Three of the North Country's Republican representatives in Albany offered general praise for Democratic Gov. David Paterson's State of the State speech, with one saying it provides "a glimmer of hope."
"I think the governor spoke about many of the reforms that need to take place," said state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury. "He not only talked cutting; he talked about no new taxes, which I think is good. I think he realized the budget he signed last year, which increased taxes and fees by $8 billion, is not the right direction New York needs to be going in."
Little said she thinks the state should go further and cut taxes. Paterson also mentioned a spending cap, which Little said she thinks is important, and looking at ways state agencies can work together better, which she favors.
Gov. David Paterson delivers his State of the State speech Wednesday in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol in Albany.
(AP photo — Mike Groll)
Paterson also said he would introduce ethics reform. Little said the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate are also putting proposals together.
"We all realize we have to improve the respect for New York state that we once had," Little said. "In the last two to three years, we've had many ethics violations that have brought a lot of negative attention to New York state, and we need to do something about it."
Little said the state needs "more accountability and more transparency," and "an ethics bill that has some teeth in it that would restore some confidence in this government."
Little also seemed pleased that Paterson talked about ways to improve the state's business climate.
"I think he realizes the necessity of doing that to keep jobs here," Little said.
She was less excited about Paterson's idea to scrap the Empire Zone program and replace it with an Excelsior Jobs Program, a system of tax credits focused on high-tech and clean-energy jobs. Little said she hadn't seen the details of the proposal, but "there are many businesses that rely on those programs and incentives with the Empire Zone. I hope he wouldn't be pulling the rug out from under all those companies."
Little said the state needs a program "that offers incentives to small businesses. If every small business could grow by one or two jobs, it would really improve our economy."
Paterson did not mention "circuit breaker" property tax relief in his speech, but it is discussed in a press release summarizing the speech. Little favors such a system of income-based limits on people's property taxes.
"I imagine we'll see that (in) the budget address, which is still only a couple weeks away," Little said.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, said Paterson said "all the right things."
"He certainly was passionate," she said. "He talked about things we've been saying for a long time like fiscal reform, ethics reform and putting New Yorkers back to work. The devil is in the details, but it was a great speech."
Duprey said she supports the idea of merging state agencies that replicate services, which Paterson identified as a way to cut government bureaucracy, along with the idea of a constitutional amendment to cap state spending.
Ethics reform is long overdue, Duprey agreed.
"There can't be anybody who doesn't think we need to reform ethics in the Assembly and Senate," she said. "It's been horrible. We've got to build the public trust back in state government. I get kind of tired of being embarrassed to say I'm a member of the Assembly, because we all get painted with the same brush."
Duprey also supported Paterson's call for term limits for all state offices. Paterson wants to limit statewide officials - the governor, attorney general and comptroller - to two four-year terms, while members of the Legislature could only serve a maximum of six two-year terms. Duprey agreed with a 12-year cap for members of the Assembly and Senate but would rather see four three-year terms. She says a two-year term is too short.
"With two-year terms the election is always around the corner," Duprey said. "I think it can sometimes have an effect on the way people vote. I believe you can get better government (with three-year terms)."
Duprey supported the concept of the Excelsior program, which would offer tax credits to support clean-energy, high-tech, research and development jobs.
"Not that there's a lot of money to invest, but he talked about encouraging manufacturing and creating a good business environment," she said. "It could be a good year. I want to be optimistic about it and hope some of this is going to fall into place."
In a prepared statement, state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, said the speech "provides us with a glimmer of hope for the new year. We desperately need ethical and financial reform in state government if we are to turn this ship around. I am hopeful this will be a stepping stone toward meaningful change in New York."