Governor Cuomo: "[It] is infuriating and I think gratuitous. To get the fast pass, you have to go before the Federal government. You sit with a Federal official. You provide all the documentation. You have an interview and then they give you this fast pass. It has got nothing to do with the driver's license database. They are just using this to force us to give them the driver's license. I said to the Homeland Security person, look I will give you any information you want on anyone applying for the fast track process - the global entry. But I am not going to give you the Department of Motor Vehicle database."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Was a Guest on The CATS Roundtable with John Catsimatidis
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
John Catsimatidis: Good morning, Governor Cuomo. How are you this morning?
Governor Cuomo: Very fine John, pleasure to be with you. Thank you for having me.
John Catsimatidis: Now traditionally between [inaudible] and Trump, were friends a long time. You have differences in certain political things. But [inaudible] you are friends. How does the meeting go on Friday?
Governor Cuomo: The President and I have had a number of discussions. You are right. We are from different political parties - different political philosophies. But we have always been able to talk, and while he has been President we have talked about a number of issues. The issue now is really tied to the main issue of this whole political cycle, John, which is the issue of immigration and what should this nation do about immigration? It comes to light in New York because in New York, like in 13 other states, we give driver's licenses to undocumented people. From a State point of view, I want to make sure the people who are driving on our roads pass a driving test. It is a public safety issue. So even if you are not in full compliance with the immigration laws, you can get a driver's license if you take the test and if you pass the test because we want to make sure that if you are driving you know what you are doing.
The Federal government wants access to our Department of Motor Vehicles database which would then give them access to the database of undocumented people in the State. Our State, when we passed the law, said that we won't turn the data over to the Federal government. If you did then nobody would come forward. No undocumented person would come forward and actually apply for a license. The Federal Department of Homeland Security I think is basically extorting New York by saying "well, if you don't give us the driver's license database, we will deny access to a Federal program called Global Entry." It's a little complicated, John. But Global Entry allows people to go to Federal government and basically get pre-screened so when you come into an airport and you are going through customs, you are pre-screened and you do not have to wait on these long lines. It is a fast track through customs. A lot of people who travel get this clearance so they do not waste all of their time on these border lines. And the Federal government has said that if you are in New York, we won't allow you access to this fast track process and its only retaliation for us not giving them the driver's license information. Totally unrelated, these two things. But it's -
John Catsimatidis: The Federal government, before they do this special pass, has to do their own investigation. They don't necessarily need your database - do they?
Governor Cuomo: That is exactly right, John. And that is why that is infuriating and I think gratuitous. To get the fast pass, you have to go before the Federal government. You sit with a Federal official. You provide all the documentation. You have an interview and then they give you this fast pass. It has got nothing to do with the driver's license database. They are just using this to force us to give them the driver's license. I said to the Homeland Security person, look I will give you any information you want on anyone applying for the fast track process - the global entry. But I am not going to give you the Department of Motor Vehicle database and I think -
John Catsimatidis: Now, is there a compromise to be had? I was talking about this a while ago and I said undocumented immigrants, but if you committed a crime I have no sympathy for. An undocumented immigrant working hard and has never committed a crime and they are paying their taxes, we should leave them alone. Can we make a deal like that?
Governor Cuomo: Well, I offered them the logical solution to their question. I said anyone who is applying for the Global Entry fast pass, I will give you whatever you want. So that is more than logical and gives them everything they want. If they're only using it to extort New York well then I can't do anything for them and that's a decision that they're going to have to make
John Catsimatidis: [inaudible] President about that?
Governor Cuomo: The President was going to get back to me next week after he reviewed the situation.
John Catsimatidis: Well it sounds logical and I think [inaudible] a solution. [Inaudible] the Hudson River Tunnel discussed at all?
Governor Cuomo: Hudson River Tunnel I've spoken to the President about. It came up again and the SALT which was a tax increase for New Yorkers that ended the deductibility of state and local taxes. You know New York, no state contributes more to the federal government than New York State. We give about $14 billion more to the federal government than we get back. We're the number one contributing state to the United States of America. And then ending what's called the deductibility of state and local taxes means New York now contributes even more. It was totally unfair. It was totally political. Basically the Democratic states under their tax bill gave more money to the Republican states and that's using politics to do government policy in a way that I've never seen happen before, John. You know we can have our own politics and we can have an honorable disagreement but you can't extort and you can't use government to penalize your political enemies. That's just wrong. We did talk about the Hudson River Tunnel.
John Catsimatidis: [Inaudible] politics [inaudible] federal government [inaudible].
Governor Cuomo: Yeah.
John Catsimatidis: [Inaudible] tunnel. [Inaudible] It's hard because you criticize him every day [inaudible] every day. [Inaudible] compromise anything?
Governor Cuomo: Well look, even on the tunnels we can compromise. The tunnels are very important because the Amtrak trains come through the tunnels and they, it's not just into New York. That's the whole northeast corridor, John, that goes through those tunnels so you're talking about the whole northeast would lose Amtrak train service if those tunnels go down and the tunnels are in very bad shape. Right now they're part of a very large project called the Gateway project which is about a $30 billion project which is very expensive. I said we could scale it back and let's focus on the tunnels first because that's the priority. But you're right. The larger dynamic is a Democratic state. Even the northeastern states tend to be Democratic. If you take a hyperpolitical viewpoint you would say, why would I help New York and Connecticut and Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Vermont and Maine. These are Democratic states primarily. Yeah, except this is a really counterproductive, obnoxious point of view. I'm not going to help citizens who are American citizens who happen to live in Democratic states and it's also very bad for the country because New York is a big economic engine. The northeast is a big economic engine.
John Catsimatidis: [Inaudible] so in that discussion is Trump [inaudible] some kind of compromise?
Governor Cuomo: I hope. You know I hope. I talked to him about the SALT tax, the Gateway tunnels, I talked to him about projects that we're building, a new LaGuardia Airport as you know and I need federal approval to do that. The federal government says slow down that airport construction project. Your point is right when you said that, Congressman Nadler, the President feels he doesn't get political support in New York and therefore he keep poking New York, but the cycle has to stop, John. You know, it's, you don't treat me well so I'm going to treat you poorly. Yeah, but that's just a vicious, downward spiral.
John Catsimatidis: You're 100% right, Governor Cuomo, that cycle has to stop. Everybody should sit around the roundtable and make a decision that is best for the country.
Governor Cuomo: Look, I said to the President if you help us with one of these projects which Is a federal project and it's good for the country, I'll be 100 percent cooperative. You know, I want what's good for my state. I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican, if you're short, tall. Let's work and get things done. That's what the game is all about.
John Catsimatidis: Any other issues come up during up - how long was the meeting?
Governor Cuomo: We met for about an hour. It was - you know, we're both from New York - so it was a candid, frank conversation. I think the President really understood the situation and when he said he'd get back to me next week, that was a reasonable position. It's a somewhat complicated issue and he had to talk to his people, so we'll see what he says next week.
John Catsimatidis: Understood. New York State bail reform. The DAs, district attorneys, are up in arms. The police departments are up in arms. What say you? Are we prepared for that conflict? Everybody believes in bail reform, but there were a lot of things wrong. Did it go too far? What say you?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, you know John, we made a major change. The major change was de-linking cash bail, meaning what - meaning, the way the system works now is a judge basically determines bail and sets bail and it's a dollar amount. And if you can pay the bail, you get out and if you can't pay bail, you sit in the jail sometimes for 1, 2, 3 years before your case is even heard. But that's not justice.
It's not supposed to be about money. It was not supposed to be about rich or poor. So, we're de-linking cash from the bail system, which is right, and it's long overdue. This is now a major change to the system. And when you make a major change, you either have to step back and see how it works. Any complex system, John, you change one piece you then have to see how the rest of the system reacts. The human body, they put you on a medication, the doctor says let's see how it goes and let's see what the consequences are so, we made a major change. We understand fully that when you make that kind of change, you have to see what the consequences are. And then you have to go refine what you did. And that's what we're talking about now. We do have to separate these politics because everything is super heated politics now. Separate the politics from the facts, but look at the facts, look at the data and then refine the system.
It's not one change then you're done. You make a change, you watch, you refine, you recalibrate, and that's what the legislature is working on now and I'm working with them. We're talking to everyone. What's the continuing change, the continuing refinement and we're having those conversations right now and I believe when we do the state budget April 1, that by the time we get to budget we will have had a chance to look at the data, look at the facts and decide what to do intelligently. I don't want to respond to politics. When we made these changes --
John Catsimatidis: I understand that in January crime in New York City went up 17 percent. And you attributed it to bail reform and you attributed it to the city closing down Rikers Island. Which a lot of people don't want to [inaudible]. So I guess everyone's looking for common sense.
Governor Cuomo: That's right so you're right. The statistics show that crime went up in New York City, and you're right, they point to two factors bail reform happened, but they're also reducing the number of people in jail and Riker's Island. Okay, but what's the chicken, what's the egg? What actually caused the spike in the crime rate: Is it the bail reform? Is it the city's policy in reducing the number of people in Rikers? A number of things happen, right? So, you want to actually understand what caused the spike, and you have to look at numbers and you have to look at facts. This is in part science, you know, and I just want to make sure we're doing it intelligently and we're not a knee-jerk reaction to the political moment. Politics is crazy in this country right now. Everybody has a strong opinion, they don't always have facts, you know. In this environment, John, you can have an opinion without knowing what you're talking about. So, this is serious when you talk about the criminal justice system, so I just want to make sure we're responding to facts.
John Catsimatidis: Understood. Governor, it's Sunday morning, everybody is drinking their cup of coffee, anything you want to tell the American public?
Governor Cuomo: We have a very exciting legislative agenda in this state, in New York, and I think it actually focuses on the issues that New Yorkers and people all across this country are really concerned about. You know, we have these political debates and these elections that go on endlessly, and it's always about candidates, and money, and nasty tweets. Let's talk about some substance and some issues and actually get things done for people, and that's what we're going to focus on in New York these next couple of months. We have a very aggressive climate change agenda moving to renewable energy. I believe climate change is one of the dominant issues in society for us. We want to ban vaping. You have all sorts of young kids now who are vaping, they don't even know what they're doing, they're addicting them selves to nicotine, they're inhaling dangerous chemicals. We're looking to legalize recreational marijuana. Massachusetts has it, other states has it, it's a priority for me to get that done this year, I've been trying to do it for the past couple of years. We want to ban fentanyl, which is a drug that is killing people all across this country. We're going to do a tax cut, John, small business tax cut, middle class tax cut. we have more jobs in this state than ever before, but I want to keep the economy running strong. We have a Paid Sick Leave proposal, first in the country, five days of Paid Sick Leave. If people are sick, they should stay home. Don't come in and infect other people, and give them a paid sick day so they can stay home and actually not come in and infect everybody else. And we have a prohibition on repeat sex offenders in the MTA, on our subway system. Subway systems, you have some sex offenders who go into the subway system and are predators. People are crowded on the subway, they're up next to each other, and it's a feeding ground for sexual predators and it has to stop. And at one point, if they're sexual offenders, what's called level 3 in New York, high level sexual offenders and they have repeat offenses, I want to ban them from our subways.
John Catsimatidis: Agreed. People have to feel safe in the subways, and have to feel safe walking around. One last question, Governor. A lot of business people in the real estate industry [inaudible] some of the laws the state has passed, the Legislature, the Assembly, the Senate and the City Council in New York City. [inaudible] and they're halting building new buildings, Governor. Is there any hope for good compromise here?
Governor Cuomo: Well, there's no doubt that there was a political feeling that tenants needed more protection and they had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. There's also no doubt, John, that the housing system is an economic system, and the economics have to work. I'm the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary from the Clinton Administration. Housing is a pure economic calculus. If you make a housing investment non-economic, you'll see landlords walk away from buildings. We have seen that in New York City, where landlords just walked away from buildings and they crumbled and deteriorated and we had a major problem. So, we understand that it is math, and that landlords in the real estate industry only works if it is economically solvent. So, I get the political theory, I also get economics and we have a robust housing market, but we do have real estate people who are concerned that some of the laws make the situation non-economic. I haven't seen, again, facts on that point, but we're fully aware that it would be a mistake for everyone, the tenants and everyone, if we had landlords walking away from buildings.
John Catsimatidis: Form of fact-finding mission [inaudible] and try to make some kind of peace.
Governor Cuomo: We are studying it, John, because it's in no ones interest if landlords aren't fixing apartments, and upgrading apartments, and investing in the building. You know, no tenant wants to live in a deteriorating building. So, we get it.
John Catsimatidis: One hundred percent agree. Well Governor Cuomo, thank you so much for being on the show this Sunday morning and letting all people know, and all Americans know what's going on in the Northeast; it certainly has to do a lot with our whole country. And thank you for all the work you do and thank you for your conference in.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much, John, and thank you for having me on. And thank you for what you're doing with this show. I'm a big fan.
John Catsimatidis: Thank you.