Governor Kathy Hochul isn’t making a clean break from disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo when it comes to managing the $212 billion state budget during the lingering coronavirus pandemic.
Sources told The Post that in his most important appointment, Hochul is keeping Robert Mujica as the powerful state budget director.
Mujika, considered a capable money manager, was omnipresent during Cuomo’s COVID-19 press briefing and as custodian of the Treasury had input on almost every policy issue that touched on spending.
Hochul’s decision drew applause from the business community.
“Rob Mujica is a skilled professional who understands state finances better than anyone. He has worked for Republicans and Democrats, and both are respected equally. We are fortunate that he is managing the state budget.” Katherine Wyld, President and CEO, Partnerships for New York City
But critics on the left said Mujicia was too closely linked to Cuomo’s troubled policies and called for his reappointment by harassing Hochul.
“If I were governor, I would replace Rob Mujica,” said state Senate finance committee chair Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) said that Mujica was associated with Cuomo’s “corporate friendly” and “austerity” policies – particularly the failed upstate business venture and subsidies for Medicaid cost control – and added that to the budget director. It was unfair to be involved in Cuomo’s campaign. Fundraising, mingling with donors with state-facing business.
“Hochul is concerned about appeasing the same group that has donated extensively to Cuomo in the past. More deserving of the needs of consumers, patients, nursing home residents whose rights were taken away during the pandemic were,” said Kim.
Mujika served as Andrew Cuomo’s director of budget since 2015 and also served as an ex-officio member on 30 state boards, including the MTA and CUNY, of which he is an alumnus.
He previously served as fiscal director for Republicans when he controlled the state Senate, and his original appointment by Cuomo angered some Democrats. Mujica appeared with Hochul on Tuesday during a private meeting with county officials from across the state in Albany.
She indicated that Mujika would be a key player with Team Hochul in helping prepare its first budget during an election year, as she had served as lieutenant governor when she was in the Cuomo administration.
Hochul said of Mujika last week, “I’m still evaluating positions, but he’s working very hard with us to move forward in the future, so I’m confident he’ll be with us for some time.” “
A source in the room during the county officials meeting described Mujika as “irreplaceable” and said Hochul admired him.
“It says something about how far she is going in terms of change in the area that affects everything – which is the budget. I think she feels who else can do that. In fact bodies are buried in and out as well. He realizes it’s make or break budget and he knows how to do it better than anyone else,” the source said of Mujika .
Hochul’s office confirmed Wednesday that it is hiring Mujika as budget director.
Hazel Crampton-Hayes said in a statement, “We are retaining a number of public servants who have demonstrated commitment to the governor’s agenda, and we look forward to working with our top-tier team to deliver results for New Yorkers.” look forward for.”
The statement indicated that Mujica was not mentioned negatively in the investigation report by State Attorney General Letitia James, which found that Cuomo sexually assaulted current and former female employees, leading to her resignation.
Meanwhile, two Cuomo appointees to the Public Service Commission, John Maggiore and John Howard — longtime Cuomo loyalists tapped for cushioned jobs before stepping into the sexual assault scandal — are refusing Hochul’s request to resign. Huh.
Maggiore’s term does not end until February 2027, while Howard’s term does not end until February 2024.
State Senate Energy Committee Chairman Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) said the Cuomo appointments cannot be taken off the board. Both appointments were confirmed by the state Senate.
“They have been appointed on their terms till they are fulfilled. They have the right to refuse,” Parker said.
“[Hochul} asked for something she couldn’t not enforce so here we are. She will have to figure out how to work with them or work around them. This is just an unusual circumstance.”