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Spitzer Envisions One New York

By Joyce Kryszak

Albany, NY – New Governor, Eliot Spitzer Wednesday outlined his ambitious agenda for reforming and revitalizing the state into what he called one New York. Halting the downhill slide of upstate cities, such as Buffalo, is key to the Governor's plan to reunite New York with prosperity.

WBFO's Joyce Kryszak has more on Spitzer's much anticipated first State of the State address and what it holds in store for Western New York.

You can read the story below, or click the "listen" icon above to hear it now, or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

The new Governor walked into the packed room to wild applause that lasted nearly three minutes. But any rock star-like image quickly gave way to Spitzer's very lawyer-like delivery of his outline for reform.

He announced sweeping plans to overhaul a state he said has been left behind by its resistance to change. He says it is time to come together to start moving forward.

Spitzer said upstate and downstate will rise or fall together. And to help deteriorating cities Spitzer will appoint an economic development czar who will be headquartered in Buffalo.

But Spitzer proposed a wide range of programs, legislation and oversight to benefit the entire state.

His plan would reform and reinvigorate everything from the courts and education, to health care and business.

Always, reform was the central theme throughout this former state attorney general's hour-long plus speech.

Spitzer said he will act quickly on ethics and other reforms. He will submit a reform package to ban gifts from lobbyists, review public authorities and eliminate those that have become merely what he called "patronage dumping grounds."

He is also calling for a commission to end partisan redistricting, so-called gerrymandering. He ssaid he will submit constitutional amendments that would consolidate the court system and institute merit-based judicial appointments.

And he wants balanced budgets too.

That suggestion got far less than rock star approval from his audience of state lawmakers.

And that wasn't the only negative reaction the popular new governor received. Spitzer said he wants to lift the cap on charter schools.

But the audible boos were quickly silenced when Spitzer promised extra aid for districts hardest hit by charter school enrollments.

He said a new funding formula will also give more aid to the schools that need it most, while holding them accountable for results.

Spitzer said he will also propose more money for investments in the state's infrastructure. The long-stalled Peace Bridge was on his list of projects that need to be completed.

He also wants investments in energy, environmental clean-up and universal broadband, among other broad initiatives.

According to Spitzer, the very structure of state government itself needs an overhaul. He will appoint a commission on Local Goovernment Efficiancy to design a plan for consolidating the state's 4,200 taxing districts.

Spitzer said mandates such as the Wicks law and workers compensation must be also revamped.

Health care reform is also high on his list. Spitzer says 500,000 uninsured children should be guaranteed coverage. To do that Spitzer said will include tough choices, such as reining in Medicaid spending and making hospitals more efficient.

That will include, he said, closing some hospitals as was recommendeed for two in Western New York.

The sobering remarks were followed by others.

Spitzer warned of what he said would be "dramatic" spending cuts in his first budget.

He said the state must finally experience the pain of the word no. But Spitzer shifted from such unpopular pronouncements to one that quickly brought back the applause.

He said his first budget will not carry any tax increases, and would call for a three-year, six billion dollar property tax cut aimed at the middle class.

Spitzer said none of the measuress will result in an immediate turnaround. And he acknowledged there will be cynics and naysayers.

But he said voters have demanded an end to the status quo and will support the effforts of the legislature.

The first test of how long the applause will last for the new governor will come on January 31. That is when Spitzer will unveil his first budget, which will carry the details determining much of the success of his ambitious agenda.