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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Plans for a long-overdue cleanup"
ALBANY, Feb. 25 -- One of the Cuomo administration’s earliest initiatives in 2011, one that was rolled out with great fanfare as a cornerstone for a total makeover of New York government, was the call for a state-level commission to drill down deep into the operations of state agencies – especially their spending practices.
To put it bluntly, a commission to start cleaning up the mess. Many had long suspected that the state bureaucracy had become like a rundown house -- old windows, an outdated furnace, a leaky roof and all that. A victim of homeowner neglect.
So this new commission, the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission
(commonly called the SAGE Commission) set out to take its own inspection
after it was established as part of the 2011-12 state budget. I’ve
written about it from time to time over the past few years to keep you
updated, because I think it’s important. SAGE has been charged with
producing recommendations for the first major overhaul of the state bureaucracy
since the late 1920s. In fact, the last similarly extensive
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about the big ticket items here, like Medicaid spending. The programs and services responsible for the state’s largest expenditures, like Medicaid and education, deserve – and have been getting – their own, separate looks.
What we’ve been talking about with SAGE are those behind-the-scenes actions that might seem like minor news until you start stacking them one on top of the other and they start to add up to real savings. It’s like the old saying, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
Let’s recall exactly what we’re talking about. Shortly after SAGE’s creation came reports in the New York Times and the New York Post about investigators uncovering “massive waste” in New York State government. State agencies paying $9 a dozen for ballpoint pens. Millions of dollars being spent on toll-free telephone numbers that hadn’t received a call in months. One top administration official said, “There is no end to the horror stories.”
I wrote about these so-called “efficiency probes” at the
time and basically said this: Keep turning the page on the state’s
fiscal practices. We’ve long suspected that out-of-control spending
has undermined the state bureaucracy. Now we’re finding out that’s
exactly the case. And now we need to get our own house in order. We can’t
focus enough on rooting out the waste, inefficiencies and mismanagement
that have clearly taken hold of state government in too many places and
The SAGE Commission has kept going – to the point where I can
provide an update on its final recommendations. It went largely unnoticed
in the swirl of other actions taking place at the Capitol around the same
time, but two weeks ago SAGE released its final report. The recommendations
I’ll make two points.
Point #1: At a time when government resources are stretched to the breaking point, nearly $2 billion in potential efficiency savings is a big deal. So the SAGE report deserves attention. It may not have been headline worthy, but it’s the kind of nuts-and-bolts agenda that can make a difference. I’m still going through it. You can find the full report online here: http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/SAGEReport.pdf
The specific recommendations are far too detailed to review one-by-one
here, but the agenda breaks down into the following three categories:
Point #2: actions need to follow words. We’ve seen reports come and go in New York government for decades. But they’ve come and gone and nothing’s changed.
I’m under no illusion that every single SAGE recommendation is going to be swallowed hook, line and sinker, or that this chapter is now officially closed on cleaning up the state bureaucracy. However, as I’ve said so many times before over the past several years: there can be no turning back this time. That, I think, is the real difference this time.
The taxpayers I hear from are demanding this long-overdue accounting. And they’re right.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
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
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869