Updated 03/30/2012 05:36 PM
State legislature passes budget
The $132.6 billion budget wrapped up early, but this year featured an expensive lobbying effort from a business group backing Governor Cuomo. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman explains.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- One Albany hallmark this budget cycle was alive and well: Expensive ad campaigns blanketing the airwaves. But these last two years, wealthy business interests have supplanted unions as the main driver of the budget conversation.
“Many of the top special interest groups in Albany, such as the teachers union, for example, are spending significantly less than they have in the past,” said NYPIRG researcher Bill Mahoney.
The Committee to Save New York is a wealthy coalition of business, construction and real estate groups allied with Governor Andrew Cuomo's fiscal agenda and it's largely taken the place of those labor-backed advocacy ads. Cuomo and the committee insist there's no coordination, but their TV ads and the governor's rhetoric are always in synch.
Mahoney said, “We haven't really seen much of those this year. Pretty much the only tv the ads I've seen are very laudatory of the governor run by groups such as the Committee to Save New York.”
CSNY funded a $2.5 million advertising campaign backing Cuomo's infrastructure plan and his new, cheaper pension overhaul for future public workers. Large public worker unions like CSEA and PEF estimate they spent $250,000 and $500,000 respectively since January on their campaigns opposing the pension changes.
“Look, lobbyists and lobbying groups play a role in the process. The problem is when any entity whether an organization or a corporation or a lobbyist has an outsized influence and we certainly see that in Albany. A lot of the problem has to do with the campaign finance laws which are incredibly lax,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron.
The group was formed as a counterbalance to combat the extensive labor campaigns of the past and change the perception New York has a poor business climate. Still, for some lawmakers, the ads for and against are just background noise.
“All these ads and TV ads and thousands of dollars spent on TV ads we're used to that. The public's used to that. We take it with a grain of salt,” said Assemblyman James Tedisco.
CSNY also spent big last year: The Joint Commission On Public Ethics reported recently that the group spent $12 million on lobbying the state, far outpacing other groups. Cuomo, on Friday, shrugged off the group's activities.
“They were involved last year also, right? That wouldn't haven't been a difference from this year to last year,” Cuomo said
Last year, facing a $10 billion deficit, Cuomo railed against special interests groups stymied past attempts at gubernatorial driven reform.
“When you pull back the current in Albany, you find a government that is working more for the people than for the special interests,” Cuomo said in February 2011.
This time around, the governor wasn't as critical of special interests.
“I don't know if it's any more or less than the past. Nothing really struck my attention,” Cuomo said.