New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to the media...

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to the media after a campaign rally at Hostos Community College in the Bronx on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will have to reconfigure his 2015 agenda, or at least recalculate how to bargain for it, after Republicans regained an outright majority in the State Senate, experts said.

Cuomo during his re-election campaign promised a "progressive" agenda promoting abortion rights, a minimum-wage hike and college financial assistance for children of immigrants living in the country illegally. But those were predicated on Democrats taking the State Senate.

Not only did Republicans win the chamber, but Cuomo saw his support among voters erode. Cuomo, a Democrat, drew one-third fewer votes than in 2010. That underscored disaffection in the liberal wing of his party and anger on the right about gun control and other issues.

The developments could embolden a State Legislature that has given Cuomo most of what he wanted for the past four years without offering much resistance, observers said.

"Clearly, the legislature is going to exercise a little more muscle," said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College in Manhattan.

Needs to rebuild team

So far, Cuomo has said little about his second-term agenda.

He has some unfinished business from his first term, having delayed decisions on natural-gas drilling upstate, the development of the Belmont Park area in Nassau County and the first round of new casino sitings. He also wants to complete a project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge, though the financing still isn't all in place.

And there are some practical tasks immediately ahead.

"First, the governor needs to rebuild his team," said Kevin Law, CEO of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

Law noted several departures from Cuomo's inner circle and the likely turnover of some state agency heads. "Then, he has to put together a State of the State address and a budget, all due in the next two months," Law said. "The governor and his staff don't have much time to relax and celebrate victory."

Liberal initiatives

As part of his attempt to shore up support from liberals and the labor-based Working Families Party, Cuomo said he would support another minimum-wage hike and the Dream Act, which would make children of immigrants here illegally eligible for state college tuition aid.

But those priorities originated primarily with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and state lawmakers from the city, some of whom blamed Cuomo for not fighting aggressively for them in last week's election.

Cuomo listed those initiatives during his victory speech Tuesday night. But in a radio interview two days later, he seemed to shift the focus to education. He said an education overhaul would be a major theme and he singled out one of his familiar foes: teachers unions.

"I want performance in education. It's that simple," Cuomo said on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio program on which he frequently appears. "Did that upset the teachers union? Yes it does."

Late in the campaign, Cuomo called public schools "monopolies" and said he wanted to readdress the teacher evaluation process. The governor, a charter-school backer, said he wanted to "enhance" evaluations to make them more accurately reflect a teacher's ability.

In the same radio interview, Cuomo sought to deflect the idea that he would have to shift his agenda because of the State Senate. Instead, he put the focus on Republicans, who he said will want things, too.

"Republicans are going to have to compromise," he said.

Cuomo also has downplayed the likelihood of achieving one goal of liberals, public financing of political campaigns, saying that Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) "really, really doesn't believe in it."

Skelos, who will be the outright Senate leader on the strength of last week's election, declined through a spokesman to comment on the 2015 agenda. During the campaign, he focused on jobs and taxes and warned voters against a de Blasio-led agenda.

Campaign promises

Some liberal lawmakers wasted no time in pressing Cuomo to keep his word on the few campaign promises he made.

"On election night, Governor Cuomo committed to passing the New York Dream Act during his second term," Assemb. Francisco Moya (D-Manhattan) said. "We agree that the children of New York have waited long enough. Each year that goes by without a Dream Act, we allow another class of students to slip through the cracks."

Former Assemb. Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, now a lobbyist, said Cuomo's agenda "is completely different than New York City's," and that there is a distinction between what's promised in a campaign and what's practical.

"The governor has issues he thinks are important. But those are not necessarily the ones he'll push for," Kremer said.

Muzzio noted that Cuomo is a skilled negotiator who worked harmoniously with the GOP throughout his first term -- sometimes more so than with Democrats -- wooing enough Republicans to support legalization of same-sex marriage and new gun-control laws.

"The governor can't be unhappy that Republicans are controlling the body," Muzzio said. "He's very comfortable with that relationship."

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