Thursday, March 20th 2008, 4:00 AM
While the sudden fall of Eliot Spitzer - the main antagonist for New York Republicans over the past 16 months - has had some in the GOP celebrating, the fundamental political difficulties for my party remain little changed.
If we're ever going to convince the people we can lead this state, we should resist the temptation to celebrate and start to build a more credible, effective alternative to the Democrats.
New York Republicans are in dire straits. We now hold just six of 29 Congress seats, 42 of 150 Assembly seats, and cling precariously to a two-vote majority in the state Senate. The state and national Democratic parties view elimination of the state Senate majority as a major goal, and the Spitzer resignation represents only a temporary diversion from that initiative.
New York State needs a potent Republican Party that offers common-sense solutions to the problems we face. The problems are well-known: the highest state and local taxes in the nation; stagnant population growth in most areas and declines in many parts of upstate, crumbling infrastructure and rapidly rising debt. Job growth is damaged by Albany's penchant for making business costs more expensive, especially in the areas of health insurance and energy.
What to do? First,
spends, taxes and borrows too much. Way too much. Republicans need to reject the Spitzer policy, which may or may not now become a Paterson policy, that allowed state spending to rise with the increases in personal income. This year, despite a looming recession, Spitzer proposed a 5% increase in spending. New York
Basing spending increases on past personal income growth means that overtaxed New Yorkers will just tread water and never benefit from lower taxes. Raising taxes in the current environment, as Democrats are proposing, will cost us jobs and prolong economic distress throughout the state.
Second, school property taxes are literally driving people from their homes. The STAR program enacted under Gov. George Pataki hasn't worked - because the Legislature never gave school districts the tools to restrain local school spending.
needs a cap on local school taxes, combined with significant mandate relief for school districts and local governments. Liberal states such as Massachusetts have had property tax caps for over 25 years, and they have worked well in keeping property taxes down while still providing high levels of assistance for education. New York
Third, the GOP should reject the Spitzer plan for the upstate economy, which calls for $1 billion in economic development spending using mostly borrowed money. This plan simply replicates what
has been doing for 30 years. Cutting property and business taxes, eliminating taxes on health insurance and energy and reforming pensions for government employees will be more effective in lowering business costs for all employers, not just a select few. New York
Fourth, we need to find the money to rebuild our transportation infrastructure. One place to start is the more than $700 million in state sales taxes on gasoline, which should be dedicated to transit and road projects. Transit is essential to the economic lifeblood of the downstate region, and MTA capital programs need to be accelerated if we are to compete for jobs.
Lastly, we need to make government more transparent and accountable. Republicans should lead the way in making every state and local government budget and contract available for public inspection on the Internet. We also need to impose term limits on legislative leaders in
so that we engender more political competition and independence among our legislators. Albany
New York Republicans are bound for extinction if they are a "me-too" party supporting the high-tax status quo. After all, there already is a party that routinely promotes big government solutions to what ails
. They're called the Democrats. New York
I know you will all be shocked to learn that I voted for Faso in the gubernatorial election. I believe that Faso is dead on when describing the failure of New York Republicans in their quest to gain more influence and a louder voice on issues impacting our state. Moreover, it seems that the NY Republican machine is shortsighted and factious when it comes to election races. Rarely do they see the larger picture and often they fight and scramble for political morsels rather than ensuring themselves more seats at the banquet table. Wake up!