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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Next up? A new state budget"

ALBANY, Jan. 14 -- The reaction to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent State of the State address continues to pour in from every corner of the state, which is always the case. Remember that the State of the State has long been the opening act in the annual legislative session. It’s supposed to meet certain expectations, but mostly it’s one of the prime opportunities for a governor to command the stage and lay out a broad and ambitious vision. Governor Cuomo certainly made the most of this opportunity this year.

The reaction commonly breaks into two camps.

Camp No. 1 includes all the pundits concerned with reading the political tea leaves. For centuries New York governors have always been thought of as potential presidential timber, and that’s no less the case with Governor Cuomo. The substance and tone of his third State of the State was clearly intended to fuel political speculation, mend a few fences and solidify alliances through an enthusiastic bear hug of so many of today’s most popular liberal touchstones – abortion, firearms and climate
change, to name a few. One day-after headline in the New York Daily News summed up the intention this way: “Next stop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks like a presidential wanna-be.”

Then there’s Camp No. 2, whose adherents listen to and read the address for its detailed, specific impact on individual communities and constituencies. I’m firmly in Camp No. 2. What this governor’s political ambitions may or may not be simply doesn’t concern me. What concerns me above all else – because it deeply concerns the communities and citizens I represent – is what this governor wants to do to help us keep our employers and the jobs they create, attract new employers and economic opportunities, and provide the tax, mandate and regulatory relief that’s so desperately needed in this state.

State and local legislators like myself, as well as local leaders in business, community and economic development, education and across the spectrum, assess the governor’s agenda for its impact on the communities we represent, not on the governor’s political future. Ours is a nuts-and-bolts assessment of what it means in the strictest context of carrying out governmental responsibilities.

Traditionally, State of the States are chock full of gubernatorial ideas and short on specifics. The only meaningful sense of the agenda isn’t clear until the presentation of the governor’s proposed state budget, which Governor Cuomo is scheduled to unveil on Tuesday, January 22nd. That's where we’re going to find the all-important details and truly begin to determine their effect at the grassroots level.

Until then, I’ll stress a few priorities. The governor dedicated a good portion of his opening speech to recognizing the dire straits of the upstate economy. For me, this is where it all begins and ends. From
building strong families to creating thriving, vibrant communities, all that we hope to accomplish for a secure and successful future begins with and depends on a strong and sustainable 21st century economy.

It won’t happen just with words, however. It demands the right policies and actions. The state of upstate New York is a weak economy that’s not producing enough jobs or generating enough confidence throughout the upstate business community -- and a tax burden that still makes it hard to make ends meet in New York State. In fact, the governor’s speech was delivered one day after the release of a new statewide poll showing that upstate manufacturers and other business leaders are far from optimistic about the state’s economic future. According to the sixth annual survey from the Siena College Research Institute and First Niagara Bank, confidence among these business leaders is at its lowest level in three years. Government regulation and taxes were cited among the top reasons
for the negative outlook.

The governor pledged no new taxes in his upcoming state budget proposal. But we need tax cuts, too. And fewer regulations.

And mandate relief. The governor’s failure to even mention mandate relief for local governments and school districts, and local taxpayers, was striking. Yes, one landmark mandate relief action gets underway in 2013 – the state takeover of local Medicaid cost growth, which we approved as part
of the current state budget – but much more needs to be done. We may hear more in the budget. It’s a crushing burden, it’s unfair and we haven’t done nearly enough to once and for all shake off the state’s habit of shifting the burden of unfunded mandates and other costs onto the backs of local property taxpayers. The goal in 2011 wasn’t to cap property taxes and walk away. The goal was a future defined by property tax cuts. For that to take place requires a true turnaround in private-sector economic growth and no more unfunded state mandates.

So the final opinion, for me, is this: we’ll see. Governor Cuomo took every political opportunity the State of the State offers. Fair enough.

But my overriding concern is what are we going to do to:
-- help upstate manufacturers and small businesses;
-- offer job training and economic security for our workers and their families;
-- provide relief from the crushing burdens of taxes, mandates and regulations; and
-- ensure greater fiscal responsibility.

For these answers we can only look ahead to the third Cuomo budget proposal next week. With that proposal in hand, we’ll roll up our sleeves and once again get down to the critical work of governing.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869