ALBANY –- What a difference a couple weeks, and some criticism, can do for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s opinion of the Legislature.
It was only last month during his state budget submission, and before that at his State of the State address, that Cuomo spent considerable time thanking the Legislature for being his partner over the past year and for all the deals they had crafted together.
But a couple hours' drive from Albany today, the rhetoric was a tad different.
"I believe the Legislature is influenced by the special interest money and I’m trying to fight that," Cuomo told reporters in Syracuse after a speech.
After a year of gushing praise by lawmakers, the governor has had a tough week relationship-wise at the Capitol. He came under criticism from liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike for a sharp expansion in the number of employees at his Inspector General’s office with authority to examine –- without court order -- the tax returns of state workers who are under investigation.
In hearings on his state budget, criticism by rank-and-file lawmakers has been mounting over an array of policy areas. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said legislators want Cuomo to give them more of a say over the state's job creation efforts.
And Tuesday, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report calling Cuomo’s budget plan an attack on transparency and an attempt by the governor to grab more power in the area of state contracting and how public funds can be moved around regardless of provisions in an enacted budget plan.
Asked about DiNapoli, who has largely sought to avoid confrontations with Cuomo over the last year, the governor did not specifically address the comptroller’s criticisms. "Make no mistake. The politicians in Albany do not want to do what I’m recommending. The politicians in Albany want to keep the status quo. The politicians in Albany all too often respond to the special interests, and we’re talking about a lot of money," Cuomo said. "I’m there to represent the people."
In the past 12 months, the governor’s campaign committee has raised $12.4 million and has $14.4 million in the bank. DiNapoli’s campaign committee has raised $662,000 during the same period and has $143,000 on hand.
The governor is also upset with DiNapoli for opposing his effort to raise the contribution levels by future government employees to their government pensions.
On his proposal to give more power to himself and future governors over the spending and moving of money, Cuomo said, "There is no doubt that there is an ongoing historical and probably healthy, although annoying, struggle between the governor and the Legislature. And the Legislature is saying they want the power and they should have the power. I’m saying I’m trying to make changes and I believe what the Legislature has done for a lot of years is wrong, and that’s why I was elected and that’s what I promised the people of this state."
-- Tom Precious