Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo is Guest on The Roundtable with Alan Chartock

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Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo is Guest on The...

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on The Roundtable with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:

Joe Donahue: We welcome the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, to the program. Good morning, Governor.

Governor Cuomo: Good morning. Pleasure to be on the Roundtable.

Joe Donahue: Wonderful to have you on the program. Let's turn you over to Dr. Alan Chartock.

Alan Chartock: Hello, hello. Thanks for coming back. We appreciate it very much.

Governor Cuomo: Should I call you doctor?

Alan Chartock: You can call me doctor. What do you want me to call you? Governor? How about Governor? Okay. Let me start with the pay commission report, of course. You'll be going up to $250,000. Now, it may amaze you but I think you deserve $250,000. If we can pay someone to run a hospital for $1 million, to run the State of New York seems to me to be fair for $250,000. But there will be people who object to it. What do you think about all that money—60 percent raise?

Governor Cuomo: You know, my salary—$250,000 is a lot of money, Alan. It was never about my salary. I, as you know, it's not about the money for me and I'm going to do this job if you pay me a dollar a year. I do need the raises for the executive staff. You have, on your exact point about $1 million to run a hospital, I have a health commissioner who runs billions of dollars in funds who manages the hospitals in this state who gets paid $130,000. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people who come in and say "I just can't do it anymore. I'm sacrificing my family." I have Counsels who have worked for me who walk out the door and make over $1 million. So, you need quality in public service and you need to have a salary that doesn't require the person to be a martyr sacrificing their family or independently rich. One thing about the Pay Commission that people have missed though Alan, it's not just the President of the United States who doesn't read, according to Rex Tillerson, I don't think they've read the Pay Commission law or the Pay Commission report. These are not automatic increases. I made the point from day one that people are willing to pay government officials but they want performance, they want service. The concept of "well, we haven't gotten a raise in seventeen years so we deserve a raise." First of all, a lot of people haven't been there for seventeen years. Second of all, they could pass a pay raise whenever they wanted. Third of all, the way the world works now is people pay for performance. So what the Pay Commission says is the legislature and the executive can get a raise, and they lay out a three tier raise, if—a big capital I, capital F—if they perform. Performance is defined in the law as passing a timely budget. Why? Because the one constitutional duty that the legislators have is passing an on-time budget. Many years, you know, the budget became a joke. So the raise is contingent on performance. Performance is specified and defined as a timely budget for both sides to get a raise—the executive and the legislative. 

Alan Chartock: Okay, well wait, wait, wait. But let's assume for a second, Governor, that that's the case. If, let's say, they get a good budget this year but not the next time. Do you take the money back?

Governor Cuomo: They lose the raise. My commissioners, the assembly people, the senate people—if you do not perform, you do not get a raise. And it's not like the Pataki era where we hold the money and then we give it back to you when you actually do the budget. The money is forfeited and that's the basis upon which I supported the raise. I said, "look, people need a raise. Legislators needed a raise." I said that from day one. $79,000, especially if you live in New York City, is very difficult. I need a raise for the commissioners to get competent people. But the voters, the citizens have a right to expect performance. The modicum of performance is the constitutional on an on-time budget. You don't pass the on-time budget on all your houses, you don't get the raise. The executives, Alan, and the legislative. Executive and legislative. It's not, one legislator was quoted as saying, "well, it's extortion that we should get a raise." I said, "did you read the law?" No, which means he'd probably qualify to be the President of the United States according to Tillerson. I said, "it's both sides."

Alan Chartock: Okay, we get it. We got it. I don't want to be rude but, you know, there's limited time here. So I want to make sure I get all my questions in and the one question I have here, Governor, is the question of the outside income. Now you and I agreed, and in fact, last time we spoke, you said we should write an op-ed. You said "I agree with you Alan Chartock." Now let's assume that this bill passes. People would be prohibited from making outside income. Is there any chance that we're not going to see this because there has been some outrage over that?

Governor Cuomo: No. The law that the pay commission has written has no what the call severability clause. If the law is challenged, which it may very well be

Alan Chartock: I think it will.

Governor Cuomo: Well there are conservative groups who have said they're going to challenge it or have hinted that they're going to challenge it. If they challenge the law and the law falls, it means no raise and no ban. The ban is actually a good thing. The way that can be handled, and I would urge the Assembly and the Senate to do it immediately, is just pass the ban as a separate law. The Senate minority, the democrats, when they were in the Senate, they passed basically what's called the Congressional model where the Congress has a ban. It's really a limitation. The Senate passed it when they were in the minority. Do it now that you're in the majority. Right? I hope it's not one law that you pass when you're in the minority and not when you're in the majority.

Alan Chartock: But you have the

Governor Cuomo: And then the Assembly can pass it.

Alan Chartock: And you have the great example of their leader, Andrea Stewart Cousins, basically saying I'm for this, right? I mean, you have to give her a lot of credit. Takes guts.

Governor Cuomo: She said we passed the bill in the minority. Is what she said. Fine. Come back in January, the first week, pass the ban. The Assembly, pass the ban, and then even if the law is challenged, on the ban, it would be moot because the ban will be in the law.

Alan Chartock: Ok, we have so many more things here Governor. On Monday, the New York State Board of Regents recommended an additional $2.3 billion in school aid next year. What do you think?

Governor Cuomo: I think the educators should recommend a—

[Call disconnects]

Alan Chartock: And we are back with the Governor, Governor I don't know what happened there but we do apologize.

Governor Cuomo: You hung up on me, Doctor.

Alan Chartock: Yeah, I think it's probably true that it was our mess up. And for that, I abjectly apologize. I wish didn't have to do that but do. See what I mean?

Governor Cuomo: Oh I apologize, I don't think it's a bad thing to admit error, I think it's a good thing. I do it all the time. That's how we learn. That's how we grow. Anyway, in the Board of Regents, they suggested a very large increase. Every advocacy group, every interest group, transportation, housing, they'll all recommend very large increases. They'll be a multiple of the state budget and then the state legislature actually has to allocate the need to the budget.

Alan Chartock: And that's what's happened in the past, right? Inevitably, they come in and play the hero by raising the education budget.

Governor Cuomo: Well there is always a dance to the budget, right? I go first on the budget, so to speak, and I have to allocate the amount of money we have versus the demands and desires. Education is a top priority, they have a very strong lobbying group. And the legislature normally will raise that through the budget process, but there is, it's the same dance every year, right Alan? Everybody asks for a tremendous increases and then we have the actual limitation and reality of the state budget finances.

Alan Chartock: Ok. So, I want to ask you about Schumer and Pelosi going up and talking to the president about making a deal. What would you tell them to do about the border wall?

Governor Cuomo: I have three pieces of advice: don't give the president the wall, don't give the president the wall, and don't give the president the wall. The president wants as a wall as a political symbolic metaphor to vindicate his angry, divisive rhetoric in the campaign. That's what he means by the wall. That's why during the campaign I said he wants to build walls, we want to build bridges. He wants to separate people, he wants to divide people. We want to connect people. If the president was being more genuine and less political, he should have asked for border security, which is correct, Alan. You can't have a controlled border entrance if you don't have controlled points on the border where people are stopped from coming in. So, if he was reasonable and said look I want to make sure we have border security and we bring in a private firm and whatever it is, it's lasers, it's light beams, cameras, some places of fences, maybe even some places a wall. But that's not what he's saying. He's saying I want a political monument to division. And their answer must be no.

Alan Chartock: On another subject, Dr. Alain Kaloyeros will be sentenced today after being found guilty in a corruption trial. What's your reaction and how does this affect your Upstate New York development programs?

Governor Cuomo: Dr. Kaloyeros served five governors here in the Capital District, he must have worked for 20 years. I'm a former DA, I'm a former Attorney General, ADA, Attorney General. And I believe in the justice system, and let the justice system operate. And I believe in the outcome.

Alan Chartock: He's gotten a lot of people testifying, you know, going to court and saying he's a good guy, he should be let off a bit, you haven't done that?

Governor Cuomo: No, I have stayed out of it.

Alan Chartock: Now, last time you were with us you said you weren't running for president. Since then the Times Union reports that your campaign has paid an Iowa political consultant $280,000 from 2014 to 2016. Not running, how come?

Governor Cuomo: That assumes I paid an Iowa consultant $280,000. And if I paid an Iowa consultant $280,000 it would be news to me.

Alan Chartock: Interesting, so the report's wrong?

Governor Cuomo: Stranger things have happened.

Alan Chartock: Okay now here's one of my favorites. You have vetoed a bill that passed almost unanimously, which would allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Now if I won I wouldn't want to tell everyone I won, because every faker in the world would be knocking on my door and asking, and we don't do that with our regular big winners in society. Why should we do that?

Governor Cuomo: I understand, I understand the privacy that might be sacrificed. But the lottery is a public system, it's publically run. I think the transparency in public systems is a good thing. It's also a fraud detection device. We have found fraud in lottery winners before. So, when we say, Dr. Alan Chartock won, if there was any fraud attached we have the advantage of the public who might be aware of potential fraud coming forward. And I think the confidence in the system is very important, right? The distrust of government is so high Alan, everyone believes everything is rigged, and everything is fixed. And I think it would be a mistake for the trust in the lottery system to say somebody won $50 million, but we're not going to tell you who it is.

Alan Chartock: Well you could root out fraud without having to name the person, couldn't you? I mean, it seems to me that that's, I'm sorry for saying this this way Governor, but this seems like a weak argument.

Governor Cuomo: It is between the transparency, look, it's a public system and it's operated by the State, and we're saying we're giving someone $50 million. And I'm sure there's somebody listening to this show right now that says well you know, I bet you they have it fixed, I bet you the Governor told Dr. Chartock what ticket to pick. I think it adds transparency, it adds trust, and there is an anti-fraud factor to telling the world you won. And if anyone has any information to suggest there may have been a fraudulent situation, they have the facts and they can come forward. But transparency and trust are very important and I think especially when you have this much money involved in a publicly operated system.

Alan Chartock: You visited the L train in New York. Many of us go down to New York from time to time. What did you find?

Governor Cuomo: I haven't gone yet. The L train is a—

Alan Chartock: My brother-in-law is very upset. He lives in Brooklyn.

Governor Cuomo: Yes, there are many people very upset. I've had many very upset New Yorkers come up to me and threaten me with various forms of physical violence because of the L train. There are construction projects that just cause delay. There's no doubt about it. And the tunnels in New York City have been damaged. The Gateway Tunnel, especially during Hurricane Sandy. They've been working on the project for a long period of time. They have been cautioned by everyone to make sure they are as creative, as fast as possible. And the MTA has been doing that. There are still people who are going to be disappointed and will suffer some period of hardship because of the shutdown. And I want to be able to say to every New Yorker, I believe everything that could be done has been done. Every genius, every expert, every idea has been considered. And the MTA has been doing that.

We're now at a point where the plans are basically final because construction is supposed to start in about four, five months. People who are familiar with construction know it is an evolving process until you get up to the last day where now the plan is definitive. So we're near that point because they only have four or five months left to play with and I just want to bring in a fresh set of eyes that can look at the project, look at the plans, make sure there are no suggestions, no new ideas, no creative ideas that could make this situation any better. And it might render no fruit, but given the level of hardship and the expense, by the way, it's a $500 million project. As the plans are near final, I want to have a group come in so I can say to New Yorkers, look, I'm telling you personally that I was there, we brought in experts, everybody looked at it, this is the best we can do. It's a 15 month closing. That's a very long period of time, assuming they make the 15 months. And when you talk about a construction deadline for government, and especially for cynical New Yorkers, they say 15 months, that translates to 24 months minimum. So I just want to make sure New Yorkers are confident that nothing else could be done.

And I actually had a gentleman come up to me who said, have you personally gone through it? And I said, no, I didn't personally go through it, but that's not what I do. He said, well they told you you couldn't replace the Tappan Zee Bridge, right? I said, yeah,  well that's right. He said, but you did it anyway, right? I said, yeah you're right. He said, well, why don't you go look at these plans and bring the best people to look at the plans just so we know? And that's that New York logic, right? Cynical, make sure you try everything. So I have asked—we're assembling a team of outside the box thinkers who have nothing to do with government. They're just international experts in tunnel construction and electric systems and I've asked them to come take a look just so New Yorkers have confidence that every option has been explored. I think if they know that they'll feel better about the delay because they'll know it wasn't capricious, it's not arbitrary, it's not incompetence. Everything that can be done has been done and that'll make me feel better on a personal level if nothing else.

Alan Chartock: Okay, I have less than a half a minute. It's going to be a yes or no answer. Nancy Pelosi—you're putting the hammer to our delegation, including Kathleen Rice. Are you getting assurances they'll all vote for Pelosi?

Governor Cuomo: Short answer is no. I think they should. I think this is intramural politics. I think it's personal politics. They had a democratic caucus. The democrats argued, they yelled, they pointed fingers, they picked Nancy Pelosi. Don't jeopardize democratic leadership to the Congress. It's the only break we have on this president and his extreme conservative locomotive. We picked up 40 members. Every democrat across this country worked very hard. We picked up three seats in new York. We spent tens of millions of dollars. Stop your intramural politics. Don't jeopardize democratic rule. They don't even have an alternative to Nancy Pelosi. She's a pro and we need the Congress desperately here in New York, selfishly, to protect us from this federal government.

Alan Chartock: It's always wonderful to have Governor Andrew Cuomo with us. Governor, thank you so much for allowing us to have this talk today and we hope you'll keep coming back. Thanks so much.

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