For the first time since March 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo took questions from the media on Monday afternoon in a limited conference call with reporters.
The governor spent part of the time calling the upcoming state budget likely the most complicated in his tenure and something that could set the course for the state the next decade.
The budget, now five days past its April 1 deadline, was stressed as less of a “financial document” and more of an “action plan” that paves the way for a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; the vaccination effort and social distancing have stood as a barrier to its completion, according to Cuomo.
“The budget is probably the most complicated, the most ambitious, and the hardest budget that we have done. This is a post-crisis budget,” Cuomo said. “Zoom is not as good as being in a room with 20 people, and being able to sit there for 10 hours and hash it out. So that has been a complication to it.”
The governor said he considered the recovery plans for many different governments a sort of “international competition” rather than a rebuilding effort. Nonetheless, he feel there is a “conceptual agreement” on all issues within the budget between the senate, assembly and the executive chamber in Albany as the legislators negotiate further details in the conference.
But some many lawmakers in across the state have called for Cuomo’s resignation, particularly Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who pushed in early March for the governor to step aside citing the ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct against him a distraction as well.
“Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government. We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the COVID-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project,” Stewart-Cousins said at the time. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Cuomo adamantly denied that the scandals plaguing his administration would get in the way of his office negotiating and approving a budget that would utilize $12.6 billion in federal aid which the state would use to close its $15 billion budget gap over the next two years.
After holding an announcement in Queens on an awareness campaign with political allies who layered on praise for the embattled governor free of the burdens of answering to the press, Cuomo claimed his reason for barring the press from appearances since the allegations against him surfaced was simple: limited capacity at venues due to COVID-19.
“You don’t get two groups, one for the reporters, and one for the people in the room, it’s the total number of people. And we try to keep the number of people down, and we try to keep social distancing mandates. But the substance of the event is what is most important,” Cuomo explained.
According to the governor, who won an Emmy for his daily press conferences in front of live reporters at the height of the pandemic, questions from the media can be addressed virtually through conference calls.