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Paladino takes aim at special districts, school officials

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino speaks

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino speaks during an interview, Monday. (Sept. 27, 2010) Credit: AP

Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said yesterday he would create a team of advisers to help local governments consolidate special districts and town services and reduce the number of school district administrators - the main effort involved in his plan to reduce property tax burdens in suburban areas such as Long Island.

In a wide-ranging interview with Newsday in Manhattan, Paladino also said he would use the threat of a government shutdown as a cudgel against lawmakers, warned the media to stay away from his former paramour and their child, and claimed he would defeat Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo by a landslide, with more than 60 percent of the vote.

"We're going to win this election," Paladino declared. "Strap in, Andrew."

But while his colorful attacks on Cuomo's manhood have drawn headlines, his policy prescriptions also touch political third rails.

Paladino said his plan to consolidate school districts, town agencies such as highway departments, and special taxing districts that provide water, sewer and other services - there are more than 700 on Long Island alone - would be led by his running mate, Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards.

"We will show [localities] how to do it, and then we will show them in black and white the savings," Paladino said over coffee in the cafeteria of his hotel.

"Combining these things into one countywide agency, you get rid of all kinds of bureaucracy," he said. "Why should that highway plow stop at the town line?"On schools, Paladino said he wanted to create a system in which most are consolidated into a county administration with one superintendent. But he said local boards would retain control over policy and curriculum.

"Why do we have 27 superintendents of schools in Erie County?" Paladino said. (There are more than 120 on Long Island). "What do they bring to the table?"

Long Islanders have long resisted attempts to consolidate school districts and special taxing areas. A bill Cuomo drafted was signed into law making it easier to consolidate districts, but little has happened since.

Paladino said this effort and others - such as cutting $20 billion from Medicaid, which experts say would be impossible without imperiling poor people's health - would be successful because "I do not care about getting re-elected." He pledged to serve only one term.

To persuade the State Legislature to accept his plan to cut taxes by 10 percent and spending by 20 percent, Paladino said he would shut down state government, "except for public safety and health," if lawmakers tried to stall the budget process past April 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

"I don't care who I'm going to upset," Paladino said.

Robert Ward, deputy director of the Rockefeller Institute on Government and a state constitutional expert, said the governor technically has the power to shut government down. But many state expenditures for the needy are mandated by state law and the constitution, he said, and can't just be eliminated without consequences.

"I think realistically, a Governor Paladino would likely not want to put mentally disabled people out on the street," Ward said.

One thing Paladino refused to talk about Monday was his 10-year-old daughter, born after he had an affair with an employee, Suzanne Brady. After his wife, Cathy, spoke to media outlets over the weekend about the affair and how the child has been embraced by the family, pictures surfaced in the media of the child and the former lover.

"I'm not talking about it anymore," Paladino said, his hands shaking as he held up an iPhone photo of his daughter dancing ballet. "Nobody better go near her. She's 10 years old. She has to go to school every day. She does not deserve to be brought into this."

HIGHLIGHTS OF CHAT

MERGED SERVICES
He would create a team of advisers led by his running mate, Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards, to help localities consolidate schools, special districts and town services into county agencies, saving money, he said, on administrative costs.

TAX-CUT PLAN
He said he did not support a property tax cap, arguing it only encourages local governments to raise taxes. Instead, he wants to lower property taxes through a $20 billion cut to Medicaid and consolidating local services.

SHUTDOWN LEVERAGE
He would shut down state government if the State Legislature refused to give him an on-time budget with spending and tax cuts.

DAUGHTER OFF LIMITS
He warned the media to stay away from his former lover and their 10-year-old daughter after pictures of them surfaced in the media. 

OPEN BUDGET TALKS
He pledged to end closed-door budget negotiations with the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader, promising a "transparent" administration.

State & Region