Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
With the Tuesday announcement of a bipartisan compromise on property tax cap legislation, Governor Andrew Cuomo looks to be on the way to securing two out of three of his big-ticket priorities for the legislative session.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters on Tuesday that they'd reached a tentative deal on a property tax cap. The deal is tied to rent regulations in New York City, mandate relief for local governments, and changes to SUNY tuition. The legislators—Democrat Silver and Republican Skelos—described the agreement as a "framework," promising more details and a possible vote on Wednesday.
Shortly after Cuomo presided over an on-time budget, itself a miracle in Albany, the Governor criss-crossed the state on his "People First Tour," selling voters on his plan for the tax cap, ethics reform, and gay marriage. Ethics reform had universal appeal but involved taking on legislators personally, property tax relief was good news to upstate voters but rankled local governments, and same-sex marriage is the centerpiece of Cuomo's progressive social agenda.
The property tax cap will join ethics reform legislation as the second item on Cuomo's legislative wish list. The third—legalizing same-sex marriage—is still tied up in the legislature. Senate Republicans are mulling changes that would exempt certain religious organizations and institutions from having to perform marriages that were inconsistent with church doctrine.
The bill is only one vote away from having the support it needs to pass after two Republican Senators and three undecided Democrats announced their 'yes' votes last week.
During a legislative session that also saw the Democratic governor cutting spending on health care and education, freezing taxes, and getting concessions from public employee unions, marriage equality legislation could have a palliative effect on Cuomo's liberal base. His budget raised concerns that Democrats had gotten a more conservative leader than they bargained for; progress on gay marriage was one way to bring the disappointed back into the fold.
Dean Skelos said that the Republican conference hasn't agreed on specific language to amend the marriage equality bill, which may or may not come up for a vote before the legislators leave Albany. This is the closest a gay marriage bill has ever gotten to passing the New York legislature.