Gov. Cuomo, in his State of the State address, mentioned that New Yorkers have experienced a wide range of emotions in the past year. I have to say that I certainly did in listening to his address.
I started with skepticism that his new workers’ compensation reform could pay out more benefits, cost businesses less, and save the government money.
He presented some ideas that sounded good: beachfront houses on stilts, buying out the properties damaged by Hurricane Sandy, bonuses to teachers, state funding of longer school days, electric car charging stations, a billion-dollar “green bank.” But with his claim that all this would be done with no tax increases, my skepticism edged toward doubt.
We may be due for an increase in the minimum wage, as the governor asserted. I hope this won’t price some employees out of jobs and increase unemployment. But with the assertion that minimum-wage employees have to spend more than $1,200 per month on rent, my doubts about the accuracy of his claims grew stronger. If rents are high, certainly property taxes (boosted by the unfunded state mandates that he did not mention) are at least partially to blame.
I was chagrined when the governor announced that we are second only to California in our spending on academic research, but lag terribly on attracting venture capital to the fruits of that research. Apparently nobody wants what we’ve come up with. I assumed this was an indication that our political selections of what to research were grossly in error; probably someone would get fired. Or perhaps our overregulation is squelching businesses, and deregulation needs some immediate attention.
Rather, I heard that we would overcome our mistake with yet more government interference in the market: lots of money for public-private enterprises, tax-free zones and development commissions. I fear that these types of measures can temporarily prop up economies, but at some future date (maybe 2017), someone will get stuck with a mess.
My chagrin changed to outright disturbance at the awful tone of his appeal to women. Equal rights for women certainly seems like a good idea. An intelligent discussion of the issues would have served better than interrupting his address to show babies in cribs and decry the awful outlook for the one that was female.
Interspersed with some features that sounded as if they should be supported, his agenda turned out to include major features of “equalization through lawsuit,” a system that has never provided reliable justice, or any consistent results, other than consistently making attorneys wealthy.
My disturbance deepened when the governor said he would enact the strictest “assault weapons” ban in the nation (and was certainly deepened further as he rammed legislation through to do so). First he cited New York’s lead in gun control in 1911 with the Sullivan laws: Please, reader, go investigate Big Tim Sullivan of Tammany Hall and the results of his law.
Gov. Cuomo proclaimed the need to make New York a safer place by the removal of assault weapons and the banning of high-capacity magazines. Inexplicably, he also announced the termination of “stop and frisk.” This program has removed thousands of illegal guns from New York streets, and is certainly a contributing factor to the rapid drop in murder rates in New York City. Apparently the governor is willing to push back the limits of the Constitution for guns now in the possession of law-abiding citizens, but doesn’t care about the certainty of far more lives being saved by confiscation of illegal guns.
My disturbance turned to frustration when the governor said that he would further decriminalize marijuana because criminal arrests disrupt young people’s lives. Possession of a small amount of marijuana is a crime only if it is publicly displayed: The police force isn’t the main thing disrupting your life if you are smoking pot on the street.
Further, the governor has thoroughly demoralized many individuals with a law that will make them criminals for the possession of rifle clips. These are people that have worked all their lives, obeyed the law, paid taxes, volunteered in their communities, and made New York a better place. Forgive me if I am more disturbed at demoralizing them than demoralizing New York City pot smokers.
I fell into deep disgust when I recalled that this governor had said a few minutes earlier that he had decided to “aggressively promote” alcoholic beverages made in New York. Counting the total of direct damage from consumption, increased accident rates, and the increased likelihood of committing a violent crime when intoxicated, alcohol kills far more people than all guns put together, let alone so called “assault rifles.”
The eighth round in some rifle magazine could feasibly cause a death in New York: it is a certainty that the alcohol you promote will cause many. Deaths from drinking come in ones and twos, and they don’t make spectacular headlines, but they happen every day.
During the address, the governor promoted some new law relating to women that he wouldn’t describe. He just chanted the angry mantra “It’s her body, it’s her choice.”
After the speech, my disgust turned to horror when I learned that he wants to remove any mention of abortion from the penal code. I am (reluctantly and reservedly) pro-choice. But maybe the governor should walk over to Albany Med’s neonatal intensive care unit and spend five minutes looking at a newborn infant, born prematurely at 32 weeks. Then tell the parents of that baby and the nurses that dedicate themselves to saving it that “terminating” it as a fetus the day before could never be a crime under his laws.
Resentment of the east
I have traveled a bit, and have been a bit sheepish as a New Yorker facing locals elsewhere who resent controls from the East Coast: We support free run by wolves in their states when the East Coast does not have wolves to deal with; we prevent logging in the West by federal mandate when the East Coast long ago wiped out its old-growth forests. In the South, I’ve heard sneers about crime rates and welfare states.
But I’d have to say that until I heard Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address Jan. 9, I have never been ashamed to be a New Yorker. Does the governor believe his agenda will make New York safer? I know that it makes me want to move to another state.
Norman Perazzo lives in Glenville. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.