As promised: keeping tabs

In Columns by Hal PetersonLeave a Comment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “We made a difference.”

The quote appeared in a June 27 Newsday story explaining how Andrew, Dean (Skelos) and Sheldon (Silver) fared in the past tumultuous legislative session that came to a close last week. The paper’s overall assessment is positive, with the New York Post also crediting the governor with “political skills, the likes of which (haven’t) been seen in the Capital for fifty years.”

On the assumption of truly achievable results, the accolades expressed are warranted, at least for the time being. But I tend to be a bit more pragmatic in assessing performance. Cuomo did indeed push through a reduced spending budget without new taxes and also a game-changing property cap the ramifications of which are hardly realized. He accomplished (for the most part) what he promised to do when he ran for elected office, like it or not.

Despite these achievements, we are still light years away from actually realizing real reform. A number of examples come to mind. I mentioned in my column, “Stop the shenanigans,” (June 23-29) that the governor’s approach to pension reform avoids dealing with many of the well-publicized absurdities in the current system. A recent New York Times editorial disagrees with my assessment, suggesting that Cuomo’s approach is more conciliatory than that of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is as effective. I suggest Cuomo should examine the legislation just approved by the New Jersey Assembly. This law specifies adjustments that might just save $132 billion in labor costs over the next 30 years. Of particular note, if approved, these changes, will affect over 500,000 New Jersey state, county, town and even school district employees, imposing mandatory pension and benefit funding requirements.

With state spending in mind, I also question whether the governor’s “Spending & Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission” will ever accomplish anything productive. Why? It appears to be currently operating in a vacuum, even failing to keep the public advised when meetings will be held. It I also restricting the use of information used in its planning process. It’s hard to even imagine “rightsizing government” based on what has been accomplished to date.

Again, with performance in mind, the Authorities Budget Office in Albany, just released a letter illustrating a whole range of missed compliance requirements needed to “improve management practices and procedures by which their activities and financial practices can be judged and disclosed to the public.” What is so interesting about this document is that the basic tenets expressed really date back to reform legislation introduced in 2006.

“I believe the state is on a different trajectory than it was six months ago,” Cuomo was recently quoted as saying. Is the euphoria really warranted? Your assessment is welcome.

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