It was yet another busy year for the Governor of New York State and 2013 looks to be no different. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman takes a look back at the challenges Andrew Cuomo faced on 2012 and what lies ahead next year.
NEW YORK STATE – “Given the frequency of these extreme weather situations that we've had and I believe it's an increasing frequency, for us to sit here today well, this is once in generation, I think would be short sided,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo's second year in office proved to be a battle not just to get his legislative goals accomplished, but also against Mother Nature. He says 2012 was a successful year both legislatively and when it came to dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that devastated the New York City region. The year in state government began with questions over how Cuomo would handle the redistricting process while he also pushed for a new, less generous pension tier.
Cuomo said, “Pension reform goes right at the heart of the beast in my opinion.”
In the end, Cuomo got what he wanted with an expanded DNA database, the start of a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling and a new pension tier. But the pension fight was a loss for the state's public-employee unions, who Cuomo refused to negotiate with over the deal.
“By definition the unions don't want a reform that would diminish a pension benefit, so the answer's always going to be no,” Cuomo said.
But New York's finances weren't out of the woods. The budgets of local governments and school districts were spread thin as expenses from pension costs and debt mounted, while tax revenue remained difficult to come by.
“It's another caution sign that the state, we are not out of this yet and these financial pressures are very real and the financial pressures on the taxpayers are very real,” Cuomo said.
In October came Sandy, a Superstorm that slammed into the New York City region. It spared upstate, but destroyed or damaged thousands of homes in the metropolitan area. Now New York, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, are seeking $6.4 billion worth of hurricane aid. Cuomo wants to use the money to not just recover, but rebuild the state so it can withstand future storms that have been far too frequent. But whether Washington lawmakers approve the money remains a question.
“We have a good number of people in the house and the Senate who really don't believe the federal government should extend its hand in disasters,” Senator Charles Schumer said.
Politically, Republicans in the State Senate lost ground to Democrats when Incumbent Stephen Saland, one of the four GOP lawmakers to back Cuomo's same-sex marriage bill, lost his race to Democrat Terry Gipson. But the GOP salvaged some power by forming a legislative coalition with five independent Democrats who say they can share power and ensure the Senate functions, even if mainline Democrats are crying coup.
“The way I envision it work is to have a Democratic conference leader, a Republican leader, an independent conference and then the coalition government can be formed,” said State Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein.
Cuomo is confident the new look Senate can work well with him.
“I think if anything we've proven we can work with just about anybody in any political configuration. I don't get hung up about politics,” Cuomo said.