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Spitzer Focuses on Reform in First State of the State Address

By Associated Press

Albany, NY – Reform was the overriding theme of Eliot Spitzer's first State of the State speech as governor. In his address Wednesday afternoon to a joint session of the state Legislature, Spitzer outlined a reform agenda that includes changing the way the state's judicial, elections, budget and education systems are run, among others. He also promised not to raise taxes when he releases his first state budget on January 31st.

Upstate New York will be getting an economic development czar whose duties will include working with the mayors of upstate cities to tackle the problems facing their communities. Spitzer says the leader of the upstate office of the Empire State Development Corporation will be based in Buffalo.

Most of Spitzer's address underscored his campaign promises, including a $6 billion property tax cut over three years and billions of dollars more for schools. Wednesday's proposals include:

--Longer school days and school years, after-school programs and better teachers as well as greater accountability for school spending.

"There will be no more excuses for failure," Spitzer said. "The debate will no longer be about money, but about performance; the goal will no longer be adequacy, but excellence; the timetable will no longer be tomorrow, but today."

--Guaranteed access to health care in 2007-08 for 500,000 uninsured children and, within four years, enrolling 900,000 more adults eligible for Medicaid.

--Investing in roads and bridges, including replacement of the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.

--Proposing to voters a constitutional amendment to greatly fund stem cell research as part of a transformation to an "innovation economy."

--Ethics and campaign finance reform to curb corruption and the influence of lobbyists: "We are in danger of losing the confidence of those who elected us."

"I report to you that the condition of many New Yorkers is superb," Spitzer told the joint session of the Legislature. "But whole communities have been left behind; that our future is bright, but that our government is in disrepair.

"As the world has transformed and moved forward, it is only Albany that has stood still."