3:32 pm Nov. 26, 2012
After a meeting with members of New York's congressional delegation today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would travel to Washington and personally lobby House Republican Speaker John Boehner, if it would help advance the state's $42-billion request for federal aid.
"We appreciated the emotional support" from federal and local officials after Hurricane Sandy, Cuomo told reporters this afternoon in Manhattan, but said, "we need financial support," and "we need it sooner rather than later."
Cuomo said two Republican congressmen, Rep. Peter King of Long Island and Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island, both of whom attended Cuomo's meeting today, would play critical roles in pushing for the aid in the Republican-controlled House, which is currently in the midst of its own tense negotiations to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."
Cuomo has made a point of staying within New York's borders since taking office two years ago, and earlier this month he eschewed the idea of traveling to Washington, telling reporters at a press conference that such a trip would only spur them to speculate about his potential presidential ambitions.
Today, Cuomo said he spoke to Rep. King over the weekend and told him, "I will do whatever he thinks is helpful."
(Through a spokesman, King said: "I will discuss with the Speaker whether Governor Cuomo should come to Washington to meet with him. I do know that Speaker Boehner has a great regard for Governor Cuomo.")
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also attended the meeting with Cuomo, will travel to Washington on Wednesday, along with some county executives and mayors from Long Island. Cuomo is not scheduled to accompany them.
In making his case for federal aid, Cuomo said Hurricane Sandy was more "impactful" than Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Region. Although the "human toll" was greater in New Orleans, Cuomo said more homes and business were impacted in New York's calamity. He cited figures showing more than 300,000 homes were damaged, 265,000 private sector businesses impacted plus 22 million square feet of business real real estate in Manhattan damaged.
The governor said it would be "unfair" to ask New Yorkers to shoulder the cost of the recovery and rebuilding expense, and said "to try to finance that through taxes would incapacitate the state."
I asked if high-income earners should be asked to pay more, noting he allowed them to face a higher tax rate after negotiating a compromise to let the "millionaire's tax" sunset.
"This is $40 billion," the governor said, adding that one "couldn't even come close to handling this on a state level."
"My philosophy hasn't changed," he added later, when asked again about raising taxes and fees to plug the state's deficit. "Tax increases are always the last, last, last resort."
--Additional reporting by Reid Pillifant