MANHATTAN -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his plan for the complete "financial reinvention" of the State of New York in a forceful and often funny PowerPoint-aided State of the State address Wednesday afternoon.
Less than a week in office, Cuomo outlined an "emergency financial reinvention plan" for the state that calls for a freeze on state spending and state worker wages as well as a long-promised property tax cap.
He also called for a overhaul of education and Medicaid funding that could have serious implications for New York City, which relies heavily on the state for its aide.
The state is currently facing a projected budget deficit of $9 billion to $10 billion for 2012.
"I believe this state is at a crossroads," Cuomo told the crowd. "What we do today will determine the course of this state for decades to come."
Still, he said he was optimistic that the challenges could be met.
"Change is possible in Albany. Believe it or not. And I say, Amen! Because we need change in Albany."
He declared Jan. 11 "the day that we seize the opportunity and the state of New York strikes back."
Cuomo supplemented his 50-min, wide-ranging speech, which swung from critical assessments of the state's dire budget crisis to optimism about the future, with dozens of PowerPoint slides, including one to illustrate his call for a new approach to budget negotiations.
"Right now the budget process is like ships passing in the night," he said, as a pictures of white battleships popped up along with cut-out heads of "Commander" Sheldon Silver and Cuomo wearing a Captain's hat.
"And here are the special interest groups," he said, smiling, as missiles flew in and struck his ship.
"Maybe, maybe we try doing it a different way this year," he said.
Governor also announced several key initiatives, including the merger of the Insurance Department, Banking Department and the Consumer Protection Boards under a new Department of Financial Regulation.
He called for serious cost-cutting measures. He pledged to reduce the size of state government and consolidate local governments.
He also called for new investments in green development, expanded support for minority and women-owned businesses, and a new green market program for urban communities.
The Legislature must approve any changes Cuomo wants to make.
For months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been warning that serious cuts in state funding could be devastating for the city, which relies heavily on state aid, especially in Medicaid and education.
Bloomberg Budget Director Mark Page has warned that cuts to the city could amount to more than $2 billion.
"I'm worried," Bloomberg told reporters Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's speech. "Big cuts in Medicaid would be devastating to our Health and Hospitals Corporation."
He said that he hopes to save as much of the funding as he can, but understands Cuomo's conundrum.
"He's got a very big problem. The state's been spending money it doesn't have for a very long time. The bill is come due and he's going to have to deal with that," he said.
Bloomberg was in the audience at Cuomo's speech and was also scheduled to meet with State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Silver while in Albany.
To open it up to a larger audience, the speech was moved from its traditional venue of the Assembly Chamber to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Tickets were distributed via lottery.
Before Cuomo took the stage, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy said he was excited to see how many New Yorkers had made the trip.
"Today is about you. It about giving you access to your government," he said. "Everyone in this room is part of the solution."
Earlier this week, Cuomo signed a symbolic Executive Order removing physical barriers in and around the State Capitol and reopened new parts of the second floor to the public.
He has also ordered all his staff and other top state officials to participate in ethics training and announced that he and other top officials will take a 5 percent pay cut to set cost-cutting example from the top.
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