Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino, the frontrunners for governor of New York, spent their first and only scheduled debate vowing to reduce taxes, spending and government corruption, without once mentioning the other’s name.
Democrat Cuomo and Republican Paladino avoided the personal attacks of recent weeks during a Hofstra University appearance yesterday with five others on the ballot, including a woman who ran a Manhattan escort service and the founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High party.
The nation’s third most-populous state faces a projected $8.2 billion budget gap next year, just months after legislators closed a $9.2 billion deficit for the fiscal year that began April 1. Cuomo, 52, the state attorney general, and Paladino, 64, a Buffalo-based real-estate developer running with Tea Party support, each said he was best able to shift the state’s direction toward fiscal solvency and economic stability.
“We just have too many governments in the state of New York, 10,500 governments," said Cuomo, calling for regionalization to reduce taxes. ‘‘Town, village, water district, sewer district, you have to consolidate those governments. We just can’t afford them anymore.’’
Paladino blamed Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor, and state-mandated education spending for increases in local property taxes. He pledged to cut fraud and waste in Medicaid and said he would ‘‘dismember the New York state education department’’ to abolish the programs it imposes on local school districts.
Absent from the 90-minute program were Cuomo’s depiction of Paladino as an ‘‘Albany insider’’ using political influence to get state contracts, and Paladino’s accusation that Cuomo, while U.S. housing secretary, quashed a probe into a future employer now serving as his campaign’s finance chairman.
Cuomo went into the debate leading Paladino 59 percent to 24 percent in a New York Times poll of likely voters. The survey published Oct. 17 had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Paladino has promised to cut taxes 10 percent and reduce spending by 20 percent in his first year, and has also proposed two annual reductions of $7 billion in the state’s general fund. Paladino said he could achieve the changes because his largely self-financed campaign owes no favors to special interests.
Cuomo, son of former Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo, restated his campaign pledge to eliminate 20 percent of state agencies and authorities. He said he would cap spending at the rate of inflation, freeze taxes and root out fraud and waste.
Cuomo called for more financial disclosure by public officials and changes that would reduce the costs of pension benefits for future public employees.
Minor-party candidates Charles Barron, a New York City Council member and former Black Panther, and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party called for higher taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent of state residents.
Warren Redlich, running on the Libertarian ballot line, said government waste was responsible for high taxes.
Kristin Davis, 35, the self-described Manhattan Madam connected with the resignation of former Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer, said the state could raise $1.5 billion by taxing legalized marijuana sales and $2 billion if it legalized casino gambling.
Her escort agency, she said, was run better than the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates New York City’s subways, buses and commuter trains.
‘‘I keep one set of books and my agency provided on-time and reliable service,” Davis said.