Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave his verdict on the ambitious slate of plans for New York Governor Cuomo presented in his annual State of the State address in a press conference following the speech today. Overall, the mayor called it a “very good speech.”
“I thought the governor’s speech left us all walking out thinking it was a great hope for the state, the state is going in the right direction and it’s a challenge to all of us to put our nose to the grindstone and actually do the work,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Mayor Bloomberg expressed support for most of Governor Cuomo’s ideas, but he did take issue with Governor Cuomo’s plan to end New York City’s program of fingerprinting food stamp applicants. Despite the disagreement, Mayor Bloomberg once again insisted the rumors of tensions between City Hall and the Governor’s Mansion are greatly exaggerated.
Governor Cuomo’s focus on the economy earned a thumb’s up from Mayor Bloomberg.
“I liked that it was focused on the economy and on job creation, that is really what this state needs, New York City as well. I thought it made it the right speech for this time in our state,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
The mayor also gave Governor Cuomo points for understanding “the importance of keeping the states budget in balance and keeping spending in check.”
Governor Cuomo’s speech included a slew of ambitious initiatives for the year ahead. Mayor Bloomberg said he “strongly” supports the governor’s push to eliminate unfunded mandates and institute pension reform.
“I strongly support the governor’s proposals on pension reform. During fiscal 20-02, when I became mayor, our pension costs were $1.5 billion a year. In the current fiscal year, they’re $8.4 billion,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “That is roughly a five hundred percent increase in pension costs and we need the state to do something about it, because most of it comes form pension bills passed by the state and paid for by the city.”
Governor Cuomo’s plans for 2012 include a proposal to expand the state’s criminal DNA databank to include samples from “any person convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor.” This initiative also got the mayor’s seal of approval.
“I support the governor’s proposal on DNA sampling for anyone convicted of crime in our state. You think about it, in this day and age, there’s fundamentally no difference between taking fingerprints and taking a DNA sample, and it really is critically important to solving crimes and equally as important to keep people who are innocent from wrongly being convicted,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Another item on Governor Cuomo’s menu for next year is a plan to open the nation’s largest convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Mayor Bloomberg said this idea was quite promising for New York City.
“I think all of us agree that we need a bigger convention center. We’ve been able to get 50 million tourists to New York City this year with a convention center thats so small it could fit inside the McCormick Center in Chicago,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Can you imagine what we could do if we had a world class, appropriate size convention center?”
Governor Cuomo’s convention center proposal also involves razing New York’s current convention center, the Jacob Javits Center, to create “a new 21st century neighborhood for the West Side.” Mayor Bloomberg supports this idea too.
“We’ve got this enormous redevelopment going on the West Side, this just complements it,” said the mayor.
The one idea proposed by Governor Cuomo that didn’t earn the Mayor’s backing was a plan to “increase participation in the food stamp program” by removing “barriers to participation” including the electronic fingerprinting New York City currently requires from applicants. Mayor Bloomberg said the fingerprinting prevents fraud and doesn’t deter prospective food stamp recipients from applying.
“New York City has a higher percentage of those people who are eligible for food stamps getting food stamps than the rest of the state, if I understand the numbers. And we’re the only place that fingerprints, so obviously fingerprinting is not something that stops people from signing up for food stamps,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “When you have fingerprinting, it detects fraud, which means it gives people incentive to not commit fraud.”
Mayor Bloomberg ended his remarks by denying reports his relationship with the governor is strained.
“People try to make us battling all the time, that is just not true,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “We send an enormous amount of money up to Albany. It would be nice to get more of that back and, so, if the governor has plans to do things in New York City that’ll create jobs in New York City and expand our tax base that’s great.”