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: Good morning, Governor.
Governor Cuomo: Good morning. Pleasure to be with you.
Joe Donahue: Always a pleasure. Alan, you are with us as well. Go to it.
Alan Chartock: So Governor, with all of the stuff about, pleasure to be with you, pleasure to have you, is it really a pleasure? I mean, what are you really thinking?
Governor Cuomo: What am I really thinking? Doctor envy. Doctor envy. You know I have a sister who's a doctor. She's the favorite. You know that joke about the doctor and the attorney, I'll tell you very quickly because I know you're previous with your time. Two sons - one becomes a doctor; one becomes an attorney. The attorney always believes that the mother favors the doctor son, so the attorney's very motivated and works very hard, and then goes into politics and becomes a Congressperson and then a U.S. Senator, and then runs for President of the United States because he wants his mother's love that she's showing to the doctor. And he wins and he calls his mother and he says, "Mom, I want you to come to the inauguration and see me become President of the United States." The mother says, "Okay, I'll go." Mother goes, she's in the front row. She taps the person next to her as the President walks out on the stage and says, "See that boy? He's my son." And the man says, "That's very nice, he's your son." "You know, his brother's a doctor."
Alan Chartock: Exactly. Exactly.
Governor Cuomo: Doctor envy. My sister's a doctor.
Alan Chartock: And I know. I remember talking to your father about her, as well as you. Now, what about your brother? Is there anchor envy?
Governor Cuomo: There's a paycheck anchor envy, that I can tell you. He's doing a great job. I just, I wish my father could have seen Chris, really come into his own because he has. I mean, I hate to say it because, but he's so damn good at what he does and he's so smart. And you know, you can see Alan, all of the training he had, right? He was at the kitchen table all his life with the back and forth with my father myself. So, he's doing a great job and I really wish my father could see him, he'd be so proud of him.
Alan Chartock: Well, maybe he is. Maybe he is. Okay, so Governor, you know, from a very interesting topic to a topic that may turn some people off, and that is the budget. You know the budget, those guys are going to do the budget again, we don't know what's in it, we don't want to know what's in it. Yet, it is the guiding, you know, the guidepost for everything that goes on in government.
Governor Cuomo: Yes. And the budget this year is going to be different, Alan, because we've done a lot of good work legislatively, especially on social policy already - Reproductive Health Act, Child Victims Act, the voting reforms, DREAM Act. We'll do criminal justice reform, rent reform. But this budget is really going to be about the numbers. And in many ways it's the most challenging budget that we have faced because the budget is ultimately about the economic trajectory of the state. And we have real economic issues. What they did to us in Washington with the tax reform and SALT, if we're not careful and we don't get this repealed, it could change the economic trajectory of this state. We have already seen over $2 billion in lost revenue. So, this budget really is going to be a challenge on the numbers, and we have to be smart. And you know, they often accuse democrats of showing love by giving money, right? The Italian grandmother gives food as a proxy for love, democrats like to show attention by more money, more money, more money. And we don't have more money this year. And it would be fiscally irresponsible, I believe, if we're not cautious on what's going to happen with this economy. So the challenge really is going to be on the numbers. And on time is important, but being right is more important.
Alan Chartock: I'm sorry Governor. Don't they have to give back their pay raise if it's not on time? Isn't that part of the deal?
Governor Cuomo: If they don't, none of us get the annual adjustment, the executive of the legislative. But, what's more important is that the budget is right, you know? Doctor, we have never, we have never had to come back and do a mid-year correction. And that's really the budget success that we've had. People focus on the timing. No - focus on the number. We never came back and did a mid-year correction, and I don't want to start.
Alan Chartock: I'm sorry for interrupting, but okay, so assuming that that is the case, obviously you and Tom DiNapoli are on the same page here. The Comptroller and the Governor are on the same page about what has to be done in order to not let you, not demand that you come back and fix things up later. What is that?
Governor Cuomo: We have to be conservative on the revenue forecasts. We're at the point now where we set the revenue forecast, right? Budgeting for a state is a little different than budgeting for yourself because you normally know what the income is and your budget's just expenses. We have both sides of the equation. We have to budget expenses, but also project what the income is. And the income has been dropping. I believe it's primarily because of SALT and tax reform, but the income is dropping. The controller's estimate of revenue is actually below my estimate. My guess is the legislative estimates, when they come in, will be higher than my estimate of revenue. So, that's the first piece to reconcile is what revenue projection do you take? And I believe the controller is going to be the lowest of all the estimates.
Alan Chartock: Let's talk a little bit about the interlacing political warfare that's going on. Now we know that you had some explosive words for the Senate Democrats and for the loss of the Amazon deal, but there are two different segments of the state Senate Democrats. There are the guys who you helped to elect; I know you went and campaigned for them and they were in the outlying areas. You know Westchester, Long Island, they weren't in the city. And if you lost those the Democrats would lose the Senate. So there seems to be a little bit of a war going on, that I'm hearing about, which is that these marginal Democrats are afraid that the Assembly Democrats and the old boys and girls club in the Senate will now turn around and try to spend all the money they can, where the Westchester guys, the Long Island guys, are saying "no, don't do that." Is there anything to that?
Governor Cuomo: Well, welcome to New York politics. There was a Senate Minority Leader, Democrat, who will go nameless, but once said to me - actually was talking to my father and I was just hanging around - and he said, you know, it's very hard for the Democrats to ever hold the Senate because you have New York City politics and you have suburban upstate politics and they're enemies of each other, or they're at odds. I don't believe that to be true, but you do have different regional politics. And the challenge for the Democratic Senate is to be responsive to all, which you can be. I mean, those as a statewide elected official, that's what I deal with every day, right? Making Buffalo work and the North Country work and Long Island work and New York City work. But, there are regional differences in politics, there's no doubt about that, but that is also the art form of being in the majority. And yeah, you will have ideological differences; you have a whole spectrum of Democrats, right? You see it nationwide. It's also true in this state. And you do have different needs in different regions. I'm going out to Buffalo today. What they need in Buffalo is much different than what they need in New York City.
Alan Chartock: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but is there are war going on between the left wing Democrats and the more moderate Democrats in the 'burbs?
Governor Cuomo: I think what you see is, they've been in the minority and they've been doing politics. They're now in the majority and they're governing. Those are very different things and this is a transition that they have to go through. And I think it's a learning process and feeling their way, but there will always be variations within a Democratic conference, whatever that Democratic conference is, the way there are variations in the Republican conference, by the way. We saw very big differences between more conservative upstate Republicans and more moderate Long Island Republicans, right? We've lived with that for years. And you now have that analog on the Democratic side.
Alan Chartock: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but come on now. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Governor Cuomo: You can't say "yeah, yeah, yeah," what does that mean?
Alan Chartock: You know what that means, respectfully, you know what that means. But you and I both know that the Long Island Democrats, for example, were furious about the loss of the Amazon jobs, right, yes or no?
Governor Cuomo: Everybody was furious about the loss of the Amazon jobs.
Alan Chartock: Not everybody.
Governor Cuomo: Well everybody should have been furious about the loss of 25,000 jobs. The largest number of jobs the state has ever attracted.
Alan Chartock: But the Long Island Democrats and the Westchester Democrats, they were at odds with the Senate Democrats who basically, at least to you last time we spoke, screwed up the deal.
Governor Cuomo: Look, I think with Amazon and I say what I think, as you know, and people like it, people don't like it. Amazon was a tremendous loss. And I don't believe it was just the suburban Democrats who feel that way, I believe it's - look, New York City, 75 percent of the people said it was a tremendous loss in polls.
Alan Chartock: Yes, true.
Governor Cuomo: So, yeah, everybody felt that way. It was a tremendous loss because it was.
Alan Chartock: I want to move to the MTA. You and Mayor de Blasio have gotten together for those of us who drive in to New York from time to time, below 60th or so you're going to have to basically be EZ-passed, and it's going to cost a lot of money to go and do that, why'd you do that?
Governor Cuomo: Because congestion is a problem in Manhattan, the environment is decaying around and because we need to finance the mass transit system and the best way to finance it rather than raising tolls on mass transit riders I believe is to toll cars coming into the central business district. The congestion in Manhattan is indescribable, doctor. Busses move at four miles an hour. You can probably walk faster if you had the stamina almost anywhere in midtown Manhattan. So the congestion pricing says toll cars coming into the central business district, you can do it electronically, you can have variable tolls and sent by people in off hours. So it gives you much more flexibility and it says you have to move out of vehicles, save the planet, reduce congestion, get on to mass transit, and here's the funding so we can actually have a mass transit system that people are willing to get on.
Alan Chartock: how is that Mass Transit thing going? You know, you've gotten some blame for the subways, you've gotten some credit for the second avenue subway for example, but you've gotten some blame also and there's been some question as to whose responsible, you or de Blasio? The meantime, the subways are a mess.
Governor Cuomo: The subways are a mess. It's been a governmental failure. It was designed almost as a failure. Governor Rockefeller did many great things but they designed the MTA in a way that nobody has direct control because nobody wanted control because nobody wanted to be responsible whether or not the trains ran on time. They didn't want to be responsible for fare increases so they set up this byzantine board of 17 people and nobody knows whose responsible for what. We then didn't invest in the system, because were short sided and we don't pay for maintenance and we don't pay for upgrades and now we have 40-year-old subways cars and 100-year-old electric switches. And every time it rains the system ponds forms puddles and there are electrical short circuits and now we have to go back and A, establish accountability and a management system that works and B, invest and fix the system the way it should've been investing for all these years. Literally, 30 years of decline.
Alan Chartock: Okay, so let's go, let's go to A. What do you want to do to make it better? When it came down to education in New York we said "okay, the Mayor should be responsible." Should you be responsible and held responsible and forget about the MTA and appoint one administrator and that's it, you'll be responsible?
Governor Cuomo: I think in an ideal world, doctor, yes. And I believe in accountability.
Alan Chartock: Doctor no.
Governor Cuomo: And I have never shied away from taking a responsibility as long as I have the authority. If I mess up the new Tappan Zee Bridge, it was me. If I mess up the Kosciuszko bridge, it's me. If I mess up Albany airport reconstruction, it's me.
Alan Chartock: So that's a yes, right? Do away with the MTA and Andrew Cuomo will be in charge.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, if the legislature would do that. The legislature now. Talk about the dynamics we have suburban members, it's the long island railroad, it's the metro north, which is the Hudson valley, Westchester, you then have NYC. They want to make sure everyone is represented and that's the dynamic that were dealing with now.
Alan Chartock: Well can you win that fight?
Governor Cuomo: I don't know, I don't know because there is with valid reason, they want to make sure that everybody has a voice at the table, because it's a regional transit system. And that's how you wind up where we are with so many voices. It has to be better than it is now. And part of setting the tolls, and I said "I will not support a toll increase unless there is a better management system." So it has to be better than it is now.
Alan Chartock: Right, listen I know you well enough to know if you want something, if you really, really want it. This is the doctor speaking. If you really want it! you're going to get it.
Governor Cuomo: I think that is, I wish it were true. I wish it was true. Look I wanted a smaller nose, did it happen?
Alan Chartock: alright, going from one thing to another you saw that the Jumaane Williams won, who ran against you, or attended, who successful Kathy Hochul as Lieutenant Governor, won a special election for public advocate this week. Are there any hard feelings from your old days?
Governor Cuomo: Oh no. I don't really know Mr. Williams. But there are no hard feelings at all.
Alan Chartock: Because as you know, that's a job that often leads to being mayor of New York.
Governor Cuomo: It has in the past. It has in the past.
Alan Chartock: So you don't have anything good, particularly good about him to say? Or particularly bad about him to say now?
Governor Cuomo: That's exactly right.
Alan Chartock: So what about this, oh boy, I hate to ask you this because it's complicated but the Public Authorities Control Board, the state Senate Republicans want to boost business this week by changing to a single member's veto power on the Public Authorities Control Board, which looms so large on the Amazon deal, of course. Do you agree with their ideas?
Governor Cuomo: The Public Authorities Control Board, and there's something called CPRB, which require approval for the state to do basic projects. In the past, it has been used as a pocket veto. In this case it was used to stop the Amazon deal and nobody even knows what PACB stands for. The legislature will say, "well that's our prerogative." Nobody has a prerogative to operate in secret with no transparency and stop major projects with a pocket veto. So, and that's true on both the PACB and the CPRB. I think there should be more transparency. You want to stop a project, you should stand up, say who you are, why you want to stop it and if you stop it there should be accountability. Not that you can appoint—the legislature can appoint a particular member to carry out a particular agenda. I don't know what the Republican proposal was, but I don't believe you should have that must power as a clandestine, pocket veto. And you can appoint a member of the legislature who has a particular interest, right?
Alan Chartock: And we just saw that happen, didn't we?
Governor Cuomo: Exactly.
Alan Chartock: We just saw it happen. You weren't pleased about it, Michael Gianaris. And I had a letter from one of the members of the senate majority now, the Democrats who said, all Cuomo had to do was say, ok this guy won't suit, and we'll send somebody else up there. My response was, why should he do that? You knew what he was going to do. What do you make of that?
Governor Cuomo: Well it was an untruth. A) what that member was saying is this was just a political manipulation. That's all this was. We were playing politics with Amazon. We recommend Gianaris, the Governor then says no to Gianaris, Gianaris looks like he accomplished his politics, and it was all a manipulation. God forbid this state government falls to this level. Second, there was no replacement offered who had a different position, right? The Senate never said, okay, here's our second suggestion and that person will support it. To this day, the Senate has never said they will support it. They sent up a second name, Senator Leroy Comrie for this position, even though I never rejected the first selection. They sent up a second person, Senator Comrie. He has never said whether he supports Amazon or not. And nobody's even asked the question, frankly, in our press corps. Or if they have, they took silence as acceptance. So it's just not true, doctor.
Alan Chartock: Talk to me about the Red Flag Gun Control Bill. You went up and spoke with Speaker Pelosi. It's unlikely such a law will prevail based on Republicans and the Second Amendment. Isn't that right?
Governor Cuomo: You know; I've worked on the gun issue since I was in the federal government with President Clinton as HUD Secretary. We passed the most sweeping gun agreement and then it was undone by the Bush election. But the Red Flag Bill is just common sense. And even gun owners will say, yes if you're mentally ill, you shouldn't have a gun.
Alan Chartock: What's the definition on that? Does anybody who has ever seen an analyst have to worry that they'll never be allowed to own a gun?
Governor Cuomo: No. You have, if a school teacher or a family member, primarily, believe you are in extreme emotional distress and you can hurt yourself or others, they have a right to go to a judge. The judge then reviews the matter and can ask for an evaluation. So you have your rights intact, but if you're mentally ill and you can hurt yourself or others, then for your own wellbeing, as well as others, someone should step in and help you. I mean it's just common sense. Look, we in this society have decided that we can involuntarily institutionalize a person if they're in extreme danger to themselves or others. So it's just, it's just common sense, people who have a mental health issue that make them incapable of handling a firearm should be helped.
Alan Chartock: How come, Governor, we're at a time, can I take another four, five minutes with you?
Governor Cuomo: Please.
Alan Chartock: Okay, there's a ban on stretch limousines. You had a ban. You wanted a ban. But now you've dropped it from the budget. How come?
Governor Cuomo: I want a ban on unsafe stretch limousines. So there's a discussion and a healthy positive one, what is a safe vs. an unsafe stretch limousine are an after-manufacturer process. Now there is a federal certification on stretch limousines which will pre-empt any state action. But we're not looking to ban all stretch limousines it's those stretch limousines that may be dangerous because of how the work was actually done. Basically what you're doing is you're cutting a car in half and you're adding eight, seven feet to it in the middle. It's not an easy manufacturing process. But there is a federal certification process and that would govern and should govern.
Alan Chartock: Talk to me about marijuana. You've told me in the past we're going to get in New York State. We have it in Massachusetts, where I live, a good state, and I know you've said there's a competition for tax dollars on marijuana. What can we expect?
Governor Cuomo: I believe it is time. Massachusetts, New Jersey, we expect to legalize marijuana also. It is easier said than done and it's not, the devil is in the details, Doctor, and you have to do it with safeguards and protections. But I believe, the remainder of the session, legalizing marijuana, criminal justice reform, rent reform, will be the big sort of social issues. The biggest problem as I said is going to be the actual budget itself and the drop in revenues. I believe the tax cap should be permanent in this environment. I believe we should do a middle class tax cut to keep people in this state and give people some stability. And that's going to be the remainder, the bulk of the remainder of the agenda.
Alan Chartock: So you mentioned that you're going out west and to Long Island to promote a permanent tax cap, now as I mentioned before, that's somewhere where moderate Democrats in these places are really burdened by what they consider to be over-taxation. Do you expect the Senate and Assembly will give you your permanent tax cap?
Governor Cuomo: I think it would be foolish if they did not. I mean in this economy, with this instability, with what the federal government did. We have to keep people in this state and we have to reassure people. And making the tax cap permanent, I believe, is an essential step in that. Look, we've had the tax cap. It's worked. And local governments can exceed it.
Alan Chartock: At their own risk.
Governor Cuomo: Well, at their own political risk. It's really fascinating. Somebody should do a study one day. Property taxes were going up 5, 6, 7, 8 percent a year. We then said there's a tax cap, you can exceed it with a supermajority and nobody exceeded it. How did you go from 5, 6, 7 percent every year to 2 percent a year? But they've done it and it's worked very well and I think making it permanent will be a very positive sign. And the Senate has already passed it. The Assembly hasn't but I don't see how you can do a responsible budget without making the tax cap permanent.
Alan Chartock: Let's go on to something that is of interest to some of your upstate listeners and that has to do with the arrest of Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse by the FBI federal agents. Now you've called on him to resign before. What are you thinking after today?
Governor Cuomo: Well look these are federal, all I know is what I read in the newspaper, Doctor.
Alan Chartock: Why are you calling me Doctor?
Governor Cuomo: Because now we started with that whole doctor, attorney competition with my sister and my mother.
Alan Chartock: Well my mother-in-law was once asked if she really liked me and she said we had always hoped her daughter would marry a doctor. And when they said well he is a doctor and she said not that kind of doctor.
Governor Cuomo: Not that kind of doctor. The type of doctor that wears surgical gloves. Well you still operate though, you just don't wear the gloves. You do the surgery with the pen as opposed to a scalpel. All I know is what I read in the newspaper but they're obviously serious charges on the Mayor.
Alan Chartock: You still think he should resign?
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Alan Chartock: Ok. So do you exercise at all? Do you ever exercise? What do you do?
Governor Cuomo: Yes. You want to go a few rounds? We can do a charity boxing match.
Alan Chartock: Yeah not me. No sir. But do you exercise? What do you do? Because I think people are concerned about you know your health and about what you do, what do you do?
Governor Cuomo: My weight is good. I watch my weight. I run. I basically run now. I work out. I will work out with light weights. I'm not like my brother Chris building mountains of muscle. But no I stay in shape. It' important for me because this job, this job is much different than when my father did the job. It is literally 7 days, 24 hours, any minute, anything can happen. Operational issues, climate issues. Federal government attacking us.
Alan Chartock: Well you pop played b-ball. I know that. He'd go out there and he'd play basketball.
Governor Cuomo: Oh yeah. That was his outlet. He played basketball. He played it, well we would play it against one another. He played it with Chris. That's how he started, Chris played high school ball here in Albany. But yeah my father basically loved the competition of basketball.
Alan Chartock: People said he was mean, he would give them the elbow, and he'd bring in state troopers to play on his team to help him out.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah that's true. That's true. I can't lie. That's true. He wasn't mean. But he would hit you with an elbow.
Alan Chartock: I want to talk to you about the Cohen hearings. Did you watch?
Governor Cuomo: I watched enough of it. Yes.
Alan Chartock: Ok what'd you make of it.
Governor Cuomo: Turns out the end of the hearings, the President has lied, which we knew when he started. Look, I don't know that anyone can be shocked at this point by any revelation about the President on any level. What else could be said about a person that hasn't been said about him and this is a President who has just lost credibility in my mind. And this was another affirmation of it, colorful from a person who knew, intriguing. But I don't think it actually breaks new ground.
Alan Chartock: I agree.
Governor Cuomo: The talk shows had to says startling news. Yeah, the President lied, the President schemed, the President threatened, lied during the campaign. And in some ways I'm worried that this is all a distraction from what government should be doing in Washington, like repairing the damage from the tax reform bill that devastated New York on SALT. Like focusing on the Red Flag bill that Speaker Pelosi put in and actually doing something about gun violence. You know all this theater comes at a cost Alan. We're not talking about government, it's all theater.
Alan Chartock: Governor, do you think, I have to ask you this real quickly because I only have a minute left, but there is a rush on some part of the folks who follow all of this to impeach the President. I'm saying it's way too early because the Senate won't move on it right now and you only got one shot. What do you think?
Governor Cuomo: I think the Senate won't move. It would extend the theater. Forget the substance of it. I think if you argue on the merits, if there was a President who should be impeached, this is a president in our lifetime who hits that standard. But practically, tactically, could you do it? Would it happen? And what is the cost of it? You know I don't think, we have a presidential election coming up. We're at the point where we should be focusing on, and when I say we, myself as a Democrat, we should be focusing on government, his failings in government, the divisiveness of this administration, and our positive plans and what we're going to do as an alternative and where is the Democratic Party as a Party nationwide.
Alan Chartock: Ok we have to go. But I wanted to just say I take that as a no, it's too early to try to impeach him.
Governor Cuomo: Take it as I agree with you, Doctor. I agree with you on your final question. You're right, Alan. You're right.
Alan Chartock: It's always great to talk to Andrew Cuomo. Thank you so much, Governor for being with us and we look forward to the next time as we always do. Thanks again.
Governor Cuomo: Thanks, Doc.