Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been so weakened by the multiple scandals spiraling around him that state legislators not only rammed through $4 billion in new tax hikes — they also killed about a dozen bills he proposed as part of the budget process, The Post has learned.
“You see an incredibly shrinking governor,” a legislative source said Thursday.
“He can’t get anyone to stand with him and he can’t get anything done on his own.”
Cuomo was hobbled during the budget process by a series of still-escalating allegations involving the cover-up of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 and multiple, independent accusations of sexual harassment by staffers and others that have prompted federal and state probes, including an impeachment investigation by the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.
The three-term Democrat has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Cuomo initially announced that the $12.6 billion state bailout in President Biden’s $1.2 trillion COIVD relief package and higher-than-expected tax revenues would balance the 2021-2022 budget, saying on March 22 that taxes would only have to be raised to pay for “additional needs identified by the Legislature above and beyond the COVID response measures provided for by the feds.”
But he quickly reversed course and said the state faced a $2.5 billion deficit before caving in to the legislature and agreeing to soak high earners and big businesses as part of the state’s record $212 billion budget, which has been passed by both the state Senate and Assembly.
Cuomo hasn’t yet signed the budget, but signaled Wednesday that he would.
“Allowing the tax increases was a big sign,” veteran Democratic political consultant George Arzt said.
“He was always against increasing taxes.”
Meanwhile, legislators rejected a host of initiatives that Cuomo included in his January budget proposal on grounds that they’re policy issues that should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, Albany insiders said.
That claim came despite a long history of state lawmakers using the budget process to enact legislation that has nothing to do with taxes or spending.
Past measures include the controversial 2019 bail reform law that NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has blamed for the city’s surge in gun violence.
One Cuomo plan that got tabled was his idea to let landlords create affordable apartments in Midtown Manhattan office buildings and hotels that have been all but emptied out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also left on the drawing board was Cuomo’s proposal to redevelop the area around Penn Station, with lawmakers limiting the use of $1.3 billion in bonds for the new “Empire State Complex” to expanding the station and upgrading its tracks.
Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio pointed to the lessons of history to explain Cuomo’s predicament, saying, “Machiavelli said it’s better to be feared than loved — but not hated.”
“The lawmakers are no longer afraid of him now that he’s partially disabled by two crises — the nursing home deaths scandal and sexual harassment scandal,” Muzzio said.
“He can’t instill fear. He’s virtually neutered.”
Cuomo’s nursing home problems date to a controversial, March 25 directive from the state Health Department for the facilities to accept COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals, which critics blame for spreading the infection among vulnerable seniors.
His administration also refused repeated requests to disclose the number of residents who died in hospitals until state Attorney General Letitia James issued a January report that revealed the move “vastly undercounted” the total number of deaths.
In February, The Post also exclusively revealed that top aide Melissa DeRosa privately told Democratic lawmakers that officials withheld the total death toll for fear it would be “used against us” amid a potential federal probe.
Cuomo has since been embroiled in a scandal over reports that the Health Department sent a physician to administer coronavirus tests to his relatives, including younger brother and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, and connected officials in early March 2020, before testing was widely available to the public.
Meanwhile, dozens of women — including many current and former aides — went public with complaints about his treatment of them after former aide Lindsey Boylan, now a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president, published an online essay that accused him of sexually harassing her.
The most serious accusation involves a November incident during which he allegedly stuck his hand under an aide’s blouse and grabbed her breast inside his office in Albany’s Executive Mansion — which the unidentified woman detailed in a report published Wednesday by the Albany Times Union.
In addition to the impeachment probe, Cuomo is under investigation by outside lawyers hired by Attorney General Letitia James, as well as by the FBI and the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office.
Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi said, “From the beginning the governor said we needed at least $15 billion to fund existing priorities and the federal government only produced $12.5 billion and additional funding priorities emerged to help address the many challenges caused by this pandemic. He also made his budget policy priorities clear and they were all achieved in the final agreement. Unlike this petty palace intrigue, these are serious matters and we’re focused on the job ahead.”