GOVERNOR’S MEN COME TO HAVERSTRAW TO EXPLAIN HIS PLANS FOR NEW YORK
BY EVAN WECHMAN
Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked his commissioners to speak at all of the state’s counties about his proposed budget for 2012-2013. On Wednesday, January 25, Roann Destito, Commissioner of the Office of General Services came to address the Rockland community at Haverstraw Town Hall.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski Jr. was also present to field questions from the approximately 75 people in attendance.
According to Zebrowski, fellow Democrat “Governor Cuomo, and his administration have a lot to be proud of during the past year.” He cited that the Governor has closed the large deficit with no new taxes or fees. The assemblyman also emphasized that legislation has been passed on the state level in a “bipartisan way,” unlike much of what is seen in the nation’s Capitol of Washington, D.C. Therefore, Zebrowski declared that Cuomo “has put forth a bold agenda.”
Commissioner Destito also applauded the governor’s proposals because his budget has reduced state spending two years in a row. Destito, who led the discussion, mentioned that additional jobs will be added through “creative public-private sector partnerships.” For example, the Tappan Zee Bridge will be worked on and improved. The state will generate over $25 billion in economic activity by leveraging only $1.5 billion dollars in state government funding.
Destito said the governor also plans to help out the state’s counties by cutting down on its Medicaid costs. He is proposing a state takeover of the growth of Medicaid costs over the next three years. According to Cuomo, this will save the counties and New York City $1.2 billion over the next five years. Cuomo thinks he can lower the cost of government by cutting such specific mandates. Furthermore, the Joint Legislative Executive Relief Council will shortly hold public hearings on funding mandated relief proposals to be voted on this legislative session.
Commissioner Destito also went into great detail in the area where she believes we “must fundamentally change our thinking.” This pertains to the field of education and Destito acknowledged that in this area “we spend the most but lag behind in results.” Currently, N.Y. ranks only 38th in graduation rates. The commissioner said that graduation from high school must be a top priority. She cited Cuomo’s desire to have a teacher evaluation system in place to make sure the students receive the best education. “Our students deserve no less,” according to Destito.
In 2010, N.Y. was awarded a $700 million grant from the federal government that required such teacher evaluations, but because of a current lawsuit between the teachers union and the State education department, the teacher evaluations have been stalled. Therefore, the state is at risk of losing the grant money in federal funding. As a result, Cuomo has announced that this strife must end. Schools will be given one year to implement an evaluation system or risk losing educational aid. According to Zebrowski, the Governor is merely attempting to do what’s best for the students as well as expediting processes to foster both teacher and administrative efficiency.
Last, since pension costs are an expensive mandate for local governments, Governor Cuomo has created a new tier in the state pension system that would save local government’s $79 billion over the next thirty years. The new pension system would have progressive employee contribution rates between 4 percent and 6 percent of their salaries. Also, it would include a voluntary “defined contribution” option like that of a 401k in the private sector.
Destito reassured the public that no current employees will be affected by pension reform. According to her, Cuomo is the “first governor to deliver on mandated relief” since she has involved in the assembly over twenty years ago. Destito also commented that citizens could stay involved by following news concerning the 2012-2013 Executive Budget and Reform Plan, which was recently submitted to the legislature on www.nygetinvolved.com.