Deal Raises Concerns About Transparency
December 6th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders reached a deal to reform the tax code, create a jobs program for inner-city youth, cut the MTA payroll tax, and invest in infrastructure. All of it seemingly took place in a matter of weeks and certainly behind closed doors. Cuomo’s office built up to the deal with “op-eds” instead of interviews, press avails, or even just well press releases–not that their was a major difference between the op-eds and press releases. Finally the deal was announced today by a press release, even though Cuomo and the leaders seem like they could be available for a press conference. And now Cuomo has promised to release a video message about the deal rather than having a presser today.

That has raised some major concerns for some legislators–especially Senate Democrats who are especially sensitive to Cuomo’s relationship with the Republican Majority–that sensitivity has been exacerbated because the issue of redistricting remains unresolved.

One Democratic legislators told me–“It makes me wonder what else the Republicans got out of the deal because whatever it is, it is bad for me.” Certainly the cut to the MTA payroll tax is a huge victory for Republicans but Senate Democrats worry that somehow Cuomo has given Republicans an easy way out on redistricting that he will present in the stead of his long-promised veto. Independent redistricting is a life or death issue for Senate Republicans and as one Democratic Senator told me, “the dead aren’t affable people.”

Not only is the future of redistricting still up in the air but so is the fate of the newly-created ethics watchdog the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. JCOPE is supposed to be up and running by next week but a number of sources are telling me that that is unlikely because legislators have had trouble finding people willing to serve on the commission–despite the fact that the legislation to create the agency was signed in August.

So what happens if next week comes and there is no commission? And why on earth has the process of creating an ethics watchdog been cloaked in secrecy? Cuomo’s office has not returned multiple calls regarding JCOPE. The old agency–the Commission on Public Integrity is simply supposed to cease to exist next week. Will those workers just stop coming to the office? Will higher-ups like Barry Ginsburg silently find their way into JCOPE? Will JCOPE be any different than the agency it replaced.

Will Albany still be in a tizzy over the tax deal and the special session to notice whether JCOPE comes into being? Or will it all happily fall into place? Man, that is a lot of questions.

*Update

Assembly members have received copies of the press release handed out to journalists and are now expected to vote on the measure tomorrow. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters that there has already been enough debate about the tax code this year. Cuomo will apparently issue a message of necessity and the Assembly will likely be out of town again before the end of the week if not by the end of tomorrow. Not sure how much any of the rank-and-file legislators really know about what they are voting on.

By on December 6, 2011, 3:18 pm
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