As he prepares to do battle in 2015, a number of things have changed for Cuomo that could make his second term fights more difficult than those he took on during his first term.
For one thing, he might have more trouble than in his first term finding partners in the Legislature—especially among downstate Democrats in the Assembly, who were among those pushing hardest for a legislative pay raise that appears unlikely to materialize before the year’s end.
Cuomo’s aggressive stance against the teachers union is also unlikely to sit well with many Assembly Democrats and their leader, Speaker Sheldon Silver, as they have long been close allies of NYSUT.
Cuomo’s ambitious agenda could also be hampered, at least in the short term, by the difficulty he has had in hiring replacements for the many high-level staffers who have already left the administration or are planning to depart.
As my colleague Jimmy Vielkind reported yesterday, the governor is on track to start 2015 with a number of open positions at high levels of his administration.
The problem is partly the pay, which Cuomo has often said is too low to compete with the private sector and lure top talent to Albany. Agency commissioner pay is set by the Legislature, and—just like state lawmakers’ pay—hasn’t gone up since January 1999. That’s just one of several reasons why the governor was willing to entertain a pay raise for legislators.
But the bigger problem is Cuomo himself. His reputation as a taskmaster who doesn’t easily take direction is well established at this point, and it makes recruitment harder.
Benjamin notes that Cuomo won re-election with 54% of the vote, far below hiw 61% total in 2010 and even further below the 65% total his father won for his second term - a benchmark Cuomo had hoped to beat.
His power is seen to be waning as the years go by - not exactly an auspicious place for Cuomo to be as he attempts to push through an agenda so ambitious a governor with 80% approval might have didficulty getting it done.
As I posted yesterday, some Assembly Dems are already saying that they plan to fight him this time around:
One Democratic insider warned the Assembly may not feel they need to cave.
“Don’t forget, this is not 2011. The members don’t like this guy,” the source said.
So if union leaders at the AFT, UFT and NYSUT want to beat back Cuomo's agenda, the environment is there to do it.
In fact, I bet Cuomo already knows that, which is why he was looking to get the Legislature a payraise in the waning days of this legislative session which ends on December 31.
The Legislature can only vote itself a payraise for the next legislative session, so if nothing gets done by December 31, then nothing can be done for another two years.
Don't be surprised if Cuomo doesn't finagle some "ethics reform" jive out of the Legislature to give him cover for a payraise push.
Cuomo wants to get a payraise for the Legislature so that they'll be more amenable to next session's agenda.
Here's hoping December 31 comes and goes without that payraise deal - not because I don't want legislators to get more money (no raise since 1999 is indefensible), but because I don't want that to be part of some "wink, wink, nod, nod" deal that gives Cuomo a good part of his education reform agenda in the next session.
Not that the boys and girls in Albany would ever engage in such "quid pro Cuomo" shenanigans like that.