Bi-partisan Cooperation, Effective Governing Needed To Turn New York Around

Last week, Governor Cuomo delivered his inaugural State of the State Address, where he outlined his ideas and goals to move New York State forward in the right direction. While I was encouraged by some of his ideas, I believe we must wait to see more specific details, which he should highlight in several weeks when he presents his inaugural Executive Budget to the state Legislature.

For years, New York State government has overspent and passed the bill on to taxpayers. These past policies of excessive taxation, spending and regulation have put us into the current financial crisis we are now facing. We must not only address a projected $10 billion budget deficit for the upcoming 2011-2012 fiscal year, but we also must address a deficit of $14 billion and $17 billion in the two fiscal years to follow. This, at a time when we continue to see more and more New Yorkers leaving our state, continued loss of private sector jobs and annual spending that far outpaces not only the rate of inflation, but also the revenue which our state is generating.

This year, by working together in a bi-partisan fashion, we have an opportunity to reverse this trend and usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility. Our top priorities must be to reduce state spending, provide meaningful tax relief and end the excessive mandates and regulations in order to create a more business-friendly environment, which will help create private sector jobs and attract business back to the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region. We must send a strong message that instills confidence and life back into the private business sector.

Among the many ideas that Governor Cuomo spoke of were Medicaid reform, mandate relief for local governments and school districts, and downsizing the state’s many stage agencies authorities and commissions. These ideas resonate closely with what many of my colleagues and I would like to accomplish. The tax burden on homeowners and businesses alike are all unmanageably large and remains the single largest reason that businesses and individuals continually flee the state for an environment friendlier to the taxpayer.

New York’s Medicaid program is the largest in the country -- more than $53 billion per year -- and it’s expected to grow significantly in the years to come. Our bloated Medicaid budget needs immediate and effective reform, as the increasing costs of this program continue to increase the property tax burden on all New Yorkers, but particularly to our upstate property taxpayers.

New York spends 122 percent more in Medicaid per capita than the national average, accounting for 15 percent of the total Medicaid spending in the United States even though New York accounts for approximately 7 percent of the nation’s population. Restructuring our Medicaid program in order to root out fraud and waste will save New Yorkers billions of dollars and will put us well on our way to rightsizing the budget. The bottom line - if we do not get our Medicaid program under control, we will never get our state budget under control.

As a former county legislator, I am well aware of the many unfunded federal and state mandates that continue to increase the costs of budgets for local municipalities and school districts, thereby negatively impacting local property taxpayers. It is critical that we work together to provide meaningful mandate relief to our local governments and school districts so that these burdensome costs can be lifted from our local property taxpayers.

Our state government is too big and too costly. We must work to effectively consolidate the hundreds of state agencies, authorities and commissions and look for efficiencies and waste. Simply put, the taxpayers of this state cannot continue to foot the bill for an oversized and inefficient government bureaucracy.

I’ve met with so many good people as I traveled throughout Steuben and Yates counties. So many of these families, small-business owners and farmers I listened to already are making sacrifices and difficult decisions each and every day to survive during these tough, economic times. Now, state leaders need to do the same. I believe people know we need to make difficult decisions and people expect us to make the difficult decisions that need to be made to put our fiscal house in order. It just requires action on the part of the governor and the legislature.

If we don’t bring fiscal responsibility back to New York, we will continue to mortgage the future of our children and future generations. I believe that by working together, we will be able to make the right decisions and sacrifices necessary to turn New York around. I believe we have an opportunity, during this financial crisis, to instead create a legacy of an attractive state for people to live, work and raise a family. Partisan politics have consistently plagued Albany and I pledge to work with members on both sides of the aisle to do what is right for the people of our great state.