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Cuomo preps "blueprint for action"

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his first State of the State speech this afternoon at 1:30. The new governor is expected to mix tough prescriptions with notes of optimism as he lays out details on how he plans to tackle the state's fiscal crisis.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Governor Cuomo has made clear that he believes the state’s problems are so severe that there is no time to waste. In the past, the State of the State has been used to convey lofty ideas, while waiting until the state budget, due this year on February 1st, to provide details. Cuomo says this year will be different, and his speech will contain a number of concrete plans.

"In the State of the State I'll be providing and presenting an emergency financial reinvention plan," Cuomo said in his Inaugural address on January 1st, which he described as a "blueprint for change , a blueprint for action."

Cuomo is expected to call for a freeze in state worker salaries. Union contracts expire March 31st, and any new pay arrangements will have to be enacted through collective bargaining. Steve Madarasz, with the Civil Service Employees Association, says the union will consider the proposal, depending on how the governor presents it. He says the union would reject a "unilateral edict from above that might not even be legal."

Robert Ward, with SUNY's Rockefeller Institute of Government, says Cuomo is wise to not just recite a laundry list of proposals and new programs. He says Cuomo needs to go further, and explain how he'll change the culture of the Capitol that's led to the multi year, multi billion dollar deficits.

"The traditional budget culture in Albany holds that we want to provide services and the cost is very much a secondary consideration," said Ward. "We pay very little attention to the results."

Cuomo has promised that he will not agree to any new taxes, yet he still has to close a nearly $10 billion dollar budget gap. Education and health care are the two biggest segments of the budget, so a larger portion of cuts is likely to come from those two areas.

Ward says Cuomo will need to rally the public to his side, if he has to make unpopular cuts to schools and hospitals.

And Cuomo is attempting to reach out to average New Yorkers. He's breaking with an over 85 year tradition, and is not holding the speech in the ornate Assembly chambers at the Capitol. Instead, he'll speak at a more modern state convention center, that can hold hundreds of more people, including, members of the public chosen by lottery. Ward says the change of venue may feel more inclusive, and less "clubby."

In another break with tradition, Majority Party Legislative Leaders have also been invited to speak. Senate Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, says he intends to outline his vision for the GOP over the next two years.

"You have to cut spending, you have to reform government, you have to cut taxes," said Skelos, who said those ideas are in synch with what Governor Cuomo has been talking about.

"As long as he stays in that direction, we¿re going to be there with him," said Skelos.  

Cuomo is also expected to address other issues in his speech, including the Capitol's ethical shortcomings.

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