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.
Who Had the Better Week—Cuomo or Christie?
Friday, February 24, 2012
Both rock stars in their own right, both trying to right their states' ships, and both building serious momentum for a potential presidential run. Every Friday, we'll look at who's week will look better on a résumé come 2016.
Check out last week's scores here.
New Jersey's budget
Governor Christie introduced his budget for fiscal year 2013 this week, calling for a 10 percent income tax across the board while adding money to higher education.
WNYC's Bob Hennelly reports that such proposals are so marketable, the challenge for Democrats will be finding a version of tax relief that sells as well as Christie's.
"It's the property tax that's the problem. I don't know anyone screaming for an income tax cut, but I know people crying about property taxes, Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney told reporters. "We are not going to stand back and support an income tax cut that is going to benefit the wealthy and give crumbs to the middle class."
Dems contend that the sweet sounds of Christie's budget obscure the state's real problems—and Christie's real track record.
"You guys gave him credit for restoring education funding last year," Sweeney told reporters. "If you take five percent and you give me back one percent, I'm still down four. This is not an increase in anything, what he's done is taken away."
"The reality is that he's ignoring the needs of middle class and continuing to persuade and trying to appeal to a national audience," charged Assembly budget chair Lou Greenwald.
Would the national audience be able to see Jersey Democrats waving their arms down there in Trenton? Or would they just see a governor who campaigns on having cut taxes and funded higher education? My guess is the latter; and when the specifics of Christie's record come up, he'll know how to spin them.
- Verdict: +2
On Santorum, Satan
Garden State Democrats' complaint about Christie's hold on the media was further validated this week as the Governor continued campaigning for Mitt Romney. How many governors get to go on Good Morning America just to talk about Rick Santorum's "Satan" comments?
Having his weight behind Mitt Romney ensures so much exposure for Chris Christie, he's really leaving Cuomo in the dust on this one. Doesn't even matter what he's talking about, necessarily. National cameras will be following Christie for the rest of the year.
- Verdict: +2
→ Chrstie's Week: +4
Railing on redistricting
Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his promise to veto a redistricting plan submitted by New York's legislature, calling the current process "hypocritical" and "political theater." The Governor has been hammering away on redistricting reform since last February, when he submitted legislation that would establish an independent commission to re-draw the lines every 10 years.
We've done a lot of reporting on the current redistricting rules, and how allowing legislators to draw their own lines has resulted in districts shaped like Abraham Lincoln riding a vacuum cleaner. And while Cuomo's been blasting both Democrats and Republicans for ineffectiveness and intransigence, respectively, our own Colby Hamilton notes that it may just be a lot of posturing—Cuomo would rather bend on a political issue that nobody really cares about than send redistricting responsibilities to the courts, which is what would happen in the event of a veto.
Sure, it's tough getting the general population to care about redistricting. But Cuomo campaigned on cleaning up Albany, and for the moment, he's saying he won't settle for anything less than a significant change to the law, which would be a significant step in the direction of good-government reforms.
- Verdict: a very tentative +1
Cuomo told the legislature that it must include pension reform in the budget or prepare to have the Governor submit his reform model in an emergency budget measure, which, should lawmakers fail to pass, would result in a government shutdown. And it would be on the legislature's shoulders.
This is some crafty political gamesmanship. Between this and the threatened redistricting veto—and the popularity mandate Cuomo's enjoyed since taking office—it's clear Cuomo's going to try and flex his way out of every standoff with the legislature.
He's also indicated he may soften his stance on including a 401(k)-style alternative in pension reform; that particular measure is especially unpopular with unions, and may not get support even from the Assembly's Democratic majority.
With the budget deadline still a few months away, it's way too soon to tell how Cuomo's aggressive tack will play out. Stay tuned.
- Verdict: swagger awaiting substance—and Cuomo has delivered before—but for now it's a 0
Andrew Cuomo: Used care salesman
New York Daily News' Glenn Blain reported this week that the Cuomo administration would be selling almost 500 surplus state vehicles on eBay this spring.
“You want office supplies, you want computers, you want cell phones, you want furniture, we’ve got it, we’ll get it to you at cut rates,” joked [director of state operations Howard] Glaser, sounding like a used-car salesman.
That's one way to shrink government.
- Verdict: +1
→ Cuomo's Week: +2