Political candidates typically campaign on specific issues, such as the MTA payroll tax, same-sex marriage or war in Iraq. But GOP members under Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) think they can use the on-time budgets of the past two years and the smoother operations at the Capitol to at least maintain their 32-29 majority over Democrats.
As the legislature passed a $132.6 billion state budget two days before the April 1 deadline, Skelos and his fellow Republicans repeatedly drew a contrast to 2009-10 when Democrats controlled both houses and late budgets and gridlock symbolized what pundits called "Albany dysfunction." Skelos said that under GOP control "government is working."
"We've worked on a really bipartisan basis, which is what people are looking for, and you don't see in Albany anymore the dysfunction that existed in the past," Skelos said. "We have turned the corner in Albany . . . Dysfunction has gone out the window."
It's a message that could help the GOP this fall, analysts said, though in a limited way.
"Perceptions of Albany are better than few years ago," said Robert Spitzer, political science professor at the State University of New York at Cortland. "The degree of rancor is down, the budgets have been on time. It's an issue politicians can talk about."
But it is a "pretty diffuse appeal," Spitzer said, because "everybody is in favor of good government. They are not going to win or lose on the effectiveness of their good government claims."
Steve Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena College poll, said in 2010 challengers from both major parties used the "dysfunction" claim against incumbents. But it wasn't a deciding factor in any one race.
"I don't think I can point to a 2010 campaign where 'Albany dysfunction' was THE issue," he said, "but I can point to many campaigns where it was AN issue."
Democrats had a 32-30 edge in the chamber going into the 2010 elections. (There is currently one vacancy.)
Analysts said Republicans likely will focus a campaign on their successes in passing laws to enact a 2 percent property tax cap statewide and partially repeal the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax in New York City suburbs.
Besides, they noted, a focus on good government could trigger criticism about the GOP having broken its 2010 campaign promise to allow an independent commission to draw new Senate and Assembly election districts to make contests competitive.
"It is pretty ironic that they are looking at running on 'good government,' where one of their main claims to fame is blatantly reneging on a promise they made to the public on good government," said Michael Murphy, spokesman for Senate Democrats.
But, clearly, Republicans think good government will be part of the message.
"When you've brought competence and accountability back to state government, and your priorities are the peoples' priorities, the politics takes care of itself," said Skelos spokesman Scott Reif.