ALBANY – Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on Friday wrapped up his upstate swing on the week he declared his entry into the governor’s race with a stinging series of rebukes aimed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, criticizing everything from his tax-free plan aimed only a certain new companies in the state to a lack of attention to costs that are driving up local government costs.
Astorino, who hopes to win the Republican and Conservative party lines, also said he would seek to impose an eight-year term limit on governors in New York and no more than 12 years for state legislators.
“There has to be turnover in this building,’’ he said.
“People are like potted plants,’’ he added of politicians in Albany. “If you can’t accomplish what you want to accomplish in eight or 10 years, then you’ve got to move on, and that goes for Democrats and Republicans,’’ Astorino told reporters in Albany Friday afternoon after stops that began with breakfast in Batavia, a tour of an ammunition plan near Rochester to highlight his opposition to the SAFE Act gun control law and city hall in Syracuse. He began his upstate swing Thursday with an event in Buffalo.
The wide-ranging press conference in Albany touched on everything from abortion rights – he does not favor Cuomo’s plan to expand abortion rights but did not specifically say if he would seek new restrictions – to tax policies and job creation efforts.
On the political front, he said he talked to billionaire Donald Trump, who has been eyeing a possible GOP gubernatorial run, but said he does not expect there will be a GOP primary – a signal he believes Trump will stay on the sidelines.
Of Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman who is threatening to run on the Conservative Party line that would take votes away from the GOP nominee, Astorino said he has talked to him often during the past four years. “Carl Paladino does not want Cuomo back for a second term … I don’t think Carl’s going to do anything, ultimately, to hurt the Conservative-Republican ticket,’’ he said.
The 43-year-old second term county executive, who has won in a county with a two-to-one Democratic enrollment edge, said Cuomo’s START-UP New York program, which excuses new or expanding businesses from taxes for 10 years if they locate on or near college campuses, cherry-picks winners and losers by having government decide which businesses should get tax breaks. He said instead the state should cut taxes for all businesses as a way to stem job and population loss. He offered few specific ways in which he would cut the budget or reduce regulatory burdens on businesses except to repeatedly say that all aspects of the budget should be up for negotiation.
Astorino was receptive to the idea of permitting limited use of medical marijuana for certain patients, but said Cuomo’s plan, which he announced suddenly this year after three years of opposition, won’t work.
Astorino said he also has smoked pot.
“Is this the marijuana question finally?’’ he said to a reporter who asked the question. “Yes, a long time ago.’’ Asked the circumstances, he said, “You trying to see if I’m Cheech and Chong here?’’ He said he smoked a “couple of joints’’ in college. “And I did inhale, yes,’’ he said, adding that was the strongest illicit drug he’s ever taken.
Astorino, with his wife, Sheila, standing next to him, dismissed polls that show him with little name recognition. “If people don’t know me by October, it will be a problem … People will know me by October,’’ he said.
Astorino came out against Cuomo’s plan asking voters to approve a $2 billion borrowing this November; part of the money would allow schools to purchase equipment such as computers. Astorino said such a borrowing scheme is dangerous because it envisions long-term borrowing for computers, for instance, with a shelf life of five years. He also said he did not favor giving special tax breaks or regulatory relief for upstate communities over downstate. “You can’t be carving the state up in all mini different regions,’’ he said.
The Republican also called on Cuomo to debate him one on one; the governor four years ago agreed to only one debate and it featured a stage full of minor party candidates along with him and Paladino.
“Unless he’s scared about his own record and embarrassed about his own record, then I would assume he would debate me one on one and often,’’ he said.