Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election has positioned him for the presidency. I’m just not sure whether he’d be a better fit atop the American Gaming Association or NARAL Pro-Choice America. Like the governor, those groups want more casinos and fewer children.
Until one of those positions becomes available, Governor Cuomo must deal for the next two years with a revitalized Republican majority in the state Senate, who no longer need to caucus with runaway Democrats in that chamber to remain a force in Albany.
Long Island played a role in recasting the state Senate’s composition, electing Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci in the 3rd Senatorial District (SD) and Nassau County Legislator Michael Venditto in the 8th SD. Their arrival on the scene, coupled with the re-election of the Island’s seven incumbent state Senators, all Republicans, give them the power to confront the state’s executive branch in ways they could not do in 2013-14.
The GOP’s 32-31 edge came because three Democratic seats were flipped into the Republican column by state Senators-elect Susan Serino in the mid-Hudson Valley, George Amedore in the Capital District and Richard Funke in Rochester. If state Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, continues to caucus with the GOP, the Republican majority will grow to a margin of 33-30.
Should the governor position himself for a 2018 re-election campaign, Republican state Senators can block him in 2015 by taking a stand when it comes to the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) budget. The ESDC was authorized by the state Legislature to spend $237.5 million on television, radio and other forms of paid advertising, for programs such as START-UP New York and I Love NY, according to a publicly released ESDC memorandum I wrote about months ago. Here’s a suggested starting point for next year’s budget negotiations: the State Senate’s Republicans should recommend zero additional dollars be placed into the ESDC’s TV ad budget.
It’ll be a good way to start the discussion about campaign finance reform, and whether taxpayers should allocate nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on New York State-sponsored advertising campaigns that try to convince businesses, such as Hawaii’s Maui Land and Pineapple Company, to move to Binghamton. True story: I was in Maui last month and saw a START-UP New York spot on CNN. My thought bubble read, in my best John McEnroe voice, “You cannot be serious!”
There is another benefit for the GOP to keeping stunning sums of taxpayer dollars out of the hands of media companies. Given their disappointment over losing a free-spending client with access to 19 million New Yorkers’ pockets, broadcast news outlets might be more inclined to cover aggressively the Cuomo administration’s conduct, just as print publications, like The New York Times, have done for the past year. Another upside: broadcast media companies, having lost this revenue stream, would be less inclined to cut large checks made payable to Cuomo 2018. Indeed, the Times duly noted Comcast, NBC’s parent company, and Cablevision, owner of both Newsday and News 12 Long Island, contributed financially to the governor’s 2014 re-election bid, in a post-Election Day article.
While we’re talking about the ESDC and The New York Times, here’s an idea for an enterprising state Senator from western New York. Are the state’s taxpayers, through the ESDC, still Buffalo Bills season ticket holders? The Times’ Danny Hakim reported last year on the ESDC’s purchase of a 12-seat suite at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and I tried to get a few journalists interested in checking to see who was using them during Bills home games. Alas, there were no takers. In the meantime, Capital New York reported prior to Election Day that the Bills’ new owner kicked in $30,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism.