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Paterson Spares No One in Blunt State of the State Speech
By Karen DeWitt
Oswego, NY – Governor David Paterson, looking stern as he faced the crowded
Assembly chamber, dispensed with the usual pleasantries of back
slapping and acknowledgments. He instead launched into a fiery speech
that spared no one at the Capitol.
Calling it "the winter of reckoning", Paterson first criticized the
legislature, saying their failure to fully resolve the current budget
crisis left him to make the hard decisions.
"You have left me and other governors no choice," Paterson said
accusingly. "Whether it be by vetoes or delayed spending, I will not
write bad checks and we will not mortgage our children's future."
The governor next lit into what he called "special interests" who he
said "intimidate, badger, and push when they don't get their way",
even when "the cupboard is bare".
"Monied interests, many of them here today as guests, have got to
understand that their days of influence in this Capitol are
numbered," said Paterson, to tepid applause.
Saying "we must address the chronic abuse of power", Paterson
outlined his plan for ethics reform, even taking a swipe at
government reform groups, whom he said "hid donors behind walls of
The governor included the media in his litany of criticisms, saying
the story of his supposed failure has already been written and the
"ending ordained". He offered praise only to the late Percy Sutton, a
Harlem political figure who's funeral he attended in the morning, and
former Governor George Pataki, who was at the speech.
"It was different", said Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, diplomatically.
DiNapoli, who has been working closely with Paterson in recent months
to get the word out on New York's dire financial condition, says
while the governor did not focus as much on the budget problems as in
past speeches, he's been conveying that message on a near daily
"The budget needs to be done in a timely fashion , and it needs to be
done in an open and transparent way," said DiNapoli. "All that was
lacking last year."
Tim Kremer, with the State School Boards Association, a group that
the governor labeled recently as an "extra special interest", says
the speech was "disjointed", and made no mention of public education.
"It left me wondering what is the agenda'," Kremer said.
Business interests liked the governor's focus on economic
development. Ken Adams, Business Council President says he also liked
the call for a state spending cap, but wish he'd heard even more.
"He didn't mention no new taxes, which is the quickest path to
economic growth," said Adams.
Democratic legislative leaders hid any annoyance they might have felt
with the governor's harsh words. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
pledged to work cooperatively with the governor, but pointed out that
Assembly Democrats had thought of many of the governor's ideas first.
Silver was asked who he thought the governor might be criticizing in
"I don't know who he meant," Silver answered.
Senate Leader John Sampson, who has experienced greater public
tensions with the governor, said "we don't need to like one another,
but we need to respect one another". Senator Sampson also said he'd
work with Paterson.
Republican leaders of the legislature, who appeared along with GOP
Chairman, Ed Cox, said the governor delivered a "republican message".
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said perhaps the formerly
liberal Democrat Paterson was having a twinge of conscience for his
past support of new taxes and increased spending.
"I hope that this has been a conversion," Skelos said.
Paterson, at the end of his speech offered a parting shot to those
who have written him off politically because of chronic low poll
numbers and struggles to raise funding.
"Story lines change," Paterson said. "People change".
The governor's presumed rival for the Democratic nomination for
governor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo presided over a packed post
speech reception, and was swarmed by well wishers. He told reporters
there that his only plans, presently, are to seek re-election as
Attorney General. Cuomo said the governor, in his speech, "hit the