The Politicker is live here at Andrew Cuomo’s first State of the State in a chillly and crowded Empire Plaza Convention Center.
The choice of venue is significant. The address is usually in the Assembly chambers, but by moving it here Cuomo has allowed the public to come in, even if it may alienate legislative allies who are the usual hosts of the speech.
Robert Duffy is up first, telling the audience that “Today is about you” and calling out the many elected officials who have to the speech today, among them Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor Ed Koch, and the mayors of Buffalo, Rochester and Albany.
And same as last year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli–a former member of the Assembly–gets the most applause.
Cuomo is introduced and get 15 seconds of applause himself. A rabbi delivers the invocation, and pays tribute to Cuomo’s father, calling him “a mensch.”
Shelly Silver speaks next, and tells the audience, “We can work together, we will together,” and promises to “lighten the burdens” of hard-working New Yorkers.
A speech by the Assembly leader is also unprecedented for the state of the state.
Silver grabs some applause lines by his G.O.P. colleagues, calling for less spending, consolidating government, a property tax cap, and redistricting reform. Wow. When Silver starts repeating Republican talking points, you know the state is in a bad fiscal way.
Oh, he just called for a moratorium on hydrofracking. That’s more like it. Thought that was Carl Paladino up there for a sec.
Silver pledges to work with Cuomo and the Senate, and quotes a philosopher: The pessimist curses the wind, the optimist hopes for it change, the realists adjusts the sails. You know what this means? WE ARE GOING BOATING.
Dean Skelos comes up next, says he predicts that this speech will be about restrain and sacrifice. I think he means that since we all know what Cuomo is going to say, why are you all here?
Also, you would think he would try to mimic Silver, since Silver tried to sound like him. Instead Skelos touts the work of the Senate Republicans, can calls for limits to spending and property taxes.
“There is no government program as important as a private sector job,” he says
“We did not always have a plan to cut spending and taxes,” Skelos says, but adds he believes that the G.O.P. does now, especially after Silver’s speech.
Next Skelos takes aim at the nanny state, warning against government becoming a special interest. Did he not meet with Bloomberg today?
Cuomo takes the stage. Says there are 2200 people here. “Good afternoon New York!”
“My friends this state is at a crossroads,” Cuomo says, talks about the national economy, New Yorkers distrust of government, the state deficit.”
What is the state of the state, Cuomo asks. The answer: Crisis.
He is really making use of the 87 powerpoint slides. For the crossroads bit the slides literally showed two slides diverging. Distracting.
After a few soaring words, Cuomo charts (quite literally on the power point) how screwed the state is fiscally.
“The state of New York is spending too much. It is that blunt and it is that simple,” he says.
“It is time for results, not rhetoric,” a power point says. In other words, like Skelos, wonders, “Why are you all here?”
Pledges to transform New York’s economy. Again like Skelos, says that made NY the empire state was not the size of its government but its private sector.
Adds that at the heart of this state is business. Actually, the heart of this state is Binghamton. Go ahead. Look on the map.
Cuomo says that Westchester and Nassau have the highest property taxes in the nation.
“New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation,” he says.
Cuomo is now borrowing a trope from the State of the Union, calling out an invited audience member, an 81-year-old woman from Monroe County who went back to work as a lunch monitor because her property taxes got to high.
“Help is on the way, Geraldine,” he says. “We will pass a property tax cap.”
I would not want to be a government worker in this room right now. Must be like what being a reporter at a Tea Party rally is like.
Whoa. This thing just got weird. He called the budget process like two ships passing in the night, the powerpoint showed, well, two ships passing in the night. Cuomo then zoomed in on the slide, where Skelos and Silver are captains of the ships, while his own battle ship is getting torpedoed by the special interests.
Cuomo called for a Medicaid redesign team, and pledges to something like a state Race to the Top program. “Competition works,” he says.
Now introduces the principal of the Chelsea Technical High School in Manhattan, who boosted graduation rates and test results. The principal takes a bow.
Next, Cuomo talks about all of the scandals that have consumed Albany over the last couple of years. Says the issue is black and white and it is time to pass ethics reform.
This is not going to be a situation where we will give the people a half baked reform bill, he says.
He applauds Ed Koch’s efforts, even though Cuomo was late to sign-on to them.
He now calls on making social progress. Finally, Democrats get their due! A lone person claps from the back of the auditorium.
He says that the fed failed to regulate Wall Street, as did New York. Wants a green jobs program, a more robust MWBE program, and juvenile justice and prison reform.
“Don’t put other people in prison because some people need jobs,” he says. “That’s not what this state is all about.”
He references the Willowbrook scandal
Cuomo calls to pass marriage equality. Skelos does not clap.
He addresses “my colleagues in the legislature,” talks about his time with the Clinton administration in Washington, where he was sent to travel around the country when Clinton couldn’t go. “Can you imagine having to go out to Kansas to substitute for President Bill Clinton.”
“Somehow they always figured out I was from New York,” he says, a joke about his accent and perhaps his last name.
“The other state governments look to us,” he says. “Why? Because the New York government was the best.”
He adds: “This has been an aberration, the recent past…It’s not what we are.”
Concludes that the people of the state need the government to work in a way it hasn’t worked in 20 years.
“Let this 234th legislature solve these problems at a time of crisis,” he says, promises to bring New York back stronger than ever before.
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