N.Y. Governor Accuses Legislature Of Big Spending
ROBERT SMITH: And I'm Robert Smith in New York, where the only thing colder than the weather was Governor David Paterson's icy State of the State address.
Governor DAVID PATERSON (Democrat, New York): This is a winter of reckoning.
SMITH: A reckoning on the New York state budget, which is facing a $7 billion deficit, and a personal reckoning for the man they call the accidental governor. Since David Paterson took over for the disgraced Eliot Spitzer, Paterson's approval ratings have plummeted. His reelection chances look dismal. So his answer yesterday was to act tough. Paterson started with the audience right in front of him: the legislature.
Gov. PATERSON: You have left me and other governors no choice. I will not write bad checks and we will not mortgage our children's future.
SMITH: Then Paterson proceeded to take swipes at the media, good government groups and pretty much anyone else who may have wandered in to see the speech.
Gov. PATERSON: The money interests, many of them here today as guests, have got to understand that their days of influence in this capital are numbered.
SMITH: For Paterson, the State of the State is ticked off. And that may not be a bad political move for the governor. Eliot Spitzer won the last election as a crusading reformer. And let's just say that the last four years ended up proving the need for reform. Spitzer resigned, former State Senate Leader Joe Bruno convicted of corruption. New York's former watchdog, Controller Alan Hevesi, pled guilty to fraud. I could go on, but what - OK, one more. State Senator Hiram Monserrate, convicted of assaulting his girlfriend.
Gov. PATERSON: Outside influence and inside decay have bred cynicism and scorn of the people that we represent.
SMITH: Paterson proposed a series of ethics reforms, but all of them need to pass the legislature, which didn't seem thrilled with the lecturing tone. State Senator John Sampson is the leader of the Democratic Conference.
State Senator JOHN SAMPSON (Democrat, New York): We don't have to like one another, but we need to respect one another. It's not about the governor. It's not about the legislature. It's about the people of the State of New York.
SMITH: Standing near Governor Paterson as he delivered his State of the State was the man who may challenge him later this year for the Democratic nomination: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Polls show that Cuomo would win a primary battle against Paterson by almost 40 points. But the governor had a parting shot in his speech for anyone who wants to write his political obituary.
Gov. PATERSON: Some say that we will not succeed, that the story has already been written and the ending is the ordained. But storylines change and people change.
SMITH: And just to leave the impression that he may stick around, Paterson talked about a four-year plan for fiscal recovery.
Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.
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