Friday, November 05, 2010

Will Christie Lightening Strike in Albany?

Daily Politics is reporting that Governor-elect Cuomo is "exhausted," but is gearing up for the transition-but the question remains, to what extent will he emulate his neighbor, New Jersey Governor Christie? "Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo just appeared on Fred D's Talk 1300 AM radio show, saying he's a little numb and emotionally exhausted after a long campaign, but ready to get his team together and get down to work cleaning up the Albany mess."

As for his New Jersey counterpart, Christie is playing the part of that late night infomercial pitchman-slicing and dicing away at the size of government: "When Governor Christie set his sights on reducing the size of government and the debt in the Garden State, he is keeping that promise. The governor announced that beginning January, he’ll cut 1,200 state jobs saving New Jersey taxpayers $8.8 million. The job cuts will include layoffs and attrition. So why January you may ask? Previous liberal tax and spend governor, Jon Corzine created a deal with his buddies in the state’s unions to prevent Christie from cutting these jobs before leaving office. The deal prevented these lay offs until January 2011."

So, will Christie be a Cuomo role model? DP has this reminiscence from Cuomo: "There are tough budgetary times ahead, he said, although the state's in a much different situation than it was in the 80s, when his pop was governor: "I've been there in years when the cutbacks were horrendous - i think my father proposed something like 8,000 layoffs..."

Hmm...Clearly, Christie is walking the walk-as the Washington Times points out: "Since assuming office, Chris Christie has been relentlessly hammering home the message that New Jersey’s state government, which is badly in the red, must live within its means. But he’s also not afraid to make the tough decisions either. Whereas the previous governor, Jon Corzine, struck a deal to prevent layoffs in the public sector at a time when private sector workers were unemployed in record numbers, here comes Christie taking on the public sector unions."

In the DP post, however, AC spends more eloquence on repairing the Albany culture-bringing us back to the duality that Greg David wrote about in Crain's: "As a personal mandate as governor, I am going to be adamant about cleaning up Albany," he promised. "Nobody did what I did as attorney general when it came to public integrity."

But there are measures that the new governor can get jumped started from Day One-as our friend Jerry Goldfeder points out in yesterday's Times Union: "Nevertheless, there is one action that Cuomo can take on Jan. 1 that would signal both his seriousness of purpose and his determination to succeed: appointing a constitutional commission, with 90 days to issue a preliminary report on how to bring state government into the 21st century. Its purpose would be to examine our government organization comprehensively, with an eye toward generating smart, innovative ideas to modernize and improve our 1938 charter."

What such a commission can begin to address is how to smartly downsize the unwieldy, and often duplicative, layers of state and municipal government: "Among the ideas a commission might recommend for adoption are a unified judiciary instead of multiple trial courts; a return to the attorney general having full jurisdiction over election and campaign finance law violations; a standardized electoral system rather than having voters cast ballots for various state and local offices at different times throughout the year; independent redistricting of the Legislature; a streamlining of state agencies, public authorities and other quasi-governmental entities; a more intelligent approach to income, sales and real property taxation; and a more productive and accountable approach to energy creation and delivery."

And then there are the dizzying and myriad array of local governance structures: "Consider, for example, New York's basic governmental structure: There are more than 10,000 government units, almost all with taxing authority, including 62 cities, 556 villages, 932 towns and thousands of special garbage, fire, water and library districts. Representative government and the delivery of basic services can obviously be more efficient. And no one can even agree on how many jurisdictions actually exist: the attorney general's office counted 10,521; the state Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness Commission found "approximately" 11,764; and the comptroller's office's tally was 11,691.

All of which means that there is a lot to do come January when the new governor gets saddled up. But we believe that Andrew Cuomo really gets it. The NY Times hints at his degree of readiness: "Mr. Cuomo is also laying the groundwork for a presidential-style political operation in his administration, hoping that he can maintain public support and bring countervailing pressure to bear on state legislators if his efforts to reduce spending ignite battles with public-employee unions, hospitals and other vested interests."

Could it be that come January we will have two governors dueling over the best available methods to reform government and make it less expensive and more efficient? We can't wait to see a spirited battle of, "can you top this?" The tax payers and businesses of the states of New Jersey and New York long for relief-and relief may be just what's on the menu on both sides of the Hudson come the New Year.