As members of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet made their way across New York presenting the 2012-13 budget and reform messages on Feb. 3, former Syracuse Mayor and current President of the Environmental Facilities Corporation Matt Driscoll visited the Cazenovia Public Library. He spoke to a crowd of more than 20 area residents, and advocated for Cuomo’s $132.5 billion proposed budget.
“What we are trying to do is look at the fiscal side of the state government – and how we will get ourselves back on track – but the operational side as well,” Driscoll said. “It really is about a pro-economic growth strategy and basing it on fiscal discipline reform and more on an entrepreneurial spirit in state government.”
Also in attendance were many local officials whom Driscoll addressed during his speech, including Assemblyman Bill Magee, Nelson Town Supervisor Roger Bradstreet, Cazenovia Village Mayor Kurt Wheeler, Cazenovia Central School District Superintendent Bob Dubik and Madison County Tourism Executive Director Jim Walter.
Driscoll presented on five areas of focus for the state administration, including economic development, mandate relief, education and the reimagining of the government. Eight other cabinet members delivered similar speeches around the state last Friday, from the North Country to New York City.
Hoping to spur economic development, Cuomo has discussed the addition of a new convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the easing of current gaming regulations, the repair and improvement of NYS infrastructure as well as the development of an “energy highway” through the state – hoping to evenly distribute available energy resources.
The government’s plan to embrace mandate relief includes a five-year map aimed at decreasing the cost of the pension system, while leaving current union members and employees unaffected. Driscoll said the administration hopes to put policies in place soon, estimating a 185 percent increase in pension costs from 2009 to 2015.
Education is a priority for Cuomo, who aims to increase graduation rates and establish a statewide teacher evaluation system. Driscoll said regarding education, New York is currently No. 1 in spending and No. 38 in graduation rates nationwide. While a legal debate is pending between the State Education Department and New York State United Teachers, the state could stand to lose 700 million in federal funding. If an assessment system for instructors is not agreed upon within the next month, Cuomo said the state legislature will establish a system.
Reimagining the government entails the consolidation of state agencies and the elimination of hundreds of programs Cuomo believes to be redundant and obsolete. Driscoll said the government plans to cap administrative costs and focus on spending and efficiency as well as the enhancement of numerous job-training and housing programs.
In closing, Driscoll extended a plea to audience members and all state residents for their involvement and understanding moving forward. “The governor has asked me, as well as the other … cabinet members … to illicit your help,” he said. “It is important that people’s voices are heard, because people make a difference.”
Following the presentation, all audience members were given the opportunity to ask Driscoll questions. Inquiries included topics such as future regional economic development councils, alternatives energy sources, how new gaming regulations will affect the public and how to boost tourism and agriculture upstate.
As the budget continues to be presented and examined, Cuomo will look to adopt the plan in time for the start of the new fiscal year on April 1. For more information on the 2012-13 proposed budget, call (518) 474-8390 or visit ny.gov.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.