Andrew Cuomo

The Gov Is A Print Guy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not think much about Twitter, the social media platform that has users post characters in short bursts of information nuggets.

The effect, Cuomo suggested this week in a radio interview, is a fun house mirror version of public opinion and perception.

“We created an echo chamber for the elitists to talk to themselves and, this little bubble of an unreal universe that banned political intelligence, believes is representative of the world,” Cuomo told WAMC. “By the way, I don’t look at Twitter.”

Another way Cuomo and his team has put this to say that Twitter “isn’t real life.” Not that it doesn’t have real-world implications — the ability to spark social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, help elect presidents, or lead to a separation from your employer if you write something inappropriate or racist. But it’s not a window unto a broader understanding of the world.

Cuomo has some advantages over reporters who have to glance at Twitter every few minutes to get an idea of public opinion: He has access to polling data and focus group results on many key policy issues.

The governor’s beef likely stems to last year, when an outsize proportion of people on social media, or at least those who reporters followed, were supportive of Cuomo’s primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. The Twitter conversation was ultimately not reflective of the result on primary night.

But the governor is also an analogue guy. Cuomo cares about newspapers, how and where stories play in print and what editorial boards write and say. In a world of tweets and texts, Cuomo prefers the old-fashioned phone call to get his point across.

The first time I met Cuomo face to face was after the 2010 election. At the time, I was a reporter with Gannett’s newspapers in Albany.

“I read everything you write,” he said.

What a compliment! I thought at the time. Later, I realized it was a friendly heads up: Cuomo really does read everything.

As newspapers across the country and in New York continue their free fall, they are perhaps more relevant than ever.

As Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote this week, strong local newspapers have the ability to “increase voter turnout, reduce government corruption, make cities financially healthier, make citizens more knowledgable about politics and more likely to engage with local government, force local TV to raise its game, encourage split-ticket (and thus less uniformly partisan) voting, make elected officials more responsive and efficient.”

“Local newspapers are basically little machines that spit out healthier democracies. And the best part is that you get to reap the benefits of all those positive outcomes even if you don’t read them yourself.”

And Cuomo reads them and talks to them. His trip to Buffalo this week included a stop at the city’s daily newspaper, The Buffalo News. Cuomo spoke with Newsday after his visit to Long Island. His campaign was not happy the Syracuse Post-Standard endorsed his Republican rival, Marc Molinaro, last year, writing a letter castigating the editorial board for the endorsement after the city voted to re-elect the governor (a cranky nastygram, to be sure, but still a sign he cares about how the paper supported, and a sign that he sees editorials as relevant and important).

Signing the Child Victims Act into law, Cuomo did so with The Daily News in New York City as a backdrop, a nod to the newspaper’s crusade for the passage of the measure, a campaign that also included the paper getting tough on him to publicly support the bill.

Cuomo came of political age in the 1980s, when newspapers were going through a periodic upswing, the tabloid war between The New York Post and Daily News was still at a fever pitch and The New York Times Magazine published lengthy, literary profiles of his dad and his Republican opponent Lew Lehrman. His dad came to power when columnists like Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill were at the height of their powers.

Cuomo can have a truculent relationship with the press and vice versa. We don’t get as much access to talk to him as we like (though he’s increase his spate of news conferences in Albany this year), his administration can be too slow in responding to FOIL requests, there’s a penchant for secrecy and the past practice of planting questions with some reporters is not the best of looks. Like any politician, he can co-opt reporters seen as friendly to his administration and funnel information through them.

And the governor may be frustrated with an increasing lack of institutional knowledge and memory, as the beat reporters who cover him daily get younger and younger.

Local TV news remains a dominant force for people getting their information, more so than newspapers and national cable news, a Pew study found. But many TV reporters, producers and assignment editors scan the front pages of papers every morning to figure out coverage plans for the day.

Print reporting — the stories that take time and care to produce with multiple sources that can have a last effect on policy — are small miracles when they’re done and done well.

Newspapers need to be strong to hold politicians like Cuomo, the Legislature, local mayors, council people on down to dog catcher accountable.

And it helps, quite frankly, some still read them.

DeRosa Sees Parallels To Tea Party On The Left

The top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said there are parallels between the conservative reaction to President Barack Obama and the Republican Party a decade ago and the leftward tilt of newly elected lawmakers today.

Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor and top staffer in the administration, called the veiled threats of primary challenges from progressives to incumbents perceived to be too moderate as “dangerous” and “counterproductive” to accomplishing a broader agenda.

“I think they have a place in democracy. I think that they are useful,” DeRosa said at a Crain’s breakfast event on Thursday morning.

“I think it actually makes you have to exercise muscles you may not otherwise exercise. But I think that the casual threats and the ‘I’m going to primary you if you don’t agree with me,’ sitting in my safe district when you’re in another state or in another district when I don’t necessarily understand the people that you represent or the dynamics and by the way they may not agree with you. So that’s what I was speaking to.”

Democratic incumbents in both Congress and in the state Legislature are already bracing for the possibility of primary challenges from an active progressive grassroots.

Adding fuel to the potential primaries was a state budget that for some new lawmakers did not go far enough on issues like changing the state’s campaign finance laws. Lawmakers and Cuomo agreed to the creation of a commission that will determine regulations and provisions for a public financing system for campaigns.

Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, disappointed by the budget deals, released an email to supporters last week saying lawmakers beholden to special interests have been identified.

But DeRosa pointed to the dynamics of the state itself — a politically complicated collection of liberal enclaves in New York City, with more moderate and conservative voters in the suburbs and upstate.

“I think the scary thing that’s happening right now is we have Democrats in safe seats that are imposing their own beliefs and their own ideological purity tests on other Democrats and saying, ‘If you’re not willing to go far enough, then I who have the luxury because I sit in a safe seat am going to spend my time trying to damage you and take you out and potentially raise somebody else up in that seat who I think is better who by the way may or may not have a better chance of winning in the general election.’ And then what happens when you lose the majority?” she said.

Cuomo himself turned aside a primary challenge last year against Cynthia Nixon, an actress and education advocate.

But incumbent lawmakers, including those in the Independent Democratic Conference, lost their primary races last year against challengers on the left.

Cuomo Says He’d Sign Driver’s License Bill For Undocumented Residents

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Buffalo on Wednesday said he would sign legislation that would extend access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

He also added the caveat: The Legislature has to pass the measure first.

“That’s an issue that the Legislature may take up this session. The Assembly said they’re going to put in a bill,” he said.

Asked if he’d sign the bill, Cuomo said, “Yeah, if they pass it.”

NY1’s Zack Fink reported last night there are now 30 members who are supportive of the bill in the state Senate’s Democratic conference, two shy of a majority needed for a measure to pass.

The proposal has been politically controversial in the past after it failed under then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. But supporters believe this year is different given Democratic majorities in the Legislature and are pursuing an argument that expanding access to licenses is good for insurance and safety.

Cuomo Says He’d Back Free Tuition For Children Of Fallen Service Members

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in Buffalo on Wednesday he would support the state providing free public college tuition to the children of service members who died.

“I believe who served this nation and made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives, I believe their families should be shown the same respect. We have a moral obligation, a social obligation to help those families who lost their provider, their loved one, in service to this nation,” Cuomo said. “I would support providing free college tuition to SUNY schools for children whose parents were lost in service to this country.”

Republicans in the state Assembly sought to push the measure in a Higher Education Committee meeting, but were blocked by Democratic lawmakers.

The budget included the approval of funding for extending access to tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, a measure known as the DREAM Act.

Republicans on Thursday cheered Cuomo’s remarks in support of their proposal.

“This is a huge victory for our servicemen and their families,” said Republican Assemblyman Cliff Crouch.

“With the governor’s support, the only thing that stands in the way of this becoming law is passage in the Assembly and Senate. Like I stated earlier this week, this bill has bipartisan support, there is no reason it needed to be held in committee other than politics. I commend the governor for his remarks on this legislation and want to thank him for coming out in support of the bill. I encourage my colleagues in the Assembly Majority to bring this bill to the floor for a vote.”

New York Plans Lawsuit Against EPA Over Hudson River Cleanup

New York will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after the federal government announced Thursday the cleanup of the Hudson River by General Electric Co. was complete.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James jointly announced the intention to sue the EPA following the agency announcing a certification of completion for the project that dredged PCB-laden muck from the river.

“Time and again the Trump Administration puts corporations and polluters’ interests ahead of public health and the environment,” Cuomo said.

“The Hudson River is the lifeblood of communities from New York City to the Adirondacks but we know PCB levels remain unacceptably high in the riverbed and in fish. Since the EPA has failed to hold GE accountable for fulfilling its obligation to restore the river, New York State will take any action necessary to protect our waterways and that includes suing the EPA to demand a full and complete remediation. Anything less is unacceptable.”

The EPA had previously signaled it would likely issue the completion as GE began to wind down its work on the river. The cleanup was sparked in 2002 by a record of decision requiring General Electric to remove PCBs from the river.

In 2016, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation challenged the effectiveness of the project and later called on the EPA to conduct additional sampling in the river. The project, based in Fort Edward, stretched to the Capital Region’s northern portion of the river.

The DEC conducted its own sampling of the river in 2017 and determined the dredging did not go far enough in cleaning up the river.

Last year, the attorney general’s office wrote to environmental regulators at the federal level urging the EPA to withhold a completion certification until it can be determined the project did enough to protect the environment.

“The Hudson River is critical to the environment and economy of New York,” James said. “Despite the EPA’s stance, the facts remain crystal clear: the cleanup of PCBs is incomplete, and allowing GE to walk away without accountability is dangerous to the health and wellness of New Yorkers. Once again, the EPA has failed to protect the environment, and failed to protect the residents of our state, but my office will work tirelessly to ensure the cleanup and restoration of the Hudson River carries on.”

McCall To Retire From SUNY Board Of Trustees

SUNY Board of Trustee Chairman Carl McCall is stepping down from the post, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced on Wednesday.

“After ten years of service, I have decided to retire as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The State University of New York,” McCall said. “I believe that it is time for me to pursue other interests and allow new vision to take SUNY to even higher heights. I want to thank the Governor, trustees, faculty and New York’s future leaders – our students, for their endless support as I have served in such a consequential office.”

McCall was appointed to the SUNY board chairmanship in 2011 by Cuomo. Nine years earlier both men faced each other in a bruising Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Despite their history, Cuomo has turned to McCall several times, including an appointment to a commission to review the state’s tax climate and to a board that assessed the pay of lawmakers and statewide elcted officials.

“It is bittersweet to announce the retirement in June of SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall after more than 50 years of public service,” Cuomo said. “Chairman McCall is a friend and a quintessential public servant who dedicated his entire career to improving the lives of others.”

Report Finds New Yorkers Aren’t Leaving Because Of SALT Cap

From the Morning Memo:

A report released this week by the credit rating agency Moody’s found the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions is not the cause of people fleeing the high-tax states most affected by the provision.

The report examined out-migration patterns from California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, finding those who are leaving those states are doing so for traditional reasons: Job opportunities elsewhere and demographic trends.

“Job opportunities and demographic trends, more so than tax rates, influence relocation from one state to another,” said Marcia Van Wagner, a Moody’s VP-Senior Credit Officer. “That said, the $10,000 SALT cap will be widely felt for the first time this tax season, and could spur some out-migration from high-tax states.”

Still, a low-tax state, Florida, remains a popular destination for New Yorkers. Fourteen percent of the people who moved out of New York headed south to the Sunshine State in 2017, with about 10 to 12 percent of the people leaving Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey also moving there.

“Florida’s low taxes are likely one contributor to its popularity,” the report found. “Generally speaking, however, taxes are not the prime driver of interstate relocation decisions. Job opportunities, climate and housing costs (including property taxes) are primary considerations. Movers also consider the quality of services provided by their destination states.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has railed against the cap on deductions for state and local taxes, calling it an unfair attack on New York and other Democratic-leaning states. He’s met multiple times with President Donald Trump to discuss the issue as well as members of his administration.

Cuomo also blamed the SALT limit for a revenue decline seen at the end of last year. At the same time, he warned against raising taxes on the rich, worried they could easily depart the state.

While Florida is attracting some wealthy residents, they aren’t going to low-tax states overall.

“Florida has net in-migration from virtually every other state in the nation, including by some new wealthy residents,” Moody’s found. “Researchers have found a correlation between millionaires’ moves to Florida and the tax differential between Florida and their home state. But the wealthy are not drawn to other low-tax states disproportionately, suggesting that low taxes alone are not sufficient to attract wealthy domestic movers.”

Cuomo Challenges Lawmakers To Release Tax Returns, Too

As state lawmakers push for the release of President Donald Trump’s New York tax returns, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said any bill should apply to them as well.

“Why not say any elected official or any person who runs for office in the state of New York, your tax return will be released, period,” Cuomo said on Tuesday in a radio interview. “No hypocrisy, no duplicity, no political games.”

State lawmakers on Monday sought to advance legislation that would require the release of Trump’s tax returns for the last five years, backing a bill that would lead to the disclosure of the president’s filings as well as the returns of all statewide elected officials who file taxes in New York.

But Cuomo said the measure should be as broad as possible to withstand any legal scrutiny.

“Once you hold office, you must release your tax returns,” Cuomo said “If you want Donald Trump’s tax returns, why don’t you release your own?”

A cap on the amount of money lawmakers can earn outside of the Legislature is set at 15 percent of their take-home pay.

Cuomo releases his tax returns each year by tradition, usually in April.

Cuomo Backs Aid In Dying Measure

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a radio interview Tuesday that state lawmakers should pass legislation that would enable people with terminal illnesses to end their lives with a doctor’s supervision.

“I say pass the bill,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC of the bill, known broadly as aid in dying legislation. “It’s a controversial issue, it’s a difficult issue. But the older we get and the better medicine gets, the more we’ve seen people suffer for too, too long.”

The measure has stalled in the state Senate under Republican control and has been opposed by the Catholic Church, which has been dealt a series of legislative losses so far this session, including a measure strengthening abortion rights.

Cuomo noted his father created a commission to study end-of-life issues during his time as governor.

“I think it’s a situation we have to address definitely,” Cuomo said.

The governor’s comments were cheered by aid-in-dying advocates.

“I’m so happy he answered the question the way he did,” said Corrine Carey, a supporter of the bill and the New York director of Compassion & Choices. “I had confidence the governor would be in the right place when the time came.”

She pointed to a similar measure already approved in neighboring New Jersey.

“There’s no reason that a zip code should separate us from having the same option that residents of New Jersey have,” she said.

Cuomo Calls Primary Threat ‘Destructive’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Tuesday warned against inter-party primary challenges in the Legislature calling it a “circular firing squad.”

“I think it is destructive,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC. “It’s also an aberrational political moment. You don’t normally have members attacking members. I don’t think it’s productive, I also think it’s dangerous.”

Newly elected Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly, frustrated with the state budget process, have signaled the potential of backing primary challengers next year to incumbents after winning insurgent campaigns against fellow Democrats themselves in 2018.

Cuomo himself faced a primary challenge last year against actress and education advocate Cynthia Nixon.

Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in an email to supporters last week strongly hinted at challenging fellow lawmakers in Albany following agreements in the budget that freshman lawmakers believe did not go far enough on campaign finance law changes and elsewhere.

But Cuomo also warned those lawmakers could face primary challenges themselves.

“Today’s reformer is tomorrow’s incumbent, tomorrow’s establishment,” he said. “When they go to run, there’s going to be a new primary challenger who is going to hold them to the perfect standard.”

He added, “It all comes around. It’s a boomerang.”