The two Republicans facing each other Tuesday in the GOP primary are vastly different gubernatorial candidates, yet propose mostly similar economic platforms with some innovative exceptions in an election that is expected to turn on pocketbook issues.
Former congressman and party designee Rick Lazio and tea party activist Carl Paladino, a political novice, each plan tax cuts for residents, trimming state agencies, reducing Medicaid benefits for the poor and taking a whack at the perks and payrolls in the Legislature.
But Paladino also says he would push term limits and require 60 percent votes in the Legislature to raise taxes, instead of simple majorities in the now Democrat-controlled Senate and Assembly. They would require constitutional amendments, a process that takes years.
Lazio says he would review every state agency in his first 100 days with an eye to cuts, requiring online public disclosure of spending, and eliminating pork-barrel spending.
Polls show that although some hot, new issues inevitably surface in races for governor, the elections usually turn on issues affecting household budgets, job security and the economy. For weeks, however, the candidates have gotten the most attention for increasingly nasty exchanges and their biting opposition to the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero.
Tuesday’s primary comes as a Quinnipiac University poll showed that although 78 percent of voters overall were “somewhat” or very dissatisfied with the way things were going in New York, 49 percent of Republican voters said they still didn’t know enough about Lazio to have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. Seventy percent said they didn’t have enough information about Paladino to make that judgment, according to the Sept. 1 poll. The poll also found most voters didn’t think Democrat Andrew Cuomo has been doing enough to explain how he will fix the state’s fiscal problems.
When questioned in an interview, Lazio pushed his economic platform of local property tax relief, job creation and requiring true balanced budgets to end chronic overspending, excessive borrowing and record high tax increases during the last four years.
Lazio said his administration would begin with a cap on the annual growth of local school and government property taxes of 2.5 percent, with a formula to allow for substantial increases and drops in property values. He said the tax cap, various forms of which haven’t gotten through the Legislature during the last four years, is important to show New York is headed in a different direction than it has been under all-Democratic control.
“It will be the beginning of the process of New Yorkers feeling like there is an adult back in charge and we have some fiscal discipline,” he said. “We need to psychologically set the tone.”
Paladino, on the other hand, promises “to take a baseball bat” to Albany’s fiscal practices.
“I’m going to give them a budget,” Paladino said, setting a Feb. 1 deadline. “This budget is going to be lean, by about 20 percent, then we are going to lower some taxes in that budget, by about 10 percent,” Paladino said in an interview. “We’ll get rid of a lot of agencies, get rid of a lot of positions in state government. … That budget will set the tone.”
“Capping taxes is gutless,” he said, directing the comment at Lazio and Cuomo. “Cutting taxes takes courage. I will cut taxes.”
Areas in which they differ include:
—Paladino wants to eliminate legislators’ public pensions unless the part-time jobs are made full-time, which would limit their outside income and potential conflicts of interest from law practices and other jobs. He also plans to limit legislators to eight years (four terms) in office and cut taxes on manufacturers to keep higher-paying employers in New York.
—Lazio wants to eliminate about $170 million spent each year on pork-barrel spending by legislators for health and social service programs, civic groups, schools and youth sports back home in their districts, an important re-election tool. He also wants to freeze state salaries and cut the work force, move the pension system to a 401k type of retirement program, create a “ring of steel” of security cameras in lower and midtown Manhattan subways, create merit pay for school teachers and provide public universities with more autonomy to grow and raise tuition without Albany’s approval.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will be the Republican nominee, but each candidate has minor party lines that could take them into the general election. Lazio has the Conservative Party and Paladino has his Taxpayers Party. In November, they would face Cuomo, the far more popular and better financed Democratic nominee and one-term attorney general.
By MICHAEL GORMLEY,Associated Press Writer
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.