With the Holidays upon us, another year is quickly drawing to a close. For me, it is a time when I like to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and consider lessons to be learned.
When it comes to the Legislature, it has been a difficult year to summarize, for it was a year full of both promising accomplishments and disappointing distractions.
The year began with great hope, as the new Governor and the Legislature tackled challenges that had gone unresolved for years, if not decades. We inked a deal on Workers’ Compensation reform, which has saved businesses across the state millions of dollars while improving benefits for injured workers. We improved state ethics laws, passed budget reform and found agreement on civil confinement for sex predators. The momentum continued as we adopted an on-time budget, which included reforms of Medicaid spending and a revamped school funding formula. It seemed we were on track to have the most productive year in recent memory.
Unfortunately, the Legislature adjourned in late June without resolution on several key issues, including an important energy agreement, campaign finance reform and Wick’s Law changes. We were extremely close to solutions on these issues, and I recall driving home from Albany after session expecting to be back in weeks to pass solutions to a host of major challenges.
Then, the troubles began. With the summer came controversy, finger-pointing and a level of acrimony between top state leaders not seen in decades. That was followed by a poorly-conceived proposal on licenses that sidetracked our state for another few months.
Thankfully, as 2007 comes to a close, we are finally again putting the focus where it should be -- on improving the Upstate economy and reforming state government.
The Senate Democratic conference just announced a proposal to create jobs in Upstate New York by rebuilding infrastructure, supporting agriculture, tapping educational assets and promoting emerging technologies, all under a regional economic development approach that dovetails with work being done by Upstate Economic Development Czar Dan Gundersen.
On the reform front, open and accessible government took a giant leap forward this month with the unveiling of the Project Sunlight website. This site, developed by the Attorney General’s office, offers citizens information on campaign contributions, lobbying efforts and bill sponsorship, among other things. It is a monumental reform.
As the new year begins, I hope we pick up where we left off in June. And, I hope we can recapture the sense of urgency and resolve. There are just too many challenges and goals in the year ahead to do anything else.