Must Reads: Cities Topped by Health Costs

September 7, 2012

Political conventions live on dreams and hope, but it’s time for a little reality for those with a stake in New York State’s future. Let’s start with the fact that local governments are already overburdened trying to keep up with a declining tax base as people who can continue to flee the state, but add unfunded obligations on top of that and we are looking at trying to stop a tidal wave with a wall of sand.

Don’t believe me? Then read Jimmy Vielkind’s series on “Cities near a tipping point” that started Sunday August 19 in the Albany Times Union to see how bad it is currently and then consider “New York’s health-care time bomb” by Rus Sykes in today’s New York Post. Sykes reveals that taxpayers are on the hook for as much as $250 million in unfunded health care costs for government retirees.

Now tell me how New York is going to solve that crisis in an economy that’s growing at less than 2% a year!


Be Like Barack?

May 22, 2012

Will Andrew Cuomo follow the example of Barack Obama and try to use his administrative authority to implement something he can’t get passed the constitutional way?

Advocates of an increase in the state’s minimum wage law have suggested Cuomo do an end around on the State Senate which opposes the measure as threatening small business and jobs.

This observer feels it is unlikely that Cuomo will do so, however. He certainly might have tried something like that when he was younger, but he’s much too smart to jeopardize his own career by playing footloose and fancy-free with the state constitution.

The opening Dean Skelos has given the governor and the State Assembly looks like a more appealing alternative. Skelos has suggested the Senate might stomach the minimum raise hike if offset by targeted tax breaks. Of course that would mean Cuomo would have to find ways to reduce state spending. Such a compromise would likely help the Republican Party hold onto the Senate in November. As a result, the most likely outcome is that neither gets done in 2012.

School Dropout Poll Results + This Week’s Poll Question

February 5, 2012

Empire Page readers favor Pres. Obama’s admonition to states to raise the drop-out age to 18 by 67% to 25% opposed and 8% having no opinion. Truthfully, however, it’s a hard position to argue against without appearing to be a died-in-the-wool libertarian — i.e., someone who might argue mandatory schooling is an affront to human liberty.

This week we’re asking people to stick out their thumbs and tells us where things stand with NYS’s economy: Is is “on the mend,” “moving sideways,” or “getting worse.” Vote today at the Empire Page website and while you’re there if you’re not already a subscriber why not take out a free trial subscription. Just click on the subscribe link at the top of the page.

We’re certain once you try the Empire Page, you’ll want to subscribe to be able to access each day’s links to hundreds of news stories, editorials and columns divided by topic and news source. The cost is only $95/year, which amounts to $0.26/day.

The State of New York in January 2012 according to Cuomo II

January 5, 2012

Because it’s only January, Andrew Cuomo could enjoy, while writing his State of the State message, the luxury of ignoring the fact that it’s an election year. As we move closer to November, however, the ambitious agenda he proposed in yesterday’s State of the State will begin to come up against political realities. The major political issue facing the Legislature is redistricting, the outcome of which will determine whether the Republican Party retains its majority in the State Senate. If the Senate Republicans feel their toehold on political relevance is threatened, their willingness to go along with the governor’s program will diminish; yet who can blame the Democrats for wanting to draw district lines that would give them control over both Legislative bodies?

For the most part the Republicans should be happy with the Governor’s agenda. He says he will balance the budget without increasing taxes or imposing new fees; he wants to reduce the state’s pension obligations by creating a Tier 6 for future state employees; he wants to do something about the unfunded mandates that are crushing localities; he wants to put money into the state’s transportation infrastructure, which is particularly important to the business community; and he wants to make New York more competitive to boost job growth.

In fact, Cuomo may have more trouble with the Assembly than the Senate over such questions as imposing teacher evaluations on public schools, amending the Constitution to allow casino gambling and Tier 6. Knowing that his agenda is to the Assembly’s right, he threw the Assembly several bones in his State of the State, including foreclosure relief, protection for renters and doubling the goal of state contracts awarded to women and minority contractors.

Some commentators see Cuomo positioning himself for a future bid for the Presidency. He certainly infused his speech with campaign-style rhetoric, claiming he and the Legislature restored New York’s reputation as “the progressive capital of the nation.” 2011 did represent a change in direction for New York, but it was one that was forced on the state, not one the Legislature in particular wanted to embrace.

As the nation’s economy continues to teeter on the edge of another recession, depending in large part on what happens in Europe, New York again has little choice in continuing on the path of reducing the cost of government without undercutting essential governmental programs or raising taxes. To that end the governor is placing a huge bet on the idea of public-private partnerships–the idea that public investment can leverage private capital. The billion dollar leveraging projects he announced Wednesday include building the country’s largest convention center on the site of the Aqueduct Race Track, the rehabilitation of the Javits Center into a Battery-Park style complex, transportation infrastructure upgrades, an energy highway and $1 billion to help Buffalo reduce its 28% poverty rate.

Whether these public-private partnerships succeed in leveraging the kind of private investment Cuomo envisions only time will tell, but the concept is worth trying. It’s certainly an approach that makes much more sense than the Obama administration’s approach to economic development of investing public funds in companies (like Solyndra) that it wants to succeed in the market place.

Poll Question on Tax Deal

December 7, 2011

Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the NYS Assembly and NYS Senate announced a tax and spend deal yesterday which cuts taxes for “moderate” income New Yorkers while raising the rate for high income earners. They also agreed to spend $1 billion on public works projects and move towards a constitutional amendment to allow casinos on non-Indian lands.

Read the details on the Empire Page, then vote on our poll question of the week.

Governor’s Op-Ed on the Empire Page

December 5, 2011

Read NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s op ed on tax reform in the guest editorial section of the Empire Page.

Roundtable on What’s Next for NYS

August 17, 2011

We published today comments by a number of friends and colleagues of the Empire Page on the question of what next for NYS. Based on the premise that Andrew Cuomo’s first legislative session was more positive than negative, we wondered what can be done to continue to bring fiscal, economic and social health to NYS in light of a national — if not world– economy that is barely moving forward.

Anyone interested in NYS’ future will gain insights and ideas from reading our experts’ comments. Feel free to use the comment form at the bottom of the page. (Comments will be moderated.) And if you feel you have a unique viewpoint on the problems and can present your ideas coherently, send them to If they pass muster, we’ll add them to the page.