Governor Andrew Cuomo cast debate over his budget as a clear choice between the will of the people and lobbyists trying to sway lawmakers during a morning appearance on Live from the State Capitol with Fred Dicker.
His confidence buoyed by a Siena poll showing broad bipartisan support for his budget, Cuomo repeatedly invoked the menace of “special interests” when discussing opposition to his proposals. He said the poll demonstrates a voter mandate for sharp reductions.
“The people get it, and the people are ahead of the politicians,” Cuomo said. “[The budget] is posing a question to the legislature: are you going to vote for the people or are you going to vote for the special interests?”
Cuomo focused on criticism of his measures to pare back spending on education, rejecting what he called a “false choice” between student achievement and diminished spending. He suggested that the furor was more about the possible loss of wages and pension benefits than about elevating student performance, once again pointing to the high salaries of some superintendents.
“There is a difference between supporting the bureaucracy of education and finding and enhancing performance for the students,” Cuomo said. “They are not always synonymous. The way you see the coverage, the way you see the dialogue now, it’s synonymous.”
Cuomo scoffed at the idea that school districts are “finely tuned Swiss watches operating at peak efficiency,” and cannot find places to cut spending. He noted inefficiencies like an excess of school districts, each with its own purchasing center.
When host Fred Dicker asked about Cuomo’s progress working with legislative leaders to hammer out a budget, Cuomo said they had made strides but that it ultimately came down to whether leaders “have the capacity to lead their conference and deliver their conference”. He had a similar response to a question about ethics reform.
“What they excel at is getting close to the goal line but not stepping over it,” he said.