Capitol Watch: Cuomo Pivots To Left; Lawmakers Eye Budget
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In this week's New York state government news, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pivot to the left is getting noticed, and the Senate and Assembly get down to scrutinizing Cuomo's $168 billion state budget proposal, he released on Tuesday in Albany.
A look at stories making news:
Four years ago, Cuomo beat back a surprisingly robust Democratic primary challenge from a liberal law professor, Zephyr Teachout. Since then, Cuomo has spent much of his second term moving to the left. He can now tout a long list of progressive accomplishments such as paid family leave, a phased-in $15 minimum wage and free state college tuition.
New Yorkers have noticed. Forty-one percent of voters surveyed in a Siena College poll this month described Cuomo as a liberal, with 40 percent labeling him a moderate and 10 percent calling him a conservative. That's the highest number of people who have described Cuomo as a liberal since Siena began asking the question.
By contrast, Siena polls from 2011 found that just 21 percent of respondents were willing to call Cuomo a liberal while 60 percent labeled him a moderate.
Overall, Cuomo's favorability ratings and job approval numbers are up, prompting Siena pollster Steve Greenberg to say the governor is entering the 2018 election year on a high note. Though he noted the primary and the November election are still months away.
"Election day is 42 weeks away," Greenberg said. "Many political lifetimes."
Now that the governor has released his spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year, lawmakers are digging into the details with a series of public hearings on education, transportation, economic development, health care and other areas of state spending.
The first of a dozen hearings will be held Tuesday morning in Albany. The last is scheduled for Feb. 13.
Taxes, education spending and congestion pricing are shaping up to be two of the year's biggest budget issues. Cuomo wants to restructure the state's tax code in response to the new federal tax law, possibly with a new payroll tax that would partially or fully replace the state's income tax. Education spending is another hot issue, with some public education advocates saying Cuomo's proposal to increase school aid by $769 million falls short. Look for lawmakers to scrutinize how Cuomo's budget plan eliminates the state's $4.4 billion budget deficit.
Hearings can be viewed on the Senate and Assembly websites.
Cuomo is 2-for-2 with the people who advocate for New York's outdoor recreation resources.
Parks & Trails New York gave a thumbs-up to the governor's plans for the state's environment, parks and other public green spaces as outlined in his state of the state address earlier this month. The Albany-based group did the same this week when Cuomo's budget proposal included more than $200 million for such projects as state parks and historic sites upgrades and new construction and combating algal blooms in lakes.
Cuomo also wants to keep the Environmental Protection Fund at $300 million. The fund is used by local communities for such projects as purchasing land for public use, restoring historic sites and cleaning up waterfront areas.
The governor "recognizes that investing in parks and the environment is a good investment for the economy and the planet," the group said.