Governing New York State is no easy job. Just ask former Gov. David Paterson. Just look at the expected $10 billion deficit that faces the State in 2011. Notice the Census that showed the continuation of businesses and population leaving the State. A trend that has been consistent for 50 years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo steps into this seat of power at a time when leadership is desperately needed. Past policies of ever higher taxes and restrictions on business have failed. Leaders at every level of politics have been forced out of office in scandal. Partisanship is at a peak, and the diferences between the goals of Upstate and Downstate stark.
Stepping into this conflagration, Gov. Cuomo took the initial step of taking a pay cut of $8950, leaving him $170,050 to live on. While still far above the average salary of the public, it is a statement of purpose and a symbol of the reform he has stated he will bring in.
Furthering that initial statement Gov. Cuomo announced in his State of the State Address that he will seek to maintain taxes at current levels, eventually lowering them. That he will place a 1 year salary freeze on some 200,000 state employees whose contracts are up for re-negotiation on April 1st. He has proposed to cut 20 percent of state agencies, authorities and commissions – dropping the size of State government. He has proposed to cap State spending to the rate of inflation and cut the generous Medicaid program.
Other proposals include: establish a 2 percent cap on the growth of property taxes, enact nonpartisan redistricting of election districts for the next 10 years, public financing of campaigns, protecting abortion rights, and legalizing gay marriage.
Many of these proposals will meet with cheers from the public, and have initially met with support from other politicians notably Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. But not all will be popular nor are they realistic. Legalized gay marriage may be one of the most fiercely debated issues. An issue that Downstate advocates more than any other portion of the State. But the key to a successful administration sits squarely on the deficit and budget.
“It’s not just about this year,” Cuomo said. “Next year the problem goes to $14 billion. The year after the deficit goes to $17 billion. This is not a one-year problem, my friends. This is a fundamental economic realignment for the state of New York.”
State spending may be one of the most critical aspects of the governance of Andrew Cuomo. An end to borrowing and a reduction in the spending spree were huge issues in the mid-term elections. Any plan to reduce the deficit require Albany to feel the same pinch in the checkbook that constituents have been going through for more than 2 years.
Nonpartisan redistricting has also been a major issue. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, via NY Uprising, has been in the lead on seeking an end to the gerrymandering that has insulated far too many politicians and impinged on the voice of the public.
Many politicians that have benefitted from such actions (like the NY 22nd Congressional district) will likely resist action on this. Especially as New York must reduce it’s presence in the House of Representatives by 2 members and other legislative offices.
Overall Gov. Cuomo faces an uphill battle on all sides. A battle that if he loses will lead to the eventual bankruptcy of the State. The initial symbolism that has heralded Gov. Cuomo’s arrival must quickly give way to real reform, real reductions, real policies that will benefit the State. The proposals made in the State of the State Address present that path, but only leadership can make these proposals a reality.
We look forward to seeing Gov. Cuomo being that leader. We look forward to any improvement for the State and its residents. And we will continue to track the promises made on the campaign trail, and in the State of the State Address.