What's In Store For Governor Cuomo

Monday, January 03, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show,  Celeste Katz, writer for the Daily Politics blog at the New York Daily News; Errol Louis, host of NY1's Inside City Hall; Stephen Madarasz, director of communication at the Civil Service Employees Association Local 1000; Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino; and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. reacted to Governor Cuomo's inauguration speech and discussed what's ahead for the governor in 2011.

Reports surfaced over the weekend that Cuomo would suggest a one-year wage freeze for all state employees. The measure would be part of an emergency economic plan that the new governor will unveil this week. Such a provision would be unpopular with state employee unions for obvious reasons, and would further stymie a constituency that already faced 900 layoffs on New Year's Eve. Union communications chief Stephen Madarasz said that the prospect of a wage freeze is troubling, but as long as it's not official policy, there's time for employees to negotiate a better arrangement.

I would immediately challenge the characterization of the plan for a wage freeze, because there is no formal proposal out there, just vague political rhetoric. There's a very different dynamic between going to the bargaining table and negotiating in good faith, and some type of edict that might not actually be legal...Certainly what we're seeing them saying in The New York Times today suggests that they recognize it's an issue for negotiation. 

When asked if the hits taken by state employees could be part of an economic strategy favoring private sector job growth, Errol Louis said that one won't necessarily lead to the other. Freezing wages and firing workers symbolizes a commitment to efficient government more than deference to the private sector.

The relatively small amount of money that will be saved by layoffs won't be automatically transferred into some brilliant job creation strategy that's going to make private sector jobs flourish. If you listen to the speech closely, Cuomo was pretty clear about needing to send a symbol to those people, particularly families, that are being taxed out of the state. They need to feel that government is being more efficient, that money isn't being wasted, and that there's a reason to stay here and hand over those property taxes.

And there's the rub. Cuomo will need to strike a balance between overburdening middle- and high-income taxpayers and hurting public employees. Celeste Katz said that convincing anyone to make the necessary sacrifices—and not to leave the state—is going to be a huge hurdle for the governor.

You're talking about freezing salaries, capping state spending, these changes in worker status. I think Cuomo's saying, we've got to rip this thing up and start over again. A lot of municipalities are going to be looking at this and saying, "What's for me?"...Everybody wants the state to do well, but not at their expense. 

There's potential for a real philosophical battle here. Cuomo has pledged not to raise taxes for anyone, and to let a tax on high-income earners sunset at the end of 2011. But while low-income families struggle with high unemployment and are disproportionately affected by cuts to government services, some have questioned whether not raising taxes unfairly insulates wealthier New Yorkers from the budget pain. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said that increasing taxes on high-income earners should stay off the table, as it would only exacerbate a social and fiscal gap that's been growing for far too long.

If you look at the census figures, people are leaving in droves, businesses are leaving, property taxpayers are leaving, and they're leaving because they've been shouldering the burden for a very long time. We're a very generous people in New York state. We provide for those who truly need it, nobody's saying not to. But I think what we're talking about now is whether or not we can continue to afford it at these levels...At some point too many people are leaving and the ones staying need service. That's a big imbalance.

For his part, Bronx President Ruben Diaz would appreciate a more nuanced approach to the state's economic woes. Cuomo has talked a lot about the money he won't spend, but not so much about the money he will. While Diaz appreciates the need to control costs, he said that the focus should be on better ways to use government dollars. Cuomo may have hinted at a change during his inaugural address.

He used the word investment. That's what we need in the borough. We need to invest in our infrastructure, and these are the type of discussions that we want to have with Andrew, because much is being said about the economic crisis, and the need to cut spending in government, but I think we should have an approach where we invest wisely...On the one hand, while spending has to be cut, there has to be some type of investment in businesses, education, and higher education so that New Yorkers are prepared to grow the economy.


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Comments [23]

escapefromyonkers from yonkers

all the politicians that did not work last year, perform the jobs they were elected appointed to, should have their state wages garnished before the governor talks of state workers pay freeze.
we as citizens should find a way to sue the legislators for their failure to perform work last year, even if we could get help with a boiler plate small claims court submission. i believe small claims is around $2000.
if not small claims we need help to sue for no services.
prefer to stay away from class action since the lawyers tend to get too much money in class actions. but if that is the only way, i would settle for that, hold them accountable.

Jan. 03 2011 11:56 AM
escapefromyonkers from yonkers

the money the state unions make is not the problem.
the problem is the retirement system and this includes judges and many other state double and triple pensioner dippers.
In yonkers theres are quite a few people, cops retiring at 225k a year,and that was not the highest. Many cops retiring at 20 years with oner 175k in retirement payments, plus all the medical benefits. The state govt approved all these retirement schemes. You know why? before all the open race hiring, all the cops were related to the politicians in yonkers. ret There are people in yonkers that are on their third civil service job, they are already collecting two retirement pensions, over 175k,, and the third job was an appointment, with their prior civil service counted for retirement. Triple dippers with retirement over $275k

Jan. 03 2011 11:46 AM
Morris from the Boggie down Bx

Regarding Bx Boro President Diaz's comments to Brian about jobs - Diaz is an abject failure in the Bx. He did nothing while the Stella Doro mfg plant closed and jobs were sent to Ohio. He got in the way of private developers who wanted to build a mall in the Kingsbridge armory all because he wanted to be kingmaker and control the jobs through his political organization. The only jobs he has created are the increase in prostitution in the Bx. So sad.

Jan. 03 2011 11:11 AM
John from Brooklyn

Public workers are to be the latest witch-hunt victims. This from Sunday's NYT:

"A raft of recent studies found that public salaries, *even with benefits included* [emphasis added], are equivalent to or lag slightly behind those of private sector workers. The Manhattan Institute, which is not terribly sympathetic to unions, studied New Jersey and concluded that teachers earned wages roughly comparable to people in the private sector with a similar education."

People buy the corporate privatizer robber-baron propaganda without bothering to examine their claims critically. Meanwhile the richest 1% possess more wealth than the bottom 90%. But we're afraid they'll "take their ball and play elsewhere"! I've got news for you -- the jobs that are leaving aren't going to Texas or Florida -- they're going to China, and letting the richest 1% off scott-free isn't going to change that.

Jan. 03 2011 11:10 AM
Paul from Manhattan

I'm sorry, but public unions cost all of us. we pay too much for the services we receive. NYers shouldn't be paying so much more per child for education with abysmal results vs other states, same for medical, trash, energy, you name it. The unions in this state are completely out of control. For those crying tax the rich... the rich pay far more in this state and city than any other place in the country and it's still not enough so it comes down to us all - and even with these oppressive rates it's still not adding up.

Make the cuts, it needs to be done before there is a massive default - and if that happen the unions will walk away with pennies on the dollar for their pensions.

Jan. 03 2011 11:07 AM
Burtnor from Manhattan

-- When the state and city agree that they can break contracts with Wall Street bankers assuring them giant end of year bonuses....

--when they vote to increase taxes on the under- and, in many cases, un-taxed rich (including taxing investment income at least at the same rates as earned income)...

--when they end double dipping in state coffers by officials with several simultaneous jobs...

....THEN I MIGHT consider a wage freeze on working people who provide essential services to the people of this state.

Until then, it's just another strategy to squeeze the middle class.

How long will people allow politicians to demand sacrifices from the poor and middle class in order to assure the life styles of the rich?

How long will they fall for the same old GOP "smaller government," "cut spending," "cut taxes" mantras while still demanding perfectly functioning government services?

Government exists to assure the rule of law, national security, and services so that we have a cohesive, productive society. It's not free. We all benefit, we must all pay our share.

Jan. 03 2011 11:02 AM

Isn't a property tax cap what set California on the road 30 years ago to its current budget pickle?

Jan. 03 2011 10:58 AM

Freezing the wages of public employees, while bankers, for instance, get huge bonuses would seem to perpetuate the income inequality in this country that is a fundamental economic problem. Isn't it?

Jan. 03 2011 10:52 AM
bernie from bklyn

hey rob astorino-
maybe you could suggest to brian to have your old boss, michael kay, on as a guest one of these days? brian is a yanks fan, after all...

Jan. 03 2011 10:49 AM
Fran from Brooklyn

As a non-represented state worker who has seen represented state employees get 30% raise increases over the last three years while we haven't even received a cost of living 3% increase I'm upset. State departments had to cut 20% of our staff. Most of us are doing the job of 2-3 people. Moral is down and the amount of tension cut be sliced with a knife. We need some sort of thank you for our work. Just a cost of living increase or the ability to get promoted. Not super happy with cuomo's comments.

Jan. 03 2011 10:44 AM
John from office


Brian, why are you and your producers unable to get a better guest than Mr. Diaz. He represents the worst in New York politics. He also does not present a good image of Hispanic New York. He is inarticulate and dim witted. He also has terrible diction. He was the guest who suggested negociations with street gangs.

Brian, there are so many other hispanic leaders that would make a better guest..

Jan. 03 2011 10:41 AM
April from Manhattan

I get depressed when Democrats like our new governor start off with cutting Medicaid payments. I understand that it's already hard to find a doctor who will take a Medicaid patient for twenty bucks a visit. Will anyone mention raising taxes on Wall St?

Jan. 03 2011 10:38 AM

Will Governor Cuomo borrow Carl Paladino's baseball bat to bust up Albany, or does he have his own?

Jan. 03 2011 10:36 AM
Katie from Huntington, NY

In reference to the survey about public employees taking a one year freeze on salaries...I'd be for that if the new Governor didn't announce that the tax on those making over $200,000 a year would expire. When are the New Yorkers and the American people going to wake up and see that the middle class is footing the bill while the rich get tax breaks?

Jan. 03 2011 10:36 AM
Lawanda from Nassau

Good luck, Gov Cuomo. The state needs a major revamp. I am the last hold out of my family in this state. It's become too expensive for the average family to stay here and say what you will, the services for the majority of people are not much better than most of the rest of the country. You have your work cut out for you, I'm sure, but we're behind you!

Jan. 03 2011 10:35 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

OK Folks, Emperor Bloomberg doesn’t have any cloths on. After his term he need’s to go back to private life in the corporate world, where high salaries and golden parachutes are a reward for incompetence.

Jan. 03 2011 10:26 AM
bernie from bklyn

when the snow came and how much snow came has barely anything to do with the disaster that followed. anyone who has lived in nyc knows the procedure when snow is coming and it didn't happen this time. anything else that is said is a lie.
they were not out plowing during or before like they always are.
there was definitely an intentional slowdown.
also, this has not been talked about but i saw at least a dozen instances in my neighborhood of sanitation workers taking cash bribes from people who were having them "customize" the front of their house at the expense of plowing the street properly so cars could drive.
this whole thing stinks. it is absolutely not a matter of ny'ers being impatient and complaining.

Jan. 03 2011 10:21 AM
Jay F.

How about letting Kathy Black begin her job before slamming her?

Jan. 03 2011 10:19 AM
Robert from Manhattan

While we are talking about how tight we are on money in this state, I hope someone will put the heat on our new state Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.

Last week, in the dying days of his State Senate term, he wasted thousands of dollars of our money with a mailing on nice paper with color photography, whose sole purpose was self congratulation.

Those mailings from State Senators are often self serving anyway. But this one was especially egregious. The Senate was adjourned by the time these things showed up in mailboxes, and would never convene again while Schneiderman was still a Senator. In short, he couldn't even pretend that he had anything worth telling us about Senate business.

There are people in need and the state is broke, and he spent our money on this?????

He has claimed that he is better than standard issue Albany riffraff. Clearly NOT so!

Jan. 03 2011 10:16 AM
bernie from bklyn

how can you invite ruben diaz on the show again? he is a disgrace and just proves that anyone coudl be elected in that neighborhood. a plantain could be elected in that district.

Jan. 03 2011 10:14 AM
RLewis from the bowery

Compare past storms to this one if you want, but they didn't fall on a major holiday. Wasn't the big problem that most of the folks who would usually clear the snow had already apply for those days as vacation days?

Jan. 03 2011 10:13 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Ask the public union spinmeister why the local public workers won't agree to a pay freeze like federal employees and most of us in the private sector. The only groups that have seen relentless wage and benefit spikes in these last two tough years have been hedge fund managers and public sector employees. What is wrong with that picture? We can't afford these people. Maybe Cuomo will show some spine and tell them that the gravy train is over.

Jan. 03 2011 09:45 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Gov. Cuomo is from a Catholic family and I assume is Catholic. He is pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, and has a consort. Can't do these things if one is Catholic. And he's going to require ethics panels?

Jan. 03 2011 08:49 AM

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