‘I am their instrumentality’: Cuomo on making Skelos cooperate, in some form

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Cuomo and Skelos. (governorandrewcuomo via Flickr)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo would like to emphasize that his support for a majority-Republican coalition in the State Senate is conditional.

"If Senator Skelos is opposed to the agenda of the people of this state, then I will oppose him," Cuomo told New York Post state editor Fred Dicker during his Talk 1300 radio show.

Skelos formed a coalition government with a breakaway group of Democrats, following losses for his party's candidates in the last election, in order to maintain Republican control of the Senate.

The leader of that breakaway group, Jeff Klein of the Bronx, has said that he is joining the Republicans with the expectation that the Senate will pass Democratic-supported initiatives, like a minimum wage hike and campaign finance reform.

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The governor, who tacitly supported the formation of the coalition and conditionally endosed it once it was announced, has said that his backing hinges on the group's ability to support his agenda on issues like ones Klein mentioned.

Yesterday, Skelos hinted that he wasn't fully on board with either a minimum wage hike or campaign finance reform.

Asked about that today, Cuomo, who has had an effective working relationship with the Republicans and has made clear in numerous his preference for them over a prospective Democratic majority in the Senate, said, "Well if that's true then we're going to have a problem, Fred, and we're going to have a problem sooner rather than later."

"The people of the state of New York did elect me," he said. "And they did elect my agenda. And they do have a very strong view of what should be done. And I am their instrumentality in getting that agenda done. That's how I see myself. If Senator Skelos is opposed to the agenda of the people of this state, then I will oppose him."

"They are wrong to oppose campaign finance reform," he continued. "They are wrong to oppose raising the minimum wage. They are wrong to oppose reforming the stop-and-frisk policies of this state. They are wrong. And I will do everything in my power to get that agenda passed."

It should be said that Klein has already begun a walk-back of sorts on campaign finance reforms, which means there is more wiggle-room here than Cuomo suggests, in terms of the determination of Skelos' degree of cooperation in passing the agenda the governor is referring to. As Cuomo demonstrated with ethics reform and redistricting reform, it's possible to water down legislation to make it acceptable to the powers that be in the legislature and still publicly declare victory. 

UPDATE: Scott Reif, the Senate GOP spokesman, sent over this statement: "If Senate Republicans have proven anything over the last two years, it's that we can successfully work with Governor Cuomo to pass an agenda that benefits all New Yorkers. The people want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results, and we're going to keep getting the job done for them in the next legislative session."