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Cuomo Wants De Blasio to Pay Larger Share of CUNY and Medicaid Bill

By Jeff Mays | January 14, 2016 10:45am
 Gov. Andrew Cuomo's CUNY and Medicaid budget proposals may cause problems as Mayor Bill de Blasio develops his own budget.  Here, Cuomo and De Blasio appear at a press conference to discuss Brooklyn hospitals on Jan. 27, 2014.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's CUNY and Medicaid budget proposals may cause problems as Mayor Bill de Blasio develops his own budget. Here, Cuomo and De Blasio appear at a press conference to discuss Brooklyn hospitals on Jan. 27, 2014.
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Mayors Office

NEW YORK CITY — Before listening to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address Wednesday in Albany, Mayor Bill de Blasio had a 30-minute meeting with the governor that he described as "productive."

The two men have for months engaged in a bruising public rivalry that has had an effect on policy decisions ranging from education to managing two public health crises.

But during the speech, Cuomo proposed several measures that look like they will produce nothing but difficulty for the mayor going forward.

Cuomo proposed shifting the cost of Medicaid increases onto the city. He also proposed that the city share more in funding for the City University of New York, a move that could cost $485 million and affect de Blasio's own upcoming budget plan.

And in a long-expected announcement on dealing with the homelessness crisis, Cuomo proposed additional oversight of the city's homeless shelters by potential de Blasio rival Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The mayor downplayed Stringer's proposed new role by saying the comptroller's office already has the power to audit how the city spends taxpayer money and that he welcomed the governor's promise of additional resources to improve the shelters.

But de Blasio expressed tempered concern about the governor's Medicaid and CUNY proposals.

"I’ve heard the broad strokes of a couple of areas where we’re going to have some specific concern related to CUNY and related to Medicaid. We’re going to look at those issues very carefully," de Blasio told reporters after the speech.

"Obviously, we want to make sure that the interests of New York City are protected, and that the resources we need to provide health care and to support students are there. So, we’ll have more to say as we have a chance to analyze those specifics," the mayor added.

Experts said they saw shades of the rivalry between the two men at work in the proposals but that Cuomo was also just being an astute politician.

The governor proposed several initiatives that brought his platform further left towards liberal issues that de Blasio has been championing — such as increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, mandating 12 weeks of paid family leave and offering up $20 billion over the next five years to address homelessness by providing 20,000 more supportive housing beds and 100,000 units of affordable housing.

"I wouldn't rule out rivalry, but what's also in play is that the governor sees how the public at large and those who vote in Democratic primaries are moving to the left on most of these issues," said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College.

De Blasio took some credit for Cuomo's leftward slide.

"I think the speech, today, certainly included a lot of progress on some important issues — a lot of real progress for New York City, and I think, for the whole state. We have been working on a number of the issues that the governor addressed today. These are some of the priorities we’ve had," de Blasio said.

The proposals will cost the governor billions of dollars to realize.

"The governor has never liked spending money but the problem that the governor faces is how do you appeal to the base of the Democratic Party and voters at large without spending money? The answer is by spending someone else's money," Sherrill added.

Barbara Bowen, a CUNY English professor who is president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents 25,000 CUNY faculty and staff, said she was happy to see the governor acknowledge the need for money to cover the retroactive raises that the union has been fighting for but was worried over the $485 million cut in state spending for CUNY.

"That is a much much bigger contribution to CUNY than the city has made in the past. What we want is for the city and the state to restore full funding," Bowen said. "CUNY should not be used as leverage in any kind of political dispute because CUNY is too important for all of New York."

Sherrill compared the impending fight over CUNY and Medicaid funding to the battle between de Blasio and Cuomo over how to fund the MTA's capital plan.

After a long back and forth between Cuomo and de Blasio, the city ended up coughing up $2.5 billion to fund the $29 billion plan, almost four times more than the $657 million it had originally pledged, but less than the $3.2 billion Cuomo wanted.

Although the state controls the MTA, the mayor of New York City often takes the blame for the state of the subway and bus system. This time around, it doesn't help de Blasio that CUNY's union was one of the first to endorse his campaign for mayor.

"The governor is essentially saying to the mayor: 'You pay for the raises to your supporters,' " said Sherrill. "The mayor has to publicly ask the question: 'Who's going to pay for this?' And raise the issue of unfunded mandates."