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Release: Transcript of Cuomo call in on Monday, March 25, 2019 to WAMC radio.

[CLICK HERE] to listen to the Q&A.

For Immediate Release: 3/25/2019


Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on The Roundtable with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:

Governor Cuomo: Good morning, thanks for having me.

Alan Chartock: Hey, thank you for coming governor, as always. So, how you doing? All right? Everything ok?

Governor Cuomo: Everything is good, everything is good, had a nice day yesterday, maybe there will even be a spring this year, maybe extreme weather is finally going to acknowledge that seasons exist, which would be nice.

Alan Chartock: In New York, so we were in New Orleans. It was really nice. And so, it was 75, and I kept thinking about you not getting the weather in better shape.

Governor Cuomo: Yeah well, it's my fault, blame me.

Alan Chartock: I'm trying to.

Governor Cuomo: Buck stops on my desk.

Alan Chartock: I'm trying to do that. Alright, here we go, serious work. You know yesterday the Mueller report, the summary was released by AG Barr, you know, I just kept thinking about you and what your reaction to this was.

Governor Cuomo: Well first, I believe it's very important that they release as much of the report as legally permissible with an aggressive look as to what is legally permissible. You know, in a report like this, you can say there are privacy rights, you can say there are security rights, but I don't think the public is going to be satiated if they feel that there's more secrecy, because that's what's been at the bottom of all of this, right, a lack of trust, a lack of transparency, a discrediting of the justice system. So I think it's very important that as much of the report as possible be released, and I think that's in everyone's best interest, frankly. If the president was, quote and quote, exonerated, as he suggests by the report, well then you'd want the report to come out. This is not to say, by the way, that the president is out of the woods with legal trouble. The Southern District of New York is as serious as a heart attack, and there are many cases that are still going on.

Alan Chartock: Does he have the ability, the president, to, I'm very, very careful about this word, muck, muck around with the apparatus in the Southern District, or will they be free to pursue their own ends.

Governor Cuomo: Well, look, fundamentally I have trust in the justice system. There are, very few systems that we have that we can say absolutely, there is no political influence, but I think the Southern District has shown thus far that they are proceeding, and there are a number of cases they've been proceeding with, and they've been serious about it. So the president isn't out of the woods, certainly from legal trouble, but there's no doubt that they are going to say what the president is saying, that to a large extent, the quote and quote report, that many people were speculating, the call for the indictment of this one or that one, that the public perception will be that there was a lot of noise, and I think the president is going to be trumpeting that there was no there there at the end of the day, and I think, Alan, that it's a moment where the democrats have to focus. You know, I have said all along that it's not enough to say, to be anti-Trump. First of all, no one is as good at making the case against Trump as Trump. Let the man talk. Let the man act. The more he does, the more he acts, the better for the democrats. We can't have a better person to make the case against trump than Trump. Emergency orders on the wall, his outrageous statements, the divisiveness. But the democrats I think have been too focused on we're going to win by just being anti-Trump. You don't win a game, you don't win an election by just playing one side of the court, the NCAAs are going on, sorry that Buffalo lost. The, you have to play offense and defense. We win when we offer the alternative vision. And that's what the Democrats have to be focusing on and not this Twitter-deep policy and analysis, you know? I think when we look back the great question is going to be: what came first? The Trump presidency or the degradation of our electoral system? Is Trump—was, when we look back—was Trump the product of the degradation of the electoral system or did President Trump degrade the system? Where did it happen that we shifted from a really basically substantive conversation to this celebrity, media, social media, Twitter dialogue that is a mile wide and half an inch deep? Where celebrity and the number of Twitter followers determines whether you were suited for elected office. And if you have more Twitter followers then you're a more viable candidate. Experience doesn't matter, accomplishments don't matter. It's a degradation of the system. It's a degradation of government.

Alan Chartock: Were you talking about yourself when you say experience doesn't matter, accomplishments don't matter? Because I know you feel you've accomplished a great deal and that you're experienced. That sounds like you.

Governor Cuomo: No. Leave me out of it. You know I am—when it comes to the elections I think we haven't seen the full field of candidates and I think we're going to find candidates who do fit that bill entering the race. But I think it's bigger than that. I think it is—it's really been a shift in the system. The electoral system, the political system, how we make decisions. How informed we are as a body politic. How intelligent we are in these conversations. On the Democratic side you have 57 people running for president. Even I haven't heard of some of them. But you run for president, look at President Trump—it's about celebrity. You don't need to know anything. You don't have to have any experience. You don't have to have any fundamental resume to qualify you, but if you capture the public's imagination for a short period of time, you can be President of the United States. If Trump can run, why can't anybody run?

Alan Chartock: So I see your colleague Kirsten Gillibrand got out in front of the Trump Tower and called Trump a coward. Is that a good move?

Governor Cuomo: You know, I think what they're doing is there's such a large field, it's what we've been talking about. You need media coverage; you need to come up with something that excites people on social media. So that's what it's become.

Alan Chartock: So we'll take that as a criticism, right?

Governor Cuomo: No. look, I believe parts of there you can say that the president has been cowardly on many things. Look, this is a president, and that's why I'll go back to the question that we'll deal with five years, 10 years from now: what came first? Trump or the degradation of the system or did Trump degrade it? He ran for president and won because he was very good at marketing. That's what he did. We watched him do it in New York. He put his name on a building and then he sold the building for more money and he could do it with countries all across the globe. He was a marketer and he found out what he needed to market and say to win the Republican primary and he picked up the script like he picked up a script on The Apprentice and he read the script and he read it convincingly and he became and extreme conservative and he was more bombastic and more adamant than anybody else. And he won the extreme conservatives and he became president and he stuck to the script with the extreme conservatives. He's a marketer and it said, a marketing maven can become president.

Alan Chartock: Okay I want to move on because I want to ask you about Freedom of Information. Whether you, whether your administration, whether your basically handpicked attorney General Tish James with request the full Mueller report under Freedom of Information or any other way?

Governor Cuomo: Yeah I don't know what legal basis we would have for making a request on a legal ground that no one else has. I think what you're going to see from the Democrats in Congress is they're going to do it with a subpoena and if anything can produce it a congressional subpoena can produce it.

Alan Chartock: Okay, so now the impeach is coming up more and more. The Mueller report is in. It said there's no collusion. Nevertheless, there may be obstruction. Should there be investigation or impeachment now?

Governor Cuomo: The impeachment number, as I understand it, the fervor for impeachment has actually dropped among Democrats and I believe it will drop more after this, Alan. I think you're going to see Trump use that bully pulpit and all the echoed chambers that hold conservative media with some justification saying this was a tremendous waste of time and money and resources and the president is exonerated. "Well, they didn't say no obstruction," yeah, but they're not charging him with anything. And that is going to have a certain resonance. And that's why just being anti-Trump is not going to be enough to win the election and I hope the Democrats get that. And not coming up with anti-Trump slogans or anti-Trump policies. We were the party that believed in government, that's who we are. Well then give me a real, smart policy that says I'm going to help the middle class in this nation and government is the vehicle to do it and this is how I'm going to do it. And it's not just a tweet, it's an actual bonafide theory. And I have demonstrated a capacity to actually make it happen. That's what people are going to want at the end of the day. You know, the president - we'll see what happens with the economy. But if the economy is going his way and after this Mueller report, I think he's going to play it to his advantage and let's just realize that you need someone to beat someone and you need a theory. And you need a policy. And you're not going to beat him the way he won. You're not going to beat him on social media. You are not. He shouldn't have become president that way and we're not going to beat him that way. He was very good at marketing and they say you know, "JFK was the first person to really get that television work. President Obama started to excite people with social media," but President Trump took it to a new level and we're not going to beat him that way. And we shouldn't beat him that way - we should beat him on the merits because he's wrong on the merits. And we have to get back to substance and the merits and good government.

Alan Chartock: Speaking of which, the New York State budget is due in a week. I've been reading articles about how you've all been sequestered in a room. Two men and a woman in a room and it's what I call "nicey nicey." There was some sense of friction there, but nobody's saying bad things about each other, or am I wrong about that?

Governor Cuomo: No, no one's saying bad things. And the challenge for the budget is, number one, economics because the budget is about numbers and it's still math. And we don't have the funding that we would like to have thanks to President Trump and thanks to SALT and thanks to the most egregiously political tax act ever seen that taxes the Democratic states, but we're down 2.3 billion dollars. Every economic forecast is conservative, so we don't have the funding, it's about the funding, and then we have very difficult issues that we want to really wrestle to the ground, substantively, a real MTA reform plan. After decades of bandages, a real permanent tax cap to give New Yorkers comfort. Real criminal justice reform—

Alan Chartock: Let's go back to the tax cap. We know that some of the Long Island senators, the newly elected senators, really do want that because they have a big problem out there. I take it the Assembly, you've talked about this before, you know, it's pretty New York City oriented and I take it you're with the guys who think, the Long Islanders, who think that two percent, because it's your idea, is a good idea.

Governor Cuomo: I'm with the New Yorkers. You were in New Orleans, did you hear how you said, "the weather was beautiful, et cetera"?

Alan Chartock: I did, I did.

Governor Cuomo: The Florida Governor did a letter in the Wall Street Journal that says all New Yorkers should now move down, because of SALT and the tax penalty from the Federal government. Look, we have always had a migration to the South, right? I remember being in a senior citizen home in Miami and campaigning for Al Gore, and I said to the crowd, "is anyone here from New York?" Alan, every hand went up. We're in competition for people, for businesses and there's no doubt that we are less economically competitive because of the Federal tax change. So my tax cap just says property taxes are the number one tax in this state' it's two and a half times the state income tax. It's been out of control, take comfort that the tax cap, the two percent is permanent. So, yes we have to absorb this Federal assault, but the tax cap of two percent is permanent so you have that security and confidence and stay with New York. That's why it's important. Now, New York City does not have the tax cap, so it's easy to be against it, because it doesn't exist, right? But it exists everywhere else,

Alan Chartock: You said the teacher's unions and others are behind the Assembly not being for it?

Governor Cuomo: Well, the tax ca, who would want to see the tax cap go away? Primarily those who want to increase the ability for local school districts to tax, which is the education industry, teacher's unions, et cetera. Now remember, the tax cap is not a cap, you can exceed the cap, but it's more difficult and I think that's the way it should be. You can choose to override the cap locally. God Bless you. But, you should at least know that there's a political accountability to explain why you overcame the two percent, because the two percent is just the economic reality for every taxpayer.

Alan Chartock: I'm running out of your precious time, my precious, your--no, your, I'm running out of—

Governor Cuomo: Our, our. Let's make it our. Let's make it mutual.

Alan Chartock: You're a better man than I. Okay, our time. So—

Governor Cuomo: I don't know about that, I just—

Alan Chartock: Well, I don't have any doubt about it. Okay, so you've said you'd rather have a late budget than a bad budget and why can't, and that leads us to the question, why can't we have a good on-time budget?

Governor Cuomo: We can and we have for eight years, but if you make me choose, I've never had a bad budget. A bad budget is a budget you have to come back and change, because you were wrong or because you guesstimated revenues incorrectly. I've never done that and I'm proud of that. I'm also proud that they've been on time, but I'm especially proud that I've never been wrong. And past governors have had to come back and do mid-year corrections, which are very difficult. My favorite governor had to go through that, Governor Mario Cuomo. So, I know how tough that is. I've never had that circumstance and a bad budget is worse than a late budget.

Alan Chartock: So, just to be clear, you will not agree to a budget that does not include a permanent tax top.

Governor Cuomo: Right.

Alan Chartock: Okay. Now, what about marijuana? You know, we see different stories about it. New Jersey is poised to pass a sweeping marijuana legalization bill, so don't you run the risk of our falling behind on this issue?

Governor Cuomo: Yes. See you can't have it both ways. You can't say give me short answers and then I give you a short answer and you say you have to give me a longer answer.

Alan Chartock: Right. You're so right about that. And that is exactly, that's exactly what I say. So, are we going to have marijuana in New York state or not?

Governor Cuomo: We are working to try to get marijuana done. It is complex and it's, the devil is in the details. And I don't know that it is done for the budget, but if it's not done after the budget, I believe we get it done after the budget. But if we can get it done in the budget and use the budget as an accelerant for compromise and decision making, even better.

Alan Chartock: So, let me ask you this about pied-a-terre. Is it pied-a-terre or marijuana or do you think it could be both?

Governor Cuomo: When the legislature suggested, the legislative suggested that marijuana would not be done in time for the budget or they weren't sure if it would be done in time for the budget, I don't want to count revenues in the budget, going back to bad budget, responsible budget, I don't want to count revenues that we don't have. So we shifted our revenues for the MTA tax from the marijuana revenue to a pied-a-terre tax. Which would be, which would go to funding the MTA. And that's what the current plan is.

Alan Chartock: Ok, so, so now let's talk a little bit about criminal justice changes in the budget. The matter of bail. We're at point now where a lot of people think poor people have to pay bail, rich people have the money and it's of no consequence to them. What do you think?

Governor Cuomo: They're right. Oh, you want a long answer?

Alan Chartock: You think I was going to talk? You're wrong.

Governor Cuomo: They're right. It even sounds ludicrous on its face. Here's lady justice with a blindfold holding a scale. Ok, how do we make the determination whether or not I leave on my own recognizance. Well, we set bail and if you can pay it you walk and if you can't pay it then you go sit in jail. Well, how did money become a proxy for justice? It's wealth-based. And that's why we have to change it and that's an issue that is essential to get done in this budget, something we've talked about for 7 years. And you know, I've had 7 years, 8 years with a republican Senate with half a loaf, half a loaf, half a loaf—and getting these controversial issues and having to compromise everything. So having a democratic Senate is most liberating for me because I don't have to take half a loaf and criminal justice is one of those issues. Criminal justice reform, that we couldn't get done and now with a democratic Senate we should be able to get done.

Alan Chartock: Why shouldn't we be able to gamble on sports events in New York State?

Governor Cuomo: Gambling is not the best revenue raiser. When you look at people who, where we tend to raise the money from with gaming, you know, I've never been crazy about it. we did casinos in Upstate New York, Alan, because we used it as a magnet to bring tourism to Upstate New York as destinations.

Alan Chartock: Did it work?

Governor Cuomo: It has worked, it has worked. We've created thousands of jobs with the casinos and not just jobs but people come up for conferences, they stay the weekend, they go to lunch in the town etcetera.

Alan Chartock: They gamble.

Governor Cuomo: Right.

Alan Chartock: Now what about New York City? Shouldn't there be gambling in New York City? Why should the poor New York City people have to travel upstate rather than just, you know, gamble their hides away in New York.

Governor Cuomo: Well, the poor New York City people had a choice of going to New Jersey to gamble or Connecticut to gamble and we said we'll give you a third choice, go to upstate New York, it's closer and it's our state and our revenue and it's our regulations. And, it was a device to bring New York City people to upstate New York and tourism is one of the main engines for Upstate New York. And you know, I have focused like no other Governor, frankly, on Upstate New York. And I know Upstate New York intimately and it's so beautiful and has so many advantages and I believe with all my heart that if the people of New York City knew what we had, there's no reason to go anywhere.

Alan Chartock: Well how come they're not voting for you in Upstate New York, in larger numbers. If you're doing -

Governor Cuomo: Well it tends to be a little more conservative in Upstate New York and I think they don't know me as well.

Alan Chartock: You've been there for a while; they should know you by now. Right? Let me give you a real fast question, Tom DiNapoli reported that revenues were down, we knew that aw few weeks ago, and so can you give us an update?

Governor Cuomo: Revenues still continue to decline. It's not good economic news. Now part of it is attributable to a national cyclical movement but it's not good. You know, this SALT tax which is my number one priority by the way, we talk about State budget and all these things, we have to get SALT repealed and Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Speaker Pelosi, this is an arrow at New York, at California, at the other Democratic states, and I am telling you as sure as I am sitting in my chair and looking out the window

Alan Chartock: Are you?

Governor Cuomo: Yes, I am. If we do not repeal SALT it will change the economic trajectory of the state. Period.

Alan Chartock: And the chances are, you've got a minute, the chances don't seem that good to me. Why is Trump going to listen to you?

Governor Cuomo: Well Trump hasn't listened to me. I went down, I spoke with him personally about it, but there's a Democratic Congress and Senator Schumer has some power as Minority Leader, and they have to make it a top priority. Period. That's the only way it happens.

Alan Chartock: Have they assured you that they will?

Governor Cuomo: They have assured me that they understand it as an issue. They have not yet gotten to the point where there is a programmatic way to do it. But it has to be a line in the sand for them? It has to be.

Alan Chartock: Isn't that double talk? We understand the issue, we hear you, you know that kind of nonsense.

Governor Cuomo: Well they're just getting their feet under them and they have to find the right place to do it, the right budget moment, the right negotiation moment. And Speaker Pelosi is doing a phenomenal job, and I have total faith in her. But this has to happen, this has to be a line in the sand.

Alan Chartock: All I know, is that when I came on, they told me you have exactly half an hour, and the Governor's people say you have to be off in a half an hour and that half an hour is now up.

Governor Cuomo: Since when have you listened to anything that any Governor's office person has ever said to you, Alan. Don't start now, don't start now. It's worked for you all these years. Tell them to go to heck.

Alan Chartock: That's right. Anyway we've been fascinated as always talking to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor Cuomo thank you so much again for appearing with us and for telling us what's going on. We very much appreciate it.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. A pleasure to be with you, doctor.