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Reinventing New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday vowed to turn crisis into opportunity, outlining an action plan to fundamentally change New York’s government and economy.

No one can accuse the new governor of being insufficiently ambitious in his goals.

Declaring that the last couple of decades in New York have been "an aberration-this is not who we are," Mr. Cuomo said, "we must transform (Albany) from a government of dysfunction, gridlock and corruption to a government of performance, integrity and pride. … Together, we must take the significant steps needed to reinvent, reorganize and redesign government to restore credibility and to rebuild our economy by creating jobs all across this state."

The details of how he intends to do this are yet to come. But the governor’s first State of the State address provided a broad outline, which includes:

  • an emergency financial plan designed to close the $10 billion deficit in the 2010-11 budget without raising taxes or borrowing, with provisions including a one-year salary freeze for most state employees;
  • a property tax cap limiting increases to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is less;
  • creation of a team to identify ways to save money in the Medicaid program for the 2011-12 fiscal year;
  • a review of unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by state government on school districts, local governments and other local taxing districts;
  • a program to reward local governments that save money by rightsizing; and
  • a commission to reduce the number of state agencies, authorities and commissions by 20 percent.

Other items in the Cuomo agenda span government ethics, consumer protection, environmental protection and juvenile justice reform, to name only a few.

It is possible, of course, to be too ambitious. But the governor appears to know that the primary focus must be fiscal reform-in particular, reduced spending. Without that, it will be difficult or impossible to generate a healthy number of new jobs and robust economic growth in New York.

"We must begin by confronting honestly the challenges we face," Mr. Cuomo said. He did a good job of that in his speech. For the governor and the state’s lawmakers, now the truly hard work begins.

1/7/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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