By BRIAN TUMULTY
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's record of avoiding official visits to the nation's capital continues intact as the three-day winter meeting of the National Governor's Association draws to a close.
The governors -- 46 of whom have attended at least parts of the event -- will participate in a working meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House Monday morning following dinner there Sunday night.
Cuomo was in Manhattan Saturday to attend a celebration and religious service for New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was elevated to the position of cardinal a few days earlier in Rome. Cuomo's Sunday schedule indicated he was in the New York City area.
Cuomo's spokesmen declined last week to discuss the governor's reason for not attending the Washington conference and did not respond to a request for the state's legislative agenda in Washington.
Doug Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College, said in an email that Cuomo, "doesn't want to become infected with D.C. It's highly contagious"
But Cuomo knows Washington's ways well, having served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development during President Bill Clinton's second term, and having handed other roles dating back to Clinton's 1992 transition team.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie joked that by missing the National Governor's Association meeting, Cuomo "is missing somebody like me telling him what a great job he's doing.''
"Even myself, I was thinking, gosh, it's in the middle of our legislative session, should I really come all the way to Washington?" Abercrombie added. "The lack of bipartisanship in the Congress is so toxic, can we really do something as Republican and Democratic governors? The answer is yes.''
Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said attending the meeting is important for governors, "because we learn so much from each other.''
"Generally, we can come here and find solutions,'' Brewer said. "There's strength in numbers to find solutions on a federal level.''
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who also once chaired the Republican National Committee, said he always attended the governors' winter meeting.
"My state has a lot of business in Washington,'' Barbour said. "This conference is always held in Washington. It's a time I would always meet with my delegation (and) meet with people in the administration... about issues we had to deal with, whether it was (Hurricane) Katrina or regular mundane issues."
Since taking office in January 2011, Cuomo has not met with the state's congressional delegation as a group to discuss New York's legislative agenda in Washington.
In fact, several congressional offices acknowledged last week they have not received a list of the state's legislative goals.
One congressional chief of staff also confirmed not having met yet with the state's chief lobbyist in Washington, Alexander Cochran, whom Cuomo appointed to the post at the beginning of this year.
Cochran served as a Cuomo deputy when Cuomo was HUD secretary.
New York maintains an office in the Hall of the States a couple of blocks from the Capitol.
New York's senior senator, Democrat Chuck Schumer, issued a statement Friday in Cuomo's defense.
"We work closely with the governor's office,'' Schumer stated. "We talk to them every day and work together, often successfully, on a wide range of issues for New York."
There are 31 members of the state's congressional delegation, and bipartisan lobbying on behalf of New York issues has been sporadic recently.
For example, four of the state's Republican freshmen are co-sponsoring a proposal by Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan to restore the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.
House Republican leaders have proposed eliminating the 2.86-cent-a-gallon share of the federal fuel tax that is dedicated to mass transit.
The state's request for a $2 billion federal transportation loan to help finance construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge was submitted in December without any public fanfare or public lobbying.
When Democrat David Paterson was governor, he lobbied publicly in New York and Washington for the Race to the Top federal education grant the state received in August 2009. Paterson also made the Washington rounds during the debate on health care reform.
Cuomo has acknowledged that the ongoing debate over deficit reduction could have a major impact on the state budget.
In November he estimated that the impasse over deficit reduction would cost New York $5 billion in federal aid over 10 years, with "additional revenue losses from jobs losses and Wall Street declines.'' His administration estimated the job losses at 155,000.