In Albany, Yesterday's Friends May be Today's Enemies

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A new lobbyist, the Committee to Save New York, is rallying behind our new governor, Andrew Cuomo, as he girds for a battle over his budget.

    His adversary will be the unions that represent thousands of government workers, and the Committee to Save New York is a coalition of people representing  major business interests.

    It seems to signal a seismic shift in Albany politics. For years, Democratic leaders in Albany relied on the unions to support their policies. Often, union contributions made the difference in elections. They helped maintain Democratic power. But now, Gov. Cuomo, seeking to save the state from bankruptcy, has decided the unions have too much power and he will seek to balance his budget by getting tough with his own employees and supporters.

    Felix Rohatyn, architect of the plan to save New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s, recently wrote a piece in the Post saying: “New York is out of money …We can’t tax ourselves out of this mess, and the federal government isn’t about to bail us out either. It’s up to us New Yorkers to save our state.”

    It seems that this coalition of business and financial people has been listening to Rohatyn and others who share his views. Battle lines have been drawn for a fight with the unions over wages and benefits their members receive from the state government. Exactly what Cuomo expects to do is not clear yet -- but it’s guaranteed not to please the unions.

    Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told me: “It’s a way to neutralize the unions. For years Democratic governors have relied on the unions to be allies in their relations with the Legislature and the voters.  What’s clear now is that the landscape is shifting---the power of business interests is growing.”

    It may seem ironic that the enemies of his Democratic allies have now become Cuomo’s best friends.

    In the topsy-turvey world of today’s Albany, it isn’t so strange.