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What he did not say

The full text of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State runs to more than 300 pages, spanning almost every conceivable topic, from economic development and clean energy to gun violence and government reform. It is both a progress report and a sweeping agenda for more change.
Without question, Mr. Cuomo’s report is a tour de force, and within its pages are numerous proposals that will be embraced by the business community. These include reform of workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance regulations, with the aim of cutting businesses’ costs by $1.3 billion; the Market NY initiative to promote New York products; 10 high-tech incubators where startups could develop free of the need to worry about business, property and sales taxes; and a $50 million Innovation Venture Capital Fund for startups.
Yet it’s also striking what the governor did not include in his address. He did not explain how he would pay for the scores of proposals outlined in his State of the State. That presumably will come with his new budget plan.
But where was any mention of New York’s enormous debt burden and the need to put the state on a sustainable fiscal course?
A couple of weeks ago we suggested that Mr. Cuomo ought to use the State of the State to speak frankly about these concerns. In the meantime, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report on New York’s debt obligations that should be a wakeup call for anyone who has been looking the other way.
New York’s outstanding debt averages $3,253 for each resident. Its state-funded debt of $63 billion is second only to California’s and 80 percent higher than New Jersey’s, which is third-highest.
Since fiscal year 2002-03, New York’s debt has soared $24.3 billion-a 62 percent increase.
New York pays nearly $7 billion annually in state-funded debt service. Meanwhile, critical needs such as infrastructure repairs are not addressed, and New Yorkers continue to shoulder the heaviest state and local tax burden nationwide.

This is not to say Mr. Cuomo has done nothing to reform New York’s fiscal affairs; he has made considerable strides. But even at 300-plus pages, his State of the State does not give the full picture.

1/4/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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