2010 was the year of the Republican landslide, except in the New York State gubernatorial race.
Cuomo fils follows Cuomo pere who served in the Executive Mansion from 1983-1994. Cuomo the elder seemed headed toward a presidential run after his keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic Convention, he flirted with runs in 1988 and 1992 and lost his governorship in the Republican sweep in 1994. Cuomo’s twelve years in Albany are surprisingly forgettable, aside from his opposition to the death penalty, the issue that most impacted his defeat, it is difficult to remember any other historic legislation.
Elder son Andrew attended a public elementary school, a parochial high school, Fordham and Albany Law School. He trudged up the ladder of mostly public service jobs, served as HUD Secretary under Clinton and after a failed run for the nomination for Governor in 2002 coasted to victory in 2006 in the Attorney General race.
His highly publicized marriage to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Bobby Kennedy, (in 1990, called “Cuomolot”), three daughter later, disintegrated in his ugly divorce and at the time cast doubt on his political career.
Following in the footsteps of Eliot Spitzer, Cuomo carved out a role as the aggressive Attorney General, especially pursuing Wall Street and legislators.
With token opposition from a fumbling Carl Paladino Cuomo has avoided public forums and TV, he rarely gives interviews and “speaks” through dense position papers.
His staff is composed of senior Cuomo retreads, close long time advisors and a few Paterson carryovers.
He faces a daunting challenge: the New York State budget is structurally flawed.
* NYS leads the nation in per capita Medicaid costs , more than twice the national average, and 20% greater than the #2 District of Columbia (California is below the national average).
* NYS is at the top of the nation in per student spending, however, the system is regressive with high poverty, urban areas receiving a disproportionately lower share.
* Upstate population and industry continues to decline while New York City continues to grow. The gerrymandered State Senate disproportionately represents upstate.
* Property taxes outside of New York City, that drive school financing, continue to increase well above the rate of inflation.
As Cuomo takes the oath he faces a $1 billion gap in the current budget, at least $9 billion in the upcoming budget and yawning deficits in future years. Traditionally the governor and the legislative leaders, the “three-men-in-a-room,” hammer out a budget that pushes problems into future years.
* Can he restructure the Medicaid system without impacting the neediest? Can he negotiate with the powerful coalition of the Medicaid health care industry and unions?
* Can he convince NYSUT, the state teachers union and the school boards around the state to agree on a property tax cap?
* Will the Democratic and Republican leaders agree to a non-partisan redistricting commission? and, transparent reporting of legislator earnings and strong ethics standards?
It has become commonplace to call the legislature a dysfunctional body and they are their own worst enemies. In 2008 the Democrats, for the first time in forty plus years seized control of Senate, and immediately engaged in vicious infighting as Democratic members wallowed in the mud for power and dollars. Two of the plotters are gone, Monserrat was impeached and Espada both indicted and defeated at the polls. Malcolm Smith and John Sampson survive, but may be flirting with indictments.
Dysfunction must not be confused with resolving complex issues. Legislators, as is their mission, will fight to defend their constituencies. Half empty prisons upstate provide jobs. Medicaid funding provides services to the needy, and, jobs. Voters want good, well funded schools, and lower taxes. The Nassau County Chief Executive reduced taxes and faces a huge budget gap and a takeover of his budget.
On the education scene, aside from the weighty property tax cap issue there are no other huge issues.
How vigorously Bloomberg-Black will pursue changing layoff rules is to be seen. Will the legislature change the regulations for granting waivers for superintendents?( A “horse is out of the barn” question) How will the legislature and the governor respond to attempts to impede/change the school closing rules? Also, should the Mayor still retain the right to appoint the chancellor without any checks and balances?
The first challenge for the Governor will be the budget: Can the “three-men-in-a-room, (Cuomo, Silver and Skelos) agree on a timely, an April 1 budget? If not, the session could deteriorate in intra and inter party sniping.
Somewhere in the back of Andrew’s mind is that ultimate gift to his father, a run for the presidency that Mario backed away from … the campaign begins today.