Gay Marriage, Budget and Reforms: Andrew Cuomo Takes Albany
Monday, June 27, 2011
New Yorkers can, for the moment at least, relax. An adult is in charge.
For longer than the public would like to remember, New York's state government has been dysfunctional, its governors ineffective, erratic or both. Now comes Andrew Cuomo, who, during his first six months in office, has actually gotten things done. Even those who do not approve of his policies have to acknowledge his mastery of Albany's maddening game of three-dimensional chess.
A list of his main accomplishments:
He got same-sex marriage through the legislature, recognizing that what seemed impossible was not. Cuomo put his reputation on the line to win over a recalcitrant Republican State Senate, orchestrating the complex strategy that involved everything from fundraising to personal persuasion, even putting a top political aide in charge of the lobbying and ad campaigns.
He negotiated rather than dictated concessions from the public employee unions, without scapegoating them or waging an ideologically driven war the way some governors did, chief among them Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Cuomo persuaded reluctant fellow Democrats to go along with a property tax cap, and engineered a compromise on rent regulations that gave Democrats and Republicans something - but less than both sides wanted. He presided over the smoothest budget process in years, and he demonstrated fine-tuned political skill in dealing with the two powerful state legislative leaders, managing to avoid a public dispute with either one.
Cuomo has not aced every issue he has touched. His ethics reform is full of loopholes, he has yet to tackle public union pensions – the big-ticket labor issue – and is governing with an irritating lack of transparency. He punted on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to end the onerous system of laying off the most recently hired teachers first (Last Hired, First Out or LIFO). He has disappointed liberal Democrats and advocates for the poor with his statewide property tax cap, deep budget cuts and opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy.
To the frustration of his Democratic base, Cuomo has positioned himself as a centrist (a hint of national ambitions, perhaps?).
But so far, the approach has worked. Not since the 1970s, when Hugh Carey led the effort to save New York City from an imminent threat of bankruptcy, has a governor of New York been as focused, or accomplished as much as Cuomo has since January.
Six months is just that - six months. Maybe New York's infamously feckless state government will regress, and reality will catch up with the new governor. Or maybe Andrew Cuomo is on his way to fundamentally changing Albany's long-embarrassing reality.