Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cuomo's speech

On the notepad while watching the livestream of the State of the State address:

- Gov. Cuomo's speech may have been the most ambitious State of the State I've heard as far as spending is concerned, and that's saying something. I believe he cited $25 billion worth of projects from one end of the state (Buffalo) to the other (a new convention center in New York City) and stops in between (a new Tappan Zee Bridge). And, as always, analysts from one end of the state to the other will offer the standard, but accurate, admonition, "the devil is in the details," meaning let's see how this all figures into the Executive Budget before we get too excited.

- I couldn't help but be struck by how Cuomo and a couple of the other state leaders who spoke before him made reference to New York government's "dysfunctional" past. For the sake of argument, let's agree the "dysfunction" is in the past. (Not sure I'm ready to go that far yet, but OK.) What's interesting to me is how they're willing to admit to "dysfunction" now. Our newspaper was among the first to use that label many years ago to describe the Legislature. As the cries of "dysfunctional Albany" expanded (and were essentially etched in stone by the landmark NYU Brennan Center report), the response from the Capitol was pretty much: "What 'dysfunction'? You guys don't know what you're talking about!" Today they're tripping over themselves to say they're no longer "dysfunctional." Apology accepted.

- Regarding casino gambling, the governor emphasized what many of us have have been pointing out for years: There's already casino gambling in New York (at Indian reservations and more recently at "racinos") and there's casino gambling in surrounding states. (Oh, and who doesn't think the state lottery games aren't "gambling"?) Billions of dollars in casino-spending have left New York. Why this state has had its head in the sand for so long is a mystery. You don't have to morally embrace casino gambling to recognize its fiscal importance. Maybe this Legislature will finally get the message.

- The Legislature likes its own. Biggest round of applause for the new county executives introduced by Lt. Gov. Duffy went to former Assemblyman Mark Molinaro of Red Hook, who's in his first week at Dutchess County executive.

- Several mayors were introduced, but not Kingston's new boss Shayne Gallo.

- The state's congressmen were not individually introduced. But camera-hog Rep. Eliot Engel of the Bronx did get some face time, just as he does when he positions himself on the handshake rail for the president's State of the Union.

- It hardly seemed like a State of the State without former Gov. Hugh Carey, who died in August at age 92.

- There's something efficient about Cuomo giving this address (and last year's, too) in the Empire State Plaza convention center, rather than in Assembly chambers, as had been tradition. The stage, lectern and PowerPoint presentation were business-like. Looked like a corporate event. A piece of me misses the ornate setting of the Capitol. But conducting the event in a more sterile environment than the Assembly hall is a good thing.
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