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Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Is our state really ‘a model for our nation?’
Hal Peterson
Hal Peterson

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo just released a 54 page year-end summary of accomplishments that will serve (in part) as his campaign platform this year. The report begins with an assertion that he has “restored our State as a model for the nation and demonstrated the impact that an effective and responsive government can have on the lives of people,” attesting the problems “caused by a government controlled by special interest and mired in political gridlock, dysfunction, scandals and corruption” have been addressed with better days’ ahead.

I have read the entire report and consider some claims a bit of a reach, including but not necessarily limited to, the establishment of real fiscal discipline limiting spending to 2 percent, nor do I see any clear evidence of tax cuts that truly benefited the middle class, required new pension reforms, less fees, valued changes in the state’s education system and my personal favorite, a reduction of the influence of money in politics.

The governor has two direct reports which would also take exception to the discipline suggested. One is by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who announced (quite independently) that public authority debt has reached nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars, some agency money has been repeatedly used to help close projected deficits, poor expenditure controls and inadequate oversight. Bottom line, the cost of operating more than 1,100 state and local authorities currently clocks in at $56 billion, and growing exponentially. Not exactly a model for the rest of the nation, or anyone to follow.

The second is by David Kidera, director of the Authorities Budget Office. At the end of each year’s legislative session, his office (as required by Public Authorities Law) releases their findings to the governor for comment, and hopefully use in correcting the many ills evident. For reasons that defy logic, these findings have never been put to productive use, suggesting a clear and definite need to try to truly understand and debate (as stated in the cover letter of the report) “whether New York State, its local governments, and its taxpayers can continue to support the growing size of the system as structured, administrated and currently enforced.”

Discouraging? You bet. It is apparent that some of our elected officials do not fully comprehend their fiduciary duty to manage the affairs of state in a cost-efficient manner. When discussed with State Senator Dean Skelos, he was not aware of the specific concerns mentioned by the comptroller or the director’s report, and politely advised me he did not feel legislative intervention was necessary.

To quote the late Paul Harvey, “you now know the rest of the story.”

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