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Cuomo will join talks on upstate cities' fiscal problems

City of Syracuse

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled he will join the discussion between the mayors of upstate New York's biggest cities on how to deal with their looming fiscal struggles.

It's a decision that has Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner encouraged. Miner has been the most outspoken critic of Cuomo's plan so far for dealing with those financial issues.

In an interview with public radio's The Capitol Pressroom on Friday, Cuomo said the cities have an imbalance between the size of government and their shrinking tax base.

"The population of upstate New York is shrinking and the size of government is increasing. And that's the fundamental structural imbalance," he said. "It does not work."

Mayor Miner countered in an interview with The Innovation Trail Tuesday that cities are still major economic lifelines to their regions.

"We provide key services," she said.

Syracuse is about $300 million in debt, according to the State Comptroller. It is also facing rising pension costs and a shrinking tax base. That problem is mirrored in upstate's other major cities.

Cuomo has argued to stop giving cities subsidies because he says it only perpetuates the problem. But he told host Susan Arbetter he's talked with local government leaders about the situation and will be joining the discussions more in the future.

That decision is recognition of the seriousness of the problem, Miner says.

"The governor has the skill set to bring us all together and to come up with solutions to this problem before the people of our cities and our state suffer," she said.

Miner agreed with one point the governor also raised in the radio interview: the binding arbitration laws in place for contract talks with unions need to go. They're set to expire this summer.

Miner held a summit with the mayors of the biggest upstate cities last year and she says they continue to talk on a regular basis.

While Miner and Cuomo have separately said they are talking with other government leaders about the issue, the two have not talked in several months. Miner's outcry against Cuomo's proposals for cities' fiscal woes has lead to a standoff.

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail