Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo Defends His Liberal Credentials

He’s liberal enough.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a defense of his progressive credentials on Wednesday after he was asked about a potential challenge from a liberal gubernatorial candidate this fall.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot of space to my left,” Cuomo said.

He cited the legalization of same-sex marriage, along with the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act as examples of Democratic base-friendly measures he has successfully pushed through the Legislature which both times was partly controlled by Republicans.

“I think we’ve accomplished more progressive measures than this state has accomplished in decades and decades and decades,” he said while adding, “We have a phenomenal record of accomplishment.”

A Siena College poll this week found a candidate running on the union-backed Working Families Party ballot would receive up to 24 percent of the vote, with Cuomo scoring only 39 percent.

The same poll, however, showed the governor remains popular among liberals, New York City residents and black voters.

Cuomo with reporters on Wednesday suggested the noise that the WFP may not grant him the ballot line this year is more than just political philosophy.

“Politics is politics and people do what they do in politics for a lot of different reasons beyond just ideology,” he said.

Support for gun control and same-sex marriage aside, liberal advocates have been upset that Cuomo’s fiscal agenda doesn’t necessarily line up with the liberal faction of the Democratic Party.

Cuomo has sought and successfully won a cap on local property taxes as well as tax cuts aimed at businesses, most recently a reduction in the corporate tax rate in last month’s budget.

Liberals continue to push for a statewide system of public financing as well as the DREAM Act, which provides state tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants.

The budget included a public financing program with a small-dollar match for the state comptroller’s race only, while the DREAM Act vote failed in the Senate, which is under a coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

Cuomo insisted it’s the Senate that remains an impediment to those measures.

“The problem is not that I don’t support, the problem is I can’t get it passed because we don’t have a Senate who supports it,” he said. “So that answer would be elect people to the legislative body that support the initiatives you want passed.”

Public financing, he added, was a not a “slam dunk” even with voters across the state and remains controversial.

In sum, Cuomo said those goals failing wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“You know me, I punch until I hear the bell,” Cuomo said. “I’m still working on these issues, but it’s not for want of my support or effort. I have worked harder on these issues than I have on many of the issues were we actually succeeded.”

Cuomo On Perry Debate: ‘I Don’t Think So’

Don’t expect the great Perry-Cuomo debate on jobs and the economy any time soon.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday declined an offer made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a debate on their approaches to economic development.

“I don’t think so,” Cuomo said with a smile when asked about the proposal made by Perry.

The Texas Republican is in New York this week to meet with business leaders in order to draw them into setting up their businesses in his state — the second such trip Perry has made to the Empire State, which is part of an economic development campaign.

The push from Perry comes as Cuomo and state lawmakers approved a package of tax cuts aimed at businesses, including a reduction of the corporate tax rate and a property tax rebate program.

Cuomo and state lawmakers last year approved a plan that would set up tax-free zones around state land and public college campuses for new businesses.

“I think I’m going to let the numbers speak for the state of New York,” Cuomo told reporters. “We have start up zones that are zero tax zones — zero taxes for 10 years. I believe it makes it the least expensive state to site a business.”

Perry derided the latest tax efforts in New York as “small ball.”

“I will say, in New York’s credit, they’ve moved in the right direction,” Perry said in a radio interview. “Of course there was only one direction you could go in New York.”

Cuomo brushed this off, suggesting Perry was envious.

“I understand if other states are jealous about what we are doing, but that’s what it is,” he said.

So will he go to Texas and try to bring jobs to New York?

“I’m staying here,” he said.

Perry Invites Cuomo To A Jobs Debate (Updated)

As he prepares another trip to New York City to draw businesses back to his home state, Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday to a debate on economic development and taxes.

In an interview on Talk-1300 with Fred Dicker, Perry said he would be “happy to sit down and have a thoughtful conversation, a debate” with Cuomo on the different economic politics between the two states.

“I think that would be not only interesting and fun, but a thoughtful way for us as a country to have a discussion between two of the major states in America, talking about which one of these policies are actually better for our people,” Perry said in the interview.

Cuomo has spent the last three-plus years of his administration emphasizing New York as a better place to do business, pushing through a new tax-free zone program called START-UP NY, and proposed and won a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

The Washington-based Tax Foundation announced last week that if the corporate tax rate structure had been changed last year, the state’s ranking on tax climate would have moved from last to 48th nationally.

Perry, however, derided that accomplishment as “small ball” and damned Cuomo’s efforts with some faint praise.

“I will say, in New York’s credit, they’ve moved in the right direction,” Perry said. “Of course there was only one direction you could go in New York.”

Cuomo’s efforts to make the state more business friendly have angered liberal advocates as well as some in the labor movement.

Perry, meanwhile, credited Cuomo for his efforts to protect charter schools, another aspect of the Democratic governor’s 2014 agenda that have annoyed liberals.

“Gov. Cuomo understands that to be competitive in the world and prepare these kids in New York City for the jobs of the 21st century, you’ve got to be competitive and have these schools performing at a higher level. He understands that, I think instinctively, that we compete against each other–not just state against state, but the United States against other counties–and to be at the top of our game, we’ve got to have a skilled workforce, and that comes from accountable schools,” Perry said.

The Texas Republican was less complimentary of Cuomo’s stance on hydrofracking, which the state is yet to make a decision on, comparing it to President Obama’s hesitation to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Perry, a potential 2016 candidate for president, said he would make a decision on a White House run sometime next year.

He dismissed a question from Dicker as to whether the debate challenger was precursor to a presidential match up between him and Cuomo.

“I don’t know about that,” he said with a laugh.

Updated: Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governor’s Association (and formerly of AG Schneiderman’s press shop) had this to say in response to Perry’s debate challenge, referencing his infamous gaffe from 2012.

“A little free advice for Rick Perry: the fewer debates with anyone, the better. Oops!”

Siena Poll: WFP Candidate Hurts Cuomo

A generic liberal candidate for governor on the Working Families Party line would halve an Andrew Cuomo victory over Republican Rob Astorino, a Siena College released Tuesday found.

The poll shows that Cuomo, a Democrat running for a second term, would handily defeat Astorino, the Westchester County Executive, by 30 percentage points, 58 percent to 28 percent.

But should a liberal candidate running on the union-backed WFP line run as well, Cuomo’s margin of victory falls to 15 percentage points.

The poll found that under that scenario, Cuomo would garner only 39 percent of the vote, with Astorino and the WFP candidate each earning 24 percent.

Nevertheless, the poll found Cuomo still is well liked among self-identified liberals, with 70 percent holding a favorable impression him. Among Democratic voters, Cuomo’s favorable rating is at 69 percent.

Astorino, meanwhile, remains largely unknown to most voters, with 66 percent saying they had no opinion of him.

Still, a WFP challenger could pose more than just an existential threat to Cuomo’s re-election campaign, with liberals, New York City residents and black voters choosing an unnamed liberal candidate over him and Astorino.

Cuomo has come under criticism from groups and advocates on the left primarily for his stance on fiscal issues. The $138 billion budget approved last month included a package of tax cuts aimed at business and property owners.

At the same time, advocacy groups in favor of the public financing of political campaigns were angered by a budget agreement that created small-dollar matching program that was limited to the state comptroller’s race.

Cuomo’s has lined up closer with the base of the Democratic Party mainly when it comes to social issues such as same-sex marriage and gun control.

But with the rise of liberal Democrats like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, some left-leaning advocates have been increasingly restive with Cuomo’s moderate stances on taxes, spending and as well as his approach to public-sector labor.

Because of those concerns, the Working Families Party has not ruled out giving its ballot line to another candidate for governor this year — an unprecedented move for the party.

“While Cuomo continues to hold a dominant position in a head-to-head matchup against Astorino, his lead is cut in half when a WFP candidate perceived to be more liberal or progressive than Cuomo is added to the mix,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “More than 30 percent of Democrats, liberals, union households, New York City and black voters opt for a liberal WFP candidate. In a three-way race, independents are virtually evenly divided with 31 percent supporting Cuomo, 29 percent the WFP candidate and 27 percent Astorino.

Overall, Cuomo’s favorable rating dipped slightly: from 58 percent to 34 percent last month to 57 percent favorable, 38 percent unfavorable this month.

His job performance rating remains unchanged, with 45 percent saying Cuomo is doing a good or excellent job as governor.

Meanwhile, few voters — 30 percent — say they have followed any news about the governor’s soon-to-be-disbanded anti-corruption commission, which is wrapping up its work after Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to a package of measures overhauling the state’s ethics laws.

Forty-one percent believe corruption in Albany remains a “serious” issues, with 43 percent saying its somewhat serious.

Despite most voters not being aware of the Moreland Commission’s disbanding, most believe the measures approved to deal with ethics and corruption is not a good compromise, 53 percent to 28 percent.

“While most voters did not follow the news about the Moreland Commission and the budget compromise that led to its disbanding, the vast majority of voters think that corruption in state government is a serious problem. A strong majority – including 66 percent who heard at least some about the disbanding of the Commission – feel that the budget resolution was a bad compromise that didn’t do enough to end corruption,” Greenberg said.

In news that is sure to buoy the Independent Democratic Conference, the Siena poll found 58 percent of voters want to see a coalition of GOP and Democratic lawmakers continue to control the state Senate, including 64 percent of independents polled.

The Senate coalition continues to give Republicans most of the trappings of power they had when they had a clean majority in the chamber; they are now in a numerical minority.

Only 16 percent of voters want to see the Senate GOP in a clear majority, the poll found.

The poll was conducted between April 12 and 17 and surveyed 772 registered voters. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

SNY0414 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Mayor Miner Steps Down From Democratic Party Post (Updated)

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who has made headlines by publicly opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a number of high-profile policy issues, today submitted her resignation from the position of state Democratic Party co-chair – a post for which Cuomo hand-selected her two years ago.

It has been speculated for some time that Cuomo would force Miner out of her political position, thanks to her criticisms of key elements of his agenda – especially where financially ailing upstate cities are concerned. But Miner insisted during a brief phone interview this afternoon that she was not pressured to depart.

“It’s time,” the mayor said. “I want to give them a chance to put somebody in there who can help them with a full slate of elections moving forward. It was my decision.”

But a Democratic source insisted that had Miner not resigned, she would not have received sufficient votes at the state party convention in Melville next month to be re-elected along with her fellow co-chair, Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright. UPDATE: Miner told Gannett’s Joe Spector that she won’t be attending the convention at all. Instead, she’ll attend a conference on cities in Boston.

UPDATE2: Miner spoke briefly with TWC’s Bill Carey, who told her about the Democratic source’s comment. Her response: “That’s laughable.”

Miner tendered her letter of resignation (which appears below) to Cuomo and members of the state Democratic Committee this afternoon. In it, she pledged to “do all I can to ensure Democrats continue to get elected to office this year and going forward.”

Miner and Wright were tapped by Cuomo to co-chair the party in May 2012. They replaced Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who was a holdover from the era of former Gov. David Paterson. (Incidentally, Jacobs also insisted that he wasn’t forced to give up his state post, but rather had decided that the time was right after three years on the job for him to move on).

Miner was elected mayor of Syracuse – the first woman to hold the position – in 2009. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2013, and is barred by term limits from running again.

Last spring, Miner made headlines when she publicly questioned Cuomo’s plan – or lack thereof – to address the fiscal problems faced by cities like hers. She also penned an OpEd criticizing the governor’s proposal to let municipalities borrow to offset ballooning pension costs, calling that idea ”an acconuting gimmick.” A modified version of the plan did end up in the 2013-14 budget.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s resigns from NYS Democratic Party co-chairmanship. by liz_benjamin6490

Cuomo Taps Google Chief For Education Bond Act Panel

Though voters are yet to consider a $2 billion bond act for education infrastructure and technology upgrades at New York schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday named a commission that would provide recommendations on how best to spend the money.

Included on the commission is Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman and former CEO of Google, a company that is best known for its search engine, but has also entered the laptop and tablet computer market in recent years.

In addition, Cuomo is also turning to Harlem Children’s Zone President and CEO Geoffrey Canada and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County.

“It is a simple fact that disparity remains in our education system, with some schools providing tablets in the first grade and others where the most sophisticated piece of electronic equipment is the metal detector that students walk through on the way to the classroom,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the State of the State, we called for a $2 billion Smart Schools Initiative to transform our classrooms from the classrooms of yesterday to the classrooms of tomorrow. This panel will help guide this bold initiative and reimagine our classrooms to provide New York’s students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

The $2 billion borrowing proposal still has to be approved by voters, who are due to consider the ballot referendum this fall.

Cuomo proposed the bond act in January as way to improve technology in the classroom as well as potentially build more space for pre-Kindergarten programs.

DFS: Aetna To Pay $500K Fine

The Aetna Life Insurance Company is being hit with a half-million dollar penalty for violating consumer protection regulations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday announced.

The fine follows a Department of Financial Services investigation that found the insurance company used policy forms in violation of the state’s insurance law when it comes to group life insurance policies.

The company failed to inform policyholders of their rights that are guaranteed under the policies, DFS found.

“Making sure that policyholders know what they are paying for is a bedrock consumer protection requirement,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our administration will continue our work to ensure that consumers are fully informed of their rights and insurance companies meet their obligations.”

The Financial Services probe found Aetna had been using non-compliant policy forms over a nine-year period, between 2002 and 2011, for a half dozen group life policies.

“When insurance companies fail to comply with their consumer protection requirements, it can prevent New Yorkers from making informed choices. We will take action whenever insurers leave consumers in the dark about their rights and benefits,” said DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky in a statement.

stip-20140416-aetna by Nick Reisman

Cuomo’s Book Nets Him An Initial $188K Advance

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s forthcoming book “All Things Possible” has netted him an initial advance payment of $188,333 from publisher HarperCollins, his 2013 income tax filing shows.

Cuomo made his federal and state tax filings public on Tuesday — a traditional, but not required, public disclosure for statewide elected officials.

The filings show Cuomo also spent $35,127 on legal fees associated with the book. Cuomo last year was represented by Washington lawyer and power broker Robert Barnett when it came to negotiating the book deal.

The book, a memoir of Cuomo’s political and personal life, is due out in August.

Because of the advance, his total income grew last year to $358,448, and he paid $96,302 in federal taxes, an effective tax rate of 26.8 percent. Cuomo’s salary as governor is $175,277.

Cuomo gave $16,000 to HELP USA charity he founded and is now run by his sister.

Once A ‘Right-Wing Think Tank’ Cuomo Praises The Tax Foundation

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has certainly had a hot and cold relationship with the Tax Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that tracks the tax climate across the country.

Back in October 2012 his top aide blasted the Tax Foundation in a radio interview after New York was ranked dead last in terms of its tax climate.

“They basically took data and manipulated them to fit their world view,” Schwartz said. “They support a flax tax, not the progressive tax we have.”

This raised some eyebrows at the time, considering the governor’s own election campaign cited the Tax Foundation in its policy books when it came to high taxes in New York.

But today, things have changed, apparently both tax-wise in New York and the administration’s engagement of the foundation.

The Tax Foundation in a report released earlier found the changes to New York’s corporate tax structure warranted its ranking from 50th to 48th nationally.

Cuomo, in a statement, said the analysis showed the state was moving in the right direction.

“This year’s budget builds on positive reforms included in our three prior budgets, which have greatly improved the business and tax climate in the state and changed the trajectory of New York’s economic standing,” Cuomo said. “This dramatic improvement, demonstrated by the upward progress in today’s Tax Foundation report, serves as further proof that after decades of decline, New York is reclaiming its reputation as a great place to do business. My administration has placed a premium on making it as easy as possible to start or expand businesses in the Empire State, creating jobs and stimulating the economy, and the 2014-2015 budget continues that progress by providing tax cuts for manufacturers throughout the state, lowering the corporate tax rate to the lowest rate since 1968 and reforming the estate tax – all while holding spending growth below two percent.”

As Jimmy Vielkind reported in March, Schwartz had reached out to and consulted the Tax Foundation as the budget process was underway.

Cuomo Approves National Popular Vote Bill

A bill that would add New York to the multi-state compact for a national popular vote was approved on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“With the passage of this legislation, New York is taking a bold step to fundamentally increase the strength and fairness of our nation’s presidential elections,” Governor Cuomo said. “By aligning the Electoral College with the voice of the nation’s voters, we are ensuring the equality of votes and encouraging candidates to appeal to voters in all states, instead of disproportionately focusing on early contests and swing states. I am particularly heartened to sign this legislation as it embodies both in process and substance the Empire State’s tradition as a national progressive leader. Today, in signing this legislation, I am pleased to add New York to the growing list of states who have joined together to make this reform a reality.”

The measure allows the state to exercise its right under the Constitution to award its electoral votes in the manner it deems appropriate. So New York’s 29 electoral votes would pledged to the winner of the national popular vote in all states, plus the District of Columbia, but would take effect once enough states have approved the same legislation (the compact would have to cover a majority of the Electoral College’s 538 votes).

With New York joining the popular vote compact, it now has 165 of the necessary 270 electoral votes, or 61 percent.

New York in presidential politics is largely ignored, save for fundraising by the major party candidates.