Governor - Republican Primary



Preferred Candidate
(photo from Rick Lazio, Flickr)

Age: 52 Occupation: former President and CEO of The Financial Services Forum
Education: Vassar College (AB), American University Washington College of Law (JD)
Campaign website:
Rick Lazio is running in the Republican primary for governor on the platform that New York needs stability and predictability in government, particularly in regards to the budget, and a path to strong economic growth by creating an environment more favorable to business expansion and job creation.   He cited as additional priorities improving education and defending public safety. He brings experience in both the public and private sectors, notably serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 2nd district from 1993-2001, a member of the Suffolk County Legislature from1990-1993, and having most recently been the President and CEO of The Financial Services Forum and a Managing Director at J.P. Morgan Chase.  Lazio credits his experience in both sectors as giving strength to his candidacy, as well as his being an “outsider” to the politics of Albany.

Lazio has a number of reform initiatives he would institute as governor in the areas of budget reform, ethics, campaign finance, and redistricting reform.  He supports a constitutional convention as a means of accomplishing widespread reforms, believing that there needs to be an open conversation about how to reform the structure of government.  Lazio has pledged to veto district lines that have been drawn by the legislature, supporting the creation of an independent redistricting commission.  In order to achieve this reform, he has committed to hold accountable those legislators who have already made pledges to end the practice of partisan gerrymandering and to appeal to the constituents of lawmakers who have not pledged their support.  Budget reform is also prominent in his platform, including requiring the state comptroller to certify that the budget is balanced, using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), implementing performance-based budgeting, and eliminating member items.  In regards to ethics reform, Lazio supports requiring complete disclosure of outside income. He supports giving the state attorney general original jurisdiction over public corruption cases along with the institution of a strong, independent ethics Moreland-type commission to route out corruption in government.  He also supports reforms in the area of campaign finance, including banning fundraisers in the capital area during the legislative session, more regular reporting of campaign finances, creating limits on the rolling over of campaign war chests from one election to another, limiting donations from registered lobbyists doing business with New York State government, and the disclosure of independent expenditures.

A central tenet of Lazio’s campaign is to reinvigorate the economy, which he aims to accomplish through lowering taxes and creating jobs.  In regards to taxes, he has proposed capping property taxes at 2.5% of the assessed value of a home, as well as phasing out the corporate tax by first eliminating it upstate and on small businesses.  In order to create jobs, Lazio presents a start-up strategy using New York colleges and universities as catalysts for development, and plans to work with the private sector to create “business clusters” centered around these institutions, as well as create more research parks centered around emerging technologies.
Lazio proposes to address the state’s fiscal woes through reforms to the state pension system, and Medicaid and education spending. As public employee contracts come up for renegotiation in 2011, Lazio would like to see their benefits harmonized with comparable workers in the private sector and move to establish 401k-style plans for elected officials and new employees. In order to address rising Medicaid costs, Lazio proposes to implement managed care, patient incentives programs and means-testing for eligibility.  Regarding education, Mr. Lazio is committed to seeing that the funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit are awarded, and also favors modest new programs such as merit pay for teachers and a pilot program for early childhood education.

Citizens Union believes that Lazio presents a thoughtful vision for the state of New York with comprehensive policy recommendations to fulfill this vision.  His breadth of knowledge regarding various issues was impressive, and it is clear that his experience in the federal government and the private sector have enriched his understanding of complex governance issues.  Citizens Union did not raise with Lazio his campaigns focus on the placement of an Islamic Cultural Center in downtown Manhattan, but how he has addressed it was later discussed during our board’s evaluation of him. Although justifiable concerns exist about the tenor of his comments concerning this issue, we did not factor that into our decision, because we did not raise it with him. Citizens Union believes that Rick Lazio is a strong candidate with a broad platform that includes needed political and government reforms, and prefers him for the Republican Primary Election for governor.



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