Saturday, January 06, 2007

Will Spitzer succeed in changing Albany?

Newsday James Klurfeld

"The buzz in Albany this week is about Gov. Eliot Spitzer's breathtakingly ambitious State of the State address. He set out an agenda not just for the coming legislative session but for his entire first term, if not his lifetime. Health care coverage for every child in the state, a total reform of the state's too-expensive health care system, more money for education and middle-class property tax cuts, a reform of workers' compensation, extensive new building for infrastructure and a fundamental change in the way politicos do their business in the state capital. And I'm just touching on a few highlights. But it was a few lines toward the end of his hour-long speech that really got my attention and gave me some hope that Spitzer might be different. "The agenda I just outlined is ambitious," Spitzer said in a statement worthy of the Understatement Hall of Fame. "
But it will go unrealized if we do not summon the courage to make hard choices in the state's budget. ... We finally have to learn to say 'no' to budget requests we simply cannot afford."I believe Spitzer's success or failure will depend not so much on whether he can implement each and every proposal he made in Wednesday's speech, but on whether he can really change the culture of how Albany operates. And that starts with the tendency of buying off every interest group that lobbies in the capital.Albany has always operated on a one- or two-year election-cycle ethos. Don't worry about long-term fiscal deficits. If there is a surplus in a given year, especially in an election year, spend it. And, if you don't have the cash on hand, borrow it. Don't worry about the "out" years, the years down the road when the bills for the new programs you implement today come due. "No" is not a word often heard in the halls of the state Capitol. Just get through the election; that's what it's all about.And it's not about being a Republican or a Democrat. When it comes to giving in to the interest groups, the parties act the same: They cave. The only difference is that each party has its pet interest groups. (One party's interest group, of course, is another's worthy cause.) The game is always one for yours, one for mine and we'll worry about the cost after November.
Will Spitzer be different? It will require him to be a different type of Democrat, more out of the mold of a Bill Clinton New Democrat than a Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver old-line Democrat. Just as Clinton had to choose in his first year between fulfilling his campaign promises to spend more money on social programs or cutting the budget and raising taxes (he chose the latter and the economy took off), Spitzer will have to make some hard, un-Democrat-like choices and then persuade the legislature to support him. Gov. George Pataki actually made some progress on the state's structural deficit in his first two years in office but then gave in to the allure of an easy re-election - and after that seemed to lose interest in governing.
Gov. Mario Cuomo talked a good game. Gov. Hugh Carey used the city and then state fiscal crisis to make some real changes, but once the crisis dissipated lost his leverage.Spitzer has not just offered an ambitious program. He also is an ambitious man. He propelled himself into the governor's mansion by being an unusually aggressive state attorney general. Politicians always follow the pattern that worked for them previously. Spitzer will try to do the same thing now: Be such a noteworthy and effective governor that he will be thrust into the national picture by his accomplishments. But that is going to require him to accomplish what no one has done in recent times: real change, real reform. It's an effort worth making and worth watching." Spitzer will be different........and yes..his efforts are definetly worth watching.. and recording...and my guess is..someday...Eliot will be running for President based on his accomplishments................andy

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