On January 1, 2011, Andrew Cuomo will take the oath of office to become the 56th person to serve as the Governor of New York.
But two months before that day comes, the issues and problems he must confront are clear. And it is indeed a very heavy burden.
First, of course, is the uncertain economy and its lack of jobs. Second is the need for affordable housing. Third, the need for a new law to restrict excessive spending in elections. Millionaires and billionaires have in race after race dominated the field. A fourth concern for the new governor: rezoning, affordable housing and rent laws.
The advocates for reform have strong views on what the new governor should do. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group told me: “We’re facing two crises, one fiscal and the other ethical. The new governor may be at war with the Legislature over ethics reform even as he tries to form a new state government.
If the Legislature stalls on approving members of his cabinet, it might result in government gridlock. There could be a bruising battle over how to close the deficit at the same time, as there’s a battle over ethics reform and uncertainty. In this new era of paper ballots there could be drawn out struggles over who becomes attorney general or comptroller.”
The present division in the State Senate is 32-30. Will those numbers change? The answer to that question could depend on whether we have legislative paralysis on the budget, school aid and Medicaid.
On the ethics issue, Horner says perhaps we need one entity overseeing all ethics questions. That argument, as he sees it, could tie up the lawmakers for weeks.
Another reformer weighed in. Susan Lerner of Common Cause told me: “The 9 billion dollars deficit has to be the first concern. But the lack of response to campaign finance and ethics needs is a distinct challenge to the new governor. The public wants reform,” she says, adding: “Spitzer had a mandate but didn’t succeed in using it.”
It’s not a happy time to pick up the reins of government.