ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday called for turning New York into a national model of economic strength and trust in government — both now in tatters from historic fiscal and ethical crises.
“This is the winter of our reckoning,” Paterson told a joint session of the Legislature in his State of the State speech.
He said government by “popular will” has devolved into “the will to be popular,” resulting in more power for special interests, avoiding hard decisions on spending, and creating a “culture of addiction” to political power.
“We have to rise to the high expectations of the people,” Paterson said. “The public wants bolder and more decisive initiatives to win back their confidence.”
The Democrat said he would introduce ethics legislation to limit the influence of special interests that have helped drive more spending than New Yorkers can afford. He also wants a new independent agency to enforce ethics laws. And he proposed term limits for elected officials, including the governor, and requirements that “any state officers,” including legislators, disclose their outside business ties.
He called for curbing the state’s notorious overspending and for creating jobs, in part by renewing New York’s once mighty manufacturing sector. Among his proposals is the acquisition and renewal of abandoned factories for sale back to the private sector.
Politically weak as he runs for election in November, Paterson also tried to make sure the speech isn’t his last major address as governor.
The annual speeches before a joint session of the Legislature are singular events governors typically use to deliver soaring rhetoric and set the year’s agenda, while often ignoring political and fiscal obstacles.
But for Paterson, low in both polls and campaign cash, it was a performance that would test whether he can extend his run in the role he inherited when Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace 21 months ago. So he went with a hard-hitting script.
“Some say that we will not succeed, the story has already been written, the ending is ordained,” Paterson said. “The story line is changed and people change. ... I say to all of you today, there is still time to rebuild the Empire State.”
The reviews were mixed.
“I believe David Paterson has come to a fork in the road,” Edward I. Koch, former Democratic mayor of New York City, said in an interview after Paterson, who is legally blind, delivered the 28-minute speech from memory. “Do you go along to get along, or do you stand up and say ’no’? He has decided to stand up and say ’no’ ... but he’s surrounded by saber-toothed tigers.”
Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said the speech sounds good to the public. “But the problem is the Legislature won’t participate in its own demise ... In the end, people will want to see something done,” he said...