Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (131342)
Credit: Contributed

Sometimes you can cross the finish line in front, thinking you have won the relay race, only to learn that you dropped the baton.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as he has done over the past five years, got his budget in on time, beating the April 1 deadline, but many of the state’s elected officials and civic leaders feel that in the process, he dropped the baton. Yes, he came in on time, but too many things were missing in this annual budget.

What was most disconcerting for the governor’s African-American constituents in the $150 billion budget—which still must be approved by the Legislature—was being shortchanged on his promise to push for criminal justice reforms. With the prosecutorial lapses of grand juries and the lack of punitive measures for abusive police behavior, many were hopeful the governor would step up to the plate on these issues.

The undocumented immigrants in the state are probably wondering what happened to his plans for the Dream Act, which would allow some of them to be receive state financial aid, as well as become the beneficiaries of a private scholarship fund. Of course, the governor can’t be blamed entirely for this failure, because that dream got caught up in the nightmare of a tax credit trade-off. Moreover, the Tuition Assistance Program appears to also be doomed in this dumping.

There is no relief in the budget for the working poor, many of whom were expecting an increase in the minimum wage—something the governor had made a top agenda item. Raising the minimum wage a mere dollar from $10.50 to $11.50 proved to be difficult in the face of Republican resistance, and the governor pulled it from the package.

He also came up short on mayoral control of New York City schools, and once again the fly in the ointment are the reluctant Republicans in the state Senate They seem to relish an opportunity to stick it to Mayor Bill de Blasio, with little regard to what this rejection does to more than 1 million school children in the city.

The city’s teachers have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the budget that generally, they charge, underfunds the schools. “Rational people are mystified by what is happening in New York state, because it does feel like settling scores, not what one needs to do to help all kids,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of NYSUT’s parent unions. “The governor is being the bully in the schoolyard.” (See the union’s position on this in the article by Stephon Johnson.)

Another response to the budget came from Zephyr Teachout, the law professor who challenged the governor in the last Democratic primary. “New Yorkers will stand with you if you say no. They care more about their kids than an on-time budget,” she said in a letter to legislative leaders Tuesday.

Many believed that if anything could survive in the governor’s budget, it would be his stance on campaign finance reform, but it too bit the dust. There was no indication that he planned to hold to his stance on eliminating campaign funds for personal ends and more transparency of personal expenditures.

So where’s the good news?

In the aftermath of former Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest, the governor was successful in holding the line on the code of ethics, thereby making it mandatory that elected officials who are lawyers divulge who their clients are. In other words, they will have to disclose how they earn any money through private practice.

The governor has said that some of these proposals may be rejuvenated after the spending plans are concluded, but this is contingent on cooperation from the Republicans in the Legislature, which is often as unreliable and opaque as grand juries.