A Republican hasn’t occupied the Governor’s Mansion in Albany since George Pataki left office in 2006.
Yet local GOP legislators sounded pretty giddy following last Wednesday’s first “State of the State” address from Democrat Andrew Cuomo. That’s due to the newly sworn-in governor’s liberal use of one word conservatives love to hear: cap.
Mr. Cuomo outlined a plan that would set a state spending cap at the rate of inflation, while also introducing a 2 percent property tax cap in an effort to trim the state’s deficit and improve local economies.
The speech was music to the ears of the area’s Republican state legislators.
“Listening to the governor today, I could have sworn he was a Republican,” said Senator Ken Lavalle (R-Port Jefferson), who began serving his 18th term in office this week, during a telephone interview Wednesday.
“Property tax and spending caps, smaller government and less regulation, these are the things everyone wants,” Mr. LaValle said. “The people have spoken loud and clear and the governor knows this.”
The governor said Wednesday that his fiscal plan is less about partisan politics and more about fixing a state that has a $10 billion deficit in the 2010-11 budget.
“We must transform the State of New York from a government of dysfunction, gridlock and corruption to a government of performance, integrity, and pride,” Governor Cuomo said in his speech. “This is not about budget trimming or cutting, it’s about looking at how we can fix government and make it work for the people. Together, we must take the significant steps needed to reinvent, reorganize and redesign government to restore credibility and to rebuild our economy by creating jobs all across this state.”
Highlights of the governor’s strategy for improving state finances include:
• An emergency fiscal plan that would impose a one-year salary freeze on the vast majority of public employees whose contracts are up for renegotiation as of April 1.
• Creating a Spending and Government Efficiency Commission to make state government more accountable and efficient by reducing the number of agencies, authorities, and commissions by 20 percent.
• The creation of a new Medicaid Redesign Team to find ways to save money within the Medicaid program for the governor’s upcoming state budget proposal for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year.
• Creating a “Mandate Relief Redesign Team” to review unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by the New York State government on school districts, local governments, and other local taxing districts. The team will look for ways to reduce the costs of mandated programs, identify mandates that are ineffective and outdated, and determine how school districts and local governments can have greater ability to control expenses.
Mr. LaValle was not the only local legislator who walked away from the speech happy with what he heard.
“I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to enact a property tax cap and state spending cap in the months ahead,” said newly elected Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) in a statement. “By capping property taxes and state spending, lawmakers will be providing Long Island homeowners with real relief from skyrocketing property taxes while putting into place a budgetary safeguard to end the tax and spend mentality that has brought state government to the financial brink.”
Mr. LaValle, now back in the majority after Democrats controlled the Senate the past two years, said he believes a lot of the political strife that plagued the Senate last term will be curbed this time around.
“[Majority Leader Dean] Skelos and the majority will be very inclusive,” Senator LaValle said. “We want to make sure everyone has a voice. The turmoil and dysfunction that existed the last two years are over with.”