New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont went fishing on Lake Ontario Tuesday for their first official meeting. After showing off a pair of steelhead trout, Cuomo also took questions from reporters on a wide range of issues.
The two northeast governors said New York and Connecticut plan to work even more closely together on interstate challenges from transportation to security and marijuana policy moving forward.
“We’re going to set up sessions where our state police do drills together and get familiar with each other’s practices, protocol, territory—and our emergency management response teams,” Cuomo said. “So, if Connecticut has a problem, we can be there to help them. If we have an issue, they can be here to help us.”
Lamont, who took office in January 2019, also discussed the importance of promoting regional tourism.
“We can make this part of a broader region where people ought to visit, and they ought to know that this is the most beautiful part of the country.”
Cuomo joked that the state officials’ “glorious” day on Lake Ontario was half-vacation day, half-work day. He also presented Lamont with a tackle box bearing the state flags of New York and Connecticut and a custom fishing rod inscribed with the new governor’s name.
After concluding his remarks with Lamont, Cuomo answered questions on two hot-button issues: New York State’s ongoing dispute with the Seneca Nation involving a stretch of Thruway and the announcement of new license plates starting in April 2020.
Regarding the deteriorating stretch of I-90 that runs through Seneca Territory, Cuomo said the state offered to repair the road two years ago, but that he believes the Seneca Nation is holding the road hostage as part of the dispute over casino revenue.
“We went through arbitration. We want them to honor their part of the bargain. I’m not going to act in bad faith even though I believe they’re acting in bad faith,” the governor said. “We’re in the courts with them. When we settle the larger issue on the revenues, I believe the I-90 issue will be resolved. I don’t believe it’s about I-90; I believe it’s about the tens of millions of dollars that are actually in dispute.”
The Seneca Nation said in a statement earlier this month that it has regularly approved resolutions that provide for routine maintenance on roadways crossing its territories.
The other motorway-related issue Cuomo addressed during the press conference is the criticism by some that the state’s announcement of redesigning and requiring New York drivers to purchase new license plates starting next spring is a “money grab.”
“Look, nobody wants to pay any money for anything. I mean, I don’t want to buy new plates either,” Cuomo said. He also qualified that there will be a 10-year phase-in period for the new license plates and emphasized that the redesign isn’t about color or style, it’s about engineering a plate that new EZ Pass technology can read.
“You need a plate that works with EZ Pass. If it doesn’t work with EZ Pass, then we have a real—talk about a money grab—we have the opposite problem. We’re going to have a real fiscal issue because we will have a deficit when it comes to the toll collection.”
Cuomo said the expansion of EZ Pass will save consumers time and money in the long run and that he eventually wants to get New York State to 100% cashless tolling.
New York State residents can vote now through Sept. 2 for one of five new license plate designs at ny.gov.