Session Ends with Few Results, Many Disappointments

Submitted article

On June 25th, the 2008 Legislative Session concluded and, with it, ended a tumultuous six months in state politics.  The legislative year started in January with the State of the State of the now disgraced former governor, Eliot Spitzer.  In that speech, Spitzer promised, among other things, that he would work to revitalize the Upstate economy and provide property tax relief for overburdened New York families.  Instead of providing effective leadership on these issues, serious personal issues would force Spitzer to resign from office and be replaced by his then-lieutenant governor, David Paterson.

Governor Paterson’s leadership style differs greatly from Spitzer’s.  Unlike Spitzer, Paterson has worked to build working relationships with legislative leaders.  Presumably, more cordial relationships will lead to a better willingness for compromise on critical issues that need to be addressed.  Indeed, as a result, there were some legislative successes at the end of session.  Among those successes was an agreement on restricting mandatory overtime for registered nurses (an issue that had been languishing for years) and legislation that improved the state’s brownfield cleanup process.

While there have been a few successes, solutions to the issues most pressing to Upstate constituents still remain elusive.  No agreement was reached to provide for real property tax relief.  No agreement was reached to help ease the crushing burden of gas prices.  No agreement was reached on unfunded mandates that are placing large burdens on municipalities and school districts.  Moreover, still in place are the increased Thruway tolls, job killing taxes on small businesses, and a stringent regulatory environment.

As if the change of Governors was not enough for 2008, a few days before the end of session, Senator Bruno, the majority leader of the State Senate announced that he would step down as leader and not seek re-election.  The following day, Senator Dean Skelos was elected Senate majority leader.  As a result, as the 2008 legislative session closed, two of the three most powerful officials in state government who began with us in January had been replaced.

Now at the end of session, the question becomes whether with new leadership in the Governor’s office, and new leadership in the State Senate, will this put us on a path to enact a number of the initiatives being proposed to tackle the major issues facing Upstate New York?  It’s too early to tell and a major stumbling block remains in the Assembly where too often good initiatives have been killed by the Democratic majority.

Although the official legislative session has concluded, I hope that before the end of the year, the legislature returns to Albany to tackle some critical issues, which include—first and foremost—relief from high property taxes.  As always, if you have any questions or comments on any state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.  I can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.