Cuomo: Albany lacks ‘appetite’ for paid family leave
ALBANY—Albany currently lacks “the appetite” to consider paid family leave and paid sick days, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday at a cabinet meeting framed in part around what he described as a “pervasive” culture of women’s inequality in our society.
Cuomo, who was unveiling a new statewide sexual assault policy for college campuses, said the Legislature could only handle so much proposed change at one time, suggesting paid sick leave, which both President Obama and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have aggressively pushed at the federal level, is a bridge too far.
“There’s a certain appetite for change and um, we, I believe, if anything, we’re aggressively coming up with a legislative agenda that has more than consumed their ability to make change,” Cuomo said, referring to the state Legislature.
Cuomo has, at times, cast himself as a catalyst for sweeping change at the Capitol, most notably when he engineered the passage of a same-sex marriage bill that had previously failed, and for which Senate Republicans seemed to have little appetite at the time.
At other times, the governor has pointed to the limits of his own power.
“Well there’s no doubt that you could always do more” on women’s equality, he said on Wednesday. “The question is to accomplish what you can, right? We proposed a ten-item inequality act two years ago. We haven’t been successful in getting all of those passed yet by any stretch of the imagination."
“No one’s suggesting that we are butting up against the ceiling of equality,” he added.
In 2013, Cuomo proposed the ten-point Women’s Equality Act, a package of bills that he later used as a cornerstone of his pitch to female voters during his re-election campaign last year, and the genesis of a Women's Equality Party backed by Cuomo. (Cuomo touted the party as an overdue vehicle to capture women's electoral power, while critics called it a cynical pander to female voters.)
At the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who served as the public face of the Women’s Equality Party during the campaign, was seated to the governor's left. He referred to her at one point as a "tough cookie."
During the campaign, Cuomo wielded the act to draw distinctions between himself and his Republican opponent Rob Astorino, who opposed the abortion part of the act, while mostly avoiding the question of family and medical leave.
He said on the campaign trail that the state shouldn’t consider paid sick leave until it had passed the Women’s Equality Act, ensuring that women have “basic rights” before pursuing other initiatives.
On Wednesday, Cuomo said a proposal already in his state budget, to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state, would be the “simplest, cleanest” way to help women economically.
“You want to talk about a single thing that can help women economically it's going to be the minimum wage,” Cuomo said. “Beyond any supplement—insurance supplement or vacation supplement—just raising the wage, so that’s probably the simplest cleanest way to do it.”
The Assembly has passed a bill for to extend paid leave, and Senate Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference have both offered proposals to do the same, but the issue has not been advanced by the Republican majority in the chamber.