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Posted at 2:45 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

What are Cabinet secretaries really for? Ask Andrew Cuomo

By Ed O'Keefe

So what are Cabinet secretaries good for? Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) knows.

Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo pictured in 1999. (Post)

Speaking Wednesday during his first State of the State address, Cuomo recalled his years in Washington as secretary of housing and urban development, saying he was grateful to get out of New York.

"I needed it," Cuomo told an Albany audience of lawmakers and everyday New Yorkers. "I was one of those people who thought the New Yorker cartoon was the accurate depiction that the west coast was really New Jersey."

The governor called the HUD job "a fascinating experience," but admitted: "Many times when you're in the President's cabinet, your main utility is the President can't make an event, they scramble for a surrogate and they send someone from the Cabinet to be a surrogate."

"That was actually a very tough duty, by the way," Cuomo said to chuckles. "Can you imagine, having to go out to Kansas to substitute for President Bill Clinton and get before a group that was expecting to see the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, and instead they get the HUD Secretary Andrew 'Cucamo,'" he said, using a variation on his Italian last name.

But, Cuomo noted, people at those events often asked him how New York's state government had tackled issues involving taxes, health care and immigration.

"Most of the federal programs were modeled on state programs. Why, because the New York government was the best," Cuomo said.

He urged state legislators to join him in restoring the state's reputation, a tall order after years of gridlock and scandal involving his predecessors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 6, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Administration  
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