our new 51st state:
Clearly, the mere forming of a new state does not, in and of itself, guarantee success and prosperity. No, forming a new state is just the first step. A great deal of work must then follow. On this page we hope to share our vision for the difficult work which our new state must immediately undertake.
To begin, we must focus on the root cause of our current decline and it can be stated in four simple words: "We are NOT competitive!" That is, it simply costs too much to do business in Upstate. As a result manufacturing companies either move or "consolidate" their plants in other states where costs are lower. Our farmers are also seriously disadvantaged to their competitors in other states due to these same excessive costs.
Some people have suggested that all we have to do is lower business taxes. Well, that really won't achieve the results we need. The problem with only cutting business taxes is that with reduced income, the state will just shift the tax burden on to individuals. Companies need workers who can afford decent housing and transportation AFTER they pay their taxes. So shifting the burden to individuals, just means that companies will be forced to pay their employees higher salaries.
Real solution is that, "we must lower all the water". That is, we must spend LESS so that we can:
1. Cut all taxes by a minimum of 50%
What sacrifices will that entail? Well, it means:
a) We must immediately "roll back" the 38% salary increase for the legislature and the departments heads it trickled down to (honestly, given the situation in Upstate our state legislature is just so hopelessly out of touch with the economic realities! How could they have ever passed that raise in the first place?)
b) Through our new state constitution concentrate power in our county governments so that they can begin the difficult task of consolidating lower level governments and agencies.
c) Once counties have this power, "economically stimulate" them at the state level (via revenue sharing) to consolidate police forces, libraries, hospitals, fire departments, school districts, road maintenance, environmental protection, planning boards, courts etc.... all at the county level.
d) Pass an austerity state budget that provides the minimum absolute service that we must provide and no more. Further, in that austerity budget we must eliminate/reduce agencies, which overlap with the federal government and with other state agencies.
e) Reform "workfare" to comply with federal standards and use "workfare" recipients to displace some "full time" county workers. Obviously, this is not without pain, but we must cease paying people to do nothing.
f) Eliminate tolls on the Thruway and the workers who pass out tickets and collect tolls. Primary issue here is to reduce both transportation cost AND transportation time.
g) With significant tax cuts, utility rates MUST also come down. Investigate thoroughly utility rates across the new state.
h) Via the new constitution, state government will go on a strict diet. We don't really need 60 senators and 150 assemblymen. We can live on a whole lot less!
Next we must address the Upstate cities and "fix" a major root cause of their decline, the violence in inner city schools, by:
2. Providing in the new state constitution a balance between rights and responsibilities
What this means is that children, who have no interest in learning and who effectively "rob" an education from those who do, will be ejected out of the schools right into the court system. Here these social "misfits" can be dealt with out in the open and no longer hidden by the system of "social promotion".
We must develop a school system with complete intolerance to gang members who relish assaulting each other, innocent students, staff and teachers. Our children already have shorter hours and a shorter school year than our competitors. We can no longer tolerate our children and teachers being distracted by those with no interest in learning.
Next we must address the other "big" problem of the Upstate cities and that is:
3. A major reform of the juvenile justice system
Youthful offenders are committing more and more of the crime in the Upstate cities. The reform institutions are over crowded, the courts are packed and the kids know they'll get off with little or no punishment. We absolutely must reform this system so that there is sufficient space for the youth offenders to be incarcerated until they show signs of reformation.
Further, a long history of criminal acts must not be "forgotten" or "forgiven" once a youth crosses that imaginary line to adult status. Past history must be included in sentencing decisions! By recognizing repeat offenders for what they really are, we improve the sentencing process, which in turn reduces crime and improves the quality life for the rest of the citizens.
Finally, the last, but not least MAJOR reform gets to the very heart of our self-governing system. Today we have people representing us in Albany who simultaneously represent people from other counties. In the new constitution, we must:
4. End all legislative districts which cross county lines
Under the worse case an individual may represent two entire counties, but this would be rare. Purpose in this change is for people to be grouped together by communities of common interests and what better "common interest" than the well being of their county. Under the current system of districts that were drawn up to insure the party in power remains in power, no one represents the interests of the various counties and these counties are the fundamental service providers and taxing authorities that serve all the people.
To ignore the problems of counties is to shift power to politicians whose constituents are frequently changing. What we need is a system whereby we can hold our politicians accountable for failed policies. That doesn't exist today!
5. Enable in the state constitution voter initiative and referendum
This is an idea whose time has come. When political parties get so entrenched that there is essentially no change in the elected politicians (like we have in New York), we end up with the same old people putting forth the same old tired policies. Voter initiative allows new ideas to "break through" and upset the complacency of our elected officials. If we don't do this, from where will the new ideas come?
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