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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“Task Force Here, Task Force There ”
ALBANY, Feb. 7 -- Reaction continues to rain down from every corner of New York State to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-2012 proposed state budget, and that’s as it should be. I fully expect it will continue to be a downpour until a new state budget is signed, sealed, and delivered.
But even if nothing else dramatic happens in the weeks ahead (which we all know won’t be the case), the governor has already charted a new course for New York State budgeting. If nothing else, he’s reframed the dialogue, refashioned the process, and redirected the politics of the annual budget adoption cycle. Most importantly, in my view, he’s opened it up. That’s no small feat. Governors and legislatures have been doing it the same way for a long, long time.
Now the key questions are: Where do we go from here? And can it work? The governor’s $132.9 billion plan proposes a 2.7-percent overall reduction in total state spending and calls for a comprehensive realignment and restructuring of many state programs and services. In the most thorny, contentious areas, he’s taken a novel approach by appointing a task force or a “working team” as a way to break through the logjam of opposition that’s too often stood in the way of worthwhile actions in critical areas.
These teams have been in overdrive examining Medicaid redesign, mandate relief, and state agency restructuring and consolidation. They’re charged with coming up with specific recommendations and, for the first time, reaching specific, targeted dollar-amount savings in order to achieve the desired cost effectiveness and efficiency. If these teams finish their work within the necessary timeframe, successfully find common ground, and put a set of concrete proposals on the budget negotiating table, we could be in store for some surprising and long-awaited turnarounds.
In explaining this new process, the governor stated, “We must work together to fix the dismal financial situation we are in. That means bringing stakeholders to the table, making everyone part of the solution. From Medicaid to education to government reform to mandate relief, government cannot do this alone.”
For more information on each of these efforts – and for anyone interested in sharing some direct input – I would encourage you to visit my website (http://www.omara.nysenate.gov) as well as the Governor’s site (http://www.governor.ny.gov).
So, yes, I continue to be hopeful that this year could be very different. There’s a task force here, and a task force there, but altogether it’s an effort that could be pointing the way toward something meaningful.
Since it’s early in the process, I’ll also take this chance to stress that as much as some things change, other things deserve to stay the same. It remains the Legislature’s responsibility to pull apart the fabric of the Cuomo plan to make sure what it’s made of and how it impacts our local communities. We’re already at work doing just that and the Legislature’s fiscal committees are beginning a series of public hearings on the budget this week.
With that in mind, I’ll stress the following: I welcome and need local input. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and I can’t do enough to encourage your opinions, suggestions, and thoughts in the critical days and weeks ahead. I look forward to hearing from you.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Thomas Gifford, Dennis Fagan, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone
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
Stewart Field, Reading Center
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 415, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869