Cuomo's People: Who Will Head the Major Agencies?

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has named many of the people he is bringing in to run the administration and state agencies. Many departments and agencies are facing potentially deep cuts to the services they provide. Here's the It's A Free Country guide to the people who will be enacting Cuomo's "rightsizing," in order of their agency budget size.

»» Also check out our guide to Cuomo's Team in the Governor's Office

Department of Health

Nirav R. Shah, if he gets Senate confirmation, will head the New York State Department of Health.

Governor Cuomo has also issued an Executive Order to create a Medicaid Redesign Team, headed by Jason Helgerson and modeled on the Wisconsin Model that Helgerson helped to pioneer. The team will be comprised of leaders from the healthcare industry, the Governor's office, the legislative bodies, and other business, labor and consumer advocates, and will work to find ways to save money within the Medicaid program.  

Medicaid, which makes up about one-third of the total state budget, is targeted for serious cuts. Cuomo is reportedly considering $2.1 billion in Medicaid cuts this upcoming year, which with federal matching funds, would mean $4 billion dollars less in Medicaid spending in New York. More than $39.2 billion of the approximately $49 billion total budget of the Department of Health is Medicaid expenditures.

The Department oversees state hospitals, health care facilities, and public health prevention initiatives, including efforts to encourage breastfeeding, and reduce New Yorkers' sodium intake. New requirements in place this month call for increased regulation of indoor tanning facilities to insure, among other things, that children under the age of fourteen aren’t using the beds. 

The Department’s jurisdiction does cover drinking water safety, but so far the agency has not weighed in on the public debate regarding hydrofracking – a controversial method of drilling into the Marcellus Shale to extract natural gas that critics worry could pollute soil and ground water. If the state allows hydrofracking, the Department of Health would work with the Department of Environmental Conservation to monitor any effects on the water that could pose a risk to public health. 


Department of Labor.

Current commissioner is Colleen Crawford Gardner, and a new commissioner has not yet been appointed.

The Department’s total budget is $8.1 billion, $4.1 billion less than the previous year’s budget, which had a huge one-time boost from federal stimulus money. The Department has approximately 4000 employees. The Department of Labor oversees employment programs, workforce development supprt, unemployment insurance and enforce compliance with state labor laws.  


The Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance (ODTA)

The most recent commissioner of the ODTA was David Hansell, but he left during a wave of administration departures in June 2009.  No one has yet replaced him, and the Office has been headed by Elizabeth Berlin as Executive Deputy Commissioner. 

The ODTA, with a budget of $6.0 billion and 2,379  employees, oversees numerous assistance programs, including food stamps, cash benefits, Child Support Enforcement, Housing and Shelter services, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and resources for working families. 


The Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS). 

The current commissioner for the OCFS is Gladys Carrión, and no new appointment has been announced yet. The OCFS, with a budget of $3.9 billion and 3,497 employees, oversees foster care, adoption, child protective services, preventive services, services for pregnant adolescents, and protection programs for vulnerable adults. They regulate child care, and are responsible for all aspects of New York’s juvenile justice programs.


Department of Correctional Services

The current commissioner is Brian Fischer, and a new commissioner has not been appointed.

The Department of Correctional Services has a total budget of $3 billion, nearly 30,000 full-time employees and operates 68 institutions. This fiscal year, the Department was mandated to close four prisons and consolidate some of dormitories to eliminate extra capacity from a decreased number of people being sent to prison. Last November, the Lyon Mountain Minimum Security Prison in Clinton County closed, as was the minimum security portion of the Butler facility in Wayne County. Another two will close in April. These closures are projected to reduce staff by 637 employees. 

The DOC is also working with the Department on implementing a new program to use federal Medicaid money to reimburse medical expenses incurred by prisoners receiving treatment from non-prison hospitals.


Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services

Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez will head the OASAS, with a staff of 891 and a budget of $721 million, an increase of $30 million over last year, primarily due to drug reform investments designed to lower criminal justice costs. She brings experience working as the Commissioner and Director of Community Services at the Nassau County Department of Mental Health, and a decade experience working for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Division of State Police

NYPD veteran Joseph D’Amico will head the State Police, an embattled department whose reputation Governor Cuomo is hoping to restore. D’Amico brings a background in fraud and organized crime investigation as well as 27 years experience with the NYPD. He has no previous connection to the State Police (or to recent allegations of trooper involvement in inappropriate actions at the behest of local politicians.) 

The State Police have a budget of $719 million and is responsible for patrols, investigations, assistance to the public, responding to 911 calls from cellphones, driver safety education, law enforcement, forensic services and working with other law enforcement agencies at all levels. 


According to the 2010-2011 Executive Budget Briefing Book, the Division of State Police has not held a training class during the 2010-11 fiscal year or the one previous due to the state fiscal crisis.  Because new recruits are not being brought in to replace employees who leave, by April 2011 the force is expected to be reduced by 269 positions from 2009 levels.  


Insurance Department

The Department is headed by Superintendent James J. Wrynn, and no new Superintendent has yet been appointed.

The Department has a budget of $502 million and 992 full-time employees, whose responsibilities include determining qualifications of insurers, regulating rates, retirement systems and pension funds, and reviewing policyholder complaints. The Department also has jurisdiction over the New York Liquidation Bureau. 


Department of Motor Vehicles

Current commissioner is David J. Swartz, and a new commissioner not been appointed.

Despite early reports that Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence had been approached by Cuomo for the position, St. Lawrence has said that he would prefer to keep his current job. 

The Department’s total budget is $356 million, with approximately 2,800 full-time employees. One cost-saving initiative the Department is undertaking is the recent opening of a DMV call center at the women’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, where inmates are paid between 46 cents and $1.14 per hour.  


Department of Environmental Conservation

Joe Martens will head the agency, bringing with him experience as head of the Open Space Institute and chair of the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

The big story for the Department this year is going to be hydrofracking. The Department’s Mineral Resources staff is in charge of the hydrofracking and drilling permit process and will have to sign off before any drilling can begin. Governor Paterson vetoed legislation last month that would have blocked permits for fracking until May 201. Instead, Paterson extended the moratorium, but limited the restriction to horizontal wells only, which opens the way for vertical drilling to proceed.

The Department's total budget is $189 million, and its staff of over 1000 people oversee all state environmental programs, including hazardous and toxic waste handling, oil and chemical spills, pollution abatement, waste recycling, fish and wildlife policy, management of marine, coast, and water resources, and public recreational facilities.

The last Commissioner was fired abruptly in October for “insubordination and poor performance” after allegedly leaking a memo criticizing agency staff cuts, though he denied the charges. Peter Iwanowicz has been acting commissioner in the interim.  


State Department

Former Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez resigned her position in July, and Ruth Colon has been Acting Secretary of State since September. No new Secretary has yet been appointed. Dede Scozzafava, the former Republican Congressional candidate who made headlines when she dropped out of the 2009 run-off and backed the Democrat, will serve as Deputy Secretary for Local Government at the Department of State.

The Department, which oversees business filings and licensing in the state, has a budget of $183 million and 667 full-time employees – a decrease of over a hundred staff as a result of last year’s state-wide hiring freeze.  


Department of Agriculture and Markets

The current commissioner is Patrick Hooker, and a new commissioner not been appointed.

The Department, with a budget of $164.6 million and 543 employees, oversees numerous food and farm programs, including the community gardens program, crop insurance, the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, and the Farm-To-School initiative to promote locally grown produce in school lunch. 

Last month, Cuomo announced the arrest of a former Department of Agriculture and Markets employee who was State Fair Director from 1995 to 2005, on charges of grand larceny, defrauding the government, and official misconduct.


Dormitory Authority

Attorney Paul T. Williams Jr. will head the Dormitory Authority, which has a budget of more than $111 million and oversees the financing and building of facilities for the state’s higher education, health care and court facilities, as well as some nonprofit institutions and public agencies. The authority finances the facility development through proceeds from tax-exempt securities. 


Banking Department

Current commissioner is Richard H. Neiman, and a new commissioner not been appointed.

The Banking Department has a total budget of $107 million and 555 full-time employees who oversee banks, foreign agencies, credit unions and other financial institutions, including mortgage brokers, check cashers, and licensed lenders, among others, with total assets of nearly $2.4 trillion.


Department of Public Service

The Department of Public Service is the staff arm of the governor-appointed Public Service Commission. This is the department that will be reviewing the natural gas pipeline applications generated by any drilling into the Marcellus shale, or hydrofracking.

While the six-year commissioner appointments are subject to Senate confirmation, Senate confirmation is not required for the Governor to designate one Commissioner as Chairman of the Commission. The current Chairman is Garry A. Brown, but he serves at the pleasure of the governor. 

The Department’s total budget is $80.1 million, with an estimated workforce of 555, and regulates the state’s public utilities and major electric and gas lines and facilities.  It is responsible for gas and petroleum pipeline safety and also regulates the cable TV industry. Spokesperson Jim Denn says the major focus of the coming year for the Department will be on rate regulation, efficiency and renewability, and grid modernization.


Department of Civil Service

The most recent commissioner was Nancy Groenwegen, but she was tapped by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to serve as general counsel for the Office of the State Comptroller. No one has been appointed yet to replace her.  

The Department is the central personnel agency for State and local governments, and has a total budget of $61.6 million and nearly 500 employees.


Departments Where Cuomo Has Some Appointment Influence

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

The MTA is governed by a 23-member Board, with members approved by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Six members are recommended by the Governor, four by New York City's mayor, and one each by the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam counties (the latter four cast one collective vote). In addition, there are three members recommended by the transit unions and three by rider advocacy councils, but these six do not have a vote. Members serve for six years.


Port Authority

The Port Authority, with a $7.2 billion budget for 2011, has six members appointed by the governor of New York and six by the governor of New Jersey. Commissioners serve overlapping six year terms and receive no pay, and each governor has the right to veto actions of commissioners that they have appointed. The Board appoints its own Executive Director. 


Department Where Cuomo Has No Direct Appointments

Education Department

The current Commissioner for the Education Department is David Steiner, and no new appointment has been announced yet. The New York State Education Department is a "non-Executive" state agency, which means that it is the Board of Regents (themselves elected by the Legislature) who appoints the Commissioner and sets education policy in the state, not the Governor.

The New York State Education Department has the smallest budget of all of these agencies —  only $42.6 million for FY 2010-11. The Department oversees education in 7,000 public and private schools, Regents exams, GED programs, 271 public and independent colleges and universities, 450 for-profit schools, teacher certification and recruitment, the state archives, state library and state museum, Fiscal Services and Information and Technology Management, professional licensing, and services for individuals with disabilities. 

The Education Department also issued the waiver to allow Cathie Black’s appointment as NYC School’s Chancellor, and also oversees the state’s Public Broadcasting Office, which, in turn, oversees WNYC.

This year the Department’s priorities will closely align with the federal Race to the Top application that successfully brought the department a $700 million federal grant. According to Jonathan Burman, a spokesperson at the State Education Department, the main focus will be adopting benchmarks, tracking data on student improvement, recruiting and incentivizing for teachers and principals, and reforming lowest-achieving schools.

In addition, says Burman, the Department will be working with school districts “to help them figure out ways to offer high quality instruction in the face of what is certain to be a very difficult year, financially, for all districts, as well as all state agencies.”