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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Hal Peterson > Blogs
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Guest column

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the song “Happy days are here again!” in his successful presidential campaign. The lyrics evoke both the optimism and buoyancy that was badly needed during the Depression years to restore confidence in government planning and policy.

In a press release issued on June 24, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also accentuated the positive, announcing “progress on historic initiatives, action on issues that have been left unresolved for decades, and a legislative session that has delivered results.” He also applauded both house leaders and members of the Legislature for passing these unprecedented reforms.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, for his part, said he was also “extremely proud of the many accomplishments the past several weeks have brought” and cited the passage of measures that will “create jobs, bring needed tax relief to homeowners and businesses, reduce the regulatory burden facing local governments, enable our state universities to grow and our students excel, and improve the process for creating more clean, reliable and affordable energy.”

Last, but certainly not least, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated: “This has been a singularly productive session for the people of New York. On major issues which in the past have been stalled, we have settled our differences without compromising principles.”

I’m not quite sure we should all be enamored of what we are reading, or observing and, indeed, the bloom may already be starting to come off the rose.

Cuomo, in a New York Times column published on July 14, said he was “heartened by the accomplishments of his first six months — particularly the passage of a property-tax cap and the legalization of same-sex marriage — in a state capital divided by party and infamous for corruption and dysfunction.” But he attributed his legislative success to “a set of reasons that I don’t know are necessarily replicable.” He also highlighted …   More

Guest Column

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “We made a difference.”

That quote appeared in a June 27 Newsday story explaining how Andrew, Dean (Skelos) and Sheldon (Silver) fared in the tumultuous legislative session that came to a close last week. The paper’s overall assessment is positive, with the New York Post also crediting the governor with “political skills, the likes of which [haven’t] been seen in the Capital for 50 years.”

On the assumption of truly achievable results, the accolades being expressed are warranted, at least for the time being. But I tend to be a bit more pragmatic in assessing performance. Cuomo did indeed push through a reduced spending budget without new taxes and also a game-changing property tax cap, the ramifications of which have yet to be realized. He accomplished (for the most part) what he promised to do when he ran for elected office, like it or not.

Despite those achievements, we are still light years away from actually realizing real reform. A number of examples come to mind. I mentioned in my column, “Stop the shenanigans,” (June 23-29) that the governor’s approach to pension reform avoids dealing with many of the well-publicized absurdities in the current system. A recent New York Times editorial disagrees with my assessment, suggesting that Cuomo’s approach, while more conciliatory than that of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is as effective. I suggest Cuomo should examine the legislation just approved by the New Jersey Assembly. This law specifies adjustments that might just save $132 billion in labor costs over the next 30 years. Of particular note, if approved, these changes will affect more than 500,000 New Jersey state, county, town and school district employees, imposing mandatory pension and benefit funding requirements.

With state spending in mind, I also question whether the governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission will ever accomplish anything productive. Why? It appears to be …   More

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