Skelos Set to Push Charters, Tax Cuts and Fracking After Senate Gains

Forget repealing the Urstadt Law or hiking minimum wage -- Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos is talking charter schools and fracking.

State Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican majority leader. (Photo:  Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
State Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican majority leader. (Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images) (Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

State Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos has plenty of priorities on his list for the next session in Albany — and unsurprisingly, repealing the Urstadt Law, hiking the minimum wage and other priorities pushed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and progressives who had hoped to flip Senate control don’t seem to be among them.

Mr. Skelos, whose party won enough seats last week to hold an outright majority in the State Senate, told John Catsimatidis on his radio show Sunday he’d be looking to cut taxes, boost charter schools, and kickstart a fracking industry in the state — issues loathed by many on the left who were hoping a Democratic-led Senate might do just the opposite.

“We want to make sure that we continue to improve our public education system, but we also believe in charter schools, where we can help kids get education, especially within the minority communities,” Mr. Skelos said onThe Cats Roundtable, on AM 970 The Answer.

It may be an area where he finds common ground with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has also been a booster  of charter schools — much to the consternation of Mr. de Blasio.

Mr. Skelos said he’d also like to “continue to cut taxes, but in a more dramatic way,” and to reduce regulations on small businesses.

“Sometimes regulations hurt business even more than taxes,” Mr. Skelos said.

And then there’s fracking — the removal of natural gas from the ground, an issue Mr. Cuomo has long been “studying” as opponents of it protest him constantly, and which buoyed his left-wing primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout.

“If it can be done safely, I think fracking is the answer — and we’re waiting for the governor to make a decision as to moving forward. But again, if it can be found safe, tremendous employment opportunities for people in the Southern Tier, Upstate New York, certainly we’ve seen in Pennsylvania just south fo the border how it’s created thousands and thousands of jobs,” Mr. Skelos said.

The top Republican said he also anticipated he’d continue his positive working relationship with Mr. Cuomo, who handily beat Republican challenger Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and miffed many of progressive activists, especially in the Working Families Party, who felt he didn’t do enough to flip the Senate to Democrats.

Mr. Skelos’ relationship with yet another Democrat remains a bit of an open question — Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein, with whom he has co-led the Senate since 2012. The IDC and mainline Democrats struck a deal to reunite as part of the Working Families Party’s agreement to endorse Mr. Cuomo — but Mr. Klein has repeatedly said the deal was contingent on Democrats having a majority in the State Senate. He’s recently indicated he’d like to work with Mr. Skelos again — but Mr. Skelos no longer needs the IDC to create a majority, so even if they do work together Mr. Klein’s power is likely to be diminished.

“We had a great working relationship, coalition, we helped get the four budgets done on time, and I’m sure that we’re going to have a fine relationship as we move forward,” Mr. Skelos said, adding they’d speak when Mr. Klein returned from the Somos El Futuro conference in Puerto Rico.

Skelos Set to Push Charters, Tax Cuts and Fracking After Senate Gains