ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $25 billion jobs and development package that was the cornerstone of his State of the State speech isn't a big new spending package at all.
Instead, most of the economic development aid will be repackaging and redirecting existing aid that might appear as political sleight of hand to some, but, to the Democrat, it's the way to make the most of a state still facing deficits.
Cuomo hopes focusing more of the total statewide aid to places including Buffalo and Manhattan will attract jobs to boost the economy and tax revenue. Similar amounts of aid have failed to revive the state's economy over decades in which companies fled the state and country in search of tax breaks and lower labor costs.
"Our challenge for 2012 is clear," Cuomo said in Wednesday's State of the State address. "The answer is create public-private partnerships that leverage state resources to generate billions in economic growth and create jobs."
He said devoting new or substantially more state cash or borrowing to lure employers would hurt the state's fiscal condition too much.
On Wednesday, he announced $1 billion for Buffalo, $2 billion to redevelop a Manhattan convention center, funds to build a new convention center at Aqueduct race track and more to repair 2,000 miles in roads and bridges. But they are more like a carrot on a string to lure in private sector cash rather than new state funding.
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said much of it repackages existing state tax breaks, capital aid, matching federal grants and other resources that add little or nothing to state spending.
Success depends on whether anyone takes the carrot.
"Now we have this," Vlasto said of the pitch Cuomo is making to potential employers. "What do you bring to the table?"
E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute says Cuomo's plans proclaimed with such fanfare Wednesday aren't new.
"It's been tried. If it was that easy, it would have been done," he said.
McMahon agreed with Cuomo that the governor could better manage the state's economic development resources but said that ultimately it's the same scheme despite Wednesday's "dramatic announcement about billions of dollars in resources plucked from the sky."
For example, McMahon said Cuomo's announcement of a casino developer's plan to build the nation's largest convention center at the Aqueduct race track in Queens comes as convention center business remains on a long decline.
In practice, Cuomo's plan will work like this: An employer will bring a $5 billion investment plan to the state for Buffalo, and then the administration will put together $1 billion in already budgeted tax breaks, capital aid, discount power, federal matching funds and more to seal the deal.
"If no one comes up with a plan, then there's no money," Vlasto told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The enticement comes as companies continue fleeing New York, often blaming the state's high taxes and myriad environmental and labor regulations. This year, the income tax for millionaires increased despite Cuomo's initial opposition. He and Senate Republicans said it would send employers out of state, but they changed their minds when the state's deficit grew.
The package announced Wednesday is an addition to nearly $1 billion in tax breaks and capital that will be provided this year to companies to retain and attract jobs in each of 10 regions that Cuomo designated for his regional competitive grant program. That regional program also repackages and redirects existing aid including road and bridge funds to the regions that pitched the most ambitious and realistic projects.
Vlasto said the model of the new program is the nanotechnology plant in the Albany area ushered in mostly by then-Gov. George Pataki and then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, both Republicans. That plant is still growing and attracting more high-tech companies, resulting in a few thousand jobs in return for hundreds of millions in tax breaks and aid.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer pushed hard for public-private partnerships to raise revenue and relieve the state of some costs. He had a proposal in the works in 2007 to lease out operations of the state lottery in exchange for a dedicated fund to the public college system when the Wall Street credit crunch hit, sharply restricting the ability companies had to borrow large sums of money.
As the private sector slowly recovers from the recession, borrowing at that level remains tight, which could limit interest in Cuomo's proposals.