Community bankers in New York and Texas are trying to sort out where they stand after well-known Democratic governors in each state were swept out of office by Republicans.
In New York State bankers' hopes are high following state Sen. George E. Pataki's stunning victory over incumbent Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. Meanwhile, Texans are concerned about the election of George W. Bush, a novice politician and part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, who defeated banker ally Gov. Ann Richards.
"Clearly, it's the beginning of a new day in Albany," said Stephen W. Rice, vice president of the Community Bankers Association of New York State. "It's a sea change up here. Every agency is going to be undergoing a lot of changes."
Bankers in New York are up-beat because Mr. Pataki was a member of the state Senate Banking Committee. They say he's been known to be sympathetic to their needs. But Mr. Bush is another story, and bankers have virtually no way of sizing him up.
"We have nothing specific that [Mr. Bush has] been approached on to know if he's in our camp or someone else's," said Chris Williston, president and chief executive of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas. "We're very open-minded and looking forward to working with him, but we just don't have the same level of knowledge of where he stands on specific banking issues as we did with the current governor."
In Texas, community bankers are hoping to opt out of interstate branching and the state is overhauling its antiquated banking code. New York community bankers, meanwhile, are seeking a lower tax base to bring back businesses that have fled the state.
Gov. Richards "was always there for us when we asked her to be," Mr. Williston said, describing Texas' former state treasurerturned-governor as "a big supporter of independent banking."
Mr. Bush did have the support of "a number of community bankers" during the election, Mr. Williston said, adding that he expected several would take positions on various state economic commissions.
But "we just don't have the track record with the new governor," he added. "He's a virtual unknown."
With a more familiar face taking the reins in Albany, on the other hand, New York community bankers are hoping for more improvement in state banking policies that, so far, have been slowly getting better.
"The election of George Pataki is going to be viewed very favorably by the community banks, especially the commercial community banks," said John Pritchard, executive director of the Indepedent Bankers Association of New York State. "We're viewed as a financial center in the country, and Gov.-elect Pataki recognizes that. We're looking forward to working with him on general economic goals that he has set forth and on industry-specific issues."'
"The price of being in New York State is too high, and Pataki said he recognized that and would address it through a reduction in taxes," said Charles V. Wait, president and chief executive of $300 million-asset Adirondack Trust Co. in Saratoga Springs. "To the extent he can successfully come through on his campaign promises, that will help New York and especially banks, wherever they are in the state, because we rely on the financial health of our customers."
"Under a Republican administration, there is hope that things will be a little better in the near term, certainly following up on what the governor of New Jersey embarked upon," said Edward J. Merz, president and chief executive of Suffolk Bancorp on Long Island, referring to New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman's tax cuts. "I would hope that we would be in a position to do the same thing."