New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may well be one of the luckiest men in politics. The son of a politician well loved in Democratic circles, he was tapped as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development with little experience to qualify him for the job.
Just as he waltzed into that job, he practically walked into his current job. When the then-scandal plagued incumbent bowed out of the race, Cuomo’s path to the Democratic nomination was unobstructed. The Republican nominee imploded almost from the moment he first opened his mouth after he won his party’s contest for the Empire State’s top job. Not just that, the GOP is all but dead in New York State.
To win, he just needed to keep his name on the ballot. Now in office, he seems to be as politically skillful as he was lucky. Although his party is beholden to the public employee unions, he knows he needs to stand up to them if he’s to solve the state’s fiscal problems. And with word that he’s seeking “a one-year salary freeze for state workers as part of an emergency financial plan he will lay out in his State of the State address on Wednesday”, it’s look like he’s prepared to do just that:
“The governor said during his campaign that the difficult financial times call for shared sacrifice,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the governor’s address. “A salary freeze is obviously a difficult thing for many government workers, but it’s necessary if the state is going to live within its means.”
While the immediate budget savings from the freeze would be relatively modest — between $200 million and $400 million against a projected deficit in excess of $9 billion — achieving it would be politically meaningful.
And because such a step would not require legislative approval, Mr. Cuomo could achieve it while bypassing the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, and the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, labor’s most powerful allies in Albany.
A freeze alone won’t be enough to close the state’s gaping budget gap, but it is a step in the right direction — and it a sign the current Governor Cuomo is willing to stand up to the state’s powerful public employee unions.
If this Democrat can hold the line on public employee salaries, even go so far as to lay off state bureaucrats, he may well succeed as New York’s Governor and hammer another nail into the coffin of the Empire State GOP.