Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo is Guest on WNYC With Brian Lehrer and Announces Meeting With President Trump Tomorrow on Gateway Tunnel

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Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo is Guest on...

Governor Cuomo's Letter to the New York House Democratic Delegation Available Here

Video from Governor Cuomo to President Trump Exposing the Corrosion and Damage at the Gateway Tunnel is Available Here

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on WNYC with Brian Lehrer and announced he will be meeting with President Trump tomorrow to urge for full federal funding of the Gateway Tunnel.

Last month, Governor Cuomo toured the Gateway Tunnel and sent a video to President Trump exposing its corrosion and damage and the need to fully fund the Gateway Tunnel Project. B-ROLL of the Governor's tour of the tunnel is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

A rush transcript of the interview is available below.

Brian Lehrer: Governor Cuomo has written a letter to the New York Congressional Delegation laying out some priorities that he hopes they will pursue and maybe be able to get somewhere on now. And the Governor joins us for a few minutes to talk about that. Hi Governor, welcome back to WNYC.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you, good to be back Brian. Belated happy thanksgiving.

Brian Lehrer: And to you. And so your priorities for the House Delegation are?

Governor Cuomo: Well, you know, we have so many global issues that we've been discussing and that were a subject of the campaign. I am striking a somewhat parochial tone of Governor of New York and talking to our Delegation and the administration about pressing issues for New York and situations that matter to us. One is what's called the SALT provision in the tax reform bill that was passed last year, which was basically a tax cut for the richest Americans. But it had a provision that ended deductibility of state and local taxes, called SALT. People didn't really notice, it goes into effect this year, it's complicated and people tend to gloss over it. But the effect of it will raise New York's taxes by about 30 percent, property taxes and income taxes, city tax, state tax.

Brian Lehrer: This is specifically if people pay more than $10,000 in state and local taxes combined, that amount over $10,000 will no longer be federally tax deductible, correct?

Governor Cuomo: Very good, that makes two people who understand it, me and you. It sounds complicated, but it is economically devastating for this state and other states. There are 12 states that were affected, they were all democratic states. And this is the first time in history since Abraham Lincoln passed the federal income tax, it was always computer after state and local taxes. So, it makes a major difference, and it would make this state long term economically less competitive. And it was purely partisan politics at its worst. So that's one issue.

The second issue, which is in some ways more immediate, is the issue of the Gateway tunnels. The Gateway tunnels are the tunnels between New York and New Jersey. They carry Amtrak and New Jersey transit trains. They're 100 years old. They are structurally damaged and it's only a matter of time before they become unusable. They are federally owned tunnels, they're owned by Amtrak. They bring New Jersey commuters into New York and vice-versa. Although they're federally owned, if they become unusable it would have a devastating impact, primarily on New York City. But, it's also the entire northeast rail corridor for Amtrak that comes through there. And we have been doing everything we can to get federal attention. This started during President Obama's administration, we had a tentative agreement to rebuild the federal tunnels and the States of New York and New Jersey would pay 50 percent. President Trump's administration stopped that agreement. We need the president's administration to move forward. I sent a, we've had a number of meetings with the president on this and discussions, I've talked to the president about it personally. A few weeks ago I went into the tunnels and I took a video of the tunnels and I sent it to the president because, hoping that the pictures are so glaring, Brian, that it would supersede the political rhetoric. And I was saying to the President, look at these conditions. This is a tunnel. The President has done construction work in his life—development work—it's not Democrat, Republican—

Brian Lehrer: And he's a New Yorker.

Governor Cuomo: And he's a New Yorker, yes.

Brian Lehrer: I remember when, we on this show, and really all the local media in New York and New Jersey were reporting as a great victory when you and Governor Christie and the Obama administration negotiated this deal for part New York and part New Jersey funding and part federal funding for the Gateway Tunnel and then Trump comes in as supposedly an infrastructure guy and somebody who certainly knows New York infrastructure and its needs, and he trashes it. What was his reason?

Governor Cuomo: Well, there is no good reason. And that's what I have been saying to him in almost those words. Forget Democrat or forget Republican, forget the politics, forget Senator Schumer and legislative negotiation. Sometimes there's just a right thing to do. And we have two tunnels that—we are really on the brink of a very bad situation, Brian, because you don't build a new tunnel overnight. If we started today, we're talking about seven years. And I don't know that the existing tunnels last for seven years and nobody can tell you that they will. So I think the video actually had a simple, but impactful effect with the President. He saw the video, we spoke after the video. We have a tentative meeting in Washington tomorrow to have another meeting about the tunnel with the President and Secretary Chao, but that is an imminent, pressing need that strips away ideology and partisanship. If the tunnel becomes dangerous you effect the entire northeast, you effect New York City, you effect New Jersey, and this should just be one of the things that government finds a way to do despite the toxic, political atmosphere.

Brian Lehrer: So you may have a meeting tomorrow with the President and the Transportation Secretary?

Governor Cuomo: Yes, we've met before on the tunnel with the Transportation Secretary and the President. We've had subsequent follow-up conversation, but we also tentatively, off the video that I sent, we have another meeting for tomorrow and I'm just approaching it, not as a New Yorker, because it's not even a New York project. You know, for the federal politics, when you say, New York, New Jersey, these are not states that voted for Republicans and I think everything is political down there. But again, this is a federally owned tunnel. It's not about New York, New Jersey. Yes, it will hurt New York City, but it's the entire northeast rail corridor that's 20 percent of the nation's GDP. So I'm going to keep hammering away, pardon the pun, but this is one of those pressing, practical issues that we need resolution on for the good of New York and the entire northeast.

Brian Lehrer: And are you going now—if you can get this meeting, and releasing this letter now—because budget negotiations are underway for this funding bill for 2019 that has to be passed in the next few days?

Governor Cuomo: Well, on the issue of SALT, yes. I doubt that they can resolve the issue of SALT this week, but a place marker at least because what they did in the Tax Reform bill of last year, the way they financed the tax cut for the wealthiest corporations and Americans was by ending this deduction for the Democratic states. So, really, what they did Brian, was they gave a tax cut to the red states at the expense of the blue states.

Brian Lehrer: Right, and forgive me, just for time, Gateway urgency?

Governor Cuomo: Gateway urgency, it is an issue for today and I am not overly dramatic here. A new tunnel, if you start today, by the time you do the environmental reviews and the bids and the contracts, it's 7 years.

Brian Lehrer: But it's not a matter of the Congressional negotiation that's taking place right now on next year's budget.

Governor Cuomo: No. No.

Brian Lehrer: This is a White House thing—Trump could snap his fingers and put that Gateway funding back in or is that wrong?

Governor Cuomo: Yes. We had an agreement with the Obama administration. He could restore the agreement with the Obama administration. And that is, again, it's more time sensitive because of the physical construction but it's also something that I want the delegation to be aware of and it is something that they should be talking about in this appropriations bill if you're talking about transportation money. This is a critical Northeast need. So yes, we're talking about Saudi Arabia and the border and climate change, I'm a Governor. A little bit, I'm parochial doing my job as Governor. It's the tax reform SALT issues and the Gateway tunnels.

Brian Lehrer: Let me, while you're here, touch very briefly on a couple of issues. Yesterday the New York Times called on the commission considering pay raises for state elected officials to tie any increase to a ban on outside income for them as an ethics move. Do you support that?

Governor Cuomo: I have always supported the ban on outside income. It's been a long running debate here in Albany. But yes, I support a pay increase and I support a ban on outside income. It's not really part time job anymore, being in the legislature. And the outside income causes significant issues as we know.

Brian Lehrer: And Mayor de Blasio about Amazon said on NY1 last night said that negotiations are still going on around particulars. Can you give me an example of what is still in play as community groups are saying their needs to be more diversity commitment, more housing commitment et cetera. What is actually in play?

Governor Cuomo: Well, the finer points of the agreement with Amazon, but I think what the Mayor's point is that we have to be able to do both. Amazon coming to New York is an unparalleled economic boom for the economy. It diversifies the economy, it provides high paying jobs, a diversity of jobs. But you also need to make sure the impact of the development helps and doesn't hurt the local community. And to the extent the "pieces" of the agreement that address the needs of the local community are in place. That is very important. Not just the overall benefit to the city and the state. But we want to make it a benefit for everyone, everywhere. And those are the matters that we can either do as a government, city and state working together, or with Amazon.

Brian Lehrer: So various community benefits but you don't want to specify which are still being negotiated?

Governor Cuomo: Yeah, because part of it is the community has to be, you have part an ideological difference where people just say well I don't believe in tax incentives, and that discussion we had. You know, tax incentives in this state are the bread and butter of economic development. The New York Times says they don't like them. Yeah, except when the New York Times receives them, right?

Brian Lehrer: But on the particulars, you can't say what particulars are on the table at the moment?

Governor Cuomo: Well, it's whatever particulars that the local community needs. I mean, a lot of this conversation has been ideological. Let's get to the practical. What does the community want vis-a-vis this development? How do we help the local community groups and the local community needs? And, of course, we want to do that.

Brian Lehrer: And the last thing: you said during the reelection campaign that you were going to serve your four-year term unless god strikes you dead. Now that people are lining up to say, "well maybe I'm going to run for the Democratic Nomination for President." Does that deal with the deity still apply?

Governor Cuomo: Yes. Nothing has changed in my calculus. I have my own expectations of what candidate the Democratic party needs to win and I think you'll see a viable candidate in the Democratic field. It's not going to be enough to anti-Trump. We need a candidate who brings credibility and experience, Brian, to the job and can connect with the people who we lost as Democrats—not that you're a Democrat—but the Democratic Party lost; the working men and women of this country who went with Trump because of the void left by the Democratic party, and I think that's going to materialize.

Brian Lehrer: Is that to say someone like you or maybe you?

Governor Cuomo: No. Someone who I believe will connect with the working men and women, has the experience to do the job, is not an abstract theoretical elected official, but can also make government work to improve people's lives. If you don't touch people and you don't improve their lives, then you have failed; that is my calculus. Rhetoric only takes you so far and people heard rhetoric from the Democratic party for a lot of years and they saw no difference in their lives. And that's why out of desperation they went and they voted for Trump because he seemed different than he promised. Fill the void that the Democratic party left. You don't have to sell them anti-Trump—we just saw that in the Midterms. But you need a positive Democratic, not message, program that people believe can be put in place and will affect their lives and someone who has done that.

Brian Lehrer: For the last time, you sound there like you are describing yourself, so you're not ruling it out?

Governor Cuomo: No I am ruling it out. I ran for Governor. I have a full plate. I have many projects. I'm going to be here doing the job of Governor. I'm working on the SALT, working on Gateway, I'm Governor of New York and I have a lot to do.

Brian Lehrer: Alright. We'll be watching what happens with Gateway and SALT now that you're re-raising the profiles of those two issues. Thank you for coming on with us as always.

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