Cuomo looks for competition between regions, schools

Governor Andrew Cuomo likes competition. And the freshly elected Democrat said Wednesday during his first State of the State address that competition is the key to driving innovation and reducing the cost of state government.

Cuomo called for as much as $500 million in state school aid to be directed at the districts that have shown improvement or slashed administrative costs.

He said pitting schools against each other is the best approach for a state that spends the most in the nation on education, but ranks in the bottom third for results.

"Competition works," he said. "When I was in the federal government 10 years ago, we moved from block grants to competitive grants. When you just give people cash with no results, you take the incentives out of the system."

Cuomo wants to apply his competition-driven approach to funding for regional economic development initiatives and local municipal grants.

"We've talking about consolidating local governments for a long time and we've seen some progress," he said. "I think if we added financial incentives to the governments that actually consolidate, we'd see an acceleration of the process. We'd have a bonus fund for local governments that consolidate, merge or share services with 50 percent of the money going directly to taxpayer relief."

Under Cuomo's economic development plan, 10 regional economic development commissions would be created statewide. Composed of private and public sector stakeholders, the commissions would draft competing plans with $200 million in state grants at stake.

"These will be public-private sector partnerships and the focus will be jobs, jobs, jobs in those regions," he said. "It starts with the premise there is no top-down template to create jobs. You have different regions in this state with different assets and abilities and these plans are going to have to come from the bottom up."

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