Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 17, 2011
POLITICS: Andrew Cuomo Wakes Up And Smells The Tea

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The biggest political story of 2011 is at the state level, where new Republican governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder have followed in the footsteps of Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie by seeking not only to cut short-term spending to address their states' immediate budget crises while resisting tax hikes, but to attack the #1 source of their states' long-term fiscal problems: excessive long-term commitments to pay and benefits for (mostly unionized) state and local public employees. Local Democrats in many states have responded with apoplexy, reflecting their political and financial dependence on those same unions. In other states, where the Democrats still hold the statehouses, they've had to swallow some spending cuts, but are nonetheless in denial - Jerry Brown in California has tried to close his budget gap with a 50/50 mix of spending cuts and tax hikes, Mark Dayton in Minnesota has pandered to the DailyKos crowd by proposing to double the state's top income tax bracket, Connecticut's Dan Malloy - elected by the slimmest of margins - blasted Walker's collective bargaining reforms as "Un-American" and proposed a battery of tax hikes, and Maryland's Martin O'Malley even went to the Corzine-esque extreme of giving the keynote speech at a union protest against his own budget, swearing to avoid "Midwestern oppression."

But oddly, at least one newly-elected Democratic governor seems to have come to grips thus far with reality, and it's maybe the unlikeliest of all: New York's Andrew Cuomo. The son of liberal icon Mario Cuomo, the Clinton-era HUD Secretary, the successor to Eliot Spitzer as the state's crusading Attorney General; nothing in Cuomo's history before the 2010 election suggests he's anything but a standard-issue liberal. Nor did he take office under any urgent need to court swing voters; while New York's usually liberal electorate gave the state Senate back to the GOP and swung more House seats from D to R than any other state in the Union, Cuomo himself cruised to victory by almost 30 points over his clownish self-funded challenger, Carl Paladino, and the state GOP boasts a depressingly shallow bench of prospective challengers.

Nonetheless, Governor Cuomo's agenda sounds like it could come straight out of the Christie-Walker playbook. The NY Daily News' Bill Hammond has an overview of Cuomo's promises and the obstacles he's faced, mainly from his own party. Some highlights:

-Negotiating for concessions on existing contracts from the public employee unions.

-Cutting health care, Medicaid and education spending. (see here; a quarter of the state's residents are on Medicaid).

-Capping property taxes to "limit the growth of these levies to 2% a year or the inflation rate, whichever is less," similar to the cap passed by Christie in New Jersey. (see here on how the cap would work to restrain school spending; the cap easily passed the GOP-controlled State Senate but faces stiff resistance from the Democrat-controlled Assembly and has provoked outrage from the teachers' union).

-Opposing all new tax hikes, especially a "millionaire's tax" on incomes above $200,000 promoted by the Assembly Democrats and supported by $1.5 million in ads run by the teachers' union (see here).

-Touting reform of the LIFO (last in, first out) rules that require teacher layoffs to be done by seniority rather than performance. (see here; Cuomo has backed down on doing anything about the LIFO rules but claims to be willing to replace them if a new system is installed for evaluating public school teachers).

As Hammond notes, Cuomo's progress - and even the sincerity of his commitment, as on the LIFO issue - has been uneven; he's yet to get real concessions from the Assembly or the unions (other than getting buy-in from hospitals and health-care unions on his health care cuts) and still faces a battle with Senate Republicans over ethics and gerrymandering bills. But if Cuomo has made some of the right enemies, he's made some strange bedfellows, too. His approval/disapproval ratings among Republicans are the same as among Democrats, and Rudy Giuliani has noticed that Cuomo is facing New York's fiscal realities by working from the GOP playbook:

Giuliani said in an interview Wednesday that the Democratic governor "has gotten off to a very good start."

"I don't know how Democrats feel about him but he's doing everything that a Republican governor would be doing in a similar situation," said the former mayor and one-time presidential candidate.

And while Cuomo has to navigate public-sector union opposition, he's actually getting backing for his budget and tax proposals from what may be as much as $10 million in outside ads by the Committee to Save New York, a post-Citizens United alliance of business and real estate interests with private sector construction unions and the public support of Democratic former comptroller and onetime bitter Cuomo foe Carl McCall. Here is a taste of the Committee's ads:

The question is why Governor Cuomo is trying to govern like a Republican, at least on fiscal issues. Certainly, after a life in liberal-Democratic circles, he's hardly had a road-to-Damascus conversion of principle, and he faces no real threat from the state GOP. The obvious reason is simple realism: even David Paterson tried to get a property tax cap passed. The state's finances are such a garish illustration of the failure of big-government liberalism that only a complete fool could deny the need for a change of course. A second reason is that Cuomo is, whatever his other faults, a guy who believes in doing things. He doesn't want to end up as the same impotent failure, hog-tied by dysfunctional Albany, as his three predecessors (George Pataki, like many moderate Republicans, had a good first year in office but followed it by not really accomplishing squat for the next 11 years; Spitzer was flailing even before "Client #9," and the functionally illiterate Paterson never had a prayer). The money's just not there for more liberal experiments; unless the state changes its ways, Cuomo will leave office with nothing accomplished, and he knows it. A third may be that Cuomo's investigations of the corruption in state pension funds - including targeting former Democrat comptroller Alan Hevesi and Obama Administration 'car czar' Steve Rattner - opened his eyes to the depth of corruption in business-as-usual Albany. And national ambition may be another driver - if Barack Obama wins a second term solely by virtue of a weak GOP field in 2012, four more years of Obama will almost certainly leave the Democrats looking for a new national leader unencumbered by Obama's fiscal profligacy if they hope to survive. Cuomo may be hoping to craft an image as some sort of fiscal centrist with an eye on 2016.

New York conservatives, often scorned and abandoned by the state GOP, don't and shouldn't trust Andrew Cuomo any further than we can throw him. But we can certainly get behind enough of his agenda to send the message far and wide that even blue-state liberal Democrats recognize the need for Daniels/Christie/Walker-style reforms to how our states do business. If even Andrew Cuomo can wake up and smell the tea, why can't your state?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:30 PM | Politics 2011 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

As a NYer and a conservative I can't help but like the words Cuomo is saying BUT I have yet to see him actually implement anything to reduce the NY tax burden or reduce spending.

I think I'll wait until he actually does soemthing before I jump on his bandwagon.

Posted by: Lee at March 17, 2011 7:12 PM

How ironic would it be if we get more of the conservative agenda implemented in NY with Cuomo than we would have ever been able to do with a Republican Governor?

Posted by: dch at March 17, 2011 7:55 PM

The Tea Party IS the Republican Party.
And they are as full of shit as Republicans when they say they want to reduce spending and want smaller government.
Now, if we could just get the MSM to admit that obvious truth.

Posted by: Berto at March 17, 2011 10:09 PM

I love your fiscal conservatism, Crank!!!!
Explain to us again why can't reduce the out of control defense spending by a nickel, you fiscal conservative you.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Fiscally conservative-ha ha ha ha.
What a hoot!

Posted by: Berto at March 17, 2011 10:24 PM

Crank,
You should do a post about how the Tea Party (Republican Party) is fiscally conservatiive AND believes in the rule of law.
It will be like that Monty Python skit about the lethal joke. The sentient will be laughing so hard you can do anything to them.

Posted by: Berto at March 17, 2011 10:30 PM

obama and the Dems create the largest deficts in human history, can't pass a budget with 59 Senate seats and a massive advantage in the House and Obama proposes spending cuts representing less than .5% of the deficit abd berto is...........attacking Tea Party people. Priceless

Posted by: dch at March 18, 2011 12:18 AM

WOW! I did not realize that NY controled defense spending! I learned something new from the liberals everyday!

Can you guys keep to the topic once in awhile instead of diverting everything to your own agenda?

Posted by: Lee at March 18, 2011 8:06 AM

Regarding the public sector unions, all these states have the same problem: getting the union to give up wages/benefits that they already have under binding contracts. The "success" of these governors all hinges on the willingness of the unions to give up concessions.

The jury is still out on Malloy in CT. I'm skeptical that the unions are going to cough up $2 billion over the next two years. If they don't, we'll see if follows through with his promise to lay off workers.

Posted by: MVH at March 18, 2011 9:12 AM

This sort of split-the-difference politicking often pays off, especially when combined with the appearance of accomplishments. Let us recall Bill Clinton's electoral success, and an old-timer now forgotten---Frank Lausche, long-time governor and US Senator of Ohio.

The only difference today is that actual progress in the fiscal area will probably be necessary to get someone Cuomo-like the Independent and Tea Party support necessary to turn him into a genuine national threat. If he succeeds, however, he'll likely gain some Repub votes as well, sufficient to offset the loss of a fair number of leftist loons.

Posted by: Dai Alanye at March 18, 2011 11:46 AM

"...instead of diverting everything to your own agenda?"
As opposed to the Koch brothers agenda.

Posted by: Berto at March 18, 2011 1:53 PM

As opposed to the Koch brothers agenda.

This is the sound of big-government liberalism dying, and it's very satisfying as well as hilarious.


Posted by: spongeworthy at March 21, 2011 8:41 AM

Topic hijack here and I do apologize everyone. There is a great headline that Vlad (Dracula?) Putin likens the coalition currently bombing the forces of our good Lockerbie buddy Khadaffii (I refuse to use the new spelling) to a "crusade." Which we know has a special meaning in the Middle East. It's a well earned curse there, but of course, has nothing to do with what is going on there now. But this is really the reason I am against nuclear power. Because Russia is a prime source of uranium in the world, as is that other reliable dealer in yellowcake, Niger. And I really don't like our kicking our oil addiction, which is fed by hostile forces, for a uranium addiction, to be fed by the most unreliable supplier in the world: Russia, already known as as a dealer who cuts off their customers.

Sorry for the hijack. I don't know BTW how anyone can comment about Cuomo. We really know very little about him. Unfair to say he's his dad (although he can't speak as well, which is true of almost everyone), he's a cipher. He was voted in easily, since his competition didn't exist. Shame on any major party for not providing a decent candidate at any time. Shame on the republicans for providing an idiot on the ballot.

Posted by: daryl at March 21, 2011 10:33 AM

This is the sound of USA being of the people, by the people dying, and it's very satisfying as well as hilarious.
------------
Corrected for accuracy.

Posted by: Berto at March 21, 2011 6:04 PM

Note to Cuomo: Be careful of advice from wingnuts divorced from reality:

Last year's midterms elections swept incumbents from office nationwide, as voters turned to newcomers -- often Republican newcomers -- for change. But just months after election day, three new Midwestern governors -- Wisconsin's Scott Walker (R), Ohio's John Kasich (R), and Michigan's Rick Snyder (R) -- have seen their approval ratings fall to the point that polls show them losing hypothetical do-over elections with the candidates they beat last year.

Posted by: Magrooder at March 23, 2011 9:53 PM

Note to Cuomo: Be careful of advice from wingnuts divorced from reality:

Last year's midterms elections swept incumbents from office nationwide, as voters turned to newcomers -- often Republican newcomers -- for change. But just months after election day, three new Midwestern governors -- Wisconsin's Scott Walker (R), Ohio's John Kasich (R), and Michigan's Rick Snyder (R) -- have seen their approval ratings fall to the point that polls show them losing hypothetical do-over elections with the candidates they beat last year.

Posted by: Magrooder at March 23, 2011 9:54 PM
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