Friend: Governor Cuomo on the Right Track

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Christopher Friend (R-Big Flats)

Governor Cuomo, in his inaugural State of the State Address, mapped an ambitious plan for New York state. The speech brimmed with words of optimism and opportunity, and I am hopeful that this journey will not be impeded by the typical Albany political pitfalls.

This year is ripe with exciting, new opportunities. The Assembly Majority appears more willing than ever to finally take up the fiscally-responsible policies that the Assembly Minority has been trumpeting for years. Speaker Silver even stated his desire to work toward reducing spending and addressing the issue of hydrofracking. The Senate, now under the new leadership of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, seems excited to work with the governor on the dire fiscal situation New York is in.

Governor Cuomo has the support necessary to make a difference by creating jobs, cutting the deficit, and implementing needed government reforms. Although the new air of bipartisan cooperation is exciting, we must temper our enthusiasm as there is a long road ahead. Major legislation must be passed, painful sacrifices must be made, and hard work must be done to achieve the goal of both the governor and all New Yorkers, which is to bring the Empire State back.

I am in full agreement with the idea that saving New York begins with creating jobs. New York has struggled through years of limited to no job growth. New York has done little to build trust with companies and even less to foster small business growth. Governor Cuomo’s proposals lead me to believe he takes job creation very seriously. He has enumerated necessary changes to the Excelsior Jobs program and has supported a permanent Power for Jobs program.

More than anything, the governor has shown a desire to make the deep cuts necessary to relieve the tax burden on hardworking New Yorkers. The governor supports holding the line on taxes and capping state spending. These steps are critical to fixing the state’s finances and alleviating the pressure on taxpayers. During the economic downturn in the early to mid 90s, Governor Pataki used tax relief and spending cuts to pump life into an otherwise flat economy - I hope Governor Cuomo follows this example.

Many of the governor’s other proposals are a breath of fresh air - including his support for tough ethics reform and government reorganization - but some, like the creation of investigative commissions to fix Medicaid, are less desirable. The state’s Medicaid program is near bust and continues to waste billions, and instead of creating commissions to come up with solutions, the governor should instead support efforts that empower localities immediately. Counties should be given the authority and tools necessary to reduce the cost of Medicaid. In the 137th Assembly District, Chemung County has had a great deal of success using the Salient software to eliminate Medicaid waste, fraud and abuse. Chemung County also has setup the state’s first Medicaid home to provide an alternative to the emergency room for Medicaid enrollees.

The State of the State Address provided a great deal of hope moving forward. I am excited to work with the governor on achieving many of his goals. This is a year of change and I am hopeful that, with Minority Leader Kolb’s leadership and the hard work of the Assembly Minority, we can influence real change to make New York a better place for families and businesses.