It has been an enormous privilege over the past six years that I’ve represented this region in the New York State Senate to have the opportunity, through this website, to now and then express a few thoughts, share a few opinions, and offer my own perspective on so many of the key issues of the day.
But as many of you know, I’m winding down 32 years as a New York State legislator. I’ll be retiring at the end of this week. So this will be my final web column. For those of you who have faithfully read these words, and then perhaps seen fit to send me a few thoughts of your own (which, by the way, many of you have), I simply want to say thank you.
One of the legislative assignments I most enjoyed during the course of 32 years of service in the State Legislature was my tenure as the head of a joint, bipartisan group known as the Legislative Commission on the Development of Rural Resources.
That took place from 2005 to 2009, when my chairmanship ended following the Democratic takeover over the Senate. Although I stayed on as a commission member for the past two years, it seemed to lose some of its stature and standing within the Legislature.
A New York Times headline not long ago could stand alone as a call to arms for Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature in 2011, “One Way to Trim Deficit: Cultivate Growth.”
It falls in line with a theme that I, together with many legislative colleagues, have been sounding since the beginning of the state’s current fiscal crisis in late 2008. And as I wind down my own tenure in office over the next few weeks, I think it’s worth sounding one more time.
As news of New York’s fiscal crisis has dominated headlines and steadily worsened over the past few years, many have been asking this question again and again, “What are we doing in New York State to encourage economic activity and growth?”
“Cyber Monday,” the day after the traditional Thanksgiving weekend start to the holiday shopping season, begins a flurry of online purchasing that generated nearly $1 billion worth of spending by Americans in 2009.
That’s an incredible amount, one that also signals an unprecedented exchange of online information. But it also compels this reminder: Don’t overlook the privacy and other public policy issues raised by our ongoing leap into this age of modern technology.
The locally based Venison Donation Coalition sums up the core of its mission this way, “With the downturn of the economy, budget cuts throughout the country, and increased layoffs, more and more Americans are feeling the crunch and being left hungry. Those going hungry are families, children and single parents and the donation of venison can help feed these people.”
The Venison Donation Coalition is a foundation supported by sportsmen’s organizations, of course, but also by corporations, government agencies, civic and religious organizations, and individual citizens. I’m grateful every year around this time to call attention to its work.
Elmira, N.Y., November 10–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) and Assemblyman Jim Bacalles (R-C-I, Corning) reminded area residents today that the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Serving Upstate NY will sponsor a free Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) in Hornell on Saturday, November 13, 2010.
The November 13th KEEP screening will be held at the United Methodist Church of Hornell, located at 7528 N. Main Street Ext. (Webbs Crossing), from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For more information, contact 585-697-0874.
There’s still plenty of unresolved business coming out of the 2010 elections. There’s a lot of vote-counting left to do, and it will be weeks, maybe months before anyone can offer any truly accurate assessment of the impact this election cycle has had on politics and government in New York State and nationally.
But one thing we can say for sure is that, just like in the words of the old song, “a change is gonna come.”
It sure is. And the state of where it all stands in New York was reflected in the days following Election Day with headlines like “Now comes the real fight” and “Rough road is ahead.”
So what’s the latest piece of evidence to back up the belief that New York State really has its work cut out?
You could make a strong argument that the answer to that question can be found within newspaper headlines like the following one that appeared in our region late last week, “New York has worst climate for business.”
The accompanying article highlighted the most recent report from the Tax Foundation, which found that New York’s ranking fell, from 49th to 50th, among states with the worst tax climate in the nation. It wasn’t good before, but it just became worse: Dead last in the nation.
It spells trouble for the state economy and points to the overriding need for reform, and fast.
If you consider the 2010 election season in terms of horse racing – and I’ve been reading more than a few critics this election season lamenting that America’s political discourse has become little more than sports entertainment in too many races – then voters have reached the home stretch. It’s time to cross the finish line.
It’s time to decide.
So while it’s hard in these final days to cut through the negative advertising and all the rest, here’s my own issues scorecard on what I hope will guide voters’ decisions on November 2nd :
One of the golden rules of political communication is this one: tell your audience, then tell them again, and then tell them one more time. By the third time, the traditional thinking goes, the citizens you’re trying to reach with your message may begin to listen and might even start to remember a little of what you have to say.
So I’ll return again this week, for the third time in the past few months, to the issue of Medicaid reform. Not only do I believe it is one of the defining issues of the current election season, but how it gets addressed in the next legislative session that begins in January 2011 is going to go a long way toward deciding New York’s economic and fiscal future.
A quick quiz: New York State’s largest industry is:
a.) Tourism b.) Manufacturing c.) Agriculture or d.) High-tech
We’re beginning this week by celebrating Columbus Day and recalling how that early voyage began opening the way to the settlement of America which, in turn, is remindful of the fact that throughout the centuries we have been a nation of agriculture and farming.
And that’s right, the answer to the above question is this: agriculture remains New York’s No. 1 industry. In fact, today’s farm economy generates more than $4 billion worth of annual economic activity statewide and provides a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
Albany, N.Y., October 5—As he winds down a career in the New York State Legislature that has spanned the past four decades, State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) continues to be recognized by upstate business leaders for his commitment to a legislative agenda focused on private-sector economic growth, job creation, and tax relief.
While Winner is not seeking re-election this November, he said that he still takes great pride in the ongoing recognition that his priorities as a state legislator have remained true to what he has often called the “four corners” of future success: lower taxes, lower costs, fewer regulations, and better jobs.
He also stressed that he’s hopeful that it’s a tradition of service that won’t be lost in future legislatures.
First and foremost, I’ll take this chance to tip my own hat to one of our region’s most distinguished and most influential citizens, James R. Houghton, former chairman and CEO of Corning Incorporated. Late last week at its annual meeting, the Business Council of New York honored him with its 2010 “Corning Award for Excellence.”
This prestigious tribute is given annually to a New Yorker who has demonstrated “outstanding accomplishment and a deep and sustained commitment to the people of New York.” For the people of Corning and all of the Southern Tier, that gets right to the heart of what James Houghton and the Houghton family has meant and given to our region – a deep and sustained commitment.
It pays to pay attention. That’s always great advice, but it sure isn’t advice that New York State has taken to heart when it comes to the cost of its Medicaid system.
In fact, New York leaders are being told a billion times a week that Medicaid is out of control and consuming state taxpayer dollars at an unsustainable pace. Yet too often it just looks and sounds like not enough people are paying attention. I say a billion times a week because that’s how much the system is costing taxpayers. Medicaid costs approximately $52-billion-a-year in New York, or a billion dollars a week.
Last week we received word about the creation of an exciting new organization that I’m hopeful will help pave a few roads on the way to an economic renewal across upstate New York. At the very least, it appears this organization will be a source of timely, thoughtful, vibrant, and worthwhile ideas and awareness.
This new organization is being called the “Manufacturing Research Institute of New York State.” It’s been established by the Syracuse-based Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), which is the largest association of its kind in New York and one of the nation’s oldest. MACNY represents approximately 350 businesses and 55,000 workers across 19 upstate counties.
Several years ago, well before the onset of the economic crisis that has gripped the nation for most of the past two years, I joined a group of legislative colleagues and prominent business leaders from across the state to stake out reviving the upstate economy as priority No. 1 in New York government. In fact, we spelled out a comprehensive, 10-point job creation and economic growth plan and called it “Upstate Now.”
One of the time-honored flare-ups in New York State politics, and it seems to have been reignited most often throughout the past century when things (especially the economy) turn especially volatile, is the call for secession.
Split New York into two states along an upstate-downstate boundary, the idea goes – we’ll leave them to their resources, and we’ll take care of our own.
It’s been a long struggle to raise the state Legislature's awareness of traditionally upstate, small city, rural issues, but over the past two years the challenges for rural legislators have become more and more acute. We’ve seen it time and again in the ongoing battles over the state’s tax policies, economic development priorities, infrastructure allocations and in so many other ways.
So it’s going to remain one of the constant demands of every upstate legislator to remind the downstate, New York City-based leaders who currently control New York government that our state is largely defined by rural regions and the future of these rural communities is fundamental to statewide strength and well-being.