The 2011 legislative session will surely leave a positive impression on homeowners and small businesses across our state. This session also will be remembered as the first time in years that lawmakers worked together in a bipartisan manner, in this case, to lay the bricks for New York’s fiscal recovery. Our achievements this year will help make state government more accountable to taxpayers, improve our struggling business climate, and help create a more affordable place to live, work, and raise a family. Much work remains, however, to stimulate our economy and create jobs.
This year, I helped pass an on-time state budget – the first in five years – which closed New York’s $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or adding new borrowing. The budget also included a number of job-creation initiatives, including Power NY, which will create green jobs, and economic development councils, which will help Upstate businesses invest in projects to bolster economic growth and create jobs.
I support a fiscally conservative plan of capping taxes and reducing spending. I vigorously challenged opposing opinions that the property tax cap works against our state. Higher taxes only encourage more wasteful spending, do nothing to reduce structural deficits, and kill jobs in the Capital Region. Our recently-enacted property tax cap, the toughest in the nation, will finally force school districts and localities to get serious about their spending as well.
However, to reduce property taxes and keep them low, lawmakers now must work on eliminating all unfunded mandates sent from Albany. My wife is a teacher in Lansingburgh. She understands how these cost-drivers affect our local school districts and their budgets. Our teachers are still struggling to make sure there are enough resources in the classroom for our children; they don’t need additional expenses dictated by Albany.
Albany’s ethics bill that was passed also must be only the start of long-term anti-corruption reforms. We need to push for strict term limits on legislative leaders. Term limits would lead to a genuine commitment to the principles of disclosure, transparency, and accountability, which have been absent from Albany for far too long. In the two years alone, four career politicians left public service because of criminal charges.
In the private sector, my job was to help small businesses open their doors and keep them open. Lawmakers still have a great deal of work ahead to make our state more affordable and put 800,000 unemployed New Yorkers back to work. Albany must redouble its efforts at making New York State a more attractive place to conduct business by transforming government into a partner, instead of an inhibiter, of job creation.
I also supported veterans’ protection legislation that would prohibit government agencies from cutting positions of employees absent on military duty. We owe them the security that their jobs will be waiting for them when they return home. This enhanced protection is important for the emotional and financial security of our servicemen and women, and I am proud to support this legislation.
I am eager to travel the district over the coming months to hear your feedback about this year’s legislative session. Together, we can make next year’s legislative session as much of a success as 2011.