Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on The Roundtable with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Joe Donahue: Pleasure as always to welcome the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo to the program to talk to Dr. Alan Chartock. Good morning, Governor. Good morning, Alan.
Governor Cuomo: Good morning.
Alan Chartock: Good morning. What is all this "doctor" stuff?
Governor Cuomo: Because you operate on people.
Alan Chartock: I like it. I really like it. Okay. Respectfully sir, you should talk. Okay.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah but you use no anesthesia.
Alan Chartock: How did things go between the democrats in the Assembly and the Senate? There are those people who think the teachers union in the Assembly won't allow you to put a tax cap—your tax cap—on, you know, real estate, the rest of it, the two percent. So what's going on there? Are the Senate and Assembly beginning to fight now?
Governor Cuomo: It's a good question, hence you operate without anesthesia. You really cut to the bone on that one. The Senate passed a one house bill on making the property tax cap bill permanent. The Assembly did not pass it. In this new dynamic it has been read the way you suggest. In the old days a one house bill meant, well I'm doing everything I can do to get it passed. Now a one house bill almost says the opposite, right? Because if you don't have an agreement with the Assembly, then you have nothing, and you should be able to strike an agreement with the Assembly because you just wen though passing all these leftover bills where you agreed on a hundred things. At the end of the day, the property tax cap is probably the most politically potent issue. People care about it, it matters. It matters on Long Island, it maters upstate, especially with the new SALT federal provision. Teachers union is against it. The Assembly stopped it. The Assembly doesn't have a property tax cap in New York City, so they weren't doing it for their constituents in New York City. If not their constituents, then who? I'm sure the teachers union isn't pleased with it?
Alan Chartock: But on Long Island you got a whole bunch of new Long Island—let's face facts here, Governor. You have a whole bunch of new democrats who need to be protected by the Senate, so if you don't pass it and the Assembly doesn't go along with it, they put these folks in Long Island and newly elected Senators in danger.
Governor Cuomo: Oh yeah, if they don't pass it, and I think that's what caused the kerfuffle about the Senate allowing the Assembly distance on the tax cap, if you don't pass it, those Long Island seats, Westchester, upstate—upstate pays a higher property tax by percentage of home value than downstate. Everyone outside of New York City gets hurt, there's no doubt about that.
Alan Chartock: Okay so let's talk about the Child Victims Act, which has now passed to great acclaim. There are hints, not such big, little hints, in the Daily News and other places that you're being attacked by the church. They've' got bishops coming out saying you should be excommunicated and the rest.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, bishops attacking Governor Cuomo. Let's pull that headline up from about 30 years ago. The Child Victims Act should pass today. I just met with the victims. I feel so good about this, doctor, because this is just a pure act of justice and these were people who were abused by the authorities, and then the authorities denied it, which aggravated the abuse. And they've been fighting for years. This whole agenda, by the way, all of these bills that you're seeing in these early weeks, they're all the same. These are socially progressive bills that the conservatives in the senate wouldn't pass. Reproductive Health Act, the DREAM Act, the gun bill that's going to be done tomorrow—gun safety bill, Child Victims Act, they were all socially progressive, stopped by the conservatives in the Republican Senate, and everybody else had agreed to them, that's why you see now this flood of bills coming down. Criminal justice reform, because everybody had agreed to that. But the Child Victims Act was long overdue. Pope Francis I quoted at the State of the State and he said clearly that the church should not protect these priests. The priests should be punished. Pope Francis said these people should have access to the courts for legal resolution, so I'll stand with the Pope on this one. I think the bishops have worked to protect the church over doing justice. I think they compounded the problem by covering it up and not taking responsibility.
Alan Chartock: And of course there's the codification of Roe v. Wade which has really got them angry.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, but look. What you see in New York is the inverse of what Washington is doing on all these issues. They want to roll back Roe v. Wade. They want to go back before Roe v. Wade. We're saying no. We are going to incorporate Roe v. Wade into our laws and I'd like to incorporate it into the constitution. The catholic church does not believe in a woman's right to choose. Yes, I understand their religious view. I understand their religious view when it comes to marriage equality. But, I'm not here to legislate religion. I happen to be catholic, but you're not a catholic governor or a Jewish governor or a Muslim governor. You're just governor. And you can have religious views, but different legal, civil views, and that was my father with abortion. That was my father, Notre Dame. That's saint Thomas More whose portrait hangs above my desk, which was a gift from my father. I'm here to represent all the people and the constitutional rights and privileges and limitations for all the people, not as a catholic.
Alan Chartock: Talk to me about gun control, Governor, while I have you. You have this Red Flag bill. What is a red flag?
Governor Cuomo: Red Flag bill is building on what we did with the SAFE Act, which is the smartest, best thing I have done. And in my eulogy, I hope it's in the first paragraph. We passed the SAFE Act after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut. Everybody said it was an overreaction, this is a once in a life time—Sandy Hook massacre. Yeah, sure, once in a lifetime. Since then we've had more mass shootings, more killings. It's only gotten worse. And the Red Flag bill goes the next step, which is how long the person has to wait before they can buy a gun or before they are cleared on the background check. It's now three days. There was a proposal to increase it to ten days. Some states have 30 days, which is appealing to me. The Red Flag bill says, if a teacher or a family member believes that a person may have mental health issues and may be a threat to themselves or others and has guns, they can go to a [judge]. If you hear the interviews of the teachers in many of these school shootings, they will all say, "well we thought the student was troubled but we had no recourse." This would give them recourse. And it would ban bump stocks, which are not really used by legitimate sportsman. They just allow the gun to fire almost without aiming multiple times.
Alan Chartock: Let me continue with gun control, you know, for a moment. Is what you're suggesting constitutional? Don't you think the people who have just been appointed to the Supreme Court, obviously the litmus test, are going to say now, no you can't do that?
Governor Cuomo: I think you'll see this Supreme Court challenging everything. They'll challenge the New York City bill. I wouldn't be surprised if they challenged the SAFE Act bill here in New York. I think they'll challenge everything. Their argument is going to be absolute Second Amendment and everything is an abridge and violation of the Second Amendment. That's why I said, all of these bills, we are the inverse of where Washington is. They are going extreme conservative and we are going progressive. Whether it's reproductive health where they want Roe v. Wade. DREAM Act where they want a border wall. Gun safety where they want strict Second Amendment. It's the same all across the board. Voting rights where they want and have been pursuing voter disenfranchisement. So we are the antithesis, which I love because it offers New York as the progressive alternative to what's happening in Washington, which is New York at its best, Alan. That's New York leadership as the progressive capital, as the spire reaching up, right?
Alan Chartock: I agree with you. of course, I agree with you. But the question is, once it gets to the Supreme Court and they tell you no, you're wrong, you can't do a lot of this stuff, don't you look foolish?
Governor Cuomo: Well, I don't think even if we lost I would look foolish. They challenged the SAFE Act and we won. They can challenge this. I don't think they win. It has due process in it, but it is the right position and if you want to—by the way—how would I ever be embarrassed by, let's say it got to the Supreme Court and Trump's packed Supreme Court that had a litmus test for conservative judges, disagreed with me. Is that—do I look stupid or is that a badge of honor?
Alan Chartock: I take it that's a rhetorical question?
Governor Cuomo: Yes. But if you want to answer it, by all means.
Alan Chartock: No, no, no you won't look stupid. I think I knew that before I asked the question, but I did want to hear you say that.
Governor Cuomo: You're testing me. So you're testing me. You're operating on me.
Alan Chartock: That's what we college professors do, you know.
Alan Chartock: Now, first leaders meeting of the session with you and Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl Heastie last week. So, how'd it go? Finally there's a woman in the room.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. I've known the current, now Senate Leader for many years. It went very well. What you're seeing here in this first phase are, in some ways, are the easy bills because we've been talking about them for years. We're all frustrated for years that they haven't passed, they hadn't passed because of the Senate. Conservatives, I believe there are moderate Republicans who supported it. I believe they were stopped by their conservative colleagues. But all of these bills have sort of been pent up and now the plug is going to pull from the dike and we'll get these bills done. We'll do guns tomorrow, hopefully we do criminal justice reform in the next couple of weeks. Then we go to the budget. The budget is going to be hard because that's government. That's not politics. The numbers have to add up and the revenues are slowing. I believe it's a result of the federal policy on SALT but the revenues are slowing, the economy is slowing in general. We have, and now they, everybody has wants. When you're in the legislature, it's very easy to say yes to everyone. Now the numbers have to add up. So that's going to be a problem. We have to pass ethics reform. That's going to be difficult. Lobbying reform.
Alan Chartock: Will they do it? Will they do the ethics reform? I don't hear a lot of talk about it. they're all for progressive stuff in the legislature but you know, there's this whole matter of 15 percent of your income on the outside which you've certainly spoken on. I don't hear much about that.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, that's a signal.
Alan Chartock: You don't have to be a doctor to figure that one out.
Governor Cuomo: That's right. When they don't talk about it, you know it's something they don't want to do. So the ethics reform, the lobbying reform, budget more money for everything. Yeah, but the numbers have to add up. The MTA they're going to have to really answer. We have a pay commission have to do again this session. So there is the hard issues, they're all ahead. No doubt about that.
Alan Chartock: Ok, so—talk to me a little bit about, there's a measure in your budget plan which would ban the release of arrest mugshots and booking information and the press doesn't like it. it would require amending the Freedom of Information Law—critics say it would give police departments too much power to pick and choose which arrests are publicized and which are not. You've gotten several editorials from newspapers, not surprisingly saying that people have a right to know. You backing off on that one?
Governor Cuomo: No, but I understand the tension and I'm open to a better solution. What's happening is private companies are taking the mugshots, they're putting them up on their website, they're then calling up the person who had the mugshot and by the way, the case may have been dismissed, and they're saying if you want the mugshot to be taken down you have to pay me. So, we have a clear abuse. To me, it's extortion. But they can't bring an extortion case so how do you prevent a person from having their mugshot put up. This was brought up by our re-entry council as one of the barriers to re-entry. When I google Dr. Chartock I get a mugshot and it looks like you were criminally penalized. It may have been you were held and released etcetera. So how do you protect that right not to be extorted by a private company but respect the public's right to know? And what our bill says is we leave it to the locality. You can make the decision locally. But, I'm open to other suggestions.
Alan Chartock: Well every time some County Exec who has had trouble with his newspaper, they're going to say well ok, we're going to put a halt on this. I just am such a First Amendment fan that I think this is going to a place which can really turn out to be a disaster.
Governor Cuomo: No, I hear you. I hear you. I have trepidations of the bill. But how do you stop, doctor, these private companies that if you want to get your picture off the website and google you have to pay them and all they did was file a Freedom of Information, put up everybody's picture and see who calls to take the picture down.
Alan Chartock: That aint right. Ok, so let's talk about the expansion of the voting rights act last week. You know, obviously the more people who vote, is that a political trick so that the democrats who obviously benefit when everybody gets to vote, we know that and that's why republicans around the country are against it. but it isn't it sort of self-seeking?
Governor Cuomo: It happens to be democracy. To the extent they find the exercise of democracy not in their interest, that's their problem, doctor. I know, I plead guilty. Voting, if people are allowed to vote, they may vote for people who represent them and that may mean they may vote for more democrats—ok, so let's stop people from voting.
Alan Chartock: Well that's exactly what happened, right? We know that's what happens. Why is it that republicans feel that they're getting screwed if in fact too many people get to vote? Do you have any sense of that?
Governor Cuomo: Well, I think they think if the people who, if you make it easier to vote, so the people who tend to vote less actually find it easier to vote and vote on a very pragmatic level that will hurt them, which I understand, but I think we're dealing with a far greater problem. You have citizen alienation, you have people who believe the government is out of touch and it's owned by the rich corporations. And you're trying to get them invested and you're trying to get them to participate so they have confidence, otherwise the system doesn't work without confidence. So I just think it was a terribly pragmatic and obnoxious point of view to try to disenfranchise voters for your own political benefit.
Alan Chartock: Now, I want to go back to the - because of my scattered mind - I want to go back to the question of gun control. And that is there's a huge push on to let teachers come with a gun to class. If a terrible person comes in, you shoot him. What's wrong with that?
Governor Cuomo: No, I understand the conservative solution. Give everyone a gun and this way the good people will have a gun so when the bad people come, they can have a shootout and the good people will win because at the end of the day there are more good people. I don't think a classroom is a particularly good place to have a gun fight. I really don't want to see a teacher in the front of the room drop his or her eraser and chalk and pull out a gun and start firing at a person who walks into the back of the classroom with a gun. It's almost comedic, if it wasn't so tragic. I think the answer is fewer guns and people who are mentally ill should not have a gun and people who have committed felonies should not have a gun. It's that simple. No one's saying, look we passed the SAFE Act. Everybody said, "oh this is the slippery slope. They're going to come and take my gun." It's been six years. There was no slippery slope. Those are the rules. If you're mentally ill, you shouldn't have a gun. If you have a history of criminal convictions, felonies, you shouldn't have a gun. Those are inarguable.
Alan Chartock: Well, I think it's arguable that if a guy's coming in with a gun, I'm not for, I agree with you. But if a guy's coming in with a gun and threatens, not threatens but starts shooting at kids, there's at least a remedy.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, the remedy's called having school safety officers, trained professionals, with a gun and that's their job. And that's what they do. Not the math teacher, who is also carrying a gun. I mean, it's absurd to—
Alan Chartock: All right, back to you. There's a bill on your desk, I believe, that unlinks teacher evaluations from student test scores. Have you evolved in terms of your views on this one?
Governor Cuomo: I think we have to do more work on the evaluation mechanism and the testing mechanism. What has become clear to me is from practical knowledge. You know you can have the conceptual plan and then the plan in reality. And conceptually, I understand it, and it makes sense. Practically, in reality, it doesn't work that way. The testing regiment collapsed. You had all sorts of parents all across the state taking their child out of testing. They felt there were too many tests, too much pressure on the student. So it does not work as a metric. Conceptually, you can see where it would work, but we're not at the point where it works.
Alan Chartock: The CEO of Starbucks wants to run, he's saying, who might run, as a "Independent Democrat," somebody in the middle, as a third party candidate. You want to make some news here and tell him to stay out.
Governor Cuomo: Well, I drink Dunkin' Donuts, but I don't know that that would relate to any political opinion. I think you have a lot of people - you know, I think Trump's sort of, the Trump candidacy said, "well anyone can be president. You don't really have to know what you're doing." You know, if you have money or if you have celebrity, that is now the equivalent with a government qualifications and expertise and experience. I think people tend to look at government and are so disgusted with it that come to the conclusion, albeit a bad one, that you don't really need to know what you're doing to run the government. So to the old conservative philosophy, the less you know the better. Because what we want you to do is deconstructed in the first place, right? I think it's sad. You actually do need to know what you're talking about to be a good governmental leader. These are complex, large organizations with different dynamics. It is not intuitive. Managing hundreds of thousands of people is not intuitive. And it's the only place in society, when you think about it, where we believe there is no prior experience necessary, no tests, no professional license. You can't drive a large truck without a test and license, you can't fly an airplane, you can't sell real estate, you can't cut hair in this state without passing a test, but you can be governor or you can be president. Yeah, well then don't be shocked when you have these executives who have had no prior experience who fail because it was your selection criteria.
Alan Chartock: Well who draws up the test, forget about that. New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg is always, always, to use a term your familiar with, hamletizing about running for president, he's had, he ws the mayor of the largest city in the country, Bloomberg News and everything else. He'd be a good candidate, wouldn't he?
Governor Cuomo: He, I think would be an interesting candidate, you're right. He brings the private sector expertise the republicans found attractive in trump, right? Trump had no government experience but that's okay, because government is bad, but he was a private sector success, they believed. Which means he knows how to run a business and if you can run a business you can run anything, is the republican conservative thinking. But he has credibility of being a business man and he ran the city of New York.
Alan Chartock: So
Governor Cuomo: He will then turn to his positions and policies, which is where—depending on what they are, but if they are what they were when he was mayor of New York and is he's going to run as a democrat or independent, I think that becomes tricky, but he is an incredible fella, no doubt.
Alan Chartock: Let's go to the New York City, where Mayor de Blasio would like to run for president we hear according to the New York Times. Will you be endorsing him?
Governor Cuomo: I'm sorry Doctor, I missed your last question do you have the chutzpah to re-state it?
Alan Chartock: Yeah, sure, the New York Times says that Bill de Blasio might run for president and I'm wondering if you are prepared to endorse him a fellow New Yorker?
Governor Cuomo: I'm not prepared to make any endorsements. Fellow New Yorker Senator Gillibrand is also running. But he hasn't announced, if and when he announces, I will have a comment at that time, but I think we're at a stage now where a lot of people are announcing for one reason or another and if they want to run then they should get out there and say they want to run and let's turn on the lights and have a conversation. But I think they're are going to be other people entering the race and I want to hold my opinion until we know what all the options are.
Alan Chartock: Okay, so just a minute more. Roger Stone?
Governor Cuomo: Yes?
Alan Chartock: Well you know the fall of Roger Stone. I'm asking you to do some commentary on what you see happening, is this a building block in a case against the president?
Governor Cuomo: I think it's a very bad signal for the president. I think between Cohen and Stone these are two people who are involved in all sorts of dealings with the president. I know Cohen originally said, "I'll never, I'm loyal to the president." It's amazing and I remember this as Attorney General and as a prosecutor how quickly people wind up saying all sorts of things, so I think it's a very bad sign for the president because he knows he's relying on Stone and Cohen to keep their mouths shut, I wouldn't sleep all that well. I also think the president has been wholly discredited with this shutdown. He was supposed to be the business man, negotiator, the art of the deal, tough guy, table pounder, and then Nancy Pelosi came in and knocked him on his tookus, we would say in Italian. And it's irrefutable. Knock them down, ten count, the man didn't even try to get up. And that now means he is responsible for this whole debacle of a shut down because it was his recalcitrance, which he then flipped on, so he was the reason there was a shutdown and now I'm going to say he is accountable for the damages to this state caused by the federal shutdown. Tens of millions of dollars, loss of tourism, delays at airports, loss of federal aid, we lost hundreds and millions that should've been coming to this state during this shutdown that we had to make up for. We had to pay to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open. He politically lost all credibility, he's to blame for the shutdown. He can't possibly shut it down again. And he is also getting hit by his base, which believed he caved. So I think between the investigation side and the shutdown politics side, Nancy Pelosi is the reigning champion of Washington and there can be no debating that.
Alan Chartock: Well, Governor Cuomo, we are incredibly grateful you have given us this time as we always are. I wanted to say that, that last question is a good example of one I should've asked but then you asked instead. And I am very grateful for you, for that. Appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, doctor.
Alan Chartock: Thank you, sir. I have to go operate now.
Governor Cuomo: Anesthesia is a kindness.