I’m sure you’re well aware that I’ve become a bit smitten with judging Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s performance over the past few months. Why? It’s not that I don’t like the guy. He has shown a lot of cheek since he took office, which seems to be reflected in recent polls. On Jan.1 his public relations staff issued a press release claiming that “in the 12 months since his inauguration, he has transformed Albany and made government work once again for the people, passing a balanced (on time) budget, capping property taxes, driving innovative regional economic development and enacting historic, fair tax rates etc.”
In his second State of the State address, delivered last week, he announced a comprehensive agenda that builds on the success of last year, with particular emphasis on investments in key-public-private sector partnerships. He plans to create thousands of new jobs and my own personal favorite, “a proposed reinvention of how government operates in order to get results for the people while protecting taxpayer dollars.”
That quote is where Cuomo and I part company. While I accede to some measure of progress to make our state less “dysfunctional,” he is still light years away from actually reducing State Operating Funds spending that will total $88.1 billion in fiscal year 2012 — an increase of $1.6 billion from fiscal year 2011. In addition, in my opinion, he has paid little attention to the basic tenets of either the “Public Authorities Reform Act” signed into law by former Gov. Paterson back in 2009; or, the initiatives established last year with the legislative approval of the “Executive Reorganization Act of 2011.” How serious are these aberrations? Consider the following.
PARA legislation was introduced more than two years ago (and I’m quoting from an accompanying statement) because a “lack of accountability in the vast majority of the public authorities, a culture of arrogance pervades many of these entities. Efforts by the State Comptroller to audit authority finances or initiatives as well as Legislative questioning of authority decisions are met with resistance. New Yorkers, who rely on these entities for essential services and those who bear the ultimate responsibility for the financial actions of public authorities, are most likely to learn about these entities only when the results of malfeasance are covered in the media.”
I have written over 30 columns in the Herald since August of 2010 that stem from these concerns. I can assure readers that very little has changed. One reason is that Cuomo does not seem to be interested in the mundane doings of the administration of state government. A case in point: The Independent Authorities Budget Office, which is authorized by Title 2 of Public Authorities Law to analyze operations of some 490 state and local authorities (spending $53 billion annually) released its findings to the governor last July and since then, it has never even a received a response. That’s a rather sad commentary considering what could — and needs— to be accomplished.
The initiatives established the ERA legislation have also worn thin rather quickly. Although developed to address a “tangled web of government administration that is unresponsive to the needs of New Yorkers” other than the consolidation of some banking and insurance departments, into a single department, I see no evidence of any measure of the real change called for by the legislation.
In writing this particular column, I have tried to be as fair and open minded as possible. What has not been yet accomplished should not be lost in today’s rhetoric.