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The Cuomo Launch

May 24, 2010

 The affirmative: He gets it. Damn right he does: No taxes. No borrowing. A cap on spending. A cap on property taxes. Freezing state salaries. Trimming state worker pension benefits. Consolidating government. Supporting charter schools. Independent redistricting. 

As a first iteration of priorities, this was remarkable. Frankly, we assumed that Andrew Cuomo, political animal that he is, would talk around the hard reality of what needs to be done. We expected him to be cautious and triangulating. We even feared that he might still lean toward his father’s honorable, but antiquated, big government approach. 

But instead of all that, we got a bold plan to make New York competitive again. Everything he said in his video and speech on Saturday was well-conceived. The only thing we missed in his presentations was an articulation of the main reason we so desperately need real reform in New York. It’s because of the fact that in every significant program area, New York spends way too much, sometimes two and three times the national average. We must control this spending, or go broke. 

In addition to having the right priorities, Cuomo is also thinking about how to get things done in Albany. In this regard, Cuomo wants lawmakers to declare their positions on the key issues and sign a pledge to take action. He wants the upcoming election to be about them as much as it is about him. This linkage is imperative. For too long, individual lawmakers have been able to decry the problems without doing anything about them. They have complained about Albany as if they weren’t a part of it. They have talked about the need to “make hard decisions,” but never get around to actually doing it. In fact, year after year, New York lawmakers get away with doing virtually nothing, as the state slips further into decline. Success for Cuomo and for our state depends on changing this dynamic. 

The negative: We could complain about the long delay in starting his campaign, but it seems clear now that Cuomo knew what he was doing all along. He was preparing himself and his team not only for an election but for governing. This is smart because neither will be easy. What he has proposed is a true challenge to the status quo. And when you make such challenges, there will be pushback, especially from unions and lawmakers. 

Our only caveat at this moment is that Cuomo needs to be tough and strong and steady. Indeed, steady may be the most important thing. It was a lack of consistency under pressure that undermined recent governors. Political pressure morphed Pataki from a conservative to liberal. The pressure of dealing with lawmakers drove the impatient Spitzer mad. The pressure of the job made a weak and vacillating Paterson dissemble.       

Cuomo must watch himself. He has an edge. He must control himself. He must work hard and be patient. He needs to remember that it can’t happen overnight. 

At NT2, we don’t want to add to the expectations of some miraculous turnaround happening in a short period. In fact, we think that just getting the state moving in the right direction again and making incremental progress in some key areas would be a tremendous achievement.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mark Keister permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:06 AM

    All those trite expressions come to mind; “when the rubber hits the road” “when push comes to shove” – is the rhetoric really backing substance? That of course is the proof in the pudding. All too easy to identify the problem – far far harder to implement change; the problem in government [politics] is endemic; we’ve let ’em get away with B.S., fiddling, “mis-remembering” “mis-stating” . . . all far far too long. We pray the AG is not going to cut bait. . .

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