With all the partisan handwringing that dominates so much of what goes on in Washington, DC, it’s refreshing that New York finally has a governor who is leading the state in a fiscally prudent way.
Party labels do not matter when it comes to how Gov. Cuomo governs. His past reputation as a liberal Democrat doesn’t matter — just ask the teachers and other unionized employees going berserk over his, as well as the mayor’s, insistence on increased accountability and decreased benefits.
The governor is trying to remake New York State, formerly known as the nation’s legislative laughingstock and a place where it’s extremely hard to do business, largely due to its massive tax burden, into a state that’s friendly to the entrepreneur and all the jobs he creates. Wouldn’t it be nice to read one day that people are moving to New York from other states, rather than read more about everyone leaving for more business-friendly places from North Carolina to Arizona?
Cuomo’s new budget plan, proposed on Monday, contains many elements that are necessary to put the Empire State back on top. To highlight just a few, the governor would:
•cut actual spending by about $225 million, or 0.2 percent, for a total outlay around $132 billion. Most “cuts” in government spending you hear about are just cuts in the planned rate of increase. Not this time. This time it’s for real, for the second year in a row;
• tie increased school aid to new teacher performance requirements rather than just keep blindly spending more on education;
• create a health benefits exchange program that would cut premiums by 22 percent for small businesses, which are getting socked by massive hikes and the pending loss of Blue Cross/Blue Shield;
• fund $15 billion worth of infrastructure projects, including replacing the decrepit Tappan Zee Bridge;
• create a sixth pension tier for public employees that will raise the retirement age to 65, hike workers’ contributions and offer a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan — saving the city about $30 billion and the state and other local governments $83 billion over 30 years;
• impose a $199,000 cap on state reimbursement for the compensation of nonprofit groups’ executives;
• and, on a local note, start a toll discount program for residents of the Rockaways and Broad Channel who use the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge — the only intra-borough tolled crossing in the city.
Cuomo has crafted a fine plan; now the harder work begins as he tries to get the Legislature on board. Ironically, that will be easier to do in the Republican-majority Senate than in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. That reflects Cuomo’s centrism. So does the support his plan deserves, not just from this page, but from the public at large.