Softening the stick of budget cuts with sunny predictions for the future, Governor Andrew Cuomo Wednesday detailed an ambitious plan to close the state's $10 billion budget deficit.
In his first State of the State address, Cuomo challenged Albany to follow him by slashing and reforming government, turning a "crisis into an opportunity" and making New Yorkers proud of their elected leaders again.
"We must transform the state of New York from a government of dysfunction, gridlock and corruption to a government of performance, integrity and pride,'' Cuomo said.
Speaking at points in the cadence of a Baptist minster and illustrating his points with graphics that at times sparked laughter, Cuomo said he was proposing nothing less than a sweeping reorganization of the state's power structure.
He said the state was at a crossroads, imperiled by a 26 year high unemployment rate, some of the highest property taxes in the country and a loss of trust -- and that change was imperative.
"This convening itself says change is possible in Albany, believe it or not," he said. "And I say, Amen, because we need change in Albany."
He vowed to fix the deficit by neither raising taxes nor borrowing, to freeze state salaries for one year, and to cap new spending to the rate of inflation.
Saying the state spends beyond its means and gets little in return, Cuomo called for "radical reform."
"We need a new perspective and we need it now," said Cuomo
Among his major goals is to restore the state's "vibrant private sector."
"That's what made us the Empire State once and that's what's going to make us the Empire State again."
He addressed gridlock in Albany as a power point screen entitled "Ships Passing in the Night" flashed by. The crowd of more than 2,000 laughed as Cuomo identified the captains of three battle ships in the graphic as himself, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
"And here are the special interest groups," he said as airborn bombs started hitting the Cuomo ship.
Many of Cuomo's points echoed his campaign promises, but were short on specifics
In breaks with tradition, Cuomo moved the speech from the ornate Assembly chambers to the larger Empire Plaza convention center and invited Silver and Skelos to speak before him; both pledged to cooperate with the new governor.
Among Cuomo's major proposals: consolidate state agencies that oversee banking and insurance to save money and simplify regulations; establish regional economic councils to spur job growth; and close empty juvenile justice facilities.