Albany seems to be as confused as ever.
The governor and the legislative leaders won and lost this week. And the unions just plain lost.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo got pension reform but he didn’t get the re-drawing of the lines of legislative districts. The Assembly members and senators got to keep their districts intact -- but they lost on pension reform. The government unions took it on the chin.
About the failure to agree on a solid plan to change district lines, Susan Lerner of Common Cause told me: “We’re disappointed. It’s a lost opportunity. In this situation, the voters did not come out ahead.”
In the final hours of negotiation, early on Friday morning, she said, a lot of bills came out too fast to be read. “This was the ugliest procedure in a long time.”
But Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political operative, has a different perspective. “The governor didn’t win on re-districting," Sheinkopf told me, “but he won on gaming and pension reform.”
“As for the legislators, they may have lost on pension changes. But Shelley Silver [the Democratic Assembly Speaker] and Dean Skelos [the Republican Senate Majority Leader] --- they survived. They’ll live to fight another day.”
Certainly the public sector unions took a beating. The pension changes reduce salaries and benefits for new workers . Cuomo’s reform plan, which the legislators bought, will reduce benefits of future state and local workers by $80 billion over 30 years. Union leaders reportedly are already planning revenge on both parties in next November’s elections.
The agreed-upon pension legislation raises the retirement age for state workers from 62 to 63. After 30 years of service, pensions will be 55 percent rather than 60 percent of pay.
Cuomo pulled back from a threat to veto gerrymandered district lines if lawmakers didn’t agree to pension reform. Instead, he won the chance of passing a constitutional amendment to draw new lines in about 10 years.
He said he was happy about the first passage of a bill to amend the state constitution to allow up to seven commercial casinos.
When Cuomo could not persuade legislators to allow an independent process of re-districting this year, he told the Times “my legislative proposals were asking for the moon."
Despite the governor’s apparent modesty, it’s clear he emerged from the Albany fracas only slightly bruised. He continues to dominate the state capital, in his second year, still riding high.
As for the dysfunction of the Assembly and Senate, this clearly isn’t cured -- but the leaders have salvaged their leadership, apparently, and most incumbents seem to have a new lease on their seats.
One question for the voters to ponder after all the political posturing and maneuvering is: did the people win or lose?