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, founder and director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Azi Paybarah, politics reporter for the New York Observer, discusses Governor Cuomo and New York State political dealmaking. Then, John Dankosky, news director at WNPR and host of Where We Live, discusses whether unions and Governor Malloy will be able to agree on a budget. Then, Mike Kelly, columnist at The Record of New Jersey, discusses how the NJN transfer to WNET was allowed by the legislature--and the politics of it.
"He has been more successful than almost anyone can remember a governor being," New York Observer reporter Azi Paybarah said.
Gov. Cuomo was able to check off all three major boxes on his agenda. He used his magic wand to pass ethics reform, same-sex marriage and a property tax cap. He also got through an on-time budget that decreased spending without increasing taxes. For New York State, this kind of success is almost unheard of, and he's already being tossed around as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
One reason is a more professional group of legislators in Albany--the exit of loose canons Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate. Cuomo also made a smart strategic move--he preempted criticism by bringing the very people expected to be his critics to the table, such as the union representing health care workers.
I think people like the idea that government is actually functioning. If you can remember so long ago, there was promise of change 'on day one' with Eliot Spitzer who seemed to not even wait until day one before bashing people's heads against the walls, and then you had David Paterson who people liked on a personal level but saw his complete incompetence and at some level, untruthfulness, in dealing with them. There was a sense that no one was really running state government, you had Sheldon Silver, the longest serving legislative leader, who many people considered the most powerful man in Albany, and now, after six months, it's clearly Andrew Cuomo.
Malloy was the anti-Christie in Connecticut who was on the verge of making a deal with public sector unions until it all fell apart on June 24. In what was described as a slap in the face, union members rejected a deal that was supposed to save $1.6 billion in two years and was fundamental to Malloy's budget. As a result, WNPR news director John Dankosky said Malloy is probably going to have to send out layoff notices next week.
It became very clear that while the governor was going to get the majority of votes from union workers, he wasn't going to get enough to pass muster in the very arcane, bizarre world of rules for state employees, meaning that although 57 percent of the workers ratified the deal to save jobs and to cut benefits, essentially a small majority got it overturned. And now the folks who run CBAC, the state employees bargaining coalition, they are shaking their heads and saying we don't know what to do next here.
Dankosky said Malloy is in a tough spot. He's not as progressive as liberals wanted him to be--he's asking for union givebacks and his tax hikes are across the board, not just on the wealthy--and at the same time he's too liberal for Republicans in Connecticut. New Jersey's Gov. Christie criticized Malloy on Tuesday morning, but at the end of the day, Dankosky said Malloy is a Democrat leading a Blue state, a different can of worms than Christie's scenario in Jersey.
In an attempt to slap Christie back, the New Jersey legislature almost overturned Christie's plan to sell the state's public television network, NJN, to New York's WNET. Kelly said it was both an attempt to stop the Christie steamroller and a matter of state pride.
There's a whole pride factor here in this goofy little state, you know the "People's Republic of New Jersey," there's a pride factor in not wanting to let go of a Jersey based public television station and turn it over to New York.
The Democratic legislature's attempt didn't work, and the sale will go through, full steam ahead.
Its obvious that Christie has political ambitions. Like Cuomo, he's being talked about as a potential 2016 presidential contender. According to Kelly, Christie's well defined opposition to same-sex marriage is influenced by those ambitions, as well as his steamroller style.
"Christie is going to emerge here as a major major winner, at least in the political scene here in New Jersey, how that translates down the road I don't know."