NEW YORK — As governor of the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo has a clear advantage, when compared to his 49 counterparts in the United States. What’s news in New York is often news from coast to coast.
He has one of the largest cities in the hemisphere at his back door, bringing with it a massive media machine that never sleeps. His every political act is likely to bring national coverage. And he’s up for re-election in November.
When he walked the shoreline after Super Storm Sandy, Cuomo was a featured attraction. When he stepped up and pushed the SAFE Act through legislative channels, Cuomo drew attention like moths to a flame.
Yet, there are two sides to the Empire State. The other, less visible one consists of the homeless, the unemployed and the disadvantaged. It is not uncommon to push this side of the human experience to the sidelines where it is out of sight and out of mind.
Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State message was slated to be delivered this week. Early intelligence leads journalists to believe he will focus on cutting taxes, a plan sure to resonate with the majority of New York state residents. It’s as popular as hot chocolate on a snowy day.
“By reducing burdensome taxes and improving the business climate, a new era of growth and prosperity is possible,” said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. “We are hopeful that Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature will make these items their first agenda items when they return to session, this week.”
The governor had not yet walked into the capitol building and the praise was already being stacked at his feet. While the tax burden on New Yorkers is a definite disadvantage, details on how the situation can be improved are what matter.
The governor’s plan reportedly accepts the recommendations of a panel led by former Republican Gov. George E. Pataki and former Democratic Comptroller H. Carl McCall that called for a series of tax cut ideas that will be worth $2 billion by 2016, according to news reports published Monday.
But the offer does not come without a catch. Local governments must agree to live within the state’s 2 percent property tax cap program and in year two, also show tangible steps to share or consolidate services with nearby localities.
The governor said localities don’t have to join the program, but then will have to explain to local voters why they will not get a state income tax credit, to help pay their property taxes.
School districts in Cheektowaga have shown serious interest in just such consolidation, but have not been able to convince Albany of the merit of the plan. They remain struggling to stay afloat. School boards, village boards and town boards must be given a path to follow, if consolidation is to result in tax cuts.
The governor’s office issued the following statement on Monday afternoon:
“Thanks to responsible fiscal management in state government, New York has gone from a $10 billion deficit to an expected $2 billion surplus. Today’s proposals are made possible by this success, and are the next major step in New York’s continued transformation to a more affordable state businesses and families.
“The combination of effective budget management and adherence to the 2 percent spending limit benchmark is expected to further improve the State’s fiscal position.”
Improving New York’s fiscal position is a lot like selling your old baseball cards. They might have great financial value, but they are totally worthless, unless someone wants to buy them. I hope it is not too late to attract new business growth and strengthen the assets we already have. To read between Cuomo’s lines, he has found the fountain of youth and will be leading all of us to the Promised Land. Or, the White House.
Sitting governors get more press than retired secretaries of state who also happen to be former First Ladies.
We New Yorkers expect a high level of service from Albany. But can it continue past the press release stage?
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.