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Cuomo: Budget plan could help state deficit now

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo exits the podium after

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo exits the podium after officially announcing that he will seek the governor's job once held by his father Mario, Saturday, May 22, 2010. Credit: AP

Andrew Cuomo, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, suggested Sunday his campaign platform of fiscal restraint and government consolidation could help close this year's $9.2-billion budget deficit.

In releasing a 250-page book of proposals to overhaul Albany, Cuomo allowed that some of them could be applied now as Gov. David A. Paterson and the legislature wrangle over the 2010-11 budget, which is 54 days late. Lawmakers are expected Monday to approve emergency spending bills to keep state government running.

Cuomo's platform, "The New NY Agenda," includes a cap on state spending, a one-year freeze of state workers' salaries and no increase in borrowing or state taxes. He also wants a 20 percent reduction in the number of state agencies and streamlining of the costly Medicaid program.

Asked how he would close this year's deficit, Cuomo held up the book, saying, "Those parameters are more for next year's budget. I think they're also applicable to this year's budget."

He stopped short of suggesting he would become involved in the budget talks, however. "This year's budget has been under discussion for a matter of months and hopefully is near completion," he said, before marching in the Salute to Israel Parade in Manhattan.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, derided Cuomo's platform, and added, "I remain the only candidate who actually has converted a huge deficit into a balanced budget and a surplus."

Paterson's proposed reductions in school aid and Medicaid reimbursement, about $1 billion each, have been impediments to a budget deal. The programs account for more than half of state spending.

Cuomo wants the state to take over administration of Medicaid from the counties and for reimbursement rates to be set by health care experts, not lawmakers.

Cuomo also said current levels of school aid are unsustainable given the fiscal crisis. He said aid should go to poor school districts and basic educational programs. He wants controls placed on state reimbursement of non-classroom expenses such as school buses.

Asked how he intended to persuade lawmakers to embrace these changes, Cuomo, who announced his candidacy on Saturday, touted recent laws governing college loans and consolidation of local governments that he proposed as attorney general and got passed.

"I want to use this period in the campaign to develop support among the people for a specific set of ideas. . . . Then we can say . . . in January 'the people of the state have spoken, they want this agenda passed,' " he said. "Politicians tend to follow what the people in their district want done. Otherwise, they aren't politicians for long."

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