Voters’ Message To Albany: “Can You Hear Us Now?”
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
November 5, 2010
Last Tuesday, voters from Niagara Falls to Long Island sent the ruling class in Albany a very powerful message: “Can you hear us now?” In sending this much-needed wake-up call, fed-up voters made it perfectly clear that “business as usual” – more spending, more taxing, more borrowing – is no longer acceptable and Albany must change. A HISTORIC NIGHT FOR THE ASSEMBLY MINORITY As regular readers of my weekly column already know, our Assembly Minority Conference and I have been driving that very message for the better part of two years. Tuesday’s results confirmed that our message is resonating as the Assembly Minority made historic gains. Although we have to wait for all results to be final, it looks like we picked up eight new seats, won nine open districts, and will likely bring back all 33 of our Members who sought re-election. From a purely historical perspective, our Conference’s victories were especially impressive: 2010 marked the first time since 1994 that Minority challenger candidates defeated sitting Members of the Assembly Majority in the general election. In 1994, four Majority incumbents were defeated; in 2010, that number grew to eight. The 2010 elections also marked the largest “flip” in Assembly Members since the early 1970s. Tuesday was actually our second winning election cycle in 2010, as we had previously won three out of four Assembly Special Elections earlier this year. VOTERS DEMANDED REAL CHANGE: DID THE ASSEMBLY MAJORITY GET THE MESSAGE? The fact that we won so many competitive Assembly seats across all regions of New York State – despite getting outspent by more than four to one – illustrates that folks are done merely “hoping” for change; they are demanding it! In this new political environment, the Assembly Majority will need to ask itself a very important question: will they represent their districts or their political party? If they are going to represent their districts, then they will partner with our Conference as we advance our agenda aimed at shrinking the size, cost and reach of state government and, most importantly, restoring fiscal sanity to Albany. If the Assembly Majority is going to continue representing their party, the New York City political bosses and downstate special interests, then more outcomes like Tuesday are on the horizon. ASSEMBLY MINORITY WILL KEEP WORKING IN A BI-PARTISAN MANNER Our Assembly Minority Conference is ready, willing and able to partner with the Assembly Majority and anyone else committed to moving New York forward by supporting fiscally responsible public policies. Our emphasis is not on partisan politics or claiming credit – our focus is on reversing years of economic stagnation and restoring the Empire State. As the sign on President Reagan’s desk in the Oval Office famously read, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” Those words still ring true today! A COMMON SENSE AGENDA FOR A STRONGER NEW YORK The historic victories achieved by our Conference will have a positive impact on New York taxpayers because more Assembly Minority Conference members means more votes to pass our agenda, and more votes to block fiscally irresponsible policies and bad budgets from becoming law. The common sense, non-partisan legislative agenda we will continue pressing for includes these priorities:
- CUT SPENDING: One of our top priorities continues to be cutting government spending which has risen almost three times the rate of inflation over the last decade. This is why we will keep pushing to cap state spending, along with insisting that State Agencies be merged and consolidated to provide real savings to taxpayers;
- GROW NEW YORK’S ECONOMY: Over the last two years, as the recession worsened, New York’s unemployment rate reached a 26-year high. Having almost 800,000 New Yorkers out of work is unacceptable, which is why the Assembly Minority will push for a statewide job creation plan that grows private sector jobs by cutting job-killing red tape and getting government out of the way;
- REDUCE PROPERTY TAXES & DELIVER MANDATE RELIEF: With upstate home to nine of the ten highest property taxed counties in the nation, we must cut property taxes and ban any new unfunded mandates. Reducing the cost of Medicaid, mandate relief and suspension of mandates – for taxpayers, business, local governments and school districts – will be a central part of our 2011 Legislative Agenda; and
- REFORM GOVERNMENT: The waste, fraud, abuse and corruption that have plagued our state government must be brought to an end. Convening a “People’s Constitutional Convention” still ranks high on our Conference’s priority list, as does ensuring that New York has the nation’s toughest ethics laws for state officials.