Sons of Anarchy
Try this for two peas in a gubernatorial pod: Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo.
Both men are sons of former governors.
Both took office this month as newly elected governors, after having served as state attorney generals.
Both are trying to fix budgetary train wrecks in America’s most populous deep-blue states: California and New York.
Both are trying to change the budget power structure in their respective states — in the process, having to cope with stubborn, change-resistant (though fellow Democratic) legislatures.
Brown’s problems we’ve previously discussed.
But Cuomo? What stands out is the New York governor’s stylistic approach — one that differs from Brown’s early steps in California.
Faced with a $10 billion hole in the state budget, Cuomo has given lawmakers until April to come up with a fiscal solution. Otherwise, he’s threatening to shut down the government lock, stock and barrel.
Rather than stay put in Albany and hammer out a deal (ala Brown trying to get 2/3 of the Legislature to go along with his tax-and-cut scheme by March, to qualify for a June special election), Cuomo instead hit the road, crisscrossing the Empire State in hopes of controlling the political dialogue.
Last week, for example, Cuomo took show to Jamestown, in the far reaches of Western New York. It’s a town best known as the birthplace of Lucille Ball, and where Natalie Merchant and the 10,000 Maniacs first hooked up.
Something else worth knowing about Jamestown: it’s a five-and-a-half drive from the State Capitol. It’s a quicker drive, west, from Jamestown to the Indiana State line than it is east to Albany.
For Brown to do the same in California (and so far he hasn’t taken his budget show on the road), he’d have to travel from Sacramento to, say, somewhere deep in the middle of nowhere of Death Valley National Park.
“Death Valley” an apt metaphor, it would seem, or California and New York’s economies.
Here’s one other key difference between Brown and Cuomo: union love.
While Brown’s budget didn’t spare public employees from the cutting board, he did go light on K-12 education. Obviously, he doesn’t want to lay waste to public schools — not if he’s going to sell voters on his plan. And to sell the plan: he’ll need lots of cash from the California Teachers Association to pay for air time in that June special election.
Meanwhile, back east: the New York Post reports that Cuomo is preparing to do battle with his state’s public-employees union, asking donors to pony up dough for an ad blitz to sell his cuts to the good people of the Empire State.
How this ends is anyone’s guess. Cuomo’s predecessor, David Paterson, also tried to government shutdown card — and spent the summer of 2010 playing a game of chicken with Albany lawmakers.
Meanwhile, voters seem to like Cuomo’s approach. A Siena College poll released yesterday gives the new guv a 70% approval. Then again, the man who preceded Cuomo’s predecessor, Elliott Spitzer was riding high at 75% in the polls . . . before it was revealed that he was moonlighting as “Client Number Nine”.
And you thought California governors were colorful . . .