2011-01-28 / Columnists

Commentary On Things Present

By Peter Stubben

New York State has shrunken to the depths of 1823, according to the United States Census Bureau. This is not the embittered rattling from disaffected conservatives or ‘out-of-touch’ Republicans, but news from US Government green-shades who actually count the numbers. Not since the early 18th century will NY have such diminished representation in the United States Congress. In those days, before crude, whale blubber was one of America’s principal energy sources ... today, whale blubber strikes me as Albany’s greatest export.

Maybe it all began in 1976 with the terrible toxic tragedy of Niagara Falls’ Love Canal. Then, and in light of that disaster, the State of NY began regulating as if they expected ‘Love Canals’ everywhere, and began building a repressive regulatory framework that now ranks NY as the ‘worst state in the nation to do business,‘ according to The Tax Foundation’s 2011 Report. Likewise, in a survey of 651 CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine, NY was ranked WORST. To pay for this regulatory over-reach New York taxes are, according to The Committee To Save NY Inc., the highest in the nation and 79 percent above the nation’s average. The committee has just launched <www.letsfixalbany.org>, and I highly recommend it to all. Once power and decision-making were redirected to Albany and no longer diffused across the state – in such cities as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Schenectady, Jamestown and NYC – the lobbyists flooded our river city. On December 27, The Buffalo News begged on their editorial pages that the ‘cosmetic rider’ in the local teacher union pact be squashed. That’s right, in Buffalo the taxpayers pay for ‘elective cosmetic surgery’ for their school teachers, and it cost the city of Buffalo $9 million last year. The rubber rooms deployed in the union contracts @ GM led to America’s worst bankruptcy, and those same rubber rooms for NYC teachers may lead us likewise. Albany’s legislative process, coddling all those union and business lobbyists, has been rated ‘Dysfunctional‘ not just by 651 CEOs, but also by The New York Times.

Editors across the state, including the editor of this newspaper, ask why New Yorkers don’t vote? But they do, dear editors ... New Yorkers have voted with their feet and have ABANDONED our state. Since 2000 the nation’s population grew 10 percent, but by comparison New York State grew by only 2 percent and is the slowest growth state in the union. Our young and middle-aged have sought economic opportunity elsewhere. In the final days of 2010, the US Census Bureau decreed that NY State must lose two House seats in the next election, and we will then be at our lowest representation in the United State House of Representative since 1823.

Governor Andrew Mark Cuomo has stepped into the lurch. “We need radical reform,“ the Governor announced at his inaugural last week, “We need a new approach ... We need a new per- spective ... And we need it now!” The governor is proposing to streamline Medicaid; reorganize and condense our dysfunctional public agencies (Governor Paterson wasn’t even sure how many public agencies ruled here and taxed us); cap property taxes; reward better performing educational districts; and incentivize new business development with grants.

Ken Adams, president of The Business Council of NY State, is very hopeful and says, “Our Council’s ‘five to survive’ agenda for fiscal reform has been embraced by our new governor, and we plan to monitor his efforts. We also recommend some short-term steps ASAP; including, (1) the adoption of “Energize NY“ to reduce NY’s power costs, a bill passed almost overwhelmingly in last year’s State Senate; (2) the adoption of accelerated business depreciation (as The US Congress has just done) to reduce the cost of capital; (3) the creation of a new jobs tax credit to stimulate hiring; and (4) to fix the state’s ‘Excelsior Jobs Program’ by basing it on the improved value of real-estate.”

E.J. McMahon, Senior Fellow at The Empire Center for NY State Policy, is a bit less impressed with the gubernatorial oratory, but undaunted in his enthusiasm for reform.

Among all our dead-last rankings and the great fiscal and pension reform most needed, McMahon adds, “New York imposes one of the highest fuel taxes in the nation, yet ranks among the bottom in highway performance ... spending three times the national per-mile average on highway and bridge restoration, with road conditions still terrible.“ Like Mayor Giuliani in the 90’s, McMahon suggests, “The best way for Governor Cuomo to promote economic growth is to reduce the cost of government while improving public services.”

Is NY State fixable? I dunno ... ask Giuliani. In his day the city’s professional ‘Illuminati’ concluded New York City to be ungovernable. Mister G proved them wrong and foolish.

He was one results-oriented and focused SOB though, unconcerned with the magisterials @ The Times, and one who never took NO for an answer.

Rockaway is represented in the State Legislature by two Assemblymembers and one State Senator. Will it be whale blubber or hardnosed reform for them? Will they stand with Governor Cuomo, even amidst dissent and derision from their party leaders, and even amidst wild incantations from Albany’s lobbyists?

Will they stand up and say ...

‘Rockaway is with you, Governor Cuomo. Yes Governor, Rockaway stands for Growth, Jobs, and Progress.’

Will they ... I dunno.

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