Less than a month into his tenure as governor, Andrew M. Cuomo has come out swinging against entrenched state government. His plans to cut state spending and rein in an out-of-control budget have been greeted with surprisingly widespread and bipartisan approval. In fact, in a commentary a couple of weeks ago, a reporter on National Public Radio said there is at least one moderate Republican in New York, and his name is Andrew Cuomo. And indeed, that rang true.
While young Andrew, son of feisty former Gov. Mario Cuomo, has a reputation for being a rough and tumble politician, his approach to solving this state’s problems has been remarkably nonpartisan. He clearly cannot be a darling of the Democratic Party’s left side, championing cutting the state’s workforce and making cuts in programs ranging from education to social services.
And at least to date, he doesn’t seem inclined to fold in front of the pressure of the state’s formidable labor unions. His predecessor, David Paterson, had a reasonable plan to close state prisons but gave it up in the face of withering opposition from the prison guards’ union. Gov. Cuomo appears prepared to face that opposition with more resolve. If he does so, be prepared to see at least one and perhaps more north country prisons shut the doors.
(Pause for startled cries of outrage here...)
And while I understand the upheaval that would create in many families in the north country, I can’t help but wonder why the loss of a prison job would be of any greater consequence than the loss of a yogurt factory job. People in Ogdensburg wrote letters, built signs and went on long bus trips to protest the proposed closing of one of Ogdensburg’s two prisons, but I haven’t heard a peep out of anybody this week demanding that the North Lawrence Dairy not be closed. And it has been in existence, providing jobs in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, for a century longer than the Ogdensburg prison has been in business.
The reality is, the state has become a place for businesses to flee. Healthy Food Holdings LLC, owner of the former Kraft dairy, will make its own brand of yogurt in Connecticut, walking away from $1 million in public financial aid it received just a year ago. The company apparently looked at New York and said, “We can’t stay open here.” Andrew Cuomo understands that without a sea change in the way the state operates, those decisions are going to be repeated time and time and time again.
It’s time for every New Yorker to suck it up and get behind any reasonable plans to get the state’s government back under control. There were high hopes four years ago for Eliot Spitzer to do this, but his administration imploded on the back of deep personal flaws. Andrew Cuomo has the same steely will, and he has already started a campaign to get the public, from Joe Sixpack to Dr. Lotta Bucks, behind his efforts. We shouldn’t stand in his way — only radical change will cure what ails us, and if someone has come along who can effect that change, let’s cheer him on.