PLATTSBURGH — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised during his visit to Plattsburgh Friday morning to continue to turn the state around.
"We had a good year last year, but we had a bad 15 years previously," Cuomo said during his 35-minute talk on the campus of Plattsburgh State.
The governor spoke to an invited crowd of about 500 people as part of his statewide tour to promote his proposed 2012-13 budget package. Much like he did during his budget presentation last month, he touted his fiscal plan using large-screen graphics and photographs.
Highlights of the governor's proposed budget include:
▶ No new taxes or fees.
▶ Elimination of automatic spending inflators.
▶ Allocation $1.3 billion in investment capital to spur infrastructure projects that will create jobs.
▶ State takeover of 100 percent of Medicaid growth costs, to be phased in over three years. That will help local governments save about $1.2 billion over the next five years.
▶ Reformation of the state's pension plan.
▶ Increased school aid based on performance, management efficiency and by adding a teacher-evaluation process.
Cuomo's plan would reduce the state's $10 billion deficit and provide middle-class taxpayers with the lowest tax rate they have seen in 58 years. He said the difference has been restoring credibility to state government.
"Last year, we had no trust," he said.
"We had to come together and change the culture of Albany."
Cuomo's budget plan also calls for a $25 billion economic-development agenda, largely utilizing private funds to enhance the economy in different regions of the state.
"New York does not have one economy," he said. "There are different regions of the state, and we need to come up with a comprehensive vision for each region of the state, and we can help by investing in those regions."
As an example, Cuomo talked about how the planned Adirondack Club and Resort development in Tupper Lake would benefit that area by creating jobs and yet preserve the precious natural landscape.
"I think it strikes that balance," Cuomo said.
State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said the governor's support of the Tupper Lake project was vital.
"Businesses there are now saying, 'Hey, maybe we have a future here, and maybe our kids can stay here,'" she said.
The governor also talked about his plan to add another retirement tier for state employees.
The plan was criticized this week by the State Comptroller's Office, saying it could be too costly to implement and would not save money for municipalities.
Cuomo said it is only natural to have detractors, but he is confident progress can be made.
"We did it last year, and hopefully, we can do it again this year," he said.
Assemblywomen Janet Duprey (R-Peru) and Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) both said they support the idea to change the retirement system.
"It will save money in the end, and if we don't do something to change the benefit programs, it could be trouble," Sayward said.
Duprey said the plan to add a Tier 6 retirement level — which would offer a 401K investment in lieu of a pension — will not impact current employees.
"It is an option that is there if they want to take it," Duprey said.
"I think public employees are going to have to adjust just like private-sector employees have."
Cuomo, 54, said he has been touring the state to promote support for his plan because ultimately the people need to be behind it.
"The solutions are not going to be found within the walls of Albany," he said. "We need to get out there to the people and let their voice be heard."
The governor, who recently vacationed in the Lake Placid area, said he had been looking forward to Friday's visit.
"I love the North Country, and I always have. It is a special place on the planet."
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