Round Two: De Blasio Travels to Albany to Testify at 2015-16 Budget Hearing
In February 2014, New York City's newly-elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, traveled to Albany with one important goal: to push for a tax on the wealthy to fund his universal pre-Kindergarten program.
On the same day de Blasio testified at a budget hearing and met with hundreds of advocates pushing for universal pre-K, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an unexpected appearance with thousands of charter school advocates rallying at virtually the same time—stealing the spotlight and sending a clear message to de Blasio.
This year, leading up to de Blasio’s 2015 visit to Albany to testify at a budget hearing, the New York City mayor appears to be taking a different approach—holding his cards closer to his chest.
“I'm afraid we're not offering previews into tomorrow's testimony,” said de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell, on the eve of the mayor's visit to Albany. “Our public schedule later today [Tuesday] will reflect scheduled meetings and events tomorrow.”
One person familiar with the administration’s planned testimony said this information was offered under the condition that it be “embargoed” until after de Blasio spoke on Wednesday. This individual said de Blasio is expected to break from his approach of focusing on one issue, such as UPK, and highlight a few priorities.
Sources close to the administration said the city’s push for the authority to set its own minimum wage and support for renewing rent regulation laws may be mentioned. One suggested de Blasio may touch on his proposal for building affordable housing above the Sunnyside Yards in Queens.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer also plans to be in Albany on Wednesday and said on Twitter that he will be advocating to raise the minimum wage.
De Blasio faces an uphill battle to get many of his agenda items passed this year after he threw his support behind Democratic candidates for the state Senate in hopes that the party would win a majority last fall. Also, his ally Sheldon Silver resigned as speaker of the Assembly last month, though the mayor did play a role in helping Silver’s replacement, Carl Heastie, get elected.
While both Democrats, de Blasio and Cuomo have publicly disagreed on issues in the past as the mayor pushes a more left-leaning agenda then the governor.
Political observers argue the tension between the two is not specific to them but rather a natural part of their roles.
“The important thing to remember is that within the five boroughs, the mayor is the chief executive and the most visible, prominent face of government, but the city of New York is a creation of the state and that has led to a natural tension between every mayor and every governor dating back to [first governor of New York State] George Clinton,” said Evan Stavisky, a Democratic political consultant at the Parkside Group. “The difference is that Bill de Blasio brings more political acumen and a better ability to navigate political waters than any mayor in recent history.”
Over the past year, de Blasio and Cuomo have disagreed on how to handle emergencies such as the Ebola scare and a snowstorm earlier this month, but have also been careful not to bash each other other publicly. Instead, Cuomo this week told reporters he had a good working relationship with the mayor.
“You will never find a city and state government that work better together than these two governments will wind up working together,” Cuomo told reporters in Manhattan.
Still, Cuomo raised eyebrows when he shut down New York City’s subway system, reportedly only giving de Blasio a 30-minute warning, and the governor took credit for the universal pre-K program rolled out last fall during his State of the State address.
Stavisky downplayed disagreement between the two, arguing that any rift in the relationship between de Blasio and Cuomo is propelled by the media.
“The modern news cycle focuses on conflict. You have to feed the beast,” he said. “[The governor and mayor understand] that the average person is less interested in process stories, they’re less concerned with conflict and ‘inside baseball’ and more concerned with what the outcome is and that’s ultimately what mayors and governors are judged by.”