Democratic-led Senate, helping him secure the social policies that were elusive with Republicans in the majority — such as public financing of campaigns, a higher minimum wage and stronger abortion rights.
Cuomo, 57, said he hopes to accomplish his goals in two terms. He didn’t rule out running for a third term, but said, “I think I can get it done in two terms. Look, I got more done than I expected in the first term.” Cuomo would go into a second term facing criticism over his sharp-elbowed style and positions that have angered both the left and the right. He’ll also face speculation about potential presidential run in 2016.
His Republican challenger, Rob Astorino, has railed against Cuomo. Astorino, down more than 20 percentage points in polls, charges Cuomo is beholden to bigmoney donors and embroiled in a corruption scandal. New York often ranks as the nation’s worst business climate, he said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating alleged meddling by Cuomo’s office in a corruption-busting panel, the Moreland Commission, that he shuttered in March. He also faces criticism that his administration lacks transparency.
“This is the state where politicians fear the special interests more than they do the voters,” Astorino, the Westchester County executive, said in a recent speech.
Record in office
Sandy Parker, president of the Rochester Business Alliance, said the economy is improving under Cuomo, but she says there’s more to do. While the economy has improved in New York City and its suburbs, parts of upstate struggle with declines in jobs and population.
“The state is better off than it was four years ago, and certainly there has been more of a focus on upstate,” Parker said.
When Cuomo took office, the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent; last month it was 6.2 percent, only slightly above the national rate, but the lowest since 2008.
The drop is the result of more jobs — a state record of 7.6 million — yet a smaller labor force. Outside New York City, there’s 200,000 fewer people in the labor force, or 3.5 percent less, than in August 2009.
Cuomo cut income-tax rates, eliminated a manufacturing tax and established tax-free zones for businesses that locate near college campuses.
The tax cuts weren’t broad enough for business groups and were too much for liberal groups who viewed them as corporate welfare. As a result, Cuomo had to fend off a spirited Democratic primary Sept. 9 against liberal activist Zephyr Teachout.
“He is an executive who executes, and that’s a good thing. He had a very successful term on social issues,” said former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, DGreenburgh, Westchester County. “His economic policies set the state back badly and cost him politically.”
Cuomo and his allies disagree, and they point, in part, to Buffalo — where he’s heaped attention and $1 billion in state aid that local officials say have led to a resurgence in the state’s secondlargest city. Now he’s pledging to offer the same attention — plus a $1.5 billion fund — to the other upstate cities.
“I want to take it to the next level,” Cuomo said. “It’s going to be more money, but it’s going to be that kind of intensive effort, duplicating what we did in Buffalo.”
While Cuomo has given upstate more attention, some policies have angered parts of the region. A gun-control law in 2013 incensed gun-rights groups.
Cuomo dismissed the criticism and said he has no plans to seek additional gun-control laws in his second term. He said the SAFE Act hasn’t infringed on gun-owners’ rights: It’s taken illegal guns off the streets and out of the hands of the mentally ill.
There have been no arrests for failing to register an assault weapon under the law, the New York Times reported, and mental-health professionals reported about 34,000 people as too dangerous to have guns.
“That’s 34,000 people that a mentalhealth professional says were dangerous for themselves or others who could have bought a gun before the SAFE Act,” Cuomo said. “How can you argue with that?”
He hasn’t ruled on whether to allow for hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling technique for natural gas that could be an economic boom for the Southern Tier. Environmentalists protest Cuomo and urge him to ban it; land owners want to drill. At the only TV debate Wednesday, Cuomo said the state’s review of fracking would be done by year’s end.
Setbacks in office
Cuomo, the former attorney general, came into office vowing to clean up corruption in Albany. But a new oversight board, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, has been panned as ineffective. Lawmakers have to better disclose their outside incomes, but efforts to lower campaign-contribution limits have failed. The Moreland Commission flap has tarnished Cuomo’s record, experts said.
“He’s credited for being an enormously skillful politician, but he’s made some bad political judgments, with the Moreland Act Commission the one most forwarded,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political- science professor at SUNY New Paltz.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the commission’s work, which includes perhaps dozens of alleged misdeeds involving lawmakers. Cuomo declined to comment on Bharara’s probe and wouldn’t say if he has been subpoenaed or interviewed by prosecutors.
Cuomo told reporters Thursday that recent comments from Bharara suggest the prosecutor is looking at legislative misdeeds.
“He said, ‘I’m looking at the cases from Moreland,’ which were about legislators,” Cuomo said, referring to a recent radio interview Bharara gave.
Cuomo said he didn’t hastily disband the panel. It was created, he said, to get the Legislature to pass ethics reform. When lawmakers did in March, he ended it. The panel’s work ended up with prosecutors anyway, he said.
“I didn’t need another commission to do another report. And I don’t need another commission to do investigations,” Cuomo said. “There are 66 investigatory agencies: You have 62 DAs and four U.S. Attorneys. They all said the same thing: We need laws, not investigators.”
He said he got 85 percent of what he wanted in the ethics package, such as tougher enforcement at the Board of Elections, a pilot program for public financing and stronger bribery laws. Critics said the package doesn’t go far enough.
Cuomo’s administration has faced questions about transparency. Freedom of Information requests by reporters and the public can languish.
“He views the opportunities offered by new technologies as a way to make data available to the public,” said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, who briefly worked for Cuomo as attorney general on transparency projects.
“That being said,” Horner continued, “he’s extremely secretive, and he keeps Albany as opaque as possible when it comes to how decisions are made.”
Cuomo’s office said its website, Data.ny.gov, has 66 million state documents available, and that they’ve improved FOIL responses: They processed 199 requests in 2012 and 273 so far this year.
“You can always do more, but I’m proud of what we are doing,” Cuomo said.
On Thursday, a day after the debate, Cuomo put out a 245-page book on his second-term agenda.
The $1.5 billion upstate fund, as well as expanding broadband, would help the region’s economy, he said. He also wants to go on international trade missions to promote New York’s economy — a move that immediately raised speculation about his potential national ambitions.
Still, if Hillary Clinton runs for president, as widely expected, and announces early next year, Cuomo is not believed to have any interest in challenging her for the Democratic nomination.
So it would alleviate the presidential talk around him — though he would still be considered a potential Clinton Cabinet member if she wins. He served as the head of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency under President Clinton in the 1990s.
Cuomo brushed off the speculation, saying his planned international trips would be all about New York.
“I think it’s going to be an essential function of the second term: opening up new markets for New York,” he said.
His father, Mario, won three terms as governor, but his last one from 1991 through 1994, was rocky, and he lost a bid for a fourth term against Republican George Pataki, a little known state senator. The younger Cuomo saw it all first hand.
So asked if he would rule out a third term, Cuomo said, “No, but I think I can do what I want to get done in two terms.”
His agenda may hinge on who controls the closely divided state Senate after the Nov. 4 elections.
Cuomo reiterated that he wants Democrats to win the Senate majority, even after his close relationship with Senate Republicans during the first four years. And he said he’ll work toward that goal between now and Election Day.
But if Republicans win the majority, he would work to get the same agenda passed with them, although it would be more difficult.
“I’ll be able to do it either way. I work with people,” he said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a ‘Women for Cuomo’ campaign event in New York on Thursday.