Two issues are threatening Cuomo’s popularity

All the polls are showing Governor Andrew Cuomo enjoying tremendous popularity. It is interesting that people continue to like him despite the fact that they disagree with him on a number of substantive issues. What’s more, other major policy players, with the exception of the brilliant Speaker of the State Assembly, Democrat Sheldon Silver, are not challenging the governor on his positions. The two major policy challenges which threaten to bite Cuomo in the behind are his apparent pro-fracking stance and his views on continuing the state’s “millionaire’s tax.”

The always foxy Silver follows the Kenny Rogers dictum, “You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them” and he has deferred to the governor. However several polls now indicate that New Yorkers are wildly and enthusiastically in favor of a millionaire’s tax. The Speaker’s populist house wants and needs to provide services like health care and aid to education, and Silver has dared to put his head in the lion’s mouth. While never referring directly to Cuomo, Silver has continually reiterated his hope and expectation that the millionaire’s tax, which is scheduled to “sunset,” will be part of the next state budget.

For his part, Cuomo continues to belittle and, I think, fear the Occupy movement which has the continuance of the millionaire’s tax as a central demand. We know that Cuomo unleashed his attack puppy, Larry Schwartz, on the mayor of Albany, asking him to close down the Occupy encampment across the street from the Capitol. When Mayor Jerry Jennings said no, the governor’s right wing journalistic mouthpiece made it clear that Cuomo was not pleased, despite Jennings’ otherwise well-known fealty to the governor. The New York Daily News quotes Cuomo as deprecating the Occupy movement by saying, “There’s the shock and awe that you now have 80 people opposed to the millionaire’s tax.” But despite his disparagement of the protests, he says, “I get the fear and frustration that’s out there. I really do. Forget these demonstrations. It’s much worse than that.”

Cuomo has been arguing that people will leave the state for places like New Jersey if a millionaire’s tax is imposed. The tax is in place right now and people have not been fleeing the state in the draconian numbers that Cuomo warns about. In fact, Manhattan real estate prices continue to escalate. Cuomo’s problem is that more and more people are realizing that the tax already exists and he wants to do away with it and give the Wall Street guys a huge Christmas present. The Cuomos are men of their word and when they promise something, they don’t like to let it go. Andrew’s new friend, Rupert Murdoch, and his ilk might not like it if Cuomo reversed himself on that. As voters realize Cuomo wants to do away with an existent tax that will mean less money for the schools and the state coffers, the governor is in more danger.

Cuomo’s insistence on a hydrofracking bill is generating fierce resistance among those who think that it is not prudent to pollute their drinking water. They don’t want their children drinking water that may have leached from the fracking process. Hey, would you want your child drinking water laced with chemicals like benzene or methane? I’d bet not.

Both the millionaire’s tax and the fracking dispute could end up costing Cuomo, who surely eyes a presidential run in 2016. We have seen lots of public officials with huge ratings take a dive. The people of New York are still grateful that Cuomo has taken a stable hand to New York. They are willing to disagree with him on important items, but if I know Cuomo, and I think I do, he’s looking over his shoulder.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/7/11

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