From today’s morning memo:
The general feeling coming out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013-2014 budget presentation at The Egg yesterday was that this year’s negotiations are probably going to be fairly low-drama.
That, of course, is exactly what Cuomo wants in order to continue to strengthen his brand as the guy who brought notoriously dysfunctional Albany – land of the late budgets – to heel, making state government work again.
Legislators generally made positive noises about Cuomo’s proposals. (Of course, their staffs haven’t really had time to pore over all the details yet. No doubt something problematic will pop up in the weeks to come).
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos called the governor’s spending plan a “good blueprint,” adding: “I don’t see a reason why we can’t have an on-time budget.”
He said that despite the fact that Cuomo took the unusual step of including in his proposal a seemingly non-budget related policy initiative – hiking the state’s hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 – which is something the Senate Republicans (and their business community allies) have so far opposed.
Several people have predicted that the minimum wage issue could be a point of contention between Cuomo and Skelos – not to mention Skelos and his co-majority leader, IDC head Jeff Klein, who has called this “one of my major priorities.”
But I would argue that Cuomo actually did Skelos a favor by taking this approach with minimum wage, giving the Senate Republicans a path to voting “yes” on something that enjoys widespread public support, but risks further inflaming their already angry conservative base.
What do I mean?
Well, remember the my-way-or-the-highway tactic pioneered by former Gov. David Paterson in which he put his budget into extender bills and forced state lawmakers to choose between giving him what he wanted and a government shutdown?
If it comes to pass that the Senate Republicans can’t negotiate the minimum wage increase out of the budget before the April 1 deadline (assuming they even bother to try very hard), they could get some cover by arguing that it’s worth passing almost anything to avoid the kind of havoc a shutdown would bring.
That, of course, is a last resort scenario and assumes legislative leaders and Cuomo won’t be able to cut a budget deal. After seeing the governor’s performance over the past two years, I highly doubt things will come to that.
Alternately, the Republicans also could reiterate the SAFE Act argument, which essentially was: Gun control is inevitable, because it’s being pushed by an enormously popular and powerful governor, so we should work to temper it as much as possible (in this case, by adding stiffer penalties) giving enough of our members a reason to vote “yes” and help the measure pass.
Skelos already started laying the groundwork for that yesterday, bringing up “critically important” business tax credits that he no doubt wants to see linked to any minimum wage increase.
And Cuomo also made things easier for the GOP by deciding not to include an indexing measure for future minimum wage hikes that the left has been pushing very hard, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver included in his proposal last year.
Last night on CapTon, I asked state Budget Director Bob Megna why the Cuomo administration had decided to include minimum wage in the budget, and brought up the extender bill all-or-nothing possibility. His response:
“You have to remember that we didn’t actually put the minimum wage piece into appropriation language, which is the strictest form of what you’re talking about. We submitted it with Article 7 language, which is something that we hope to work with the Legislature.”
“We thought the minimum wage…was important to put in the budget, because we think that it ultimately has budget implications…We think that the extra income generated by the minimum wage payments will lead to higher sales taxes for the state and a more stable economic environment for the state in which the whole fiscal plan unfolds.”
“So, we think it’s important to get minimum wage done, and we think it’s going to be important for the economy and important for the revenue base of the state.”
Interestingly, the Cuomo administration declined to put a key policy initiative that arguably WOULD have budget implications – creation of a publicly funded campaign finance system – into the governor’s spending plan.
I found that curious, especially since the governor reiterated his support for both campaign finance reform and a public campaign finance program in his State of the State address earlier this year.
Estimates of how much it might cost to establish such a system are all over the map. Advocates say it would be about $40 million a year, and insist that’s a worthwhile investment to reduce the influence of big money on the political system. Skelos, on the other hand, has floated a figure closer to $200 million annually, and insists this is not a smart use of taxpayer cash.
Cuomo more or less rejected an idea floated by Democratic donor/advocate Bill Samuels and Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, to see casino revenues to pay for a public campaign finance system.
The governor has said he wants to use the money generated by expansion of non-Indian run casinos (assuming it passes muster with the Legislature and the public) to pay for education and property tax relief in communities “hosting” these resorts.
I did ask Megna why minimum wage made the budget cut and campaign finance did not, which generated the following exchange on last night’s show:
ME: And what about campaign finance reform, because, of course, it would be a cost to set up a public campaign finance system.
MEGNA: I’m really not the person to talk to about public campaign finance reform. So, I couldn’t give you a good answer to that.
ME: But, just to confirm, it’s not in the budget?
MEGNA: I don’t believe it’s in the budget, no.
That clears things right up, doesn’t it?
It’s possible the governor will send the Legislature a campaign finance program bill. (Remember: He said he was planning a wide-ranging plan that goes further in dealing with independent expenditure donor disclosure than what state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is proposing).
So far, we haven’t seen anything concrete from Cuomo on this issue. But the session is still young.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on January 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo, Dean Skelos, Republicans, State Budget. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|