The State of the State: The Spirit of Kumbaya on a Sinking Ship, The Governor Blames the “Evil Lobbyists” and Their Spawn for the Ills of New York State, Tough Times Lay Ahead

 

As I listened to Governor Cuomo’s first State of the State, accompanied by ninety rather amateurish  power point slides, I was depressed.  
 
Is this the best he can do?
 
Gotham Gazette reports, “…  a centrist, pro-business speech focusing on bringing businesses back to the state, reducing taxes on individuals, revamping the juvenile justice system, campaign finance reform, and political corruption. Although details on his plan to tackle the deficit were thin.”
 
The governor was trying to both acknowledge the republican landslide by sounding like a republican and staking out territory as the new broom, sweeping Albany clean of those evil lobbyists.
 
Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Skelos also made brief speeches, and, to an extent, Silver stole the Cuomo’s thunder, by agreeing on most issues.
 
So, if the Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader and the Governor are on the same page, why should it be so difficult to resolve these problems?
 
Perhaps, they’re reading from different books.
 
New York State leads the nation in per capita Medicaid costs and is 20% higher the closest state. Cuomo’s approach is to inform the stakeholders of the amount of the cuts, emulating the Wisconsin plan, including bringing the architect of the plan to New York.
 
 Insurance companies and providers met with academics and advocates. State health officials refereed the discussions, with Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson and his staff ultimately responsible for sorting through hundreds of ideas aimed at reducing costs and improving health outcomes. The Wisconsin Medicaid Rate Reform Project, as it came to be known, was in motion.
  
Sitting in the audience were many providers who live on the Medicaid teat.
 
Can the Wisconsin plan stand up to the assault from hospitals, nursing homes, unions, etc.?
 
How do you assure that the Medicaid cuts trim the excesses not the protections for the neediest?
 
The education plan was just plain strange.  New York State drives dollars to school districts through a formula that takes into account the wealth, or lack thereof, of each school district. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit  (see details of lawsuit here) corrected inequities in the formula, however, the dire state fiscal circumstances have postponed the implementation.
 
The Cuomo plan sounds like a warmed over Contract for Excellence with a little Race to the Top thrown in. Contract for Excellence has been a failure. New York City wrote a plan, submitted it to the state and largely ignored the plan. State Ed claims it has no power to force compliance. What makes anyone think the Cuomo promise of
$500 million in “incentives” will be any different?
 
The bottom line is the state will provide significantly fewer dollars per kid and incentive plans will not replace the missing dollars.
 
The cap on property taxes, an issue in the non-urban school districts is popular with voters but not with localities. School budgets are approved by voters in May elections. The governor wants to “save taxpayers from themselves” by legislatively limiting increases in school district budgets, except for super-majority votes; the state is forcing localities to cap or reduce services, including teacher benefits. The backlash will not rebound to the governor, it will rebound to school boards who will have to increase class size, reduce course offerings and extra-curricular activities.
 
Parents and voters will have to choose, lower class size and higher taxes versus higher class size and lower taxes?  Culture/class wars in the burbs. Parents with kids against seniors, singles and childless couples.
 
Cuomo and every governor for the past few decades has unsuccessfully fought the erosion of population and jobs upstate and Andrew’s Economic Council plan is not impressive, reference “sow’s ears and silk purses.”
 
Strong ethics laws for legislators and government employees, non-partisan redistricting, public financed state elections are popular, let’s see how popular when it may mean the loss of  republican senatorial districts upstate and gains for the city.
 
Wayne Barrett in the Village Voice blames those shadowy lobbyists for the ills of the state.
 
As I walked out of the Convention Center the union representing the 1,000 just laid off Off Track Betting parlor workers were handing out fliers and urging legislators to restore their jobs. Inside the receptions were
the legislators, the state government staff and lobbyists and advocates all pitching their positions.
 
The Solid Waste Management lobbyists want better recycling, are they “good” guys or the “bad” guys? Do they represent the public?  How do we decide among the “good” and the “bad”?
 
Are the lobbyists arguing to extend rent control laws in New York City evil doers? Or, are only the lobbyists representing landlords evil doers?
 
Is what Cuomo calls dysfunction what James Madison describes in Federalist # 51?  Isn’t the best government the one that encourages the branches and interests to “fight it out” in a transparent forum?
 
 Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.

 

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4 responses to “The State of the State: The Spirit of Kumbaya on a Sinking Ship, The Governor Blames the “Evil Lobbyists” and Their Spawn for the Ills of New York State, Tough Times Lay Ahead

  1. Peter-
    The state is bankrupt. We are bleeding jobs. We HAVE to cut the budget. But it doesn’t have to be bad news for kids. Maybe we should examine how teachers are deployed. How is it we have 5,000 more teachers now then when Bloomberg took over the schools, 60,000 fewer kids and class size hasn’t budged? Maybe the same kind of management skills that did such a good job clearing the snow are at play. We have proved one thing in NYS and NYC. More money does not equal better results. Better curriculum and better prepared teachers will go a lot further than anything else!

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  2. Money means nothing? Expose the facts behind the selection of students and the per-pupil funding of the Harlem Children’s Zone and see if money and pupil selection mean nothing.

    The temporary state of the economy, caused by the result of the deregulatory debacle spawned by Reagan, is what nearly caused a national depression. All of a sudden, we talk about the lack of money which is true, but temporary. We should examine, as it pertains to schools, what better curriculum and better prepared teachers mean. More/better teacher preparation, when it’s state is ineffective now- hardly. MD like teacher internships-too expensive, but THERE is a working model. More competition for teaching jobs? That will require better than business-like starting salaries, IMMEDIATELY, not after 20 years and 60 post graduate credits. With this economy, it’s not likely.

    So, what’s left? Start with a reexamination of the comparison of our educate-everyone-for-college school system with all those foreign systems that cherry pick the very able students. Stop beating ourselves up! This is a fiction created by the Privatize the Schools crowd. They have no credible record using the same populations and per pupil funding.

    Start with a reexamination of the premise that on the one hand every kid is unique, yet on the other hand pushing every kid through the September-June tunnel expecting all to come out with the same knowledge/skills is ridiculous on its face.
    Start with some consequences for kids (and their parents) who come unprepared for school and the parents who routinely pull out kids for 30 or more days each school year to babysit their younger siblings, or to translate, or to visit out of state/country.
    Start with a reorganization that allows each child to progress at his/her own rate so that each can achieve the maximum that G-D given talent allows. Oops, social promotion. Oops, not every kid is academically talented. Deal with it. What best for EACH kid is what’s important.

    Most important, remember that a kid who has his education interrupted/dimished, either by the State, or his parents, has had PERMANENT damage done to his future-and that kids future is OUR future.

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  3. As Mr. Wolf mentioned – the snow removal debacle ten days ago is a great metaphor for how the city and state is run, how it deals with education, development, etc. I don’t buy any of it anymore. The officials can say what they want – but not one is saying what needs to be said, or doing what needs to be done. Once in office, it’s all about staying there (a la Bloomberg’s 3rd term), surrounding oneself with loyalists to keep you there while keeping all others at bay. I’ll know true reform when I see it. Right now no one is listening to the people with the really wothwhile ideas. Cuomo’s embracing of the “competition – Race to the Top” as a remedy for our schools was a huge disappointment. We need to hear – revised curriculums and revised teacher training and compensation. Now that’s a place to start from.

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  4. Jackie Foil Retired

    Apparently Andrew is no Mario! Too bad for the state.
    There is so much good research and literature out there that examines and makes recommendations for the future of education. Somehow sometime someone should try to implement these findings rather than trying to do “another thing” that is follows and wrong path and will not work!

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