As the political world is focusing on the struggles of one governor to tell the truth, it may be worth looking at some fudging by a governor on the other side of the Hudson. While hardly a scandal that will get its own “gate”, it’s troubling that Gov. Cuomo and his team are having a hard time delivering straight talk about something as wholesome as pre-Kindergarten.
As pressure mounted on Cuomo to do something about Mayor de Blasio’s push for universal pre-K, Capital New York on Monday reported: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose funding full-day pre-kindergarten statewide, according to sources briefed on the governor's preparation for his State of the State address this week.”
The article was immediately dismissed and ripped by the governor’s aides – who even privately claimed that the website was going to be posting a retraction. The governor was asked about the article in a press conference on Monday and further muddled the matter by saying: “There’s a two step in government and life: First decide what you’re going to do and decide how you’re going to do it. We’re on step one. I’m in agreement with the mayor that pre-K is the direction this state has to head,” said Cuomo, noting that “a broader conversation” will have to held to pay for the program.
So after Team Cuomo lowered expectations, it was pretty surprising to open up the governor’s blueprint for his State of the State Address and read a section on Page 81 boldly titled “Make Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten Universal in NYS” – which concludes: “It is time to fulfill the State’s goal of truly ‘Universal Pre-Kindergarten’ access for all children.”
So forgive me if those words make me think that the governor is actually calling for statewide pre-K this year. Yes, nowhere in the document does Cuomo explain how he’ll fund the plan – which Capital NY claimed he’d do -- but doesn’t calling for it mean that it’s on his 2014 “to-do” list? And funding plans – the “devil” in the details – aren’t usually revealed until the governor delivers his budget address – which he’s giving later this month.
Cuomo and his aides are trying to have it both ways, saying they like pre-K – but don’t necessarily want to pay for it. Meanwhile, de Blasio’s tax-hike plan to actually pay for it in New York City went totally ignored by the governor in yesterday’s speech.
While this pre-K hustle isn’t quite a lie, it’s the kind of fudge that is becoming routine in Albany. It has caused reporters to parse or distrust most words coming from the governor’s office – which serves neither side well. Not telling the whole truth can become a dangerous habit, which can lead to much bigger problems. Just ask Chris Christie.