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Gov. Cuomo ratings still high despite attacks on benefits for unions and state employees

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/16/2013, 4:50 p.m.
Gov. faces redistricting and pensions

Riding the wave of gay marriage and rent reform, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has gained favor with New Yorkers, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

The poll, which came out last week, suggests that Cuomo is the big man on campus when it comes to state politics. When asked if they approve of the job Cuomo was doing as governor, 64 percent said yes and 19 percent said no. His approval ratings have been in the low 60s since April. Moreover, 59 percent of upstate residents approve of Cuomo's job, 67 percent of New York City residents approve and 68 percent of suburban residents approve. Cuomo's approval rating is 75 percent among Democrats, which is to be expected in a Democrat-dominated state.

However, certain stats may have raised a few eyebrows.

According to the poll, 53 percent of Republicans approve of Cuomo's performance as governor as well as 64 percent of Black New Yorkers, which is somewhat shocking considering the large amount of public employees citywide and statewide who are African-American.

The AmNews reported recently that in order to accomplish his goal of saving $93 billion in pension costs over a 30-year period, Cuomo's proposed legislation would lay off 9,800 state public employees (which, according to a memo, would begin on July 15); raise the retirement age to 65; require employees to contribute 6 percent of their salary for the duration of their career; and eliminate lump sum payouts for unused vacation leave from the final average salary calculation.

As the AmNews also reported, a press release from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office noted the similarities between Cuomo and Christie's proposals for pension reform. Both want to raise the retirement age; prolong the process of early retirement or end it outright; prohibit public employees for using unused sick leave for additional service credit at retirement; exclude overtime pay from final average salary; and use five-year salary averages in order to calculate an employee's final retirement payout.

"This bill institutes common-sense reforms to bring government benefits more in line with the private sector while still serving our employees and protecting our retirees," said Cuomo last month.

All of the aforementioned information makes the fact that his approval ratings among union households is 63 percent all the more surprising.

Twenty percent disapprove of his gubernatorial work, but 26 percent disapprove of the Legislature. Forty-two percent approve of the State Assembly's job and just over half of union households (55 percent) approve of the job the State Senate is doing.

That brings up the possibility that Cuomo might just be seen handling a tough job during difficult times-or it may be that it is easier for the executive branch to be more popular than the legislative bodies.