New N.Y. Gov. Cuomo pledges to take on ‘pow­er­ful in­ter­ests’

Demo­crat fo­cuses on fis­cal prob­lems, lets tax on wealthy ex­pire

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY MICHAEL GORM­LEY

Demo­crat An­drew Cuomo was sworn in Satur­day as the 56th gover­nor of New York, pledg­ing fast ac­tion to ad­dress the state’s deep fi­nan­cial prob­lems as he as­sumed the of­fice once held by his fa­ther.

Pledg­ing to take on “pow­er­ful in­ter­ests and long-en­trenched pat­terns of be­hav­ior,” Cuomo said he will not in­ter­vene to stop the state from car­ry­ing out his pre­de­ces­sor’s plan to lay off 900 em­ploy­ees, and he said he will seek to al­low a tem­po­rary tax on the wealthy to ex­pire.

“ Too of­ten govern­ment re­sponds to the whis­pers of the lob­by­ists be­fore the cries of the peo­ple,” Cuomo said in a brief inaugural speech. “Our peo­ple feel aban­doned by govern­ment, be­trayed and iso­lated, and they are right.”

The state faces a $1 bil­lion deficit now and a pro­jected $10 bil­lion deficit in the next bud­get due April 1. The in­come tax sur­charge, pro­moted by Demo­cratic sup­port­ers as a “mil­lion­aire’s tax,” raises more than $1 bil­lion an­nu­ally and af­fects some NewYork­ers mak­ing as lit­tle as $200,000.

Many Demo­cratic law­mak­ers have ar­gued ex­tend­ing the tem­po­rary tax wouldn’t be a new tax be­cause it was en­acted in 2009, and Cuomo said he has heard the ar­gu­ments that wealth­ier New York­ers need to con­trib­ute more.

“I un­der­stand the se­man­tics ar­gu­ment,” Cuomo said. “I say: ‘No new taxes, pe­riod.’ ”

Cuomo’s pre­de­ces­sor, David A. Pater­son (D), has said he or­dered the lay­offs, which be­gan Satur­day, be­cause union lead­ers re­fused to con­trib­ute $250 mil­lion in con­ces­sions in the face of New York’s fis­cal cri­sis. For weeks, Cuomo re­fused to say if he would con­tinue Pater­son’s or­der. His de­ci­sion risks in­cur­ring the con­sid­er­able wrath of the unions, which have suc­cess­fully de­railed past gov­er­nors.

The mea­sures were the first test of Cuomo, the for­mer state at­tor­ney gen­eral, who ran for of­fice promis­ing to end Al­bany’s no­to­ri­ous over­spend­ing for spe­cial in­ter­ests that led to some of the high­est taxes in the nation.

“We have to start with a new at­ti­tude,” Cuomo said. “We will be tak­ing on pow­er­ful in­ter­ests and long-en­trenched pat­terns of be­hav­ior, and change is very, very hard. . . . It’s time for a bold agenda and im­me­di­ate ac­tion.”

Cuomo, 53, sought to set a se­ri­ous, no-frills tone in his in­au­gu­ra­tion, which was far shorter and less elab­o­rate than those of past gov­er­nors. In at­ten­dance was his fa­ther, Mario Cuomo, whowas the Demo­cratic gover­nor from 1983 to 1994.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Lawrence Levy, at­tend­ing his sev­enth in­au­gu­ra­tion, said it was “more in­for­mal, more di­rect in keep­ing with the sym­bols of aus­ter­ity and change” Cuomo has been rolling out.

“But in the end, he’s go­ing to need the min­is­ter’s prayers to get this done,” said Levy, dean of Hof­s­tra Uni­ver­sity’s Na­tional Cen­ter for Sub­ur­ban Stud­ies. “A lot of peo­ple are very en­trenched in their ways and have a lot to lose by chang­ing.”

Cuomo said there is not just a fis­cal deficit in Al­bany but a deficit of com­pe­tence, in­tegrity and trust. He in­vited Repub­li­cans, who will con­trol the state Se­nate be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day, to join him in a col­le­gial ef­fort that’s been lack­ing in the highly par­ti­san Se­nate over the last two years.

“A gover­nor’s in­her­ent power is limited,” Cuomo said. “ A gover­nor’s po­ten­tial power is lim­it­less. The po­ten­tial power of the gover­nor is to mobilize the peo­ple of the state of New York.”

Cuomo avoided re­fer­ring to Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Dean Ske­los as ma­jor­ity leader, al­though leg­isla­tive ti­tles of Democrats were used. Cuomo also mis­pro­nounced Ske­los’s name, some­thing Demo­cratic Assem­bly speaker and Ske­los ad­ver­sary Shel­don Sil­ver does. After­ward, Ske­los and Cuomo both laughed off the slights.

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