Today New Yorkers are blessed with two outstanding editorials from the state’s press — “State fritters away chances for change” by the Poughkeepsie Journal and “State still must cut” by the Buffalo News.
Read them, print them out and send copies to your legislators. Reminder: You have two representatives in Albany — a member of the Assembly and a member of the Senate. If you’re not certain who your Senator is click here; to find your Assembly member, click here.
To summarize why these editorials are so important for New Yorkers not only to read, but to act on, both worry that the money coming to NYS from the Stimulus package will be an excuse for the Legislature to avoid making the hard, but necessary decisions if NYS is to avoid becoming a third world nation in your lifetime.
What are the characteristics of third world nations? Extremes of wealth and poverty, deteriorating or non-existent public infrastructure, and a declining quality of life for all.
The Journal offers six steps that must be taken as if NY was not getting a penny from the federal government:
1) Slow state spending. I would say spending less every year for the next several years will be essential.
2) Cut the state workforce. Gov. Paterson is calling for elminating 3,000 out of 200,000 jobs. The Journal points out that this is not enough.
3) Aid property owners. Several plans have been offered; the Journal suggests it’s past time to decide.
4) Put a lid on state pensions. Read why they say this is crucial.
5) Tackle the Medicaid mess. Medicaid costs more in NYS than other states because we lack the political will to do what other states have done to control costs.
6) “Concede debt matters”. I’m not sure what that means. Their explanation isn’t clear. NY has too much debt; if someone has a suggestion on how we can deal with it other than by stop borrowing more, I’d like to hear from you.
The Buffalo News applauds Gov. Paterson’s leadership and lays the blame for inaction on the Legislature. They argue that the state must “cut spending, and it should do so with payroll reductions and the kind of structural changes — elimination of duplicative agencies and services, enhanced budget accountability….pension refors and other initiatives – that offer savings with a minimum of service cuts.”
The News argues that adding more taxes and fees to avoid making hard decisions is only postponing the inevitable.
The State’s public unions are fighting cuts tooth and nail. That’s their right. However, perhaps it’s time for the leaders of PEF, CSEA, 1199, etc. to decide like the auto workers are deciding whether they want to protect their jobs and see the entire state go down or be part of the solution. By pretending that these are ordinary times which call for tactics that worked in the past, the leaders of these unions may find themselves hurting their members worse than if they came to the table recognizing that the size of the state workforce with its attendant pension obligations is a major part of the problem.
I also urge you to contact Gov. Paterson to encourage him to push even harder for the Legislature to focus on reforming state government in 2009 instead of fighting over the stimulus package.