Trimming New York's Budget Requires a Scalpel, Not an Axe
by Anthony Stasi
Apr 27, 2010 | 7413 views | 0 0 comments | 182 182 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Lazio says that he is not terribly concerned with being a one-term governor if that were the result of him making tough choices on spending in Albany. New York is not in a very good place economically, but the situation is not as bad as it is in California.

Lazio is in a better place to make a claim like this than anyone else in this race. He has been out of elective office for ten years, and should he actually be a one-term governor, he would only end up in the same place he is in right now. When Lazio spoke about reducing spending while upstate, he said that he would ask agencies to make cuts in their staffing and budgets in his first 90 days. This is to be expected, but there are dangers with demanding cuts without proper oversight.

Arizona recently axed more than 100 government employees that were responsible for collecting taxes. The result was that they collected fewer dollars, which the state needs. While we all want the tax collector to feel our pain, these employees bring in a lot of money that could otherwise go uncollected. They do not work on commission, obviously, but the work they do helps a state’s revenue.

If we cut government jobs without effectively targeting which jobs are really expendable, New York could actually collect less revenue than if the employees were left to do their work. It is easy to target the government employee, but those are not salaries that are terribly high anyway.

If the next governor asks department heads to cut employment roles, there runs a risk of cutting the wrong people. This is not to say that Lazio has not thought of this, but it is a necessary consideration. If you think this is not a realistic concern, cutting without oversight recently cost California an estimated $7 for every $1 saved in cutting employees according to Governing magazine.

The state needs to operate with necessary services, and there is often a safe battle cry that revolves around “across the board” spending cuts. This means you are cutting spending at all levels, somewhat equally. The problem with this is that not all programs and initiatives are funded equally, so cutting across the board may either fail to produce the most revenue, or unfairly cut programs that may not make it with the cut in place.

The Race Among Groups

We can talk all day about Rick Lazio and Andrew Cuomo, and we can even add Steve Levy to the discussion. What is happening in the country, and in New York, however, is a battle between passion groups. You could call them interest groups, but their interests are not always on one or two issues.

The Upstate New York Tea Party (UNYTEA…which is actually a cool acronym) is already looking at who they want to get behind in this race. The Tea Party organizations have been so effective that their political enemies now want to infiltrate their ranks. The Tea Party group has been able to become an influence in the country without really being a party. They are not a membership party, so there is no way to really attack them as one.

The Working Families Party, however, is an actual party, and like the Tea Party, they are gearing up for this race, among others. The WFP is to local New York politics what ACORN was on the national level, with an interest in organizing people in order to push policy further to the left.

Both the Tea Party activists (since they are not really members) and the Working Families Party serve the hopes of some New Yorkers, but is all of this taking politics away from regular people? Sure, both groups think they represent regular, hard-working Americans, but is it possible that they are kind of removing the public from the public sector? Maybe it just makes the process less fun.

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