Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five steps to rescue New York's down-and-out GOP

By John Faso

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, New York 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.

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. New York 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.

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 New York 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.

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 Albany so that we engender more political competition and independence among our legislators.

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 New York. They're called the Democrats.

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!


Anonymous said...

Too little, too late, the NYS GOP is toast...

You decry the declining population but you also decry zoning changes to build more apartments. People need housing.

You want to use gas taxes for mass transit (a Democratic idea) but the GOP has stopped these efforts.

You oppose spending money to create jobs upstate and then claim that lower taxes would solve the upstate problem. Appalachia has lower taxes but no jobs. Jobs will only locate to upstate when land use planning stops encouraging abandonment of existing cities (complete with infrastructure) in favor of new developments that drain those cities. And jobs can locate upstate but we must coordinate NYC companies with government to build back office operations there.

The GOP stands for policies NOT supported by the majority of New Yorkers. Former bastions of the GOP (Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester) have become Democratic as a result.

Yes, we must reduce taxes but not at the expense of public health, transit, and more.

Property tax caps sound nice, but schools must be paid for. So if property taxes are capped, income taxes rise (at least income taxes reflect actual family wealth better than property taxes).

The only way to reduce school taxes in suburbia is to consolidate districts; eliminating administrative salaries while gaining the benefit of buying in bulk. But people want their little districts without the willingness to pay for them... something must give.

Patrick, some of your ideas are excellent, but caging them as Republican will doom them to failure. You decry the division within our community but then you use your blog to attack anything Democratic.. so you are part of the problem and are not the solution.

Thomas said... question....don't democrats out number republicans in New York 4-1? Enough said.

The democrats have been destroying New York for decades

Anonymous said...

The Republicans control the State Senate and have for 35+ years - virtually having veto power.

AND we had Pataki (A REPUBLICAN) for 12 years... so the Dems had the Assembly.

Party registration IS indicative of sentiment, so Democrats (4-1 outnumbering you) rule.

By the way.. it is NOT 4-1 in NY STATE

Linda said...

Yes. people do need housing yet the unions(democrat supporters), developers(democrat finaciers) and special interest(democrat lap dogs) place undue demands and finincial rewards on each project making it impossible for the middle class to benefit. Democrats have opposed any attempt to allow companies to seek oil opportunities here in america. Yet top liberals drive the biggest cars and fly on luxurious jets to get to speaking engagements so they can verbally decry energy efficiency.

You can only create jobs by providing incentives for large corporations to operate here in the state. The democrats want to tax, regulate and strangle businesses which forces them to move their enterprises elsewhere.

Public assistance is needed yet the sense of entitlement has created a welfare society amongst the poor. We should assist those in need, help those who want a better life and reward those who have lifted themselves beyond what the government should provide.

We should demand that our public works and transportatation operate within their means and they conduct their finances like corporations in the public sector. Our tax dollars should not be used to finance mismanaged entities.

Our school system has been taken over by bureacrats, union leaders and administrators. Their financial well-being supercedes the needs of our children. Let a well organized parent body dictate the education system.

In closing, Patrick, I agree with some of what you say but I believe that the people need to take back this country from the "career" government.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a shock to see a right winger trashinh unions. Hate to break it to you but all the good times we had in the 50's & 60's, middle class moving up, home ownership, and lets not forget winning WW2 were do to unions.

All those good made in WW2, the tanks, ships, planes, bullets, all union labor. The people heading out to LI in the 50's and 60's. Unions.

What we have seen is an intense hatred for unions by people who pretty much don't like the idea of Americans looking out for Americans. UNions have great pension plans, and great health benefits. What's wrong with that???

The Republicans are all for big business screwing everyone and looking out for the wealthy and the hell with everyone else. Look at all those people who lost their shirts with first Enron, and now Bear Sterns. The Republicans hate the middle class and the poor because they see them taking money(we call it earning it, repubs say taking it) that should be lining their pockets. See how many Republicans now that the good times are over and they've lost their shirts vote for a Democrat come November...

In my book the generic republican is your a typical cheapskate SOB. You know the type. Goes out the dinner when everyone else is having burgers and soda's, orders surf and turf, drinks, the whole nine yards. Then wants to go dutch when the tab comes.....These are the same folks who tell you how important the war in Iraq is how we need to win it, and how no one wants to sign up and we shouldn't quit. Meanwhile they complain about how much it costs to take care of the guys coming home, while their service age kid is hanging out in the living room playing video games...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Rust Belt does mean something...

Under Reagan, we had the Savings Bank scandals which produced the nation's single largest ever trasfer of wealth from the Rust Belt states to the South. For instance, American Airlines picked up a headquarters building for about $2 per square foot when it cost TAXPAYERS over $20 a square foot to build.

Meanwhile, national policies encourage suburban sprawl including in desert areas that then require billions in gov't spending to provide water (while ruining the environment).

National policies -particularly under Republicans- promote highways over mass transit, new construction over renovation and restoration, environmentally dangerous policies over recycling already built cities and communities.

First we saw jobs go to the South because the Republican Labor Department and Republican States were anti-union. So jobs went where it was cheaper.

Guess what? Today those jobs are moving to India and China. So the South is no longer a panacea you wish to portray.

Furthermore, highway based cities pollute the air. They require infrastructure that they are now being forced to build. And imagine this- WE pay for their roads, water and sewer systems, electrical distribution system (remember, the East and Midwest paid for Hoover Dam, etc.). The list could go on and on.

Today only 8% of this country is unionized so do not blame unions.

You want policies that promote mass transit? Well the Bush administration (AND JOHN McCAIN) are opposed to helping AMTRAK or rebuilding the railroads.

A great example..John "More Wars" McCain just lobbied to move the multi billion dollar contract to Air Force fuel tankers to EUROPEAN Airbus and lower cost (down South) Northrup at the expense of industry leader Boeing.

Government policies (under both parties) have supported policies that keep the poor in public housing. Remember, virtually every economist admits that the mortgage interest deduction is a give-away to the middle class. Meanwhile renters get nothing, and those barely making it cannot save for a time when they might move out and own their homes.

No one is saying that we should abandon good policies such as the mortgage deduction, but we must consider policies that incentize and assist the poor to earn the assets reguired to move into the middle class.

Companies such as Walmart pay cheap and provide few benefits for employees. In fact most of their employees lack health insurance for a variety of reasons all centered around the company's goal to keep prices low. So Walmart maintains a slave class of workers who then require gov't assistance in order to survive.

Unions would have prevented this. Employees would have health care and better salaries.

The choice is ours (as a society)... we can always demand inexpensive items regardless of cost or we could do what Henry Ford did (and he was both anti-union and anti Semite)- he paid employees enough so they could afford to buy the very cars they build. THAT built a middle class.

Is there union abuse? Absolutely! No question. Union Leaders can -and are- as bad as those who own or run corporations.

There are exceptions. Starbucks provides excellent benefits and salaries. COSTCO provides the same.

It can be done. But not by endorsing policies that promote abandoning Rust Belt cities, making medical insurance unaffordable to 1 in every 5 Americans, and moving jobs off short while the rich get richer.

George Bush (and mimi-me John McCain), Ronal Reagan, and G. Bush Sr. each institute policies that have hurt the poor and middle class. The rich have gotten richer and those who continuously vote against their own economic interests by electing Republicans- they are ruining America.

Anonymous said...

You don't know what high taxes are until you have lived in Chautauqua County! The Washington Tax Foundation identified the county as the 5th. highest taxed in the entire country last year. Chautauqua only has 134,000 residents, about the size of a small city but to govern that small city we have 27 towns, 15 villages 2 cities and 18 school districts. We also have 8 separate full time police departments in addition to the state police. Property taxes in my town (Dunkirk) are 5% of full market value. A $100,000 home carries a tax burden of $5,000. We are closing churches, schools and hospitals because the population is in steady decline. So, why is nobody fixing the problem? Many of our best jobs are in a unionized public sector and they don't want to hear about downsizing. Consolidation of governments and school districts are the obvious answer but it's just not happening and I suspect the same is true for most of upstate New York. The politicians and political parties are failing us miserably and I see little if any difference between the Democrat and Republican Party. Conservatives have forgotten what they are supposed to stand for and Libertarians just never caught fire. Independents now outnumber all others for good reason - they don't believe the BS we are getting from all the organized parties.We could probably change the course of history by dropping our major party registration and registering independent. Can you imagine the impact on the major parties if their registrations were to plunge dramatically?
Anyone in favor of starting a new party?

Phil from Dunkirk