- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. | More than 40 elected Democrats are making a rare attack on one of their own, slamming Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his proposed cuts to the party’s priorities in education and health care as the state confronts a $10 billion budget deficit, according to a letter obtained Monday by the Associated Press.

In the letter to the state Democratic Party and the governor, the Democrats complained that Mr. Cuomo’s budget policies were “neither balanced nor well-conceived” and warned that they would hurt children and the elderly.

The critics said Mr. Cuomo was not exemplifying what a “new Democrat” should be. The governor started using the term at last year’s Democratic convention to describe a pragmatic official in hard fiscal times.

“According to the governor, that is what it means to be a ‘new Democrat,’ ” the letter said. “According to the governor, this is the path to becoming ‘the most progressive state in the nation.’ If this is what it means to be a new Democrat, and if this is what it means to be progressive then something is very wrong.”

Neither Mr. Cuomo nor the party immediately responded to requests for comment.

The protest comes as Democratic lawmakers have joined labor unions and public-sector workers in protests against similar cuts by Republican governors in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. The letter suggests that Democratic chief executives such as Mr. Cuomo are not immune to the anger over cuts.

The letter is signed by Democrats on city councils and other legislative bodies in New York City, Albany, Binghamton, Kingston, Monroe County, Rockland County, Broome County, the town of Danby, Tompkins County, the village of Hempstead, Buffalo and Ulster County.

Mr. Cuomo won by a huge margin in the November election on a platform to clean up Albany and curb decades of spending and overtaxing. The popular former attorney general voiced the outrage seen in public opinion polls that politics and special interests have made state government unaffordable to taxpayers. His fiscally conservative stand, opposing tax increases, is most strongly supported by the Senate’s Republican majority.

Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll also found strong support for the governor and continued unhappiness with the state legislature. It also showed strong opposition to cuts in education and health care. Mr. Cuomo’s $132.9 billion budget proposal would cut spending by 2.7 percent.

The unhappy New York Democrats are urging Mr. Cuomo and the party to abandon proposed cuts to school aid, prescription aid for the elderly and other cuts to education and health care. Instead, they are pushing for Mr. Cuomo to continue a temporary surcharge on New Yorkers making more than $200,000 a year. The income tax surcharge is scheduled to expire this year, although it could bring the state as much as $5 billion.

“If the new Democratic Party is acting like conservative Republicans, I don’t want any part of it,” said New York City Councilman Robert Jackson, one of the Democrats who signed the letter.

This isn’t the first time Democrats have tested the governor in recent days.

On Thursday, veteran Democratic Assembly Member Richard Gottfried of Manhattan leveled some criticism at Mr. Cuomo’s Medicaid task force report that backed cutting some services and funding to hospitals. Mr. Gottfried, who was on the task force, said the final report has good ideas, but there are concerns, too. His comment was met with a blistering statement from Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman that Mr. Gottfried “has been the protector of the Albany status quo and special interests for years.”

The next day, Mr. Gottfried and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a joint statement saying they were optimistic the task force report would result in long-term financial stability while safeguarding care.

Days before, Democratic New York City Councilman Charles Barron led a disruption of Mr. Cuomo’s speech to black and Latino lawmakers with chants of “Shame on you!” and “Tax the rich!”

Five of those who signed the letter noted they were part of the group called the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.

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