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On the day of the State of the State, four dissatisfied Democrats broke away from the already weakened 30 member Democratic Minority in the Senate. The Democrats lost control of the chamber to the GOP in November. On that day, the leader, Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, condemned the Democratic leadership over the past two years, including that of Senator John Sampson, saying he had “failed.”
This week, it became clear that the newly formed Independent Democratic Conference is truly on its own, they did not receive any committee assignments or leadership post chairs from the Democrats, as expected. The four were also shut out by the Republicans, as well, Senate Leader Dean Skelos named only GOP members to committee leadership posts.
And Governor Andrew Cuomo also distanced himself from the four Senators. Cuomo says initial claims by the group that he condoned their actions were not “accurate.”
“I didn’t even know about it until the action was imminent,” said Cuomo, who says he’s remaining nuetral.
“I don’t approve, I don’t disprove, it’s frankly none of my business,” said Cuomo “It’s a separate house. They’ll make their own political decisions, which obviously, they have.”
Cuomo would not say whether the Independent Democratic Conference might be treated on equal footing with the Democratic and Republican conferences, in terms of invitations to leaders meetings on the budget and other issues.
Senator Klein says it’s not about committee chairs or extra pay for leadership posts.
“It’s about governing,” Klein said.
The four Democrats tried to prove that point, issuing a report on how to cut down on wasteful government spending including excessive overtime at some state agencies, and duplicative administrative services. They say they will submit it to Governor Cuomo’s newly formed panel, led by former Spitzer budget director Paul Francis, on government consolidation.
Senator Diane Savino, of Staten Island, says the group intends to remain independent, sometimes voting with the Democrats, and other times siding with the Republicans on a case by case basis, depending on where each party stands on a particular issue.
“I know it’s hard for people to quite grasp this,” Savino said, admitting the notion goes against the long held Albany two- party tradition. “We’re willing to work with anybody, of either party, in either house.”
The other Senators in the new conference are Senator David Valesky of Syracuse, and Senator David Carlucci, of Rockland County in the Hudson Valley.