Addressing The Issues
On Wednesday, January 3, 2007 I was one of the selected few invited to be present in Albany at the State of the State Address. As was the tradition it was delivered to a joint session of the Assembly and Senate. This was Governor Spitzer's first opportunity to share his vision for New York State as we move forward in the 21st Century.
Spitzer's theme of One New York is truly visionary. Many upstate areas of New York are struggling and lagging behind economically. It is important and essential that we look to bolster and strengthen the economy of the whole state and create One New York. Spitzer believes that many upstate products would be advantageous to downstate people and visa versa. Spitzer's stress on One New York shows true leadership.
Spitzer made it clear that he is a governor who will be very active and energetic in pushing his agenda. He realizes that his election is really a mandate for him to make changes. Spitzer will move forward. He rejects partisan politics and entrenched interests. He will move to reform health care, workers compensation and other areas.
It was hard to understand the lack of applause for some of his initiatives. But in true Elliot Spitzer style he deviated from his prepared remarks and jokingly referred to the lack of applause showing his quick wit, intelligence and confidence.
He deserves credit for this.
Listening to Spitzer made me wonder how Pataki handled his first State of the State Address in 1995. I was curious to see if the themes were similar. I immediately turned to the 1995 and 1996 editions of the New York Times for my research.
Spitzer and Pataki both stressed that they had an agenda of reform. They each felt that they had been elected on a platform for change. Spitzer and Pataki both promised that their first budget would reduce spending and allow New York State to flourish. Both complained about the gridlock in Albany. Spitzer specifically stated, "Albany is perceived as an obstacle to progress instead of a force for good." Pataki stressed that the first thing that he intended to do was "to change the governor's relationship with the Legislature." Spitzer "urged lawmakers to respond to the sentiment of the voters and join him in aggressive action to address the major challenges facing the state" thereby asking the legislators to move with him. He even went so far as to say that the structural problems in Albany were a block to a stronger economy. Spitzer and Pataki were looking for a greater accountability of tax dollars. Spitzer and Pataki were both looking for tax cuts to help New Yorkers to survive. Spitzer is specifically looking at reducing property taxes. However, most properly taxes are levied by the localities and not the State.
Spitzer clearly stated that he was vigorously opposed to gerrymandering in drawing the district election lines. This issue will be important on a statewide basis after the next census in 2010. In theory everyone would be against gerrymandering except the individual who is benefiting from this. The last re-districting (resulting from the 2000 census) was done largely by computer. This did not work. The lines need to be reviewed by a person who knows the geographic area.
Last time the computer moved a polling place in our district so that the voters had to go over the highway in order to vote. Obviously this would disenfranchise senior citizens and others who would have difficulty traveling. The problem was corrected when voters complained and a real person addressed the issue.
Charter schools are another issue first championed by the Republican George Pataki and now aggressively advanced by Elliot Spitzer. As I recollect Pataki actually tied the Legislator's pay to their agreement on Charter Schools.
Spitzer and Pataki both stuck to basic issues in their State of the State Address. They both used the opportunity to restate their basic themes which were repeated throughout their campaigns. This is in sharp contrast with Governor Mario Cuomo who used his State of the State Addresses to outline a large number of legislative initiatives.
Spitzer and Pataki did stress similar themes. Pataki's legacy is now written. Spitzer brings a new vitality and energy to Albany to create a One New York.
Essentially the State of the State Address was a love fest. Senator Joe Bruno, the Republican leader, was asked if he agreed with all of Spitzer's proposals because he seemed to applaud. Bruno said very politely that his applause meant that he welcomed Spitzer to Albany and that he looks forward to working with him. It did not indicate blanket approval.
I join all New Yorkers in wishing Spitzer well. If there is anyone who can shake up the status quo, Spitzer has shown in his work as Attorney General that he can do it. Best wishes for success to Elliot Spitzer and his family. The Legislature is back working in Albany as of January 8. Spitzer will propose his budget by the end of the month. I don't know how long love will be in the Albany air!!!