A hotly anticipated decision on fracking won’t come before Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands for re-election. Same for an announcement of higher tolls on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Thanks to either serendipity or Cuomo’s dexterity, each decision is off the table, pushed back until after the election.
Now it appears likely that another politically charged decision — the selection of sites for four upstate casinos — will also come after voters go to the polls on Nov. 4.
Cuomo argues that he isn’t delaying the decisions for political reasons. The study on the health effects of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, begun in 2012, needs more work. Tolls on the new $3.9-billion Tappan Zee Bridge won’t be known until the financing is complete. As for casinos, that’s the decision of a state commission.
“They are handling that,” Cuomo said Wednesday, in response to questions from reporters about the casino decision. “I’m not playing a role in it.”
For observers of the famously controlling governor, however, the delays appear designed to avoid three decisions that are bound to upset voters around the state even as Cuomo seeks a second term.
“I’m shocked, shocked that a politician would allow politics to enter into things during an election year,” quipped Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at SUNY Cortland. “Fracking is a good example. He’s been under a lot of criticism for delaying, but the political cost of kicking the can down the road is understandable. The cost of making a decision is harder to see right now.”
Cuomo’s Republican opponent this fall, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, has criticized Cuomo for the delays on fracking and tolls, saying he’s placing his own self-interest over important public policy decisions.
“This administration stalls and stalls and stalls,” Astorino said. “Enough of re-election comes first, good governance second.”
Polls show Astorino trailing Cuomo by double digits, and Cuomo has a commanding fundraising lead as well. Columbia University political science professor Robert Shapiro said Cuomo may want to wait until after a big re-election victory to use up political capital on controversial decisions.
“It makes a big difference if he starts his next term having won by big margins,” Shapiro said. “He’s not worried about losing. He’s worried about not winning big.”