3:44 pm Jan. 17, 2012
In his budget address in Albany today, Governor Andrew Cuomo took issue with a recent poll purporting to show that a majority of New York State voters oppose his plan to build a largest-in-the-nation convention center in Queens.
"It’s $4 billion of economic activity to the state with virtually zero as an investment from the state, and we don’t put a shovel in the ground," Cuomo said.
The poll in question, conducted by Siena College, asked 805 New York voters the following question, in the following way:
"During his State of the State speech to begin the 2012 legislative session in Albany, Governor Cuomo proposed a number of initiatives. I'm going to mention several of them and I'd like you to tell me whether you support or oppose that."
Then the pollster described each of the governor's proposals. The convention center proposal was described as follows: "Building a new convention center - which would be the nation's largest convention center - adjacent to the Aqueduct racetrack and racino near JFK Airport in Queens."
In response to that question, 38 percent of voters questions supported the convention-center plan, 57 percent opposed it, and 5 weren't sure how they felt about the matter.
Cuomo's contention seemed to be that the inclusion of the convention-center item on a list of the governor's "initiatives" implied to the listener that said initiatives would entail public spending.
In his speech, Cuomo said:
"Most people are against government building a convention center in Queens. That was the question, should government build a convention center in Queens, and most people said no."
"If you asked me, 'Am I in favor of government building a convention center?' I would say no," he continued. "Convention centers are tricky economic propositions...That is not what this is. This is one of the premier companies on the globe that does gaming, that does development, that has rights at Aqueduct previously granted, that has a racino license currently, that wants to expand on the land that they currently control."
When asked about the governor's remarks, Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said, "That is not correct. You know, we also in fairness did not include in there that it was privately paid for. We did not talk about the funding at all in the question."
The governor made his remarks during his presentation of the 2012-2013 executive budget, which called for closing the $3.5 billion budget gap in part by reducing growth in the budgets of government agencies, and spurring economic development through public-private partnerships, what he described as "entrepreneurial government."
The governor also called for adding a new pension tier for yet-to-be-hired government employees that would give them the option of investing in a 401K rather than a government pension, and threatened to include a teacher-evaluations provision in a budget amendment unless the union and the State Department of Education reached a settlement on an ongoing lawsuit that is endangering at least $700 million in federal funding for schools.
"So the equation is simple at the end of the day," said Cuomo. "No evaluation, no money. Period. If we are serious about education, we really have no choice."