In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Post’s Fed Dicker, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his impression of his past year in Albany while looking forward to the next session, which begins in January.
“If you look at what we laid out in the campaign--if you look at what we said we were going to do versus what we did – I think it’s fair to say we had a very productive year," the Governor said.
He went on to laud the state legislature for its efforts (or willingness to accept his, depending on how you look at it) as well before turning to a number of high-profile topics. Here are the highlights:
Albany’s Culture of Corruption
“The culture of corruption [in Albany]…is worse than I thought,” the Governor said as part of a long exchange about the lobbying culture in Albany. While the problem is a culture of corruption among politicians, Cuomo said the issue extends beyond just the lawmaker class.
“It is the culture truly writ large. It is the campaign finance system. It is the lobbying system…which is much more sophisticated than I remember it. It blends into these quote-unquote not-for-profits that really are fronts for lobbying organizations,” the Governor said.
The ethics law passed early this year—which created the new ethics oversight committee—was highlighted as a necessary component for change.
“I think the ethics law will make dramatic process…on the conflict for legislators and elected officials because it's just going to have, for the first time ever, disclosure of who they're doing business with in their firm, and the connection to the state," Cuomo said. “It's also going to have disclosure of the quote-unquote lobbying groups and who they really are.”
The Governor took a jab at the rallies held in front of the state capitol building—often put on by labor and other “special interest” groups—as essentially being AstroTurf operations.
The press also wasn’t spared, saying that, “the connection of the press to that system is also a complicated issue” as reporters treat non-profit groups as objective sources, when, in the view of the Governor, they are often operating as de facto advocates for narrow interest groups.
[I would debate this, as I think most reporters see clearly the angle a group is working and take that into account, even if the money trail isn’t as apparent. What they choose to do with that information is a separate issue. – Colby]
In his first radio appearance since passing sweeping change of New York State’s tax code as part of a broader economic package last week, Cuomo responded to critics—like Dicker—who accused him of a back-door millionaires’ tax.
“I think people understand the economic reality changed, and we’re dealing with a different world than any of us were dealing with a year ago,” the Governor said. “I think they get that this is a state that is committed to fiscal discipline and that when we’re talking about additional revenues for the state it’s not that we were taxing our way out of our problem.”
In a certain sense, that’s true: last year the state was facing a $10 billion budget gap. Now, thanks in part to a year of Cuomo at the helm, we’re only facing a $1.6 billion gap. But what really changed was the stance of the opposition. Cuomo was able to get big business interests in the state on board, as he began to acknowledge.
“I think business individuals--I think people felt good about the package,” he said.
Cuomo made it clear he was irritated to be caught in the crosshairs on the unresolved taxi cab legislation being pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“That was my point, which I’ve made privately to a few of my friends, which is, exactly how do I get in this,” the Governor asked with a laugh. He went on to say he’d just as soon see a new bill and improved bill get passed in the next session.
“If the state legislature could pass it...it's very simple: they're going to be back in two weeks,” Cuomo said. “I said to them both: whatever bill they pass, I'll sign but they don't think they can pass a bill.”
Cuomo attended a second summit yesterday with city and state officials to try and reach an agreement. While he didn’t give a sense of how near or far from a solution they were—he said he was in the City today to work on the issue—he did make it clear he felt the process was poor.
“This is not the way to be designing a taxi and livery system,” Cuomo said.
The first issue in next year’s legislative cycle the Governor dealt with was gambling. He’s come out in support of a change to the state’s constitution to allow “gaming” in New York. As part of the tax reform package, the legislature agreed to explore the change.
“The conversations have been productive, and the suggestion is that the legislators understand that this may be necessary at this time from an economic development point of view,” Cuomo said.
And then he made this interesting comment: “In a perfect world would there be gaming anywhere? Maybe not. But this is not a perfect world.”
Indeed, Governor. Indeed.
But don’t expect to see a fast-track on this. The process for changing the state’s constitution is a multi-year process, and Cuomo made it sound like this next session would be just the first step. “My thought for this year would be, let's do our homework,” he said.