Everybody who follows politics in America knows that the political philosophy of Bob McDonnell, the 71st governor of Virginia, a staunch conservative Republican, and of Andrew Cuomo, the 56th governor of the state of New York, who is a certified liberal Democrat, is poles apart.
What is less known is the fact that when it comes to achieving their goals, namely the restoration of fiscal responsibility and economic vitality in their respective states, their rhetoric and the methods of achieving those goals, are compellingly, similar.
This has become apparent to me while listening to Gov. Cuomo during his recent talk at the brand new Lake Placid Convention Center. He was addressing hundreds of political, economic and regulatory leaders, as well as prominent business people. His appearance took place in the framework of his statewide tour called “People First Campaign.”
In his speech, and during a press conference, Cuomo, with refreshing candor bored into some core issues that have made New York State a less-and-less attractive place to live or do business.
“Don’t be surprised when people say, “I’ve enough, I am getting on a plane. I’m leaving,” he said.
When Cuomo took office, his top priority was to passing the state budget and eliminating the $10 billion deficit. Those goals accomplished, he is now focusing on such key priorities as reducing overgrown state and school bureaucracy. He was compelled to pursue this policy, partly, because it has driven property taxes to the highest level in the nation.
Thus, as one of the legislative priorities Cuomo decided to pursue is the creation of a property tax cap. Under his plan, local school districts and governments could only raise property taxes each year by 2 percent or the rate of inflation. Local communities could override the cap, but on school budget 60% of the school board and two-thirds of the local legislative body has to vote for it.
“Ultimately,” he said, “the property tax cap would give much-needed relief to New York taxpayers and encourage local governments and school district to be more efficient and make the most of their resources.”
Another of his priorities is cleaning up Albany by passing ethnics reform.
Cuomo proclaimed: “New York State government used to be a symbol of integrity and performance, but we have lost that standard. To clean up the government and restore trust with New Yorkers, we need to pass a new ethnics law that mandates transparency and full disclosure as well as a law that calls for real independent monitor,”
He proposes laws that require disclosure of clients who are doing business with the state and are represented by legislators, as well as how much they get paid. The law would also require lobbyist to disclose any business relationship with legislators in excess of $1,000. Public officials convicted of a felony related to abuse of their official duties, would be stripped of their pensions
This is a legislative agenda to which Gov. McDonnell surely subscribes. Where he is parting ways from Cuomo’s legislative agenda is the New York governor’s push for passing a marriage equality bill, in other words to allow same-sex marriage.
According to Cuomo, despite his state’s proud tradition of tolerance and social progressiveness, on the issue of marriage equality it lags behind. “While gay and lesbian New Yorkers can drive to Massachusetts or Connecticut to be married, such marriages are not permitted in New York….It is time for our state to retake our leading role in guaranteeing equal rights for all,” he said.
To Mc Donnell, the answer to the problem is a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Cuomo’s “People First Campaign,” is bearing fruits. “Real reform begins with the people, and that is why my team continues to travel the state to bring our message to as many New Yorkers as possible as we build a coalition for change…. If we work together and speak with one voice, we can b ring true change to New York,” he said.
This is a message that resonates not just with New Yorkers, but also with Virginians.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.