Poll: Voters Like Cuomo, But Not Budget Process

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New York voters maintained near record-high job approval of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but were displeased with secretive budget negotiations, a Quinnipiac poll today found.

Cuomo’s job performance was 68 percent to 19 percent among voters, near the 69 percent all-time high he scored in February, the poll found. While every demographic gave the first-term Democratic governor high marks, they were not pleased with the recently completed budget process, the poll said.

Voters had strong support for increasing the minimum wage, something Democrats are seeking to adopt before the legislative session ends in June. Seventy-eight percent of voters said they support raising the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

By a 55 percent to 30 percent margin, voters said that “closed-door negotiations” were not needed to land the major policy changes Cuomo achieved with the state Legislature, the Quinnipiac poll said.

In fact, the poll said that 76 percent of voters said “the lack of transparency surrounding these major policy deals is a very serious or somewhat serious problem.”

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and New York voters say Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done a beautiful job so far,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “But if voters liked the result, they weren’t happy with the process, the so-called ‘Big Ugly’ deal where Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders worked out an agreement on pensions, legislative redistricting, casino gambling, DNA and whatever else they needed to resolve.”

Cuomo and lawmakers passed the second consecutive on-time budget, a first since 2005 and 2006, last Friday. The state’s fiscal year started Sunday, April 1.

Earlier in March, the sides agreed to a new pension tier for new public employees and new legislative district lines. They also passed the first of two constitutional amendments to legalize casino gambling.

With most of the contentious issues settled weeks before the budget deadline, lawmakers passed the budget in the light of day. They often pass major pieces of legislation in the middle of the night.

In another rare move, lawmakers let the budget bills age three days -– required by state law -– before passing the budget last Friday. Typically, the governor sends up a “message of necessity” to bypass the aging process and get a bill signed before a deal collapses.

Good-government groups said this year’s process was better, but not exceptional. For example, the pension deal was passed early in the morning March 15.

The poll also asked about Cuomo’s joke in February that he was a “veritable Gumby” because he said he was flexible during budget negotiations.

Forty-two percent agreed that Cuomo is indeed flexible; 35 percent believed he is “rigid and uncompromising.”

Among those who supported raising the minimum wage, 37 percent of voters supported raising it to $8.50 per hour. Fifty-two percent supported an even higher minimum wage; 8 percent wanted it less than $8.50 an hour.

Fifty-one percent of voters said they did not believe small businesses would not lower staff if the minimum wage is increased, compared to 41 percent who did.

The poll was taken by 1,597 voters during and after the budget’s approval process — from March 28 through April 2. It had a margin of 2.5 percentage points.

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