Senator Valesky And Senator Krueger Hold Reform Hearing

 

I have long believed the people of New York State deserve a government that is open, responsive and responsible. They deserve leaders who serve everyone, not just the vested interests and the power elite. They deserve a legislature that tackles our greatest challenges before these challenges reach crisis level. And they deserve a government that works every single day to make this state a better place to live, work and do business.

When I ran for the Senate, I expressed these ideas along with the general frustration so many of us feel about our state government. Since that time I have been meeting with you -- the business owners, community leaders, organization members and individuals that I represent -- to find out how each of you think our state can be improved.

I have also been working in the State Senate to take the first steps toward a better government. We took the first step when we voted for an on-time budget -- the first in 20 years. We took the first steps when we passed the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005. We took the first steps when we improved ethics law and ended empty-seat voting.

But as many of you know from our conversations, while these were important firsts steps I believe the real work of reform has only just begun. To get the state government we all deserve, everyone who has ever carried the banner for reform must remain committed to the ideas and the ideals that will deliver a more open, responsive and responsible state government.

Earlier this month, I co-hosted a hearing at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, along with Sen. Liz Krueger, where we discussed the steps taken this past year and the future goals of the reform movement. This hearing brought together business leaders and academics, citizen advocacy groups and constituents. We discussed everything from citizen access to legislators to limits on state debt.

I want to personally thank the organizations and individuals who presented or submitted testimony, especially Professor Grant Reeher from the Maxwell School, Bob Ward from the Business Council of New York State, and, of course, Common Cause, NYPIRG and the League of Women Voters. This may seem like a diverse group with divergent ideas. But they are united in their belief that we can do better.

We can do better and we must. We can do better on legislative and budgetary reform. We can do better on public authorities and bonding reform. We can do better on lobbying and redistricting reform.

Over the next few months I will be introducing several specific proposals that address the most pressing areas of reform. I will also be presenting ideas on other priority issues for Central New York, like education, energy and economic development. As I shape this agenda, I will rely on the information gathered from the many conversations I have had in the past year and some of the ideas presented by various organizations at hearings like the one in Syracuse.

Other state leaders will be making proposals, as well. For instance, two weeks ago Comptroller Alan Hevesi proposed several strong ideas that could help further reign in public authorities -- New York State's aptly-described "shadow government." And, just last week Attorney General Eliot Spitzer presented his ideas on reforms, like changing how we draw legislative districts and amending the state constitution to cap debt. We must consider all of these proposals as we move forward on reform.

We need these state leaders and other leaders of this effort to remain engaged in this discussion. We also need reform-minded organizations, like the League of Women Voters and the Business Council, to stay involved. Most importantly, we need individuals across the state to keep the reform movement moving forward.

We have taken the first steps. But we have a long way to go before we get the open, responsive and responsible state government we all want and deserve. I believe the way we get there is by remaining committed to the belief that we can do better.