The following appears in the February 13-19, 2015 issue of the Long Island Business News:
This year, Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address got lost amidst all the media attention paid to the fall of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Frankly, I don’t think that was a bad thing. Let’s face it; the annual Albany speech, like the president’s State of the Union, is mostly theatre—and in my judgment, bad theatre.
After he took office in 2011, Cuomo abandoned the traditional approach of addressing state legislators in the Assembly chamber. Instead, he rents a large hall which is packed with state employees and gubernatorial sycophants who “ooh” and “aah” over his pronouncements.
When the shows are over, however, one quickly realizes Cuomo’s State of the State speeches never amount to much. They are merely a hodgepodge of half-baked proposals designed to appeal to groups on all sides of the ideological fence. And Albany watchers know that most of them will never get anywhere.
Remember in 2012 when Cuomo declared that Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center was obsolete and he proposed building the largest convention center in the nation? Here we are three years later and there is nothing on the drawing board.
Then there was Cuomo’s “New York Works Fund and Task Force” which was to coordinate capital investment in New York’s infrastructure. No one has heard a word about it in years.
In his 2014 address, Cuomo claimed he would “assume management authority from the Port Authority for construction at JFK and LaGuardia airports.” But since he made that declaration, the PA’s Board of Commissioners has not passed a resolution granting him that authority.
This year’s State of the State was not any better. The most absurd announcement was Cuomo’s proposal to build a light rail connecting LaGuardia Airport to the Number 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road at the Willets Point terminal in Queens County.
Such initiatives have been talked about for decades and have never commenced because there are numerous engineering problems that could plaque the project and little demand for such a service.
LaGuardia is a relatively tiny airport that services domestic U.S. flights. Passengers are mostly businesspeople, lawyers, etc., who are not inclined to take several subway connections and a trolley to catch a flight. They take, and would continue to take, taxi and limousine services from Manhattan.
Also, the Governor’s claim that this rail connection would cost only $450 million is absurd. The 2-mile monorail service at Newark Airport—which was politically hassle-free because it was built solely on airport property—cost in the vicinity of $2 billion in the 1990s. With both the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Port Authority in dire financial straits, expect the Governor’s rail link to go the way of his new convention center.
The governor’s other big proposal, a tax credit to provide $1.66 billion in property tax relief, is illusory. If implemented, it will do nothing to fix the never ending property tax increases on New York homeowners. Cuomo’s proposal is classic income redistribution. He takes a couple of billion dollars from one group of taxpayers and gives it away to a different pool of taxpayers. It is just another sop to sidestep addressing the real cause of tax increases: unfunded state mandates and an out of control pension system.
I did find very interesting Cuomo’s declaration of war on the teacher’s union. Calling the teacher evaluation systems “baloney” was terrific. He hit a home run when he queried, “How can 38% of students be ready, but 98% of the teachers be effective?”
Such rhetoric appeals to conservatives like me but in the end it won’t matter much because the teacher’s union controls the legislature and will block any real reforms.
Despite all the histrionics surrounding Cuomo’s 2015 State of the State address, like previous years, it consisted of mostly empty rhetoric and proposals that will never see the light of day.