2011 Governor's Year In Review: Cuomo Successfully Pushes Agenda But Albany Remains Opaque
At the end of his first year as governor, Andrew Cuomo has a high approval rating and can list marriage equality, an balanced budget and a property tax cap among his accomplishments, but his promise to bring transparency to Albany still remains unfulfilled. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
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Raising his right hand, Andrew Cuomo became the 56th governor of the Empire State on January 1, 2011.
"This was electing a mandate for change that the people of this state endorsed overwhelmingly," Cuomo said that day.
The freshman governor promised to lower taxes, and did so, but kept them higher for wealthy New Yorkers.
For the first time in five years, state lawmakers passed an on-time, balanced budget.
Cuomo overhauled Medicaid, convincing stakeholders to cut spending, and steered through a property tax cap, pleasing suburban and upstate residents.
It drew praise from an unlikely Republican supporter.
"Focus on the importance of cutting taxes and the creation of jobs, and that's our governor," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said on December 12.
Not to be outdone, Cuomo pushed through gay marriage, convincing four Republican state senators to support the measure.
"Passing this law not only completes a promise we made to the people of this state during the campaign. It's going to make a real difference in people's lives," Cuomo said on July 24.
He toured the state to push for ethics reform, establishing a new commission to oversee Albany and vowed to veto any redistricting of legislative maps that is not independent.
Cuomo also convinced the state's largest public employees union to accept a salary freeze, furloughs and contribute to their health benefits.
"This shows that collaboration works," the governor said on November 3.
Cuomo did butt heads with the state's other political heavyweight, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, though the two managed to broker a compromise to bring cabs to all five boroughs.
A year down, the Cuomo accomplishments add up, and his popularity proves it. He kicked off his rookie year with a 48 percent approval rating, which rose to 54 percent in May, 56 percent in August and was still 55 percent in November.
Cuomo came to the State Capitol promising to bring transparency.
"I will lift the veil of secrecy that is now around Albany," he said in November 2010.
But the governor also stays away from one-on-one interviews with the press.
And as he finishes 2011, the biggest deals are still done behind closed doors. The "three men in a room" — the governor, State Assembly speaker and State Senate majority leader — seem to continue to be Albany's modus operandi, with Cuomo behind the wheel.
"I am the government," Cuomo said on a November 9 interview on WGDJ-AM Talk 1300.
But most observers say it seems to be working.