Judging by the kumbaya moments at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's State of the State address, New York will be turned around almost immediately, rebounding from decades of Albany's dysfunction and disregard for its residents and taxpayers. Leaders of the Senate and Assembly pledged their support to the new governor, who then laid out his ambitions to consolidate state agencies, cap property taxes, attack public corruption and spend less.
Of course, those are just words from the governor and the legislative leaders who form the triumvirate that controls state government. Deeds are another matter, and New York has been at this crossroads before. An ambitious new governor throws a fine agenda toward an apparently receptive Legislature, only to have it slide into the abyss while New Yorkers remain the nation's highest-taxed subjects in a state that offers the coldest business climate of all.
But judging by his wide-ranging and much-anticipated speech Wednesday, the new governor gets it. He knows this state can't spend another day sliding backward and, we trust, he will not allow it. He rightly called this a "time of crisis" and said it's time for state leaders to "stop offering rhetorical solutions." We take him at his word that he will not be derailed by legislative dithering, and we urge him to go on the attack as necessary.
During his campaign, Cuomo came off as almost humorless. Not so Wednesday in a speech laced with personal anecdotes, jokes about his past and a slide show that portrayed Albany's budget process as three battleships -- piloted by the governor and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly -- passing in the night, with special interests on the attack from overhead. More importantly, Cuomo struck not a fatalistic tone but one of hope, especially when he called the Legislature's recent hallmarks of gridlock, dysfunction and malfeasance as aberrations that can be thrown off if lawmakers have the will. "That's not who we are," he said of the Legislature's current state.
He didn't gloss over the sacred cows of Medicaid and aid to education as central to any effort to control the government's reckless spending. He singled out the listless upstate economy as a primary concern and said he sees the state university system as an economic engine -- not a new idea but one that revives hopes for the University at Buffalo's 2020 program. Hopefully Cuomo, in the weeks ahead, will place more meat on the bones of his intent to create 10 regional councils to guide economic development efforts, and to incentivize state aid to schools and consolidation programs undertaken by local governments.
New York cannot afford business as usual, or a business-as-usual approach to its chronic problems. In that vein, the governor has offered some symbolic acts to show he won't stand for that either, the first being the 5 percent pay cut he imposed on himself and his top staff. The other was his decision to deliver his speech not in the Capitol's clubby atmosphere but in an Albany convention center that accommodated 2,000 people from around the state.
It was a near stroke of genius to ask Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, to start things off with speeches describing their own pledge to tackle the state's festering problems. From the shadows, legislative leaders have played the spoiler for too long, Silver especially. Both provided plenty of fine words when placed front and center Wednesday. Now they can back them up with deeds.