Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed his relationship with the leaders of the Legislature; Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, during an appearance on Susan Arbetter’s radio show, Capitol Pressroom, this afternoon.
“People don’t understand the relationship between a governor and the legislature, or people just have a different lens for the relationship. The relationship is not based on love,” Governor Cuomo said. “Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, it’s not about chocolates, and candies and love. It is a functional, collegial relationship and there are different jobs between the governor and the Legislature.”
Governor Cuomo has often repeated the narrative he and Albany lawmakers reached new levels of cooperation last year, his first in office.
“By all accounts, last year was a tremendous success. There are many reasons why, including one simple one: We changed our attitude,” Governor Cuomo said in his State of the State address last month. “By the end of the year, we were not first Democrats and Republicans, we were first New Yorkers and we acted that way.”
Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver have echoed the idea the governor and the Legislature are getting along better than ever.
“Governor, you’ve been a leader, an innovator and a friend, and we thank you for that,” Senator Skelos when he introduced the governor at the State of the State. “We have reached across the divides of partisanship to meet daunting challenges without delays and without excuses. Together, we threw away the playbook for Albany’s gridlock and dysfunction.”
On the radio today, Governor Cuomo clarified things.Though he described his work with the Legislature as “respectful” and “cordial,” he said many of the initiatives they undertook last year were hard fought.
“We have a functioning relationship, we have a respectful relationship, we have a cordial relationship, but many of the things I am trying to get done are difficult for them to do, he said. “You know, we have this romanticized version of last year. There was no love and kumbaya last year. These were very difficult choices you know–I want ethics reform or I will do a Moreland Commission, which was very difficult, an investigatory commission on the Legislature. I want the budget passed on time or I will take you to court. It wasn’t about love, it was about choices, and options and tensions.”
Though he doesn’t want the public thinking he has it easy working with the Legislature, Governor Cuomo made it clear he doesn’t see the current lack of love in Albany as a problem.
“Tension can be functional or it can be dysfunctional. For many years it was dysfunctional, last year it was functional. I believe it’s functional this year also, but I would not be doing my job and they would not be doing their job if everyone just said, ‘O.K., just let’s do whatever the other guy wants and forget my institutional role. That’s not why you have a Legislature, it’s not why you have an executive.”
Rather than getting too cozy with the Legislature, Governor Cuomo sees his job as controlling the level of tension in Albany.
“I’m in the tension management business at the end of the day,” he said.
In addition to his philosophical take on power dynamics in the State Capitol, Governor Cuomo also updated Ms. Arbetter on his push to institute teacher evaluations, which has caused controversy among teacher’s unions.
“I can change the budget up until Thursday,” Governor Cuomo said. “What I’ve said to the State Education Department, which has been spending about two years trying to negotiate a statewide evaluation system with teacher’s unions, ‘If you don’t have it done by the time I amend the budget, I’ll put in my own evaluation system. … I’m still hopeful that they will get there. In the meantime, I’m working on my own evaluation system that I will put in on Thursday in the event that the State Education Department and unions are still unable to, but I’m an optimist.”
Governor Cuomo said his evaluation plan would be “more straightforward” than the current system.