Cuomo Agenda Sees City As Model

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Attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo wants the rest of New York State to have campaign finance laws, business assistance programs and workforce development policies similar to those already in place in New York City.

In a 250-page policy blueprint released this weekend, Cuomo says:

  • The state needs a campaign finance system like the one in New York City “to allow limits on campaign spending and to increase participation by qualified candidates who lack the means or connections to raise significant campaign funds.”
  • Easing the burdens on the state’s small businesses requires “on a state-wide basis, a version of New York City’s Business Express project — an online, one-stop shop for required permits and documentation for all state agencies.”M
  • A sound workforce development program means aligning “responsibility for workforce training with agencies that have the best understanding of the needs of both business and labor, as New York City did by moving its workforce training to its Department of Small Business Services.”
  • None of the proposals stray into controversial waters. The city’s campaign finance system, which was implemented in 1988 after a municipal scandal and offers matching funds to candidates who abide by spending limits, is widely believed to have encouraged more participation in the city’s elections (although term limits also spurred more candidates to run). It features limits on donations that are thousands of dollars lower than the equivalent state regulations.

    The past three city elections—in which Mayor Bloomberg outspent rivals by tens of millions of dollars—exposed the limits of any voluntary campaign finance system, which cannot stop wealthy, self-financed candidates from dwarfing the outlays of candidates taking public financing. However, mandatory campaign finance systems have not survived Supreme Court scrutiny.

    The city isn’t just a model for policies in Cuomo’s book; it’s also a target for a few initiatives. After discussing congestion at New York’s airports, the candidate calls for “a 21st Century transportation infrastructure policy that addresses this issue including next generation air traffic control systems, improvement of ground traffic management and expanding the use of Stewart International Airport in the Hudson Valley.”

    The policy book goes on to say: “As Governor, Andrew Cuomo will upgrade our rail system at reasonable cost to enable a reliable service that averages 100 miles per hour between New York City and Albany (making this a reliable two hour trip) and then Albany to Buffalo and points in between.”

    And he adds: “We must expand opportunities for local farmers to market and sell their produce directly to residents of New York City and other cities around the State, including through building a major wholesale ‘farmers market’ at Hunts Point in the Bronx and pursue innovative ideas such as encouraging our colleges and universities to purchase more of their food from local producers.”

    One key intersection between state and local policy that Cuomo does not directly address is whether the city should regain control over its rent regulations—a point of friction for decades between tenant advocates, who seek home rule, and landlords who prefer Albany to control those policies. However, in a section titled “Keep People In Their Homes,” the policy book says: “As Governor, Andrew Cuomo will help people remain in their homes, by working to end housing discrimination, supporting programs to make housing more affordable, and fighting tenant harassment.” That agenda is broad enough to accommodate repeal of the law giving Albany control of New York City rent regulations or to ignore it.