ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made the first strike in the fight over his budget proposal with an attack on the special interests that will try to get the Legislature to block his spending cuts.
In a video address available by e-mail, satellite TV stations and YouTube, Cuomo said Wednesday he won’t be intimidated as past governors have been in the face of multimillion dollar TV campaigns used against them.
“When you pull the curtain in Albany, you find a government working more for the special interests and lobbyists than for the people,” Cuomo states in the five-minute video. “It’s about lobbyists influencing politicians from both sides of the political aisle … we have to stop the cycle.”
The targets are public work unions facing as many as 9,000 layoffs under Cuomo’s plan, teachers unions facing a historic cut in school aid and hospitals facing deep Medicaid cuts. All have successfully blunted similar budget actions by Govs. David Paterson, Eliot Spitzer and George Pataki.
But Cuomo says his proposed cuts, including a 7.3 percent cut to school aid and 10 percent cuts to the public universities and state agencies, will leave a hole of no more than 2 percent to 3 percent in the budgets of schools and agencies that have additional income sources.
He’s already attracting support from a good-government group, state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long and tea party activists.
In the video, Cuomo announced a long expected pay freeze for state employees, before formal labor contract negotiations begin. The state’s biggest labor contracts expire March 31.
“Know this,” he says directly into the camera, “I will not be intimidated. This is why you elected me and I will get it done. But I need your help to get it done. The real power of the governor comes when the people of the state stand with him … when the voice of the people rings strong and rings true. I need you to make your voice heard now.”
The video on his website invites New Yorkers to sign up for regular e-mails, messages and mailings.
“Political rhetoric doesn’t bother us, that’s perfectly fine,” said Stephen A. Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association union that has run TV ad campaigns in the past and expects to run more soon. “If we are talking about simply slash and burn and calling it a new approach, we aren’t getting very far forward.”
Madarasz bristles at the portrayal of CSEA as a special interest, a term politicians use to describe groups that oppose their agendas. Cuomo has often referred to supporting groups such as private sector unions and business interests as “stakeholders” although they, too, lobby Albany.
CSEA President Danny Donohue called Cuomo’s proposed budget unfair because it threatens to cut the jobs and benefits of rank-and-file state workers while letting an income tax surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers expire, and while not increasing corporate taxes.
“It will mean fewer people on the job maintaining our roads, fewer people keeping our water clean, fewer people making our neighborhoods safer, fewer people providing care to our most vulnerable citizens, fewer people driving our children to school and helping New Yorkers lead healthier lives,” Donohue said.
That will likely be the theme of the TV campaigns against Cuomo’s cuts. But Cuomo has supporters, too, some in odd places for the longtime liberal Democrat.
A group called the Patriot Action Network, a conservative group with tea party supporters, said Cuomo is right on Albany’s budget crisis.
“Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget forces the issue and the need for these corrections to be addressed. This is a critical reason Patriots and TEA conservatives must support this budget,” states the group, which also seeks to drum up support for Cuomo among its members.
The independent Citizens Budget Commission also supports Cuomo’s plan to curb unsustainable spending in a fiscal crisis, and warns against the opposition that will soon come.
“New York State has avoided confronting these realities for many years,” the commission stated. “It is now well past time to deal with them.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)