Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has maintained that he has stayed out of the New York state Senate leadership fight, is now endorsing a newly formed coalition of Senate Republicans and five Democrats, but with some conditions.
Cuomo made his first public comments, offering conditional support for the shared leadership plan between all of the chamber’s Republican members, along with the Independent Democrats.
In an op-ed article written for publication in the Albany Times Union, Cuomo said when the Democrats were in power in the Senate from 2009 through 2010, they “squandered the opportunity,” and failed to pass any “meaningful reform.” Cuomo also wrote that the “dysfunction was legendary.”
When asked about the piece, the governor did not back down.
“It’s almost inarguable …that that was not a good period of government,” said Cuomo. “The label of dysfunction, all the shenanigans that went on.”
And Cuomo says the Senate Republicans, when they have led the Senate in recent decades, also missed opportunities to act on progressive items on the governor’s agenda. Though he reserved his harshest language for the Democrats.
Most of the Senate Democrats are left out of the new governing coalition. Only the five Democrats who make up the break-away Independent Democratic Conference will be part of the Senate leadership. The head of the IDC, Senator Jeff Klein, and the leader of the Senate Republicans, Dean Skelos, will share the office of Temporary President of the Senate on a rotating basis.
Cuomo says it is too early to tell yet whether the Senate can actually function under that arrangement. “I don’t know,” Cuomo said. “I don’t know that they know.”
But the governor added, “we’ve seen the alternative, and it is terrible.”
The governor is presenting a litmus test of 10 issues that he says he wants senators to support. They include raising the minimum wage, enacting campaign finance reform, further decriminalizing public possession of marijuana, expanding casino gambling, continuing the property tax cap, and steps to combat climate change.
He says the majority of New Yorkers also support that agenda, and he will ultimately judge the Senate on their performance on those policies.
“If you didn’t pass campaign finance, then I think you fail the people of the state,” Cuomo said. “If you don’t raise the minimum wage, I think you fail the people of the state.”
A spokesman for the Senate Democrats points out that the Democratic Conference has consistently backed much of the “progressive agenda” that Cuomo has listed. Spokesman Mike Murphy says Republicans blocked much of that legislation.
Two Senate races are yet to be decided, and the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots are being challenged in court, a process that could continue for several more weeks. Democrats, who are favored to win in the races if all ballots cast are counted, accuse the Republicans of delay tactics. In 2010, when there were lengthy ballot challenges after the election, Cuomo urged the state’s chief judge to expedite court action in order to have the races decided by the end of the year. This time, Cuomo says he has seen no evidence of “stalling” and does not plan to urge the high court to get involved.