Gov. David Paterson's announcement on Thursday of his $5 billion plan to erase a midyear deficit provided a first test of those seeking to replace him 2010.
Republican Rick Lazio says the Democratic governor's two-year plan of cuts and revenue raisers is too late and too little, something Lazio said he would avoid by making fundamental change to Albany.
So far, only Lazio and Paterson are announced candidates, but some Republicans expect the group could soon include Erie County Executive Chris Collins, a Republican who is waiting out whether former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani chooses to run for governor, the U.S. Senate seat now held by Paterson-appointee Kirsten Gillibrand, or nothing at all. Collins expects Giuliani's decision shortly after Election Day, Nov. 3.
Similarly, Democrats are waiting on Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo, the most popular New York official in the polls for his national investigations, has yet to say if he will challenge Paterson for the Democratic nomination should Paterson run for his first full term.
Cuomo and Giuliani wouldn't comment on Paterson's deficit-reduction plan. But Lazio and Collins saw the need for such a plan as an indictment of Albany as a whole.
He said the state should seek changes to create a less generous and more affordable state pension system, create a new tier of benefits for future hires, and make health care more efficient by emphasizing better primary care, rather than using more expensive emergency room care. Overall, he seeks spending restraint, and possibly a cap, like the one Paterson called for Thursday.
He had fewer specific and immediate cuts, noting he lacks the extensive financial staffs of the governor and legislative leaders.
Collins had several specific ideas including raising the state retirement age to 65 instead of 55, overhauling who gets Medicaid health coverage and reducing the services along the lines of the less expensive Texas or California models, cut staff in a bloated work force, end the use of overtime pay late in a career to boost lifelong pension benefits, and repeal pro-union laws that add to the cost of public construction and labor negotiations.
"We know it takes radical surgery, let's perform radical surgery today,'' Collins said. "That's my frustration and I believe everyday people on the street have -- it's the special interests. The fact of the matter is there remains three men in a room dictated to by special interests and all the radical reform, the structural reform I'm talking about is taking on the special interests at every turn.''
The longest tenured New York political boss, Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, said he is hoping for the best, but expecting the worse in Paterson's plan, which would provide fodder for a long governor's race.
"I hope this time he says what means and means what he says,'' Long said. "I question whether he was sincere and whether this is political fodder and (he) folds when the Legislature doesn't go for along with it and then he just says he did his best.''