More than a decade of New York State governmental dysfunction has taken its toll on all of us. And now, faced with the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the State Government is functionally bankrupt. For too long the State has lived far beyond its means, leading the nation in virtually every major category of public spending.
As the campaign season begins in earnest, New Yorkers owe it to themselves to demand their gubernatorial candidates answer two fundamental questions: "How have you defined your agenda to reform New York" and, the more difficult of the two, "How do you propose to get that agenda passed by the New York State Legislature?"
I answered the first question when I announced my campaign in May, by issuing a comprehensive 250-page policy book called the "New NY Agenda". There, I lay-out a realistic prescription drawn from a diagnosis of the State's dire fiscal situation. We need to clean up Albany, get our fiscal house in order, and make New York the jobs capital of the nation. We need dramatic ethics reform, a property tax and a spending cap to introduce fiscal discipline, and a jobs stimulus plan.
Many of my proposals have broad bipartisan support and have long been championed by good government groups and editorial boards. But in Albany, much more is required to transform good ideas into legislative victories. Thus, the second question is by far the most relevant: How will we get the Legislature to enact reform?
Clearly, we know what doesn't work. Experience has proven that the election of a new governor will not magically change the ways of Albany or defeat the ruling class of special interests that influences the Legislature. As we've seen, even governors of the majority party in the Legislature do not necessarily command their own party's votes. Nor will electing a governor with a large electoral "personal mandate" alone change the status quo.
In my view, the best legislative strategy has two components:
First, we need to harness the power of an informed and engaged citizenry. Even in Albany, the golden rule of politics still applies -- politicians listen to the people who vote. When mobilized, the people can be an irresistible political force for change. To that end, I am reaching out to every New Yorker through my "Citizens Campaign." It's not easy to communicate successfully with 19 million people, but that is precisely what we are trying to do. I am personally visiting every county in the State. And those voters I can't meet face-to-face, I will contact through every means available, including the Internet, TV, newspapers, radio, and mail.
Second, we need to assemble a diverse, broad based coalition for change focused on the legislature -- a coalition not based on party labels but instead aligned by a common agenda: to restore fiscal sanity and integrity to our government while continuing to meet its vital needs.
I believe that my policies of fiscal prudence and social progress can and will unite Republicans and Democrats, enlightened business and labor leaders -- all under one "big tent" in support of my New NY Agenda.
Thus far, my message has appeared to resonate. We already have broad support from Republicans (who understand the burdens of property taxes); progressive Democrats (who recognize that without strong leadership in Albany, local and federal partnerships suffer); private sector labor unions (who are painfully aware of the impact of the State's economic woes on their members); and many more. The business community (often New York City focused) must take a more active role in state government. I urge public employee unions and their groups -- NYS United Teachers, 1199 SEIU, Working Families party, among others, to take to heart the legacy of public service and adopt a long view by doing what is best for their members and the state they serve -as they did during the 1970's NYC Fiscal Crisis -- by joining our coalition.
I am running to win in November and to be prepared to change Albany in January. To do so we must take the necessary steps now to force a realignment of the power dynamic in Albany and overcome the special interest domination. New York cannot afford to lose another year.
The survival of our State is at stake. Working together, we can restore New York to its past greatness. I know we can.