Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, January 19, 2015

Not A Progressive Reboot From Andrew Cuomo

Governor Cuomo is trying to make himself look a little more progressive with some of his announced proposals this past week, including student loan relief for low-income college graduates, a minimum wage hike across the state and economic development money for seven upstate regions.

But if you glimpse just past the headlines of the proposals, you can see that they're not all that "progressive" at all.

As I pointed out yesterday, Cuomo has raised SUNY tuition more than 25% over a five year period that will end in 2017 and has refused to increase the percentage of state aid to SUNY, thus setting up the likelihood there will be another tuition hike as soon as the current round is done.

If Cuomo really wanted to help students, he would couple his student loan relief proposal for low-income college graduates with more money for SUNY.

His minimum wage hike proposal is also under attack from advocates on the left for not going nearly far enough - and there is a cynical feeling out there that, as with the DREAM Act in the past, Cuomo will say he is in favor of a minimum wage hike, then not put much effort to getting it passed and signed into law.

As for the economic development plan, that has been dubbed "Cuomo's Hunger Games" by Republican Assemblyman Steve Mclaughlin for pitting seven upstate regions against each other in a "competition" for economic development money that only three can win.

And of course, there is the education reform agenda he's expected to announce on Wednesday:

Perhaps the most divisive part of Cuomo's address will be his education agenda. Thus far, the only preview of his education agenda that Cuomo has given is a lengthy letter that he had a commissioner send to outgoing State Education Commissioner John King and Board of Regents head Meryl Tisch. Cuomo has made a significant number of public comments (and past actions) that indicate he will look to bolster charter schools and implement tougher evaluations for public school teachers. Last month Cuomo vetoed his own teacher evaluation bill saying that it didn't actually "fix the foundational issues with the teacher evaluation system."

Teachers unions took it as retribution for the fact that they refused to back him during the 2014 election cycle. In October, Cuomo promised to "break" what he called the public education "monopoly."

"It would be nice to hear him say something positive about the people who are teaching our children," said Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who chairs the Higher Education Committee. "If we want kids to respect their teachers then officials need to display some as well and acknowledge it is a difficult job."

Not a chance he offers anything other than a fist to public schools and public school teachers at his "Opportunity Agenda" speech on Wednesday  - after all, it's a fist that's needed to "break" the public school "monopoly" as he has promised to do multiple times.

The only thing standing in the way of his getting everything he wants on education reform - a "toughened" teacher evaluation system, an increased (or eliminated) charter cap, more money for charter schools, less money for public schools, and increased say in education policy - is the Assembly.

So notice this news from today:

Gov. Cuomo this week will propose a commission to consider a pay raise for state lawmakers and agency heads, the Daily News has learned.

Cuomo’s plan would require for the first time a two-tier legislative salary structure — one amount for lawmakers who don’t have outside income and a lower amount for those who do, said one source.
But before anyone can get a raise, the commission will be required to recommend a specific cap on outside income, require greater public disclosure of what lawmakers actually do to earn their outside salaries, and bar legislators from representing clients who have business before the state.


Legislators were livid with the governor late last year when talks over a pay raise went nowhere.
The commission, which Cuomo will propose Wednesday as part of his state budget proposal, would be made up of one appointee each by Cuomo, Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, the source said.

The panel would also look at the other forms of taxpayer compensation legislators receive, including stipends and travel expenses while in Albany, and make reform recommendations as it sees fit.
State lawmakers, who make a base annual salary of $79,500, haven’t had a raise since 1999. State agency commissioner pay has also been frozen for years, making it harder to attract people, Cuomo has groused.

The state Constitution prohibits a sitting Legislature from giving itself a pay raise, meaning any legislation could not go into effect until 2017.

It's starting to look like he's going to bribe Assembly Dems pissed at him with a "Pay Raise Commission" to get them to go along with the rest of his agenda.

The last time he convened a high profile commission like this, he ended up under investigation for witness tampering and other meddling in the affairs of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.

Cuomo ended that commission in exchange for a budget agreement with the Legislature, an act that received a public rebuke from US Attorney Preet Bharara, who grabbed the files of the commission after it was shut down and has continued to do its investigative work.

So Cuomo has to know that using a "Pay Raise Commission" to assuage Assembly Dems and get them on board with the rest of his agenda is dangerous business.

And yet, the cynic in me thinks that's exactly what he's doing here.

If you're a teacher wondering what's going to happen in the end, given the make-up of the State Senate with the five sell-out Dems joining the majority GOP, the make-nice effort coming from Cuomo on a pay raise for the legislature, and the ineffective strategy we've seen out NYSUT and the UFT to fight Cuomo, I would say Cuomo's going to get most of what he wants in his education reform agenda.

Hope I'm wrong about that.

But barring something unforeseen at this point in time (like an indictment of a major Albany figure) or a fast reboot from the unions to join with parents to fight the coming education reform agenda (especially on testing), I see nothing significant to stand in the way of Cuomo getting pretty much everything he wants except for power over either the Regents appointment process or control of NYSED.


  1. Is a two tier pay structure for legislators based on the presence or absence of outside income legal? It looks like a slippery slope to me. Are we talking wages and investment income? How would off shore accounts figure into the mix? Would real estate holdings be investigated?

    1. Only counts for legislators too. Governor is exempting himself, other statewide office holders.