Capitol Watch: Bills-in-limbo test Cuomo’s liberal politics

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, second from right, and Delta Air Lines' CEO Ed Bastian, right, cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the new $3.9 billion Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 in New York. Joining them are Rick Cotton, sec

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — It’s veto season in Albany.

After an unusually busy year in the state legislature following a Democratic takeover of the Senate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign or veto 373 of the approximately 900 bills passed by lawmakers in 2019.

Cuomo has vetoed just 26 bills so far this year, but governors often issue their most politically contentious vetoes near the Thanksgiving and December holidays when fewer people are paying attention to the news.

Advocacy groups are waiting to see what gets the ax.

"When so many of the bills are front burner issues for progressive and activist groups, there starts to be a lot of grumbling over what the governor is holding hostage, and whether he's intending to kill them," said Michael Kink, executive director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition, which focuses on labor issues.

"There's an expectation that he will walk the walk on his claim of being a progressive leader," he added.

Among the bills Cuomo has vetoed was one that would have required New York to publish a biannual list of areas hurt most by toxic pollution, pesticides and other environmental hazards. Cuomo said the bill, which he also vetoed in 2010, would require “tremendous resources” from the state.

“We are disappointed in this veto because it means we lose a real opportunity to provide critical information about potential hazards that New Yorkers — especially those in minority and low-income communities — may be facing,” said Kate Kurera, deputy director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

Cuomo blamed ballooning Medicaid costs for his veto of several bills that would have boosted payments to rehabilitation care providers and allowed coverage for creative arts therapy.

He said he found the legislature’s intent “laudable” but added: “These bills would require the expenditure of funds that are unbudgeted, and with Medicaid facing a considerable funding gap, should be considered during budget discussions.”

The Democrat also vetoed bills offering tax incentives for removing fire hazards from homes and employing the disabled, which he said were matters better addressed in upcoming budget talks.

Cuomo vetoed other bills, including one boosting the state’s reimbursement for local highway maintenance costs, because he said they lacked a funding source.

In recent years, Cuomo has vetoed about one in every five bills that come to his desk.

A senior adviser for Cuomo, Richard Azzopardi, said the governor has a responsibility to make sure anything signed into law is responsible and “written in such a way that it actually accomplished what its stated goals are."

"We'll put this governor's nationally significant record of progressive accomplishments against anyone, any time, any place, but we don't govern by bumper sticker," Azzopardi said.


Some of the remaining bills test the priorities of a governor who touts his efforts to reign in governmental spending alongside his successful fights for liberal favorites like same-sex marriage and minimum wage hikes.

Two bills still awaiting approval would give people with substance abuse problems guaranteed access to medication-assisted treatment through Medicaid and commercial insurance.

"It seems highly likely he will veto and his veto seems to be predicated on the cost of the bill," said Jeremy Saunders, co-director of the advocacy group VOCAL NY. "He refuses to tell us anything.”

Cuomo has yet to sign a bill that would reduce how long striking workers have to wait before collecting unemployment benefits.

Union members rallied this week in Buffalo to push Cuomo to sign another bill that would allow workers to recover stolen wages by enabling a lien on businesses.

Other pending bills including a ban on an agricultural pesticide, chlorpyrifos. Apple farmers in Niagara County and elsewhere argue some use of the pesticide is needed to control invasive beetles.

Cuomo faces a 10-day deadline to sign or veto bills after they are passed by the legislature but the clock doesn't start until they land on his desk. The governor often signals when he’d like to receive bills from the Assembly or Senate, which has long agreed to do so in batches.

Some bills that are vetoed may come up again in January. A proposal to make it easier to sell and grow hemp could be taken up next year when lawmakers are expected to again debate legalizing marijuana sales.


Lawmakers are examining Cuomo’s veto messages for hints of how he’ll be approaching his next state budget proposal, due in January.

Lobbyists representing groups ranging from children to the elderly expect Cuomo’s budget will have little room for new spending.

AARP New York is pressing Cuomo to add a state caregiver tax credit for 2.5 million New Yorkers caring for loved ones. Early childhood groups want to boost New York’s earned income tax credit and expand the state’s child care credit to children under 4.

Cuomo is expected to focus next year on meeting ambitious climate change goals and abiding by spending caps.

Leading lawmakers expect the administration’s fears of rising Medicaid costs to dominate budget talks. Cuomo proposed and withdrew $500 million in across-the-board cuts to the health care program this year.


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