Thursday, January 06, 2011

Albany Winds of Change

The state of the state speech of Governor Cuomo can be characterized as a mournful depiction of a state in decline-unless drastic changes are made in the way New York conducts its business. As the NY Times reports: " Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his first address to the Legislature on Wednesday, laying out a number of proposals intended to curb state spending and shrink government. The recommendations would put a more centrist stamp on the Democratic Party’s leadership in the state, but also set up a clash with liberal Democrats who control the State Assembly."

The speech was similar to the one Hugh Carey gave during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, where he told New Yorkers, "Now the times of plenty, the days of wine and roses, are over.”  Cuomo laid out his plan to get control over the fiscal management of NY-and his blueprint was also similar to the one that former Governor Pataki laid out after defeating Cuomo's father in 1994: "Mr. Cuomo proposed to freeze the salaries of the vast majority of public employees for one year, to limit new spending to no higher than the rate of inflation, to limit school property tax increases and to “hold the line” on taxes in general. “New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Our young people will not stay, businesses will not come, this has to change. Put it simply, the people of this state simply cannot afford to pay more taxes, period.”

This is, to say the least, a bracing message-and one that will not go unchallenged by the same forces that have promoted the current growth of a government that is too big to be affordable. And Cuomo was specific in laying out some of his reform ideas. As the NY Post reports: "Gov. Cuomo outlined in his first State of the State address today an unprecedented plan for closing a $10 billion budget gap, tasking a series of panels with tackling the state's most pressing issues. The unusual strategy, which appeared designed to break the traditional political fight that accompanies each budget proposal, by tasking teams of experts, reform advocates and interest groups with meeting cost-cutting targets."

But it was more than a austerity plan-and had a strong re-inventing government flavor: "Proposals would include a capping annual state spending, promising more education aid to school districts that cut cost and providing local government with grants to consolidate services. "This is not about budget trimming or cutting, it's about looking at how we can fix government and make it work for the people," Cuomo said, according to prepared remarks. "Together, we must take the significant steps needed to reinvent, reorganize and redesign government to restore credibility and to rebuild our economy by creating jobs across this state."
The Governor was, at the same time, blunt in his messaging-as the Times relates: "The State of the State begins with an honest analysis of the crisis we face,” Mr. Cuomo said. “In government as in life, you can never solve a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it. The state of New York spends too much money; it is that blunt and it is that simple,” he said, adding, “Our spending has far exceeded the rate of inflation.”

Crain's follows in the same vein: "In his first State of the State address, Mr. Cuomo painted a dire picture of the state's fiscal situation, saying the state was “at a crossroads” brought on by a combination of national economic pressure, escalating costs and a public that has lost faith in its government. “We must use this moment to transform our government,” the governor said. “We need radical reform. We need a new perspective. And we need it now.”

As to be expected, the speech drew praise from business: "Gov. Cuomo's State of the State today changed the game of leadership in government,” said Kenneth Adams, president of the Business Council of New York State. “Like the CEO of a major corporation, Gov. Cuomo laid out the problems we face and his transformational plan for the future.”

But one major union-along with the hospital association, major opponents of Governor Paterson-also chimed in supporting the governor's proposal to reform Medicaid: "The Greater New York Hospital Association and 1199/SEIU issued a joint statement praising the move. “[We] strongly support his plan to reduce costs through program redesigns rather than traditional reimbursement cuts,” said Ken Raske, president of the hospital association and 1199 President George Gresham, in the statement. “Without question, that is the best way to reduce Medicaid costs without compromising health care quality and access to care.”

So, stepping on our own lede, this was much more than a days of wine and roses are over speech-and the call for radical reform galvanizes us. It's what we have been hocking Mike Bloomberg for not doing in his nine year tenure-so we are excited to hear this music. We'll give the governor the last word-first from the Times, and then the Post:

"Mr. Cuomo promised what he called “a fundamental realignment of this state." “We need radical reform, we need a new approach, we need a new perspective,” he said, “and we need it now.”

"We are declaring that New York is once again open for business," Cuomo said."