With Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially sworn in as the state's 56th governor this past weekend, he begins to take the first steps in dealing with the many pressing issues facing New York. Topping that list is a $9 billion budget deficit, continuing concerns about tax rates and shrinking state aid to local schools.
During his inaugural address in Albany on Saturday, Cuomo said there is a lot of disappointment with the government and that there is a lot of suffering with the economy. He also specifically mentioned the challenges being faced by homeowners on Long Island related to high property taxes and shrinking home values.
To get the local perspective on the new governor's speech, Patch spoke with local state representatives Sen. Lee Zeldin (R, Shirley), Assemb. Dean Murray (R, Patchogue) to get their thoughts on Cuomo's address.
PATCH: What were your overall thoughts on the governor's inaugural address?
LEE ZELDIN: He is staying consistent with what his message was during the campaign. If he can stay consistent as a governor then I think he's going to have a successful term. He sounds an awful lot like a Republican. Regardless of political affiliation, I'm looking forward to working with him. I don't care what he is, Democrat or Republic. The problems that face the state require the branches of government to work together so we're not back in the same position in a year or two we are in now. He'll have to turn the political rhetoric into good public policy.
DEAN MURRAY: I think he's on track and many of the things we spoke of are basically what he campaigned for. The fact that he singled out Long Island as far as property taxes shows he's aware of the problems we are facing. Now it's about seeing if we can work together to find the solutions.
PATCH: What were the topics you were glad he touched upon?
ZELDIN: He's not only aware of the reality of the fiscal situation of the state, he's advocating for structural changes, not supporting any new taxes. We already have in many ways the highest taxes in the entire country. It should not be done with taxes, borrowing or with borrowing schemes. He's talking about balancing the budget by cutting spending. It has to be done responsibly and fairly. I represent one of just 62 state senate districts. I have to make sure the third senate district isn't paying more than its share. He mentioned Long Island in his inauguration speech. The general concept of no new taxes and balancing the budget with cuts to expenses are important. Now we'll have to see how he wants to cut expenses. There are many different ways to cut money in the state budget.
MURRAY: He touched on many topics that I have been discussing my entire time in office. We need to be more fiscally responsible in government. We absolutely have to turn around the environment we established for business. It's such a business unfriendly environment and he agreed that we must become more business friendly. I am very encouraged.
PATCH: What topics would you have liked the governor to have addressed?
ZELDIN: The payroll tax. He has to recognize how unfair the payroll tax is. It was bad public policy and should have never been implemented in the first place. The MTA is an entity that is struggling mightily with not being able to balance their books. I'd like for him to talk more about that issue because it's adding a larger and larger burden on people who are directly affected and people who aren't.
PATCH: Did you hear any significant new idea or proposal in the governor's address, and do you feel the new governor will be able to end the dysfunctional nature that has plagued Albany for years?
ZELDIN: He's staying consistent with the campaign message. The fact he campaigned on these principles and on day one he's bringing the principles to his job in Albany. I really do hope he's successful during his term, but if 30 days from now he's coming forth with a budget proposal with the same old tax spending ways in Albany — if he doesn't do anything about campaigning messages, the tone of our discussions in interviews like this will change a lot. I'm looking forward to working with him.
MURRAY: I'm taking a wait and see approach to that. When you talk about the electorate not necessarily trusting officials, it falls back on the campaign trail in that they do one thing and then do another. I like what he said and now time to see if he follows through.
PATCH: What can local residents look forward to in our area?
ZELDIN: We need property tax relief and we need to create jobs. We need to address the fact that fishermen still have to pay a fee to go salt-water fishing and state school aid formulas don't accurately reflect enrollment in public schools on Long Island compared to the rest of state. It seems like education cuts are on the table. If educational funds get cut, I don't want the third senate district to bear the largest brunt of the cut.