Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo said he’ll be naming a transition team within days and will begin an inventory tour of state facilities, starting with Sing Sing prison in Ossining and the New York Psychiatric Hospital in Manhattan.
One of Cuomo’s first tasks as governor will be to tackle a $9 billion budget deficit. Cuomo expects cuts in the areas where government spends the most: education, health care and state operations.
“That’s where you’ll have to find the cuts,” said Cuomo, who added that precise numbers will have to wait until his budget proposal.
Cuomo says he sees the fiscal crisis as an opportunity to retool government and make it more efficient. He says no one should be surprised that there’s room for improvement, and that government is not “a finely tuned Swiss watch.”
“There’s plenty of waste, there’s plenty of fraud and there’s plenty of abuse,” said Cuomo.
The governor-elect says he’ll also be asking the federal government for more money. A two-year, multi-billion-dollar stimulus program is set to expire next year.
Cuomo spoke after a meeting with current governor David Paterson, who briefed him on transition matters. The two were almost rivals in a Democratic primary, before Paterson dropped out of the race and Cuomo, as attorney general, investigated several improprieties involving Paterson. But the two seemed determined to put those days behind them. Cuomo called Paterson a friend of many years and Paterson says Cuomo is “off to a tremendous start,” but he says the new governor will face many obstacles.
“He’s going to need all of us New Yorkers to help him,” said Paterson. “Starting with me, I pledge that support.”
Cuomo has also been speaking to leaders of the legislature. There’s still uncertainty over which party will control the Senate. There is a recount occurring in three Senate races in Buffalo, Westchester and Long Island. But both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate say they are ready to work with the new governor.
Republican leader Dean Skelos says he spoke with Cuomo by phone. Skelos says GOP Senators and the governor-elect share many of the same fiscal goals.
“His message was our message,” said Skelos. “Cutting taxes, cutting spending and creating jobs.”
Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson says he’s also been speaking to Cuomo, and is eager to get to work to resolve the state’s massive budget deficit. He says Senate Democrats have already laid the groundwork in the past two years, approving billions of dollars in cuts.
“We’re looking at partnering with the governor-elect and pushing forth his agenda,” said Sampson.
Democrats in the legislature also approved some new taxes, including a temporary surcharge on the wealthy, but Cuomo says he’s opposed to any tax increases.
Paterson says he’d like to smooth the way further for the next governor, by following through with the lay off of nearly 900 state workers, and convincing the legislature to close a $315 million gap that’s opened in the current year’s budget.