ALBANY -- Sounding more and more like a gubernatorial candidate, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino strongly criticized Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on a variety of fronts Wednesday, from the state deficit to academic standards to campaign finance to a property tax plan that he called a "shell game."
Astorino, a Republican, said he will decide next month whether to take on Cuomo, a Democrat. But he gave what seemed like a campaign preview in a wide-ranging interview with reporters, one day after Cuomo delivered a budget address in which the governor said New York's fortunes have greatly improved in three years.
The Republican said Cuomo painted a misleading picture and accused him of distracting voters with "phony stuff" while the state's economy struggles. Astorino criticized Cuomo on:
A proposal to give homeowners an income-tax credit to offset property tax hikes, but only if their local governments adhere to a 2 percent property tax cap and consolidate services. Astorino said there are too many hurdles and too little tax relief in the plan.
"It's all based on ifs and buts. It is set up for failure," Astorino added. "It's to get him through the election."
The state deficit. Cuomo said the state could achieve a $2 billion surplus in two years if spending is kept in check. Astorino, as have some other critics, said the state actually faces a $2 billion deficit based on current projections.
The Common Core academic standards. Astorino repeatedly referred to the education initiative as "Cuomo's Common Core" and an "absolute nightmare," signaling he will use it as an issue. Cuomo said Tuesday he still backed the initiative, but added the implementation in schools has been "flawed" and said it will be reviewed.
Public financing of campaigns. Astorino said it was "disingenuous" for Cuomo to call for public financing when he's stockpiled $33 million in his campaign, largely from big donors.
Astorino, who has $1 million in his campaign coffers, sought to laugh aside questions about Cuomo's huge fundraising advantage.
"We don't need $33 million, I can tell you that -- not anywhere close," he said.
Cuomo officials didn't immediately comment. A day earlier, Cuomo gave a bit of his own campaign preview when he said the state's outlook has improved since he took office.
"We turned around the spending. We turned around the taxes. We turned around the employment and we turned around the jobs numbers and we turned around the direction of the state of New York," Cuomo said during his budget address.