RYE BROOK, N.Y. -- Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul, a former Erie County clerk who said it's "nice to be out of Albany," told the Business Council of Westchester on Tuesday why she enjoys mixing it up with suburban leaders.
Hochul spoke to more than 100 company executives and elected officials at the Business Council's headquarters at 800 Westchester Ave.
Whenever Hochul escaped the state capital during her first six months as lieutenant governor, she said she enjoyed stopping to talk to mayors or seeing how town supervisors were doing.
On a visit to White Plains, Hochul said she tried some local pizza and took a walking tour with Mayor Thomas Roach. She said she was impressed by the city's innovations, such as adding public parking spots with chargers for electric cars.
Hochul complimented Business Council President Marsha Gordon for her "ardent effort'' to get the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project approved, noting that Gov. Mario Cuomo called Gordon "really a force of nature behind that."
Cuomo inherited an $11 billion budget deficit when he first became governor, she said. But Cuomo managed to get five consecutive state budgets approved on-time -- an historical rarity -- by working closely with the State Legislature, Hochul said.
She praised state lawmakers for extending the 2 percent cap on property tax increases placed on school districts and local governments since 2012. The tax cap was due to expire next year, but was extended into 2020 as part of an omnibus bill approved by Cuomo and state legislators last week.
"We had a reputation for being the tax capital of the U.S.,'' Hochul said.
Hochul made a pitch for Start-Up NY, which offers a 10-year tax break to companies that create new jobs in a program sponsored by 24 state colleges and universities. She cited Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, based in Greenburgh, as a company that took advantage of financial incentives to add hundreds of new high-skill jobs while staying in New York state.
Noting that student loan debt has grown from $1 trillion $1.3 trillion since she left Congress in 2013, Hochul expressed concern for college graduates "with burdensome debt of at least $35,000-a-year'' who may be living on their parents' couch because they can't find a good job or get a car loan. "We're a better state than that. We're a better country than that,'' Hochul said.