Cuomo’s Dilemma: How to Use a $4 Billion Surplus

BOLTON LANDING, N.Y. (AP) -

New York should use nearly half of its more than $4 billion budget surplus to spur upstate economic development and encourage local governments to consolidate and share their services, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told business leaders Friday.

Speaking at the Business Council of New York’s annual meeting, the Democrat announced that he wants to use $1.5 billion on local economic development programs. Cuomo also proposed using $500 million to help local governments that consolidate or share services in an effort to reduce property taxes.

State officials announced last month that the state has a $4.2 billion surplus, thanks largely to sizeable legal settlements with banks and insurance companies.

 “We have made great progress,” Cuomo told the council in what amounted to a campaign speech. “But we have more to do.”

Cuomo’s Republican challenger, Rob Astorino, criticized the governor’s handling of the economy during his remarks to the group Thursday. He returned Friday to see Cuomo, and the two shared a handshake and a brief conversation. Astorino asked Cuomo if he is ready to debate; Cuomo said he is. Cuomo didn’t respond when Astorino asked him when they would debate.

“The state is doing badly,” Astorino told reporters before the exchange. “Jobs are going. Taxes are too high.”

Speaking to reporters, Cuomo said he plans to serve a four-year term if re-elected in November, casting doubt on speculation that he might run for president in 2016.