We know Paterson’s record as governor. Now we look at Lazio – or should we say, we re-examine candidate Lazio. Next year will be the ten-year mark when Lazio unsuccessfully sought the United States Senate seat vacated by Patrick Moynihan. Lazio has spent nine years in the private sector after serving as a prosecutor and congressman from Long Island.
Catching up with Lazio this week, I asked him a few questions about the economy in New York, and what it might be like to govern in an Albany that is not seeing its better days. “First and foremost, we need to get our fiscal house in order,” explains Lazio. He feels that because of the “chaotic uncertainty” of New York’s economy that the state’s bond rating is at serious risk.
A state's bond rating is serious business. A strong bond rating is key to an economic recovery; it sends a signal to investors that lending money to this state is a low risk, and therefore the state can tax its people less in order to pay for projects or borrow money. It also tells investors that the state is streamlining government functions and not wasting money. The bond rating is an economic report card for the state.
Lazio also believes that property taxes are too high and do not coincide with the low rate of growth in the state. “I want to introduce a property tax cap that stops at the rate of inflation,” says Lazio. He knows, however that if one lowers taxes, spending needs to come down as well. Want to know how hard it is to cut spending? Ask Governor Paterson.
Cuomo, like Lazio, has run unsuccessfully for statewide office. Both men have had campaign missteps that were criticized unmercifully. Both are attorneys; both have prosecutorial backgrounds. Cuomo – should he run – has one problem: David Paterson is the governor of New York. Paterson is running for re-election. And Paterson, regardless of polls, is likable. Challenge Paterson, and you alienate some of his supporters.
There is no question, however, that the advantage is with Cuomo, who is a Democrat in a Democratic state. And the president has made it clear that this race is a priority to the White House. Oddly enough, the last time Lazio ran for statewide office, the then-sitting president was heavily involved in aiding his opposition. Now, in 2010, Lazio faces a similar challenge in swimming upstream against what will be a heavily financed opponent.
Lazio has expressed great concern about upstate New York, which has seen the worst of the country’s bad economic times. “Upstate New York has fared worse than any other Rust Belt area,” says Lazio. He wants government to partner with the state university system to draw, and build on, the best and the brightest faculty in regard to science and technology, which he feels will help upstate New York.
The battleground for this race will be the entire state. Cuomo has worked in two relevant areas of government – low-income housing and law enforcement. Lazio has an understanding of the housing crisis from his days on the Banking Committee with the House of Representatives. Both men are worthy of this office. But why would anyone want to deal with the nuttiness that is Albany right now?
“People are really disillusioned and disgusted with Albany right now,” says Lazio. “We need to rethink lobbying laws in this state and make government agencies accountable.”
Neither party has shown a great deal of leadership in the state houses, and this just happens to be the worst time for that lack of leadership. Lazio sees it as a challenge, and Paterson and Cuomo most likely will as well. But whoever wins this race next year, the fact is that the winner has his work cut out for him in January of 2011.