Gov. Cuomo swept into office some 21 months ago vowing to build a “new” New York. But as the midpoint of his term nears, it’s becoming clear that, on key issues, Andrew’s New York will stay as “old” as ever.
Cuomo seemingly got off to a good start. He held down spending his first year, especially compared to his predecessors. His sophomore budget was also responsible.
And Cuomo got lawmakers to place a desperately needed cap on local property taxes, offering homeowners hope for relief from their nation-leading tax bills.
Yet despite his astonishingly high standing in the polls, the governor risks squandering his chance to make a real difference.
Even his biggest triumph, the tax cap, is endangered — because he never delivered the relief from state mandates that towns and districts need to make the cap work.
The result of all this: a string of broken promises — and dashed hopes.
* On fracking: “The economic potential from [fracking] . . . could provide a badly needed boost to the economy of the Southern Tier,” he said in his “New NY Agenda” books during his 2010 campaign, referring to the process of drilling for gas and oil in rock formations deep underground.
Yet on Thursday it became virtually certain that fracking won’t happen during Cuomo’s current term. That’s because, after four years of study, Cuomo OK’d yet another review of the process — this time, to assess any potential public-health risks.
The review will be done by the health commissioner, Nirav Shah — an honorable guy, to be sure. But there’s no deadline for finishing, and who knows what kind of study Cuomo & Co. will require next ?
Meanwhile, fracking’s legal in every other state in America, and even eco-zealot EPA boss Lisa Jackson and President Obama say it can be done safely.
* On teacher evaluations: “It’s a victory for all New Yorkers,’’ Cuomo said last February, after striking a deal to have school districts evaluate teachers.
Alas, only 107 districts statewide so far have had specific plans approved by Albany, out of some 700. Only 314 have even reached deals with labor leaders and sent them to the state. (New York City is among those still battling the union.)
* On mandates: “Mandate relief is a critical part of the equation,” Cuomo said in his campaign treatise calling for a property-tax cap. “It’s something we have to accomplish this session,” he insisted early his first year.
No kidding: Towns are being squeezed. Their revenues, limited by the cap, go largely to pay for spending mandated by Albany, such as for Medicaid and pensions, with little left over for much else.
Cuomo eased their Medicaid bills slightly and passed a pension-relief bill, but neither is making much of a dent in the problem.
And he won’t take on one issue that can provide major help: the Triborough Amendment, which requires raises for union members even when their contracts have expired — thus removing their incentive to settle for a less costly contract.
“It’s a non-starter,” Cuomo has said about scrapping or reforming Triborough.
Then there’s the massive tax hike he imposed last December, after vowing not to. Lawmakers read his lips, and went to town.
Ironically, a likely post-election special legislative session could mean raises for Cuomo’s top aides (and maybe lawmakers).
With so little accomplished — despite Cuomo’s huge opportunity — that surely would be rubbing salt in the wound.