BOLTON LANDING – A day after his Republican opponent painted a dreary picture of New York’s present and future, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday told the same business audience here that the state has roared back economically during his eight years as governor.
“If I had said to you on Day One this is what we’re going to do, you would have said, ‘impossible’ … These results are more than any of us had a right to hope for," Cuomo said to members of the Business Council of New York State in a 30-minute stump speech that sounded much like remarks he made to the group when he ran for a second term four years ago.
A day earlier, Republican Marc Molinaro, in his own speech to the group, characterized a different New York, where job growth in many parts of the state lags behind the national average, where property taxes are displacing homeowners and a much-used statistic that 1 million New Yorkers have left the state since Cuomo has been governor.
“The outward migration from New York is a particular crisis upstate – where we are witnessing entire communities hollow out," Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, said on Monday here at a resort hotel on the shore of Lake George.
Cuomo, in a brief session with reporters, was asked to respond to some of the dire portrait painted by Molinaro a day earlier. “Except this is reality," Cuomo said, using his own set of numbers of private sector job growth and state spending on upstate New York during his term.
And, yet, people are still leaving upstate, Cuomo was reminded by one reporter. “Yes, that is a demographic fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that young people are moving to upstate New York. We have more jobs than ever. Our taxes are lower than ever," Cuomo said.
Cuomo said people have long left upstate for other regions of the country, some for climate reasons, such as a warmer climate in Florida, or for personal reasons. But he said upstate residents no longer leave New York in search of jobs. “People were leaving upstate New York because they had to in the past … That is no longer the case," he said.
In his speech before the corporate executives, Cuomo stayed away from items he pushed through the Legislature in his second term – such as a hike to $15 per hour in the state’s minimum wage for some areas of the state and a paid family leave program. Both items were key priorities for organized labor, which is strongly backing Cuomo in his 2018 re-election bid.
Instead, Cuomo told the business group – which endorsed him in 2010 and 2014 – of record infrastructure spending and his administration’s effort to lower the rate of growth in state spending, which provided money for personal and business tax breaks.
“This state was in trouble," Cuomo said of the period when he took office in 2011 and inherited a $10 billion deficit and a troubled economy.
The Tuesday morning audience was polite, laughing at a couple of Cuomo’s jokes. His remarks, though, were not interrupted with any minor or major outbursts of applause.
Afterward, Cuomo was asked why he provided little insight into what he might try to accomplish if he is re-elected. Indeed, some parts of his speech went back to talking points he has been using since he was the state’s Attorney General prior to his election as governor in 2010.
Cuomo said the audience of corporate leaders wanted to hear what he has done as governor, much as a corporate board might do when considering whether to extend a CEO’s contract. “That’s a question voters should ask: Have you performed?" Cuomo said.
After his speech, Cuomo sidestepped a question about whether he might be trying to secure the Working Families Party ballot line for the general election against Molinaro. Cynthia Nixon, the activist Cuomo defeated in the Democratic primary, is on that line for the November general election. There had been talk that she might try to maneuver her way off that line – which might not be so easy given that she is not a lawyer and there is no traditional judicial ballot contest to which they could dispatch her as a way of freeing up the minor party’s line for Cuomo.
Forces within the Working Families Party are adamantly opposed to Cuomo getting their line, especially given the nasty rhetoric between the party and Democrats in the primary. But Cuomo has run on their line before and it is seen as an opportunity for him to gather liberal votes on the minor party line.
“We haven’t gotten there yet," Cuomo said when asked if he would try to run on the Working Families Party line. Is he interested and have there been discussions about the possibility? “I haven’t had any conversations with them. We’ll see how it goes."