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Let’s be blunt

 

When Albany lawmakers failed to address the state’s $315 million current-year deficit during this week’s special session, Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo offered an unvarnished assessment.

"Hard decisions, tough choices don’t go away just because you don’t make them," he said. "Denial is not a life strategy."

Blunt words on the state’s fiscal mess are welcome, indeed. And Mr. Cuomo apparently plans to bring much more to the budget fight.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that he is encouraging business and civic groups to raise millions of dollars for TV ads and mailings to counteract the influence of public-sector labor unions, which are certain to fight tooth and nail against any cuts to education or health care spending.

The stakes are high: New York faces an estimated $10 billion budget gap next year.

In the spirit of blunt honesty Mr. Cuomo has encouraged, let’s state plainly that Albany politicians and public-sector unions are not the only forces pushing back against hard budget decisions. The fact is that many New Yorkers exhibit the same reluctance.

In a post-election Siena Research Institute poll of registered voters, a majority said they opposed any cuts to health care and education spending even if it means raising taxes.

The November election itself also was a sobering reminder of the obstacles to reform in New York. While some incumbents were ousted, as usual the overwhelming majority won re-election.

This result-and the statewide voter turnout rate, which was the lowest nationwide-likely sent a message to the Albany establishment. Unfortunately, it was not this one: "You will be held accountable."

So much rides on Mr. Cuomo’s determination and ability to lead New York toward a more responsible future. His predecessors have tried and failed, but at least one longtime skeptic has found reason to be optimistic.

In an op-ed published this week, Mark Alesse, former state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said he had changed his mind about the governor-elect. "I think that Cuomo may be exactly the right man for the job," he wrote.

Hope he’s right.

12/3/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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