The Cuomo budget, which was negotiated in secret, is a virtual war on the middle class, working people, and the poor. It calls on us to make sacrifices, while exempting the wealthiest New Yorkers. It includes an annual spending slash of roughly $3.4 billion with a $2 billion year-to-year cut in health care and education. The district-by-district impact of the cuts is not yet available and the geographic distribution apparently has not yet been determined.
In addition to the cuts in education and health care, the governor refused to extend state rent regulations, which are set to expire in June. Meanwhile, Cuomo blocked continuing the state's higher tax rate on people in the top income brackets that would have prevented many of the budget cuts.
Cuomo, who was elected governor with labor support that he has now apparently alienated, seems determined to make a name for himself in national politics as a Democrat who can cut deeper to the bone than right-wing Republican governors in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Deeply ambitious, it is not clear whether he is maneuvering for a Presidential run in 2012 in the event Obama falters even further or will be content to wait until 2016.
In a few short months in office, Cuomo has assumed virtually dictatorial power, ignoring calls for compromise and the teachers, parents, and students who have rallied around the state and marched and lobbied in Albany. He threatened that if state legislators missed an April 1 budget deadline, he would put his preferred cuts into an emergency spending measure, forcing them to vote for his budget or risk shutting down state government.
Despite the announced deal, some Democratic Party insurgents, the teachers' union, and other groups are continuing their efforts to force reconsideration of those measures. Some Democrats have in recent days openly discussed voting against a budget that is too austere. New York City Council member Charles Barron has threatened that "Whereever he shows his faced people need to confront him. I am an elected activist. I don't think we should throw out anything from our arsenal to get some improvement in the lives of the working people of this state." In February, Barron interrupted Cuomo when he spoke at a reception for the Association of Black and Latino Legislators in Albany, chanting "Stop the cuts, tax the rich," and, "Shame on you."
At the news conference announcing the budget cuts, Cuomo declared "It's a new day in New York." He should have added that it is also a sad day.
Cuomo has 69% approval.
Until New Yorkers feel the effects of this "austerity" themselves, I doubt Cuomo is going to see his poll numbers drop.
People love the idea of austerity for others, cutting taxes, all that kind of thing.
But then when the consequences come home to roost - closed schools, fired teachers, closed parks, fired park rangers, closed libraries, fired librarians - they don't like the austerity so much.
We'll see how this plays out.
I say after a year of this austerity, Cuomo's numbers plummet to 50% and after two years, he is closer to the Mendoza Line.
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