Gov. Cuomo in New York Daily News: Clean Up Albany [Op-Ed]

Op-Ed: A To-Do List for New York Lawmakers 

New York Daily News

Andrew Cuomo

May 6, 2013

We have accomplished much in this legislative session: a third balanced budget on time, business and middle class tax cuts, an extensive economic development program, teacher evaluations, gun control — and the list goes on.

But now is not the time to rest on our accomplishments. There is more to do for our state — and several more weeks in this legislative session.

Here are my top priorities:

The Women’s Equality Act. This is a 10-point plan to address the many lingering inequalities that women still face in our state and in our society, and it’s essential. Today, men are 32 times more likely than women to become a CEO or member of a corporate board. Meanwhile, women are five times more likely to be victims of sexual harassment or domestic violence as well as twice as likely to be victims of housing or lending discrimination.

New York State should lead the way in forging a comprehensive equality agenda. We need to pass pay equity, which would require that women get paid at the same level as men who hold the same qualifications they do. We need to create freedom from housing and employment discrimination and stronger domestic violence protections for women. Lastly, we need to provide women with the same freedom of reproductive choice rights that have been set at the federal level under Roe. v. Wade.

All of these measures, which are part of a single, vital piece of legislation, should be passed this year.

Clean up Albany. Recently, several state legislators were charged with official corruption. While there will always be bad actors, we must seize on this moment to bring real and lasting reform to our system. I have proposed a comprehensive program, beginning with establishing a new class of public corruption crimes so that local prosecutors across our state can more easily bring cases against elected officials and others who violate the public trust.

We would also impose tougher jail sentences on individuals who misuse public funds, and permanently bar those convicted of public corruption offenses from ever holding public office or working in government again in any capacity. The reform package also includes public campaign financing and independent enforcement of the Board of Elections. The time for these reforms is now.

Local government restructuring. In my State of the State address, I proposed a task force to restructure local governments that are in fiscal distress. For good reason: Many local governments are unwilling or unable to make the changes necessary to rectify their virtual insolvency. Localities have had increased spending as their population has been decreasing; at the same, many face growing retirement costs and decreasing property values.

We have talked about consolidations, mergers, shared services and reductions in force, but little has been done. Upstate governments have seen decades of decline.

In addition, the law regulating binding arbitration expires this year. Binding arbitration creates a serious fiscal strain for many local governments, because it often forces them to agree to contract deals that are more favorable to unions, creating mandated costs they cannot afford for years to come. We should not renew that law without a real solution for local governments in distress.

Casinos. Economic development continues to be a top priority, especially in upstate New York. We have an exciting jobs agenda already approved in the recently passed budget — but we are now losing gaming business to neighboring states.

Intelligent, nonpolitical casino development in destination resorts can stimulate regional growth. We passed the referendum to create legalized gaming in the state in the last elected legislature, and we need to pass it again in this session and send it to the voters.

LIPA. Superstorm Sandy taught us many lessons, but at the top of the list is the need to replace the Long Island Power Authority with a far more efficient agency. LIPA has been dysfunctional for years, and hopefully the public outrage at the outages during Hurricane Sandy will generate the political will to finally phase out this wasteful and incompetent entity and replace it with a streamlined utility that has privatized operations and is subject to state oversight from the Public Service Commission.

In addition, we’re working around the clock on ideas to generate economic activity and job creation upstate.

I have been accused of being overly ambitious in setting the legislative agenda. I plead guilty. However, our legislative success thus far shows our capacity for achievement. The stressful economic times we face and the years of Albany dysfunction have created many challenges for us to meet.

We must aim high and work hard. The people of our state deserve nothing less.

Cuomo is governor of New York.

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