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.
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 whose week will look better on a résumé come 2016.
Check out last week's results here.
Beer: we all need it.
So it's wonderful to hear that Republicans and Democrats in New York were able to come together this week to restore tax breaks for craft breweries in the state and throw in another deal-sweetener that wasn't there before. Returned is the per-gallon tax exemption on beer, which breweries will now be allowed to sell at farmers' markets.
"This legislation will give our state's growing craft beer industry the tools needed to create jobs, promote agriculture, and encourage environmentally friendly economic development across New York state," Cuomo said on Wednesday.
Yes, yes, jobs and the environment and all that. It's lovely. But let's not gloss over the most inspiring part of the legislation; the part sure to make New Yorkers ever prouder of their Empire State; the part that makes us recall our childlike belief that life has meaning, even beauty, despite every frustration, inconvenience, and tragedy we've experienced that seems to indicate the contrary: whatever else goes wrong in this state, there will be beer. As Albany has shown time and again, we will need it.
Purveyors and consumers of beer weren't the only ones toasting Cuomo's policies this week.
In the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's yearly study ranking states on economic growth, productivity, and livability, New York shot up 11 spots from last year and in to the top 10. The report found the state's "large, complex economy performed well across all measures," but especially "rapid Gross State Product (GSP) expansion and per capita personal income growth."
"For too long, state government stood in the way of business development," Cuomo said in a statement following the release of the study. "Those days are ending."
Liberals may take these good grades from the Chamber of Commerce, which is known for supporting more conservative policies and candidates, with some salt. But with Gross State Product and personal income on the rise, it's an easy win for Cuomo to claim, no matter the messenger.
Usually it's Cuomo getting the points for strong poll numbers, but this week it was Christie's turn to celebrate.
That is, he can celebrate that he's finally reached the point where 50 percent of registered New Jersey voters have a favorable opinion of the governor. Still a far cry from Cuomo's overwhelming popularity, but improvement is improvement.
The results of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll represent an all-time high for Christie, and a 4-point bump from March. The poll also notes that registered voters are feeling better about the direction of the state. "[H]alf of NJ voters say things are neither getting better nor worse," finds the study, "while 26 percent think they are getting better, and 12 percent say things are getting worse in New Jersey. So not overly optimistic, but not all that pessimistic either."
Not the rosiest picture in the world (especially with a potential government shutdown looming), but hey, I'll say it again: improvement is improvement.
Christie's approval rating wasn't the only good number for the governor this week. New Jersey also added 17,600 jobs in May, the most for any month in more than seven years.
While the state's unemployment rate rose slightly and remains a percentage point about the national average, presiding over the biggest employment uptick in almost a decade looks really, really good. It lends credence to the "Jersey Comeback" Christie is so fond of talking about, and so ready to hammer Democrats for holding back.
The gains, however, came primarily from seasonal hiring by state and local governments, and employment associated with the recent opening of the Revel casino, where Christie took in a Beyonce performance just a few weeks ago. Whether May was an anomaly or a sign of better days ahead remains to be seen, but that's two peaks in one week for Chris Christie. Not too shabby.