When Gov. Andrew Cuomo accepted the Citizens Budget Commission’s Medal for High Civic Service at the fiscal watchdog group’s annual dinner last night, he drew gasps, laughter and applause with a bold swipe at his predecessors David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer.
“Relatively, we have made progress in Albany. It has been 14 months since the governor of the state was indicted or admitted committing major felonies. That is progress,” Cuomo said. “We have now gone three months without a conviction of a sitting legislator. Three months. Deserves a round of applause.”
Paterson was fined $62,125 by the state ethics commission in December 2010 for illegally accepting tickets to a Yankees World Series game, then lying to cover it up. Spitzer was never charged criminally for his dalliances with prostitutes, though the scandal drove him from office in March 2008.
The Citizens Budget Commission dinner featured an array of high-powered New Yorkers, with a definite slant toward the business leaders who support its fiscally conservative agenda. Cuomo drew big applause for his promises to reform the state pension system, for example, but only a smattering of claps when he praised New York’s tradition of progressive government.
The first few minutes of Cuomo’s speech – the ones where he made all the jokes – are transcribed below:
“I thank you very much for this honor. As the governor of the state of New York, I will accept it on behalf of the state administration. I think it is a fair statement to say that we have made progress over the past 14 months.
“I think the concept of progress is a relative concept. You know the story of relative, right? What did the snail say when it went for a ride on the turtle’s back? Whee! Yeah. So it is all relative.
“And relatively, we have made progress in Albany. It has been 14 months since the governor of the state was indicted or admitted committing major felonies. That is progress. We have now gone – we have now gone three months without a conviction of a sitting legislator. Three months. Deserves a round of applause. It has been 12 months since Albany has been a punch line on any late-night TV show.
“The Port Authority is solvent, more or less. MTA trains are running on time, more or less. Joe Lhota and Pat Foye are here tonight. Let’s give them a round of applause for their great leadership.
“And I am finally getting the recognition that I personally deserve. And I feel it growing. I was walking down the street the other day and a woman ran up to me and said, ‘Governor, governor!’ And I stopped, and she said, ‘You know, I just want you to know that I am so proud of you, and you are my hero, and you are such a beacon of integrity, and you are such a great leader for this state. Can I please have your autograph?’ I said, ‘Sure, of course.’ And she said, ‘You know, wait ‘til my friends hear that I met Gov. Mario Cuomo. They will be so impressed.’
“So I’m getting my recognition, more or less. We made progress. We still have some work to do. We have some work to do on the staff level. The speechwriter for tonight saw that this was the CBC event, so wrote remarks for the Congressional Black Caucus. You are not the Congressional Black Caucus. If my remarks have multiple mentions of Charlie Rangel, you’ll understand why.
“So progress is a relative concept. But I will accept this award on a relative basis.”
Tags: Albany, Andrew Cuomo, Charlie Rangel, Citizens Budget Commission, Congressional Black Caucus, David Paterson, Eliot Spitzer, felonies, governor, indictment, joe lhota, Mario Cuomo, MTA, pat foye, pensions, Port Authority, progressive, prostitutes, Yankees
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