Governor Andrew Cuomo; AP Photo
By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a strong warning Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, after Skelos equivocated Tuesday on increasing the minimum wage and reforming the state's campaign-finance laws.
Cuomo said he will stay out of the battle over control of the state Senate, but he will get involved if the new Senate coalition between Republicans and group of Democrats balk at his agenda.
"If Senator Skelos is opposed to the agenda of the people of the state, then I will oppose him, and then I will be involved," Cuomo said on 1300-AM (WGDJ).
Skelos told reporters Tuesday that the GOP and the five-member Independent Democratic Conference hadn't decided on issues to pursue in January when the legislative session starts. He said the two sides -- who will control the majority of seats in the 63-seat chamber -- will meet to discuss their mutual goals.
"We haven't made any decision or agreements as to what will come to the floor," Skelos said.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said that the GOP conference has worked with Cuomo during the past two years and have reached compromise on a number of issues. Cuomo has hailed his working relationship with Senate Republicans, including passing a property-tax cap and pension reform. Senate Republicans currently hold a 33-29 seat majority.
"If Senate Republicans have proven anything over the last two years, it's that we can successfully work with Governor Cuomo to pass an agenda that benefits all New Yorkers," Reif said in a statement. "The people want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results, and we're going to keep getting the job done for them in the next legislative session."
Cuomo, along with Democrats and liberal groups, want to increase the minimum wage. It's currently $7.25 an hour, and Democrats want to push it $8.50 an hour.
Groups also want the state to enact public financing of campaigns. Cuomo has called for the state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana to end the so-called "stop-and-frisk" practice that has led to arrests, particularly of youth of New York City.
"They are wrong to oppose campaign-finance reform, they are wrong to oppose raising the minimum wage, they are wrong to oppose reforming the stop and frisk policies of this state," Cuomo said. "And I will do everything in my power to get that agenda passed."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who convened a group of black leaders last Saturday to knock the new coalition, charged Wednesday that Skelos is more interested in power than policy.
"I appreciate Senator Skelos' candor that the Republican conference has not changed its spots and I look forward to galvanizing the people of New York against the co-option conference over the next two years if need be," Sharpton said in a statement.