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Not all Democrats on Cuomo bandwagon

ALBANY -- Governing from the fiscal right may have its popular benefits for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, but his ideas are starting to generate more pushback from the liberal wing of his own Democratic Party.

 "If this is what it means to be a New Democrat, and if this is what it means to be progressive, then something is very wrong,'' wrote a group of 42 Democratic local government officials from around the state. The Monday letter -- an "open letter to New York Democrats" -- was signed by one Buffalo Democrat: Demone Smith, the Mastene representative on the city's Common Council.

The local Democrats say Cuomo is disproportionaly relying on cuts to close the state's $10 billion deficit that will too deeply cut services while refusing to go along with a push to extend a current surcharge on wealthier New Yorkers.

 "We cannot be silent on this matter -- not when the Tea Party, the Conservative Party, Republicans and a group of wealthy Wall Street executives are cheering on the governor's policies,'' the group wrote.

Charlie King, the state Democratic Party executive director, said he didn't know many of the names on the letter. "The lack of state legislators on the list would have been the more fair and important story to report. On any issue, given the nature of the Democratic Party you should be able to find hundreds of differing opinions given the thousands of Democratic elected officials in this state,'' King said in a statement.

-- Tom Precious

Here is the complete letter:


February 28, 2011

Dear Fellow Democrats:

We are writing to express concerns about the direction of our party and our state.

As we all know, New York faces serious fiscal problems. We all understand that difficult decisions must be made. As loyal Democrats, we believe that protecting children, seniors, working families and our communities must always be a priority.

But the truth in Albany right now is that some of Governor Cuomo’s budget policies are neither balanced nor well conceived:

The Governor would make deep cuts in education funding, by abandoning the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case – the hard-won victory that is supposed to ensure fairness in the distribution of school aid and give all children a sound basic education.

And furthermore, the Governor would slash health care spending, eliminating prescription drug coverage for two thirds of our seniors through the EPIC program, a program which so many seniors rely on.

At the same time the Governor is taking these and other drastic actions, he wants to give the richest three percent of New Yorkers a massive tax break by allowing the expiration of the "Millionaire’s Tax", a tax that would generate $5 billion annually.

According to the Governor, this is what it means to be a "new Democrat." According to the Governor, this is the path to becoming "the most progressive state in the nation."

If this is what it means to be a New Democrat, and if this is what it means to be progressive then something is very wrong.

We cannot be silent on this matter – not when the Tea Party, the Conservative Party, Republicans and a group of wealthy Wall Street executives are cheering the Governor’s policies.

Of course, as we want the new Governor to succeed, we also recognize our duty and obligation to remember what our party has always stood for: fiscal responsibility, fairness, compassion and vision.

We have a duty and responsibility to speak out now.

To us, the answer is simple. Were it not for the proposed tax break for millionaires – worth $5 billion annually – our fiscal problems would be much less severe. We would still need to reduce spending, but we could lessen the severity of the cuts this year and even more so next year.

We ask that you join us in urging Governor Cuomo and our state lawmakers to extend the existing millionaire’s tax as a way of avoiding drastic cuts to schools and health facilities.

It is imperative that we protect children and seniors, not millionaires.

Very truly yours,

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |