Skelos praises his Senate deal with Dems

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. (July 26, 2012) Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. (July 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

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ALBANY -- Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Wednesday that the power-sharing deal Republicans cut with dissident Democrats to run the Senate will not only be good for the state but a model for the nation.

"We're going to show the rest of the country that Republicans and Democrats can work together," Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said. "And I think the public is going to be very happy with the solutions we come up with."

Skelos' comments came one day after announcing that he and Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) will share control of the chamber in the 2013 legislative session. Under the arrangement, all 30 Republicans and six of 33 Democrats will form a newly dubbed Majority Senate Coalition, and jointly decide what bills reach the Senate floor each day of the session. Coalition leaders will also dole out committee assignments, and will have the power to make appointments to state and local boards.

They also plan to share negotiations over the state budget. Klein and Skelos will alternate the title of Senate president -- which is largely administrative -- every two weeks.

Their deal would leave the other Senate Democrats with, at most, 27 members -- keeping them from controlling the chamber despite apparently winning a majority of seats on Election Day. One upstate race is still outstanding.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave the pact tacit approval. He praised Republicans' record of leading the chamber in 2011-12 and said Democrats "squandered the opportunity" when they controlled it in 2009-10.

"They had a Democratic Senate, a Democratic Assembly and a Democratic governor," Cuomo said. "It was supposed to be a golden moment for progressive politics. It was a lost moment. . . . It's almost inarguable -- that that was not a good period of government."

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Meanwhile, a Siena College poll suggested voters might approve of the coalition as well. It found that 28 percent of those surveyed said that state senators should absolutely vote for their party to be in control of the Senate, compared with 65 percent who said it's OK for senators to switch alliances and vote for the opposite party.

Skelos said the coalition would maintain the clout of Long Island's all-Republican Senate delegation. "This will be positive for Long Island, no doubt about it," he said.

Asked in a separate radio interview if the coalition was a type of "shotgun marriage," Skelos laughed and said no.

"This is going to be a good marriage," he said, "a marriage of trust."

Klein leads a group of five Democrats who call themselves the Independent Democratic Conference. They will join the Skelos coalition along with Simcha Felder, who won his Brooklyn seat as a Democrat, but has said he'd join the GOP conference.

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Skelos said decisions on committee leadership posts haven't been made yet. But he vowed the unusual partnership would work smoothly to notch achievements -- unlike the federal government. "The public, they don't care about [political] parties," Skelos said. "Election time is about parties. But now, they care about bipartisanship. They're totally turned off by what's happening in Washington."

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