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NY Gov. Cuomo Takes On National Issues

Governors Cuomo, Brown, Inslee and Kerry at Cuomo's NYC office
Office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Governors Cuomo, Brown, Inslee and Kerry at Cuomo's NYC office

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is again wading into national issues this week. The Democrat held a press conference against the latest attempt in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And he met with the governors of California and Washington to discuss steps to slow climate change.

In both cases, the governor says he’s addressing the matters because the actions or, in the case of climate change, inactions, in Washington have a harmful impact on New York. 

On health care, Cuomo says a law that expires on September 30 will mean a funding drop of $1.1 billion in the next 18 months to New York’s public and safety net hospitals, which serve the state’s poorest. That’s because a law that permitted the payments, under the Medicaid program is expiring. 

“There is no way the state can pick up this cost,” Cuomo said. “The state is already facing a $4 billion deficit going into next year.” 

Congress would have to act to renew the law that allows the funding, something that has occurred in the past. But Cuomo says this time, passage is very uncertain in a “gridlocked” divided House and Senate. 

“That’s why this is frightening,” the governor said. 

The law's expiration comes as the Senate is considering another plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Graham-Cassidy bill would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program, as well as the ACA’s health care exchanges, set up for individuals to buy insurance. It would replace the programs with Medicaid block grants to states, so they have more flexibility to set their own rules on coverage and insurance pools. The governor says New York stands to lose $19 billion if the measure is approved. 

“If I was as flexible as a Gumby doll, we could not fund our health care system,” Cuomo said.   

The governor says 2.7 million New Yorkers could lose their health coverage if the bill passes, and over a million health care related jobs would be at risk. The Graham-Cassidy measure also defunds Planned Parenthood for a year, which could force some clinics out of business.  

The next day, the governor met in his office with California Governor Jerry Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee about the recently formed U.S. Climate Alliance. Fourteen states and Puerto Rico along with several mayors of major cities have allied to enact the greenhouse gas reduction principles outlined in the Paris Climate Accord, after President Trump withdrew from the agreement.

Governor Brown says the groups is “on track” to meet the guidelines with a 24 to 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025. 

“You can’t deny science forever,” Brown said. “You can’t deny reality. Reality is climate change is occurring. The heat-trapping gases are having an effect and if we don't act in enough time will we face catastrophic irreversible changes in our world." 

Cuomo, who seldom mentions President Trump directly, called the current federal government the “most ignorant” ever. Governor Inslee went further, saying the states and cities now in the Alliance represent 40 percent of the U.S. economy, and, if combined, would be the third largest economy in the world.  And he says the president has no authority over the group’s actions. 

“He can’t stop our caps, he can’t stop our cap and trades, he can’t stop our incentives,” Inslee said. “Because, bottom line, the United States is much more than the sum of its tweets.”      

Cuomo was also joined by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who said major industries are also committed to following the Paris Accord, and not the lead of President Trump. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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