Albany’s fiscal crisis and the road to redemption

In Columns by Hal PetersonLeave a Comment

The Aug. 12 issue of the Herald alerted readers that I was a “Man on a Mission” calling for the reform of New York’s dysfunctional state government. Sounds like a promo for one of those serial flicks we used to see as kids on Saturday afternoons. Who is this ‘masked man’ who has the audacity and the tenacity to continually call for the reform of the affairs of Albany that are seriously mismanaged at the expense of the taxpaying public? Will these columns make a difference?

I had two primary objectives when I started the columns. One was to convince the Herald’s readers that serious problems in the management of New York’s public authorities, state and local agencies do indeed exist. I hoped to create awareness. I believe this objective has been met, and interest in what I’m doing has been growing –over 10,000 people have viewed my columns on the Herald’s web site.

My second objective required an ongoing evaluation of specific initiatives that might result in real reform. This part of the saga gets more complicated. Reforming how our agencies provide services and at what cost, is terribly complicated and time consuming. I intend to continue to highlight opportunities for change and hopefully maintain your interest in so doing.

We closed 2010 well short of achievable goals. Reform legislation has been in place since last March and it has hardly caught the attention of the public and advocates of change. We enter 2011 with many of the same arguments on the need for spending cuts rattling the halls of Albany.

Solutions are often born out necessity, and I hope that the urgencies of the day will create change. This is what seems to be happening in New Jersey, as Gov. Chris Christie aggressively confronts various vested interest groups, stating unequivocally, “I do not have the money. The day of reckoning has arrived.” Christie says he intends to change the way his state manages resources and asks all residents to participate in that process thru the use of his “Rethink, Reform, Rebuild New Jersey” agenda which is available online. Christie also established a www.NJ.gov/governor/reformagenda with specific objectives well outlined.

To further advance his overall agenda, while dealing with a $10 billion deficit, he has also put together “Christie’s Toolbox” packaging 33 specific pieces of legislation that he believes will provide municipalities and counties more control over costs. What he has accomplished is currently serving as a model planning template for state governments.

Back in New York, in his inaugural address, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “We have a very specific mandate for change that the people want.” He said it starts with, and not limited to a restoration of real transparency, disclosure, accountability and fiscal responsibility. Sen. Dean Skelos said he was “very impressed” with the Cuomo’s address. “The state is at a point fiscally where there’s no more putting it off for another week, another month, another year,” said Skelos. “The governor has laid out a blueprint to do it, and we’re going to be supportive of it.“

I think it’s great to see Senator Skelos affirm an interest in reform. Hopefully our leaders will learn from what Gov. Christie is hoping to accomplish in New Jersey. An acceptance of reality is only the beginning of any real reform process. I’d like to know if you agree.

I plan to continue to focus on specific reform issues identified in the governor’s recent State of the State address.

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