Tale of Two States

You have to hand it to Andrew Cuomo. During the last four years, he has governed in the shadow of his colleague in New Jersey—you know, that jolly fellow who used to yuk it up on late-night television chat shows and who was thought to be a presidential candidate in waiting based on his miraculous achievements in Trenton.

If Mr. Cuomo resented the media’s obsession with Chris Christie, he never showed it. Instead, he has spent his first term in relative seclusion while focusing on getting things done the old-fashioned way: not with bluster, but with patient negotiation and genuine leadership.

These days, of course, Mr. Christie is in the news for all the wrong reasons, while Mr. Cuomo is preparing for a re-election campaign that may well propel him into the national conversation—where he belongs.

For several years now, as Mr. Cuomo quietly challenged the dysfunctional status quo in Albany, Mr. Christie has been boasting to audiences around the country about something he called the Jersey comeback. And for a brief period, he had a compelling case to make, especially after he pushed through desperately needed reforms to public employee health benefits and pensions.

But as The Star-Ledger pointed out in a devastating cover story on Sunday, Mr. Christie’s tenure is not nearly as remarkable as he and his friends in the national media have portrayed it. New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded five times—five times—since Mr. Christie took office in 2010. The state is staring at an $807 million deficit that has to be fixed by the end of the current fiscal year, June 30. The state ranks near the bottom, along with such economic disasters as Arkansas and Mississippi, in private-sector job growth.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Hudson River, New York has increased the number of private-sector jobs by nearly 8 percent since 2010. And thanks to Mr. Cuomo’s prudent budgeting, Albany has not put itself in the kind of fiscal hole that Trenton now finds itself.

That’s not to say that Albany has become a nationwide leader in efficient governance. Mr. Cuomo’s decision to disband a Moreland Commission investigation of Albany’s lax ethics certainly was disappointing. 

Still, it seems clear that there is indeed a governor from this region who deserves a place in the national spotlight. He works in Albany, not Trenton.