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, March 23, 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 results here.
NJ Dems may not like Christie's proposed tax cuts, but in putting forth a plan of their own, they've practically guaranteed Christie will preside over significant tax relief in one form or another.
Christie has pushed for a 10 percent income tax cut across the board, but State Senate President Stephen Sweeney countered with a more nuanced proposal of his own: Offer taxpayers a credit equal to 10 percent of their property tax; cap the credit at $1,000; withhold the credit from households making more than $250,000 annually.
Democrats argue their plan will help the middle class more than Christie's while giving away less to wealthier taxpayers. But as Peter Woolley, executive director of Fairleigh Dickinson University's Public Mind Poll, told WNYC's Bob Hennelly, "By introducing this income tax cut, Christie has basically changed the conversation from raising taxes to how are we going to cut them." He can—and will—take credit for reframing the debate.
- Verdict: +2
The rejection of Christie's nominee to the State Supreme Court is the first big blow dealt to the Governor in recent memory.
Phillip Kwon was rejected by Senate Democrats in a 7-6 vote on Thursday. Kwon was scrutinized for his political affiliation and his history of working for Chris Christie while he was Attorney General. One Senator expressed concern over confirming someone “who a year before was part of the litigation team to advance Governor Christie’s agenda."
- Verdict: -1
On the warpath for Mitt Romney yet again this week, Christie took a shot at Rick Santorum, saying he was "very leery of sending another member of Congress to the White House."
The White House needs an executive, Christie argues. It's a nod to Romney's tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, and great practice for Christie to use the same line in, oh, about four years—assuming there's no President Romney in 2016.
- Verdict: 0
→ Chrstie's Week: +1
Redistricting reform: 'I failed'
Cuomo campaigned on a promise to veto any redistricting lines that were drawn by the state legislature and not an independent commission.
So much for that.
Instead, Cuomo settled for introducing a constitutional amendment that would put redistricting in the hands of a bi-partisan commission. Two things: a constitutional amendment—if it's passed—wouldn't have any effect until after 2020, when the next round of redistricting begins; also, a bi-partisan commission of legislators is not the same thing as an independent commission.
"I failed. I failed," Cuomo said.
- Verdict: -1
Pension reform a double-edge sword
Pension reform, which Governor Cuomo has argued is essential to closing the state's budget gap, passed last week during a marathon, overnight legislative session.
And the unions hate it. While Cuomo touts the reforms as sparing New Yorkers from a tax hike, public employees bristle at being forced to pay more into the system and reap less come retirement. The Civil Service Employees Association, the largest public employee union in the state, and several other teachers' unions quickly announced that they'd be suspending all political contributions and endorsements, threatening to back challengers to incumbents in future primaries.
This is a tricky one to score. On one hand, Republicans and Democrats alike can appreciate a balanced budget, and if Cuomo can get a few under his belt it'll play well in a general election, especially with independent voters who may like seeing public employees make concessions.
But let's not forget that the general election won't mean squat to Cuomo if he can't get out of a Democratic primary. Alienating unions, among the party's largest, most dedicated donors, would be Cuomo's version of "Romneycare"—something he'll have to answer for over and over again during the nominating contest.
- Verdict: This one's a wash, 0
Cuomo's office has spent a lot of time over the past two weeks trumpeting the success of its Jobs Express website, which launched last fall and now, the Governor says, has helped more than 25,000 New Yorkers find jobs.
The numbers are hard to vet, but with kind appraisals from the likes of AFL-CIO, as long as Cuomo's website helps just one New Yorker find a job, it'll be something to campaign on.
Also, we gave it a whirl, and effectiveness aside, it looks pretty cool. Certainly a rung above Craigslist, for what it's worth. Here's hoping the site works as well as Cuomo says it does.
- Verdict: +1
→ Cuomo's Week: 0
Despite the fact that Cuomo's gotten a lot done over the past two weeks, it's tough to claim he ultimately had the better run considering the costs of certain victories. Meanwhile, Christie's definitely going to get his tax cuts, and his party actually likes it when he pisses off the unions.
Finally, how can the guy who says, "I failed," about anything really be declared the winner?