The governor himself last week reasserted that he would not allow a budget to be passed on time unless the Legislature approves these still unspecified ethics reforms, nor would he sign off on desperately needed increases in state aid for public education without his fingerprints on teacher evaluation changes. He's defined these as the most important issues currently on the table.
But what seemed to be a daring, even brilliant, move to link these policy issues to the budget, and therefore force the Legislature to bend his agenda, has backfired.
Polls last week by Quinnipiac University and Siena College definitively denied the governor the public's backing on tactics and policy. The public said it was a bad idea to link policy issues to passing the budget, and also rejected the governor's diddling with teacher evaluations and school takeovers. And a majority pointedly identified the governor as part of the problem with state ethics rather that the solution.
At this point, the governor is being smothered by his own repeated propaganda of the last five years that equates a budget passed on time as the return of functional state government. Even though his father, the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, used to say that a better budget always trumps an on-time one.
It's interesting to note that the public, though, in every poll I've seen, is repeating the current governor's mantra on budgets. The public is overwhelmingly adamant that on-time equals functional.
But what we now have in these waning hours of budget negotiations is a toss-up as to who needs passage of an on-time budget more, the governor or the Legislature.
Not surprisingly, the public consistently rates the two houses of the Legislature lower than whale poop, so arguably they have far less to lose should negotiations stagger past the deadline. The governor, on the other hand, is flirting with negative popularity numbers for the first time since he's been in office. He really needs an on-time budget.
All the while, the Legislature can be buoyed by the polls showing its stances on policy are closer to the public's desires than the governor's. This dynamic has to figure into actual negotiations.
The clock is ticking - we're past the time when the budget can pass without Cuomo declaring messages of necessity to waive the three day "aging" process bills are supposed to go through.
Cuomo's claiming he won't take a budget that doesn't meet his criteria on ethics reform and education reform.
On education reform, he is adamant the state must have the power to take over "failing" schools and hand them to private operators and the teacher evaluation system must be "strengthened" statewide so that more teachers are declared ineffective and fired.
But as LeBrun writes in his Times-Union column, as we get closer to the budget deadline and the Senate continues to hold out on ethics reform and the Assembly continues to fight him on education reform, it's Cuomo whose most under the gun to get the budget done on time and thus most likely to blink in a standoff.
We'll know soon enough whether that happens.
One thing we do know already - throwing around all those ultimatums and saying he would force a late budget if he didn't get everything he wanted in the budget when he had no intention of actually backing those ultimatums up with action have backfired on our erstwhile governor.
He's got a public that wants an on-time budget but doesn't want ethics or education reform tied to it.