Gov. Kathy Hochul isn’t making a clean break from his disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo when it comes to managing the state’s gigantic $ 212 billion budget during the lingering coronavirus pandemic.
In what marks his most important appointment, Hochul retains Robert Mujica as powerful state budget manager, sources told The Post.
Mujica, who is considered a competent fund manager, was ubiquitous during Cuomo’s COVID-19 press briefings and as the keeper of the treasury he helped with virtually all political matters relating to spending.
Hochul’s decision was applauded by the business community.
“Rob Mujica is an accomplished professional who understands government finances better than anyone. He has worked for Republicans and Democrats, and is equally respected by both. We are lucky that he manages the state budget. Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, New York City Partnership
But left-wing critics said Mujicia was too closely tied to Cuomo’s troubled policies and called his Hochul re-appointment troubling.
“If I were governor, I would replace Rob Mujica,” said State Senate Finance Committee chairperson Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).
Assembly member Ron Kim (D-Queens) said Mujica was linked to Cuomo’s “pro-business” and “austerity” policies – particularly subsidies to failed business enterprises in the North. State and Medicaid cost controls – and said it was inappropriate for the budget manager to appear in Cuomo’s campaign. fundraising, dating donors with affairs before the state.
“Hochul is keen to appease the same group that has raised massive donations for Cuomo in the past. There are more qualified people concerned about the needs of consumers, patients, nursing home residents whose rights were taken away during the pandemic, ”Kim said.
Mujica has been Andrew Cuomo’s budget director since 2015 and is also an ex-officio member of 30 state councils, including the MTA and CUNY, of which he is an alumnus.
He previously worked as a tax director for Republicans when they controlled the state Senate, and his initial appointment by Cuomo annoyed some Democrats. Mujica appeared with Hochul on Tuesday in a private meeting in Albany with county leaders from across the state.
She had hinted that Mujica would be a key player in Team Hochul to help them craft their first budget in an election year, as he was part of the Cuomo administration when she was lieutenant governor.
“I’m still evaluating the positions, but he’s working really hard with us to plan for the future, so I think he’ll be with us for a while,” Hochul said of Mujica last week.
A source in the room at the county leadership meeting described Mujica as “irreplaceable” and said Hochul praised him.
“That says something about how far she’s going to go in terms of change in the area that affects everything – which is the budget. I think she realizes who else can do this who really knows the ins and outs as well as where the bodies are buried. She realizes that this is the deciding budget and he knows better than anyone how to do it, ”the source said of Mujica.
Hochul’s office confirmed on Wednesday that she is keeping Mujica as the budget manager.
“We are retaining a number of officials who have demonstrated their commitment to the Governor’s agenda, and we look forward to working with our high-level team to get results for New Yorkers,” Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement. communicated.
The statement says Mujica was not mentioned negatively in the state attorney general’s investigative report Letitia James, which found Cuomo sexually harassed current and former employees, triggering her resignation.
Meanwhile, two people Cuomo appointed to the Civil Service Commission, John Maggiore and John Howard – longtime Cuomo devotees solicited for cushy jobs before resigning in a sexual harassment scandal – turn down the resignation request from Hochul.
Maggiore’s term does not expire until February 2027, while Howard’s does not expire until February 2024.
Those nominated by Cuomo cannot be kicked off the board, said state Senate energy committee chairman Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn). Both appointees have been confirmed by the State Senate.
“They were appointed for their terms until they were complete. They have the right to refuse, ”Parker said.