Suffering from a competency, integrity and trust "deficit," Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to use public attention as a "silver bullet" to fix state government.
To that end, Cuomo - in his first act as governor - paid state workers to remove cement barriers that surround the capitol. Also, Cuomo is opening up the second floor of the capitol - known as the Hall of Governors - to the public. There will be no restrictions for people wanting to visit there, returning it to the way it was under his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo. Access to the hall was restricted under Mario Cuomo's successor, George Pataki, a Republican and not opened since.
Political observers are already speculating this newly-declared openness could be problematic for the new governor as he seeks to curb the spending habits of a notoriously recalcitrant legislative body. The capitol is famous for being flooded by boisterous advocates when the legislature is here.
The new governor struck a cooperative tone, saying he "respects" the "constitutional" role of the legislature, but warned he will seek new levels of integrity and disclosure from them. One of Cuomo's campaign pledges was to have legislators disclose their outside sources of income, a move that has not passed the legislature before and faced resistance from the powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver among others.
After the speech, Cuomo walked outside to thank workers who were removing the barriers outside the capitol, then held a brie media availability back inside the building. There, the new governor said the layoffs of about 900 state workers enacted by Governor Paterson before leaving office will stand, and that he supports the sunsetting of a tax on wealthy New Yorkers.
"I'm going to work very hard on the property tax cap," Cuomo said, referring to his other major economic pledge from the campaign.
During his speech, Cuomo spoke about the need to "right-size state government." When asked if that meant additional layoffs, Cuomo told reporters, "When I say right-size, I'm focusing more on the function" and "you can't do this exercise as a budget-cutting exercise. You're going to have to redesign the programs."
The mood at the speech this afternoon was intimate and optimistic. The governor spoke about restoring the majesty of state government, and remembering the legacy of the very building where they stood. He spoke in the War Room, named after the murals decorating the cavernous, marble room depicting battle scenes throughout the state's history.
One observer noted Cuomo was standing under an image of a mohawk attacking a French explorer.