ALBANY—Asked by reporters last week what his priorities are for the end of the legislative session, David Paterson said that relief for suburban homeowners was at the top of his list.
That much has been apparent from his activities in recent weeks as the governor made several appeals to non-urban voters, first appearing in suburban Niskayuna to announce a mandate on state legislation meant to keep property taxes in check, then proposing a spending cap, then holding a public meeting with legislative leaders to discuss the spending cap.
It is hard not to see the political calculation in this whirl of activity.
Paterson, in an attempt to improve his approval ratings from embarrassing to merely lackluster, is making a play for the support of suburban property owners. Not inconsequentially, his primary rival for the nomination, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, has been doing much the same thing since December, when he unveiled a plan to consolidate local governments, then set out on a campaign-like tour to tout it.
Last week, according to legislators in both houses, Cuomo's plan was presented to the majority conference in the State Senate, and was supposed to be presented this week to Democrats in the State Assembly.
When I asked Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf about the link between Cuomo's push and Paterson's, he said, "David Paterson knows when to protect himself and here's a clear case: never let your potential opponent get further out in front of you."
Paterson's staffers note that the governor accepted reports last year from commissions that Eliot Spitzer created to study the issues of both property taxes and local government consolidation. (No major actions have been taken as a result of these reports.)
A spokesman also emailed the following statement:
"Governor Paterson has long been a forceful advocate for providing property tax relief for New Yorkers – an issue he championed as Lieutenant Governor and a State Senator. Since becoming Governor, he has built on that record by taking proactive steps to lower property taxes and ease the burdensome mandates the state places on local governments. The Governor has long believed that we must address these core issues to ensure that we stop the flight of New Yorkers from our state."
Property taxes are especially important to voters in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. The most recent Siena poll showed Paterson doing slightly better there than in other areas in a potential primary matchup against Cuomo.