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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"What do you think?"

ALBANY, Jan. 9 -- When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered up his second State of the State message in Albany’s Convention Center last week and officially kicked off the Legislature’s 235th annual session, the staging immediately delivered the unmistakable spirit of the day and the title of this year’s address, “Building a New NY…with you.”

Last week’s reaffirmation of one of our government’s key traditions marked only the second time throughout most of the past century that the speech wasn’t delivered in the State Assembly Chamber, a move this governor first made last year to allow for greater public attendance. Agree or disagree (and there are always critics), it’s symbolic yet again of what’s clearly been the driving hope behind this chief executive’s style of leadership so far, which he expressed this year this way in continuing to call up a new era in New York government: “We put the politics aside and put the people first. And it worked. And we worked. We delivered for the people – and we made this state a better state and I was honored be a part of it with you.”

With these words in mind, then, let’s first recall some of 2011’s hallmarks: A rare, as far as recent history goes, on-time state budget, as well as a budget that contained no new or increased state taxes or fees. A middle-class tax cut at the end of the year. The first year-to-year state spending decrease in more than a decade. Property tax cap. Ethics reform. A new Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission that remains at work on the first major overhaul of the state bureaucracy since the 1920s.

All of the above actions, and many others, were collectively welcomed by a variety of the people’s representatives -- good-government, business, environmental and other advocacy groups and government watchdogs, to name just a few -- as one of the most meaningful and productive legislative sessions in a long, long time. In other words, many people believed we dug into more than a few of the right places last year and then stood firm in our determination to produce some long-overdue successes.

None of this is to say, however, that it’s time to sit and rest in the shade of past achievements. Far from it. In fact we’ve more than got our work cut out for us to match last year’s accomplishments. But it helps to make the point that “standing firm” might be as good a guidepost as any other for the legislative session that’s now under way. Will we stand firm on taxes, on controlling state spending, on the need for even more aggressive economic development, on more efficient, effective and cooperative government? I hope so. Put it this way: the crowning achievements of 2011 continue to pinpoint the right places to place our priorities this year.

So where, exactly, do we go from here? There are more than a few ideas already on the table. For example, mandate relief remains crucial to the successful implementation of the property tax cap. Governor Cuomo just spelled out a comprehensive legislative blueprint for the Empire State in this new year (which, for anyone interested, can be watched and read on www.governor.ny.gov).

But at the outset I’d also like to encourage all of you to share your own thoughts. One way to do this is through a new Legislative Questionnaire that I’ve recently sent out (and will post online at www.omara.nysenate.gov). This 2012 Questionnaire includes questions on the continuing and deep-rooted economic and fiscal challenges facing the state as a whole, as well as on some of the other key concerns facing the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions – including mandate relief, ongoing Medicaid reform, job creation, infrastructure development, and the future of the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. Obviously a short questionnaire can’t possibly address every single issue, but your voices should be heard on these and other challenges.

That’s the very best way to begin a new legislative year.

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: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
Website: http://gillibrand.senate.gov/

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
www.omara.nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538
Website: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=137

 

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

E-mail publisher@odessafile.com