Legislators: Here’s what we need you to do

The New York State Capitol
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The New York State Capitol

There’s nothing wrong with being angry, so long as you channel that anger into positive action.

So it’s potentially a good thing for the taxpayers of New York that state lawmakers are starting off their 2017 session in a grumpy mood after the governor effectively denied them a pay raise last year.

Rather than internalize their anger into punishing the governor and thwarting his agenda — producing yet another year of gridlock and dysfunction — they should demonstrate to the governor and their constituents what they’re capable of when they’re motivated and determined to prove everyone wrong.

If it’s anger that’s motivating them to prove they deserve a pay raise, all the better.

The way rank-and-file lawmakers can demonstrate their resolve is by turning this session into the most raucous, loud, contentious session they can muster up.

Instead of lying down waiting for orders from a handful of political leaders — who negotiate all the big legislation in secret then present the terms to their minions to vote on like sheep — it’s time for legislators to stand up and bring matters into full and hearty debate.

To all you legislators — Tedisco, Marchione, Amedore, Steck, Santabarbara, Woerner, Walsh — don’t make it so your constituents only hear your name or see your face when you’re walking in a parade or running for re-election. Let’s see you guys make a strong case for something this year. Remember, you’re angry.

The top issues so far seem to be allowing ride-sharing upstate, effective ethics legislation, legislation to address homelessness and hate crimes, and the governor’s new plan to provide free tuition at SUNY schools.

The tuition plan should be a starting point for frank discussions on the fl oor of the Assembly and Senate about all the issues related to the proposal — including how to stem rising costs at SUNY schools and how to help students more easily repay their loans, and how to pay for more assistance. Why does college cost so much? Challenge the education offi cials when they come to the chambers with their hands out for more money. Demand to know what they’re doing with that money and why they can’t make do with less.

Don’t just sit there. Say something. If your legislative leader doesn’t like it, remember who it was that elected you, and who it is that can un-elect you in two years. These are the people you should be afraid of offending.

We want Uber up here. Debate the safety concerns and the insurance limits. Help the public understand why the taxi industry needs a kick in the butt. Show off your research and creative ideas.

When is someone in the Legislature going to get angry about how the state government keeps pushing costs onto local governments and then capping their ability to pay for the mandates? Those local government offi cials represent the local taxpayers who are your constituents and voters. When this stuff comes down the pike, demand to know how the state plans to pay for it. When the list of discretionary funding comes out for idiotic proposals like millions in arts funding for the Amsterdam pedestrian bridge/ art gallery (We told you it would become the poster child for wasteful spending.), challenge it and demand to know instead where the funding is to fi x the leaky sewer pipes.

When they want more state aid for schools, stand up and demand an answer as to why we New Yorkers pay among the most for school taxes but rank in the middle when it comes to educational outcomes. When the governor pitches another pie-in-the-sky economic development plan, demand proof that it will work and that it’s worth the money.

Channel that anger you have about your pay raise into a real New York legislative session, complete with open debates and raised voices. As reader Jerry Fiore points out in today’s letter’s section, you’ve only got 60 days to prove your worth.

Get angry. Stand up on the floor and fight. Debate things. Challenge the status quo. Get something accomplished for a change.

Then many next year at this time, you’ll have something more to show for it besides 19 million dissatisfied constituents.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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