SYRACUSE — Governor Cuomo says he is fighting for “control of the state government” and said it will be determined by the legislature’s ability to pass sweeping disclosure rules, a 2-percent cap on property taxes and a bill to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of the legislative session on June 20 — “D-Day,” he called it.
Speaking to invited guests at a community college in Syracuse, Cuomo projected a series of images on a wide screen panel, with messages like “property tax cap = respect.” Cuomo pointed to Massachusetts as a model of what he’d like to see in New York, saying the Bay State went from leading the nation in taxes and trailing in education results, to just the opposite after imposing a property tax cap.
The governor then trotted out a barrage of numbers to underscore his message: government spending can be reduced without sacrificing government services, particular in education.
“Since 1996, enrollment in public schools has gone down 4 percent,” Cuomo said. “Spending on schools is up 120 percent. The number of teachers is up 10 percent and the number of supervisory staff is up 34 percent.”
Cuomo said those are statistics you’d find in a corporations that are “losing market share and that are going bankrupt.”
“We need a new attitude in New York,” Cuomo said flatly.
On ethics reform, Cuomo rejected compromises that have been publicly floated by legislators reluctant to reveal the names and incomes associated with their private legal or consultant work.
The governor said lawmakers needed to disclose, publicly, all the clients.
“Tell the people who you represent privately,” Cuomo said. “Let the legislators say, ‘These are my list of clients; these are my outside clients.’ Let them release a list of how much they are getting paid by outside clients.”
“If they refuse to answer the question and disclose,” said Cuomo, “well then, they just answered the question.”
Afterwards, I asked Cuomo about possible compromises, like having legislators reveal their client lists to a small, independent body, rather than making that information public. It’s a compromise that has been articulated by a number of legislators, including the powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“No more secrets,” Cuomo said. “No secrets, double-secret committees, no double-secret committee meetings, no ‘I disclose, but the person I disclose to can’t disclose.'”
He added, “You can’t restore trust when you start with double-secret handshakes.”
The third item on Cuomo’s agenda was same-sex marriage, which compared to the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights struggle.
Same-sex marriage “is a battle that has to be fought today,” he told the audience, who applauded. “In my opinion, it is a basic civil-rights battle, a basic anti-discrimination battle.”
Later, Cuomo told reporters “there is an evolutionary process to all of this, but I believe it is a fundamental civil rights battle.”
The audience of invited guests applauded throughout Cuomo’s presentation — one man in a blue shirt gave Cuomo a standing ovation when he discussed same-sex marriage.
Sitting directly behind Cuomo, before he spoke,were students from Syracuse City School District.
“We need to hear his plan because we’re going to lose a lot of teachers,” said Maya High, 17, a junior from the South Side of Syracuse.
The superintendent for Syracuse City School District told me they’re cutting 470 positions, after losing $20 million in funding from last year. Students complained of losing extracurricular courses, like Humanities and Literature, he colleagues said.
“It’s going to look horrible on college applications,” said one of High’s classmates, Tracee Jennings, 16.