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New York Post state capital bureau chief/captain of the Andrew Cuomo cheerleading squad Fred Dicker asked us earlier this week what “tough questions” he should ask his pal Cuomo about the gov’s new budget, which — as Dicker swoons — is expected to be on time for the second year in a row.
Dicker was responding to our question, which asked if he ever planned on lobbing anything but softballs at his pal Cuomo, as he’s done so consistently in the past.
Well, we have a few suggestions for the long-time Albany journo, for starters — and we realize this isn’t exactly a question — he might be a bit more cautious when congratulating someone for doing his job.
Dicker’s radio show, as expected, was the first stop for the governor this week in his media blitz boasting his on-time budget.
Dicker opened the segment by congratulating the governor on the budget.
After about 20 minutes of what more resembled a Cuomo campaign ad than
an interview with a seasoned reporter, Dicker then ended the show by
congratulating the governor on the budget.
Granted, we’re not looking at a copy of the New York State Constitution
at the moment, but last time we checked, it’s the governor’s job to get a
budget done on time — that’s why he gets paid.
We’re not sure what it’s like over at the Post, but here at the Voice we
don’t get a pat on the back every time we simply do the job we’re
getting paid to do.
Historically, reaching a budget agreement by the April 1, deadline has
been challenging for New York governors — and we realize it’s no easy
task. But it’s still just part of the job taxpayers pay him to do.
As for some questions Dicker may have hurled at his BFF, the radio host
asked Cuomo if member items (legislative “pork”) were over in New York
for good. Cuomo, as politically savvy as he is, told Dicker that he’s no
fan of member items and he’d like to see them come to an end — “in
terms of any new ones.”
The governor’s self-serving response to the question was where Dicker’s inquiries about member items came to an end.
Had Dicker read the budget — as his NewsCore colleagues at the Wall
Street Journal (not to mention his direct colleagues at the Post)
apparently have — he’d know that tucked into Cuomo’s $132 billion
budget is about $40 million in what’s called “bullet aid,” which is
basically “pork” in disguise.
“Bullet aid” is designated for Cuomo and legislative leaders to, as the WSJ puts it, “hand out
to school districts and nonprofits of their choosing outside the regular
The Post — Dicker’s own paper — goes further, noting that
“hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development grants being
sprinkled around the state by Cuomo’s administration amount to
Cuomo’s millions may not be called a “member item,” but if it looks like a pig, and spends like a pig, it’s probably “pork.” Dicker didn’t ask him about any of that, though.
In the midst of Dicker’s gushing over Cuomo’s on-time budget, he asked
the governor “why would it require all night sessions to get a budget
What are you new, Fred? All night sessions are why budgets get passed in New York state at all.
As anyone familiar with New York’s budget process will tell
you, these late-night (closed-door) negotiations are when secretive,
backroom deals between the governor and the Legislature get ironed out
— and the souls of elected officials are often bought and sold. Perhaps
a better question Dicker could have asked the governor is “what the
hell went on during these closed-door negotiations that allowed for you
and legislative leaders to come to an agreement.”
Dicker didn’t ask that, though — he, it seems, was more interested in a lesson in governmental procedure.
During the interview, Dicker only briefly touched on groups that aren’t
thrilled with Cuomo’s budget, mentioning only one — the CSEA — by
name. He failed to mention that there are a few teachers unions that
also aren’t as in awe of the gov’s budget as he is — teachers unions
Cuomo has attempted to bully in the press.
As we reported last week, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg
decided to take the pissing match between the governor and two teachers
unions public by putting out a press release announcing that the leaders
were donating $72,000 to a Hispanic advocacy group to replace the
donation the unions yanked from the organization in protest of Cuomo’s pension reform bill.
Read all about it here.
When asked about the governor’s taking the dispute public — in the form
of a press release from the Executive Chamber — a representative from
one of the teachers unions told the Voice “there’s actually a press
release? From the governor’s office? Oh, for Pete’s sake!”
We argued that the governor’s press release was little more than a
publicity stunt to cast the unions in a negative light (under the facade
of announcing his and Bloomberg’s donation to the group). Had we been granted total access to the governor, like Dicker, we might have
asked him something about that — in the form of a “tough” question.
Those are just a few of our suggestions for the long-time member of
Albany’s fourth estate. Feel free to leave your own suggestions for
Dicker in the comment section of this post.