On the cusp of a New Year - some may actually be reading this column post-New Year's - it seems only appropriate to offer some resolutions to help ring in 2012 and what I believe could be a truly transformative year in state government. With a lot of work - and more than a little luck - 2012 could be the year state government is transformed and Albany finally delivers on its years of promises to taxpayers, local governments and job creators.
A TRANSFORMATION PLAN FOR THE EMPIRE STATE
In order to transform state government, I believe it is not enough to draw some new lines or add a few boxes on the standard state government flowchart. That is nothing more than a cosmetic quick fix that does little to solve the problem of an outdated 20th Century command-and-control bureaucracy attempting to serve a state of 19 million residents who live and work in the 21st Century. The world is in the midst of an information and technological revolution, yet New York State government is still playing catch-up.
NEW YORKERS WANT REAL CHANGE, NOT WINDOW DRESSING
Instead of window dressing that papers over the challenges, I believe we need real change in our State Capitol and in how Albany does the people's business. In short, we must rethink what state government does, redesign how it delivers services and serves the people, and restructure and reform the institution of state government so it can support this mission. Bottom line? We need to take a closer look at how every dollar is spent, what it is spent on and see if there is a way to deliver better customer service at a lower cost. This is what the private sector already does and this is what New York's public sector needs to start doing.
All that having been said, here are my resolutions for a new New York State:
RESOLUTION: PUT ALBANY ON A DIET BY CAPPING STATE SPENDING
The enacted 2011-12 State Budget - the spending plan we enacted this year - was approximately $132 billion, a staggering, almost incomprehensible sum for most folks. As a point of reference, the 2001-02 enacted State Budget was $85 billion. Take a moment to let that fact digest - just a decade ago, state government spent close to $50 billion less than it did last year. This continued astronomical growth is proof positive of what I have been saying for years: state government does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem and Albany needs to go on a diet. My resolution to end Albany's fiscal irresponsibility is a state spending cap to reduce the growth of government spending, reverse the trend of dramatic year-to-year increases in expenditures and, most importantly, change the culture of Albany.
RESOLUTION: FIX NEW YORK'S ECONOMY BY GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF JOB CREATORS' WAY
One question I typically hear is "How can government create jobs?" Based on my 25-years plus in the private sector, my answer is always the same: Government does not create jobs, the private sector does. However, what government can do is create an environment of lower taxes, fewer regulations and greater economic certainty so job creators can invest with confidence. My resolution for more jobs involves putting the brakes on the endless rules, regulations and requirements Albany imposes on the private sector so job creators spend less time worrying about paying for government and spend more time growing their businesses. In addition, I will continue pushing for lower energy and workers' compensation costs. A stronger private sector business climate will help the more than 700,000 unemployed New Yorkers get back on the job.
RESOLUTION: GIVE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS UNFUNDED MANDATE RELIEF
One of the greatest challenges facing local governments and school districts is Albany's endless flood of unfunded mandates that swamp local finances and drive up local property taxes. An unfunded mandate is when state government tells localities to do something - such as starting or expanding a program or providing a service - but refuses to provide any funding to pay for it. The truth of the matter is that Albany does not know best - local problems need local solutions, not Albany-imposed solutions. My resolution to clean up Albany's unfunded mandate mess begins with banning any new unfunded mandates, suspending current mandates and freezing the municipal share of local Medicaid costs to reduce the burden on localities.
RESOLUTION: KEEP PUSHING FOR TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
For all the achievements of the 2011 Legislative Session, Albany missed the mark in the critical areas of openness and transparency that are supposed to be cornerstones of accountability to the taxpayers. Too many accomplishments were the result of deals cut behind closed doors in the State Capitol. I reject the argument that says secrecy is somehow a necessary part of getting things done. Folks, that is a false choice - we can have progress AND accountability. My resolution for more transparency and accountability to taxpayers is to keep pushing for openness and demanding an end to Albany's three-men-in-a-room secrecy in doing the people's business.
2012 COULD BE THE YEAR OF NEW YORK STATE'S RETURN!
If my fellow Legislative Leaders, the Governor and all legislators embrace these resolutions, 2012 could be the year we see lasting change that fixes the decades-old problems that have plagued state government. Yes, this an ambitious plan, but Fortune 500 companies routinely employ these very same principles on a regular basis and state government should do likewise. We can make 2012 the year that New York State recaptures its rightful place as a national leader in terms of creating jobs and prosperity, reducing the burden and cost of government, and creating a new culture in our State Capitol of openness, transparency and accountability to the public. As we prepare to ring in a New Year, my very best to everyone for a wonderful 2012!
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.