News

GOP, Independent Democrats Unite For State Senate Majority

New York State Senate (credit: CBS 2)

New York State Senate (credit: CBS 2)

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Furious Democrats who won a majority of seats in the New York State Senate have called a deal among Republicans and five Democrats to control the chamber a “coup.”

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein (D-The Bronx) announced the power-sharing deal on Tuesday.

Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy on Tuesday called the deal a power grab in the face of voters who chose more Democrats in November elections to rule the Senate.

“This is not a coalition, but a coup against all New Yorkers who voted for Democratic control of the Senate and a progressive state government,” spokesman Mike Murphy said.

“Sadly, the real victims of today’s announcement are the people of our state, whose clearly expressed desire for progress on a host of issues will now be scuttled,” Murphy continued. “Senate Democrats will remain fierce advocates for them and the issues New Yorkers want to see implemented like standing up for women’s health, passing real campaign finance reform, raising the minimum wage and enacting common sense gun laws.”

But Klein said the coalition would still pass legislation on many of those issues.

“We’re committed to seeing major pieces of progressive legislation pass in the Senate, such as increasing the minimum wage, a reform of stop-and-frisk and serious campaign finance reform,” Klein said in an interview.

Klein said bipartisanship was preferable to Democratic control.

“The last time the Democrats were in charge with a 32-vote majority it didn’t work,” Klein said, referring to the 2008-2010 Democratic majority dogged by an aggressive GOP minority. “It caused chaos — so bridging the gap is the way we are going to accomplish things.”

For two years, Republicans used their slim majority to enact a cap on local property tax growth, flat budgets and caps on school aid increases, cuts to several programs and spending on economic development enticements to businesses to grow jobs.

Republicans had blocked Democratic priorities, including those held by the IDC, for public financing of campaigns, raising the minimum wage, restrictions on the stop-and-frisk techniques of New York City police and more gun control.

The new deal means the GOP and independent Democrats will share control of moving legislation and even in negotiating a state budget with the Assembly speaker and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The deal will create a third conference for the IDC members under the Senate rules, assuring the five-member IDC of rights and powers.
Skelos and Klein said the coalition will work for New Yorkers.

“We’ve brought spending under control, ended Albany dysfunction and consistently delivered the bipartisan results New Yorkers need and deserve _ even on many of the most difficult issues,” Skelos said. “Sen. Klein has proven to be a thoughtful and effective leader, and I look forward to partnering with him to move this state forward.”

Under the agreement, the position of temporary president of the Senate, the leadership post, will alternate between Republicans and the IDC every two weeks.

To pull off the bold move, Republicans and the IDC will have to vote for the leader and the new rule with at least 32 votes. The partnership should provide at least 35 votes. The coalition could still run the Senate if Republicans lose two close races now being decided in court by a count of absentee ballots.

The IDC grew by one member early Tuesday when Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), joined the conference.

By accepting Smith, the IDC addressed one of the recent criticisms by other Democrats that the IDC lacked any member of color. Smith, who is black, had refused this year to join the Democratic conference meetings. Smith has also considered running for New York City mayor as a Republican.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)