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Long IslandPolitics

Bill Clinton praises Cuomo's economic plan

Former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov.

Former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talk before a New York Open for Business Statewide Conference at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. (Sept. 27, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

ALBANY -  Former President Bill Clinton came to the Capitol Tuesday to boost Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to encourage regional economic strategies.

Clinton praised Cuomo, his former secretary for Housing and Urban Development, for focusing on jobs growth and for restoring credibility in New York State government.

"The confidence people have in New York outside this state has exploded, just because the government did its job," Clinton told a crowd of business and higher education leaders at what the governor called "The New York Open for Business Statewide Conference."

Cuomo has set up competition among 10 regional councils for up to $200 million in state funding to jump-start local economic-development initiatives. On Long Island, the Ronkonkoma Hub, a mixed-use development proposal centered near the Long Island Rail Road station, and Heartland Town Square, a Brentwood-based mixed-use proposal, are among projects competing for state aid.

Clinton detailed a variety of economic-development suggestions, including investing in solar and wind power, retrofitting homes for better energy conservation, using wood pellets as an energy source, reducing the college dropout rate and encouraging universities to change their technology licensing policies to promote research and small-business growth.

He also waded into the debate over the nation's economic ills, saying the United States got off track in the past few years, as growth strategies focused only on housing, finance and consumer spending -- "all of which are self-limiting." That led to the Wall Street meltdown in 2008, Clinton said.

"If you had to ask me in a sentence, what got America in trouble," Clinton said. "I would say it's what's got every major wealthy civilization in trouble since the beginning of recorded history. We rested on our laurels and we got too interested in the present and we lost our commitment to the future."

He criticized Republicans indirectly, saying the loss of economic focus has been "grossly aggravated by the national debate being dominated over the last 30 years over the issue of whether government is the problem."

"All of our politics have been force fed through this narrow channel," he said, "that, whatever the issue, it's government's fault."

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