By Ryan Broderick
Change and growth were the crux of New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo's address at the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center Theatre Wednesday morning. He railed against Albany's special interest groups and their hold over the state's economy.
University President Stuart Rabinowitz opened the event, speaking about The University's dedication to bringing important political events to campus. The president poked fun at the now infamous gubernatorial debates held on campus in October.
"Unlike Jimmy MacMillan of the Rent Is 2 Damn High party, Governor Cuomo didn't come away with a hip hop album or a bobble head doll," Rabinowitz joked.
Coming to the podium after Rabinowitz, Cuomo's budget director, Robert Megna took the podium.
"I love traveling with the governor because it's the only time a budget director gets applause," Megna said.
Megna apologized for his tired appearance, joking he doesn't even have time for a haircut. He also spoke of Cuomo's unending dedication to fixing the state's economy.
"Last week the Gov. invited me over to his house for the Superbowl and the first thing I thought was oh no, he'll want to talk about the budget," Megna said. "And he did."
After Megna's introduction, Gov. came on-stage and became the morning's presentation. Cuomo noted The University's unique role in bringing him to office, also referencing October's debate.
"Jimmy MacMillan made hundreds of thousands of dollars and I inherited a million dollar deficit," Cuomo said.
Cuomo acknowledged his lack of time in office, but after a month as governor he outlined three specific goals, cleaning up Albany, balancing the budget and bringing jobs back to the state.
The governor said New York state's biggest problems are spending and Albany's special interest groups.
Cuomo warned that if New Yorkers didn't stop spending, taxes wouldn't stop increasing. New York is already number in the country for taxes. The state's high taxes, Cuomo posited, is the reason 2 million people have left New York this year, calling it a vicious cycle.
Albany's special interest groups are Cuomo's largest concern; when he was in Albany thirty years ago with his father, Mario Cuomo, he met lobbyists and heads of industry, that are still there today. He referred to Albany as a "permanent government."
New York's education and Medicaid were largely important for fixing the economy, both of which are number one in the country for spending, but not for performance.
"Everyone's got to tighten their belt, even government," Cuomo said. "We need to recalibrate and better manage the system."
The governor outlined two sources for savings. The state's prisons are in a 21% decline since 1999, housing 14,000 fewer prisoners. Also, Cuomo attacked New York's juvenile justice system. As it exists now, $250,000 is spent per young person's imprisonment. The system also has a 90% recidivism rate. The governor favors community-based programs instead.
Gov. Cuomo ended his address promising "no new taxes, no gimmicks, no funny stuff."
"At the end of the day, you're not going to make this state's economy work by cutting, cutting, cutting," he concluded. "It's about growth."