CICERO — Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro has many ideas for improving central New York's economy and ensuring residents can stay here instead of moving to other places. But he would start with one concept: competently running state government.
"(Gov. Andrew Cuomo) hides behind the false cloak of competency," Molinaro said in an interview shortly after arriving at the Onondaga County Republican Committee's annual clambake. "He hands out checks and then leaves and suggests that that's success. It isn't. It isn't success because we're not seeking the kind of rebound and growth necessary."
Under Cuomo's leadership, unemployment rates have fallen and investments have been made in new and existing businesses through the state's regional economic development councils.
But with those success stories come the negatives. New York is losing people to other states that have a more friendlier economic climate. Business owners complain about the property tax burden and state regulations.
Cuomo has led several initiatives that have invested billions in the upstate economy. The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council has been a top performer in the annual awards competition since its inception in 2011.
In 2015, central New York was one of the winners of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, which promised $500 million in economic development funding for projects that aligned with the region's strategic plan.
While Cuomo has touted his efforts on behalf of upstate, Molinaro panned the strategies.
"We're not seeing the relief we need statewide," he said. "I think the governor preyed on the hopes of upstate New York, central New York, western New York in that we thought — all of us thought — that he would sweep in this new economic recovery.
Molinaro continued, "But what's ended up happening is really approved money laundering — taking dollars from overtaxed citizens, giving it to those who contribute to one's political campaign to compensate for the fact that we took too much money from them to begin with."
If elected governor, Molinaro said he would focus on lowering costs for businesses and residents. He wants to provide property tax relief and focus on the school tax burden. He would reduce state spending and seek to provide a better climate for existing businesses.
For economic development, he prefers a more local approach. Under his leadership, the state would work with communities to "define what their economic goals are and then really empower them to achieve them."
While that may sound like what Cuomo has done with the regional councils, Molinaro isn't a fan of the contests.
"Instead of making a few compete against one another to get so little, let's make sure everybody has the opportunity to compete and succeed," he said.
Molinaro awaits the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary. He will face either Cuomo or Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist who is challenging the incumbent governor for the Democratic nomination.
The minor party candidates on the ballot include Howie Hawkins (Green Party) and Larry Sharpe (Libertarian Party).
The primary election is Thursday, Sept. 13. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.