Gov. David Paterson is using his State of the State address to draw a blueprint for turning New York into a national model of economic strength and trust in government -- both of which have been worn down by fiscal and ethical crises.
"This is a winter of reckoning," Paterson said. "We come here to build, to build New York's economy to a national model of ingenuity and strength … to build the trust that the people of New York once had in their state government."
In a speech critical to his beleaguered campaign for election, the Democrat said New York would no longer be run "like a pay-day loan operation" and called for curbing the state's notorious overspending and creating jobs, in part by renewing the once mighty manufacturing sector.
The address to a joint session of the Legislature comes as Paterson is already at odds with lawmakers. They've been feuding for months over what Paterson insists is a need to reduce Albany's spending. The governor is already making it appear the Legislature is balking at significant reform of ethics laws. Yet in his speech, he spoke about the need to step back and dismiss old grievances, not replay them.
"If acceptance really is the prelude to recovery, then we have to accept that the old way of doing budgets is unsustainable, and so do the special interests who intimidate, who badger, and who push when they don't get their way even when they're aware that the cupboard is bare," he said. "The time for that type of politics is over."
While he acknowledged there are more deficits ahead that will require more sacrifice, Paterson promised not to write bad checks or mortgage children's future.
Making good on his pledge to end corruption in state government, Paterson introduced the Reform Albany Act, which would establish an independent ethics commission that would have jurisdiction over state government, enforce campaign finance laws and provide oversight to government groups that bill themselves as watchdogs yet hide their donors.
"We must address the chronic abuse of power, chronic and continuing experiences of outside influence and inside decay have bred cynicism of scorn," Paterson said. "Prosperity hides all manners of sin, but no longer. We have to rise to the expectations of our people and bring them the lasting change they have long fought for and desired."
The governor spoke extensively on his plans for job creation and his commitment to returning New York to a state of economic prosperity. To help achieve his economic goals, Paterson has made Lieutenant Gov. Richard Ravitch head of a four-year plan for fiscal recovery. He also said the state would no longer provide tax credits to businesses that don't provide the jobs that they've promised. Instead, Paterson spoke about launching a new economy jobs program that would focus on clean energy, high-tech jobs.
"This program will be sustainable, it will be one that we will all be proud of because it will be open and it will be transparent," he said. "We as New Yorkers have to take responsibility for America, and around the world, to take the lead in the rebuilding and reform of these vital global markets."
The governor asked members of the Legislature to work with him and to follow his leadership so that New York can turn the corner.
"There is still time to rebuild the Empire State," Paterson said. "I know a lot about adversity. Mistakes can be made, but if you stand true to your principles and honestly accept reality for what it is you can get to a better place because there is always an opportunity to remark ourselves and our state. That is the promise of New York."
"We will rebuild New York, but we have to work together."