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Cuomo details austerity measures

January 5, 2011
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN, Associated Press

ALBANY - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday proposed shutting 20 percent of state agencies, authorities and commissions to fulfill campaign promises to create leaner state government.

That action alone would save millions of dollars in the politically protected complex of patronage mills.

But that and many of the proposals Cuomo detailed Wednesday in his State of the State speech before gathered lawmakers will need their support.

By executive order, he established a commission to draft by May 1 a "rightsizing plan" for the consolidation.

Cuomo specifically proposed merging the three agencies that regulate insurance, banking and consumer affairs, saying that would save money and also better protect investors and consumers. Other plans include closing and consolidating more juvenile prisons, a process that has already begun as fewer juveniles are sent to detention, while repealing the 12-month closing notice required now.

He also wants a one-year salary freeze for most of 200,000 state workers in contracts up for renegotiating April 1 to help close a $10 billion deficit.

"We must begin by confronting honestly the challenges we face," Cuomo said.

He proposed a property tax cap at either the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is less.

Other specific proposals, most of them also carrying forward campaign promises, would redesign the Medicaid program. Also by executive order, Cuomo established a team Wednesday to remake the program - the state's most expensive - by following Wisconsin's model.

Cuomo said that will involve bringing together representatives of all the participants in the program, including health care and insurance companies, to come up with ideas for cost-savings rather than simply setting a number of dollars to be cut starting in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. In Wisconsin, those ideas included eliminating unnecessary procedures, increasing the use of generic drugs and renegotiating contracts with managed care organizations.

He established another team to study eliminating underfunded state mandates imposed on school districts and local governments. Also, his administration plans to offer grants up to $100,000 to cover the costs of local governments that merge.

Noting New York ranks first in spending and 34th in education results, Cuomo proposed restructuring a portion of state aid to create incentives for school districts that improve student performance and improve management efficiency.

He also called for campaign finance reform to limit contribution levels and include a system of public financing, legalizing marriage for same-sex couples and providing urban grants for "green" projects and jobs.

For business, he proposes creating regional economic development councils, revising the Excelsior Tax Credit Program to improve job creation and creating a permanent program to provide low-cost power to manufacturers in return for jobs.



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