PLATTSBURGH — State government is a mess and it is time for someone to put their foot down, and that foot is Carl Paladino.
At least that's the message that Paladino and his supporters are spreading across the state as the Republican primary for this year's gubernatorial race draws near.
Paladino was in Plattsburgh Friday meeting with local business and community leaders and espousing his views on what is so terribly wrong with the state.
"In my first year, I would say we could cut at least 20 percent of state government," Paladino said in an interview with the Press-Republican.
"The Thruway Authority, the Power Authority, what do we need all these authorities for? I bet they got 100 guys each working there, all making $100,000 a year. What do they do?"
Paladino will take on Rick Lazio in the Sept. 14 primary for the chance to run against Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.
A successful businessman from Buffalo, Paladino is not one for waste.
Among his plans, if elected, is to dramatically change the public-assistance system and force able-bodied people to work to earn their government stipend through a program he calls the Dignity Corps.
The thought of someone blowing their welfare money on beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets and then sitting around doing nothing drives Paladino crazy.
"We will shift this money (public assistance) to this program, and there may even be some additional costs, but it will help solve these social ills we have.
"We will put these people to work, and if they don't want to, then you don't get our welfare."
His plan is modeled after St. Luke's Mission in Buffalo, where leaders help the disenfranchised get back on their feet and become independent from government funding.
"If St. Luke's can do it, why can't government do it?" Paladino said.
He is eyeing Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility as a possible hub for the Dignity Corps, where people can live and work on rural restoration projects while earning a paycheck.
In addition to getting people off public assistance, Paladino wants to help businesses create jobs by getting state government to get out of the way.
High taxes and over-regulating have crippled so many businesses across the state, Paladino said.
"You don't create jobs by raising taxes and putting in all these regulations; you create jobs by inspiring businesses."
One of the main reasons government agencies are so dysfunctional, Paladino said, is that they are filled with too many relatives, friends and friends of friends of politicians who don't know what they are doing.
"That will stop. We will kill the friends and family club."
One state agency Paladino certainly can do without is the Adirondack Park Agency.
"It's gone. We don't need it," he said, adding that local residents can take care of their own zoning issues.
"What do people think, that the people who have lived there forever are going to ruin their own park? I don't think so."
'PEOPLE ARE FED UP'
A multi-millionaire who has pledged to spend up to $10 million of his own money on his campaign, Paladino believes the time is right for a new face on the political map, and he is not swayed by polls that show Cuomo way ahead.
"As we go along and people are engaging more, they are hearing our message, and they like what they hear.
"People are fed up, and they will vote this year."
E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: email@example.com