By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO May 20, 2003 New York State Attorney General (AG) Eliot Spitzer dropped by Fibbers Restaurant yesterday for a question-and-answer session sponsored by the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 100 people came out to have lunch with the AG.
This is an important meeting, commented Chamber President and CEO Jacquie Leventoff. He defends and protects the people of New York. On Wall Street, there is no one as feared as Eliot Spitzer. He is the peoples champion.
Spitzer gave an overview before answering questions. He pointed out what he felt were the problems with state government.
There is a structural problem in state government, Spitzer stated. We wait until there is a crisis before we fix things. It is like we utterly forget to fix the roof when the sun shines. There is a larger structural problem.
Spitzer went on to point out that some of those problems deal with energy. Costs have risen, Spitzer said, but when times are good, nothing is done to change the system to make it more manageable. Such things as healthcare and Medicare were not restructured when the costs were manageable.
There has been no meaningful discussion, Spitzer said. The problem has been leadership. This is not about party. I fault both the Democratic and Republican leadership. They ignore the problem while it stares them in the face.
Spitzer also pointed out that the states bond rating was recently downgraded.
He then discussed the next major problem, as he saw it.
There is a lack of understanding and crisis of accountability, remarked Spitzer. We need to reclaim the standard. We tolerate conduct we should not tolerate. The standards have relaxed. We have gone too far with loosening the ethical mandate.
The floor was then opened to questions. Naturally, the main concern was casino gaming. Since it is currently under litigation, Spitzer was careful with his answers and would not go into specifics.
The governor did it, Ill defend it, and well win, commented Spitzer. There has been an enormous effort to bring gambling here. However, it is only one leg in the stool of economic development. It needs to be done right and carefully. We are in court every day. It is not easy, but we will get there.
When asked about the budget, Spitzer suggested doing it like it is done in Washington. He said the state should create a bipartisan office to anticipate revenue. He pointed out that their projections are usually right. Spitzer also suggested doing a two-year budget or moving the due date from April 1 to June 1, which is more realistic.
Spitzer stated over and over that it will take time for gambling to come. He assured everyone it will happen and asked for people to be patient.