Governor Andrew Cuomo spent the early part of this week in a marathon bill signing — and vetoing — session. The governor rejected an unusually high number of bills, and some supporters of the vetoed measures aren’t pleased.
Cuomo vetoed 72 of the 133 bills that were sent to him just before the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Normally, the Legislature parcels out the bills passed at the end of the legislative session over the next six months, so that the governor has time to carefully consider each one. But the Senate and Assembly decided to send him all the bills at once.
Cuomo and lawmakers have been feuding over whether legislators should get a pay raise, but legislators deny that there’s any connection between the two incidents.
The Buffalo News quoted one lawmaker as calling it the “Monday night massacre,” but Cuomo said he doesn’t think he vetoed a higher-than-average portion of the bills.
“It was a bill-by-bill choice,” said Cuomo. “I don’t know the usual ratio of signing to vetoes, but I don’t think it was extraordinary.”
One veto that’s received particular attention is the rejection of a measure to make it easier for farmers to donate produce to food banks. It would have granted each farm an up to $5,000 tax credit for donating fresh vegetables and meats to food banks to feed the hungry. A wide coalition supported it, including anti-hunger groups, environmentalists and the New York Farm Bureau. Spokesman Steve Ammerman finds the veto “baffling.”
“We’re incredibly disappointed,” Ammerman said. “Because there was so much support behind this.”
Ammerman said the benefits of the legislation would be “far-reaching.” He said needy people would get better-quality food, and farmers would see some of the costs associated with picking and shipping the items offset on their taxes.
When asked about the veto, Cuomo said he agrees with the idea, but the measure was flawed.
“Let’s give every farm $5,000,” Cuomo said. “Great. I support that concept. But one question: Where does the $5,000 come from?”
Cuomo said the allocation needs to be part of the overall state spending plan.
“We do a budget in this state,” Cuomo aid. “This was not in the budget.”
The cost of the tax credit is estimated to be $300,000 to $800,000 out of a $135 billion budget.
Cuomo and the Farm Bureau disagreed earlier this year when the governor decided not to defend the state against a New York Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that would permit farmworkers to form a union. The Farm Bureau went to court and has been granted the right to pursue the case.
The group also opposed Cuomo’s plan to phase in a higher minimum wage in New York, saying it would be too expensive for farms operating on the margin.
Ammerman said he hopes the veto is not related to the disputes, and really is about the measure not being part of the state budget. He said farmers hope that the governor can be convinced to add the provision into his new budget plan in January.