Mario Cuomo noted that “we campaign in poetry but govern in prose.” Trump’s campaign was hardly poetry—it was more like a sensationalist novel, with racy sex, clichéd dialogue and improbable plot twists. Now Trump & Co. are writing the screenplay for a movie and doing casting. And we wonder—some with hope and some with fear—whether the movie will be true to the book.
With Congress firmly in Republican hands, the policies reflected by Trump’s cabinet choices are steeped in Republican orthodoxy. While Trump may love a brawl, he can’t make America great again without winning votes in Congress. Read more »
Elections bring change – an opportunity to “reset” the policy agenda. Any newly elected governing body brings with it new policy priorities – some collective priorities shared by multiple members, and some unique ones espoused by individual officials.
The key challenge of any new governing body is effectively managing those priorities. Doing it well positions a new government to deliver results; failing to do so invites distraction to the governing process, treating all issues equally and encouraging less-than-strategic governance.
The challenge was magnified in Princeton, New Jersey this year. Its transition to a new governing council in January coincided with the launch of a newly consolidated municipality, the state’s most significant in more than sixty years. Thus in Princeton, the new ideas and priorities that typically accompany new governing bodies existed alongside consolidation-related issues and transition matters that, in some cases, required more urgent attention. Read more »
“And which retirement plan do you want?” Retirement?!! As a newly appointed Assistant Professor of Economics at Potsdam College of SUNY, I was 28 and starting my first real professional job. I was being asked to make a decision that would have little impact on my life for 37 years.
I was offered two options: The first was the NYS Employee Retirement System (ERS). If I stayed in state service and retired at age 65, I would be eligible for annual benefits equal to 70.5% of my final average salary (defined as the highest salary earned in three consecutive years). My contribution would have been 3% of salary for the first ten years. The remainder of the cost would be paid by the state. This is what is called a “defined benefit” retirement plan. Regardless of what happens to the invested money, NYS promises to pay out a specified benefit for as long as I live. Read more »
We policy wonks like to believe that good ideas win in the end. That right makes might. That if we only got a chance to convince-oh, Barack Obama or John Boehner or Tom Richards or Maggie Brooks-then the right idea would win the day.
Think again. Truth to tell, ideas are powerful only when wielded effectively. It’s effective political action that shapes government, thus society. Read more »
The financial problems of the nation and many large states—California, Illinois, New Jersey and certainly New York—present a problem that is challenging economically and hazardous politically. Since it’s impossible to separate the economics from the politics, it is truly a Gordian knot – rather than untying the knot, Alexander the Great sliced the Gordian knot in two with a single, bold stroke of his sword.
The Congressional Budget Office forecasts the federal deficit to decline from about $1.5 trillion in 2009 to $608 billion in 2014, then rise to nearly $800 billion in 2020. This is a hefty deficit, particularly when you consider that we had a surplus as recently as 2000. Then consider that the cumulative public debt, which currently stands at $7.5 trillion, is expected to nearly double by 2020 to $14 trillion.
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The Center for Governmental Research has begun a partnership with the Rochester City School District. We’ve been invited to support implementation of Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard’s Five Year Strategic Plan.
I’m a planning skeptic. Often the process of planning is so exhausting that we declare, “It’s done!” when the ink is dry. We forget that the plan serves only to lay out the course and load the starter pistol. The plan is too-often ignored. We continue going about our tasks as though nothing had changed. To the Superintendent’s credit, many of plan’s strategies codify activities already underway. In fact, the first of the five years was 2008-09. Like all good leaders, Brizard is impatient about his plan.
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Consolidating local governments in New York is a hot topic across the state. Proponents maintain consolidation is a way to make local governments more efficient and less costly. Opponents argue that services will be cut, local representation will be lost, and savings will be minimal at best. Every week, I receive calls from local government officials across upstate asking what is involved in studying how to share or consolidate services. Almost invariably, the caller starts out by saying, “I’m not necessarily in favor of dissolving or consolidating, but I feel it is my responsibility to the taxpayers to look at every avenue to reduce our local taxes.”
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I’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.
Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.
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The Rochester community confronts problems that will test the mettle of our leaders in coming decades. Our core challenges persist and others will emerge, yet help from external sources will become scarce. We are thrust back on our own devices, thus on the ability of our leaders to forge community solutions to community problems.
The City of Rochester will continue to struggle with its central economic problem: too many school dropouts and too many graduates who are ill-prepared for further schooling or a career. There is no challenge more difficult or more important.
- Students who leave school without the tools to earn a living for themselves and their families face a lifetime of struggle.
- The economy trades a contributor for a dependent.
- The city’s economic vitality will be limited by an ill-trained workforce and a crime rate that is fueled by desperation, resentment, and disillusionment.
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Gov. David Paterson wants state government to do more with less.
The rumblings started as early as March when the annual budget was completed. Then, last week, Budget Director Laura Anglin asked agencies to prioritize programs and match them to agency purpose, and allocate staffing accordingly. Presumably, this information will be used by the Budget Division to prepare for the Legislature’s mid-August emergency session.
Paterson’s alarm bell will have a familiar ring in state agencies Not so long ago, then-Budget Director John Cape asked agency heads to provide a one-page list of their top three strategic priorities for the 2005-06 budget. Certainly across-the-board cuts are easier for the Division of the Budget to administer, but taxpayers deserve better. Some state functions are more important than others and the cutbacks should reflect conscious priorities. Some cutbacks save more money than others. As an example, when state expenditures are partially funded by the federal government, cutting state staff can actually cost money if federal reimbursement is affected.
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