Budget Sanity in Albany

Without a great deal of attention, Governor Andrew Cuomo has managed to pull off a minor miracle over the last four years. He has kept the lid on state spending. He has tamped down partisan rancor in Albany. He has persuaded legislators to act on his budget proposal in a timely fashion. And he has come up with innovative ways to attract capital to New York, especially upstate.

The governor’s latest budget reflects the new, pragmatic sensibility in Albany. Total spending of $137.2 billion represents an increase of less than 2 percent over last year. Mr. Cuomo has proposed a cut in the tax rate on net corporate income from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent, and he outlined a two-year plan of tax rebates for property owners in communities that keep spending increases in check.

“This budget,” the governor said, “recognizes and believes that tax relief is an economic growth strategy that is working for our state.” 

Precisely. What’s more, the governor has demonstrated the political skill necessary to persuade his fellow Democrats, especially those in the assembly, that the state simply cannot continue the tax-and-spend policies that have drained the private sector of energy and creativity, especially upstate. 

His recent condemnation of conservative extremists (as he defined them) aside, Mr. Cuomo has built bridges to a diverse set of interests in New York, including the traditionally Republican business and finance sectors. But he also was the driving force—make no mistake about it—in bringing about marriage equality in New York.

New York still has lots of issues as Mr. Cuomo prepares for his reelection in earnest. The cost of doing business in the state still is too high. Public employee pension reform still remains an elusive goal, especially at the local level, although the governor certainly has moved the ball on this critical issue. And Albany has been the scene of far too many perp walks over the last four years.

Still, Mr. Cuomo clearly has established himself as a voice of reason over the last four years. That’s no small achievement in New York politics.