By David Valesky
I read with interest your editorial supporting Sen. Charles Schumer's bipartisan approach to governing. Our senior senator should be commended for his efforts to enact common sense policy by working with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. It is obvious that change must occur, because the negative effects of partisan gridlock at the federal level have become painfully evident to us in Central New York as we deal with fallout from sequestration cuts.
Recognizing the need for change is one thing; it is much more difficult to achieve it. I know from experience that it can be done successfully.
As has been widely reported, last year my colleagues and I in the Independent Democratic Conference formed a bipartisan majority coalition in the State Senate. Our mission is to put aside the hyperpartisan politics that typically entrench themselves in governing bodies and focus on government in the interests of the people we serve, regardless of political affiliation.
This new model is the first of its kind in the history of New York state. The concept of Democrats and Republicans joining together to govern was at first foreign, and looked at with a mix of curiosity and skepticism from both parties' establishments and the media. We said the proof would be in the pudding.
And we have provided results.
This year, working with Gov. Cuomo, we passed a third on-time budget in a row, closed a deficit with no new taxes and fees and still provided tax relief to middle-class families and more funding for upstate schools. We provided a much-needed increase in the minimum wage while supporting small businesses with new programs. We prioritized policies that will have direct benefit for the Upstate economy, including extending tax credits that have provided the impetus for several projects in downtown Syracuse.
We still have more work to do and several outstanding issues to address. But, from a global view, the majority coalition has provided stability in a body that has an unfortunate recent history of turbulence, to put it politely.
Our success should not be surprising. In everyday life, the best results are often garnered through discussion and compromise. This is the cornerstone of the coalition, and I look forward to continuing our progress next session.
So to those who say bipartisan cooperation is impossible, that the two-party system is too mired in us vs. them, I say: look to the state Senate for an example of positive change.