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New poll finds Cuomo with lowest approval ratings since he took office

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A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo with the lowest approval ratings since he took office, in a year where corruption scandals have dominated news at the Capitol.  

The Siena College survey is the second in a month that shows the governor’s support eroding.  Only 41 percent think Cuomo is doing a good job in office, though he’s still viewed favorably overall by 53 percent of voters.  The Democrat governor fared the worst with New York City and Republican voters.

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says the governor’s numbers have been slipping, but there’s no clear link to any particular issue or action by Cuomo.

“It’s hard to know now, is this the beginning of a trend?” Greenberg said.

The 2015 legislative session has been dominated by corruption scandals. Both the Assembly speaker and Senate leader were accused of monetizing their powerful positions to earn millions of dollars for themselves and their families, and both were forced to resign.  

But Greenberg says New Yorkers don’t view Cuomo as corrupt, and in fact see him as trying to do something to clean up Albany.

The legislature’s preoccupation with ousting old leaders  arrested on corruption charges and choosing new leaders has led to a slow down of most legislation. In January, Cuomo announced an ambitious agenda for 2015, but much of it has been sidelined.  

“Since the enactment of the budget at the end of March, there haven’t been any really significant actions taken in Albany,” Greenberg said.

The governor has also been in a feud with the teachers unions over new performance reviews and standardized testing related to the Common Core. The union has run negative ads against Cuomo and erected unflattering billboards.

The poll finds voters are divided over two education-related issues. One is an education tax credit that would give donors a tax break for funding scholarships to allow poor children to attend private schools, and also for money given to extra curricular programs at public schools.

The other, known as the Dream Act, would allow children of undocumented immigrants to receive aid for college tuition.

Assembly Democrats like the Dream Act, while Senate Republicans favor the education tax credit.

There has also been an attempt, among the Senate GOP, to make a three-year-old property tax cap permanent in New York. Greenberg says most New Yorkers would be happy about that.   

“It’s still very popular,” he said.

But when asked, over one-third thought that schools and local governments need some more flexibly within the tax cap.

Assembly Democrats have not agreed to permanently extend the tax cap. The cap is tied, through legislation enacted in 2011, to renewal of New York City’s rent laws, which Democrats support, so it’s possible that a deal could be struck.

The poll also found that while support for the governor is down, support continues for two of his administration's signature policies -- the SAFE Act gun control measures and the economic development program Start Up NY.

The legislature returns Wednesday afternoon for the final 12-day stretch that ends in mid-June.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.