While we are seeing a mounting reform movement at the national level, I would also urge you to be aware of some of the important developments that are occurring in statehouses across the country. There are some exciting things happening, demonstrating that your activism is also paying dividends at the state level.
Building a strong foundation for reform at the state level is especially important since this is where many of our nation’s most important reform efforts have gotten their start. As Louis Brandeis once famously noted, the states can serve as "laboratories of democracy."
Nowhere has this been more true than in New York. From the Seneca Falls Convention to the beginnings of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to Frances Perkins’ fight for better labor conditions for American workers, we have a proud progressive tradition in the Empire State.
While I do not compare myself to these giants, their examples are instructive. They show us what government can be at its best – a dynamic and positive force to improve the lives of all Americans. These are the values that have guided my time in public office. As a new governor, I have made reforming government and revitalizing New York’s economy the cornerstones of my administration. I hope to build on the lessons of the past and learn from the examples of other states, by finding collaborative, bipartisan, and pragmatic solutions to the problems facing New Yorkers.
We have had some tremendous successes already and have laid the ground work for future progress.
We provided health care coverage for every child in New York. This initiative is the meaningful first stage of the plan we are currently crafting to provide universal healthcare coverage. New York is taking a unique, incremental approach that will build on the experiences of other states around the country. In a nation as prosperous as ours, there is no excuse that every man, woman, and child does not have health care.
We are beginning the long overdue process of revitalizing New York’s economy and we are going about it in innovative ways. Investing in education is a key component of our economic development agenda. Our goal is to generate the highly skilled work force necessary to support and fuel our future economic growth and to allow us to compete in the global economy. In my first budget, we implemented historic investments in education and created a commission to study ways of making our higher education system a world class institution.
We have also taken the first steps towards implementing our universal broadband initiative so that inner-city and rural areas can have the same internet access that many of us already enjoy. And my belief in fair markets makes me a strong supporter of net neutrality.
Improving the business climate for both workers and employers is critical to economic growth in New York. Accordingly, we negotiated with industry, labor leaders, and elected officials from both parties to cut workers’ compensation costs for businesses, while at the same time increasing employee benefits. We are saving New York businesses $1 billion this year alone.
These are the kind of win-win solutions that demonstrate we can bring all sides together at the state level for the common interest of improving economic opportunity for all.
Reforming the way elections are conducted has always been essential to my mission of making government more responsive and accountable. We have reached a campaign finance reform agreement that slashes contribution limits, closes loopholes, and bans contributions from lobbyists. While this is only a first step, I believe we are moving in the right direction. I hope we can learn from Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut as well as other proposals and eventually implement a full public financing program to further protect our government from special interest influence.
We have also stepped in to fill the federal leadership void in several areas where narrow ideologies have triumphed over common sense. That is why I have worked with my Lieutenant Governor David Paterson to provide an investment of $600 million in stem cell research over the next decade; why I will be proud to sign a bill that will provide marriage equality for all; and why I have proposed legislation designed to protect women’s rights if activist judges continue trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Clearly much more work is left to be done. It will not be easy and mistakes will be made, but as any public servant knows, I cannot do it alone. I want to partner with you transform these lofty ambitions into concrete accomplishments. Public activism and engagement is the best way to make politicians stand up and take notice.
I will do my part by live-blogging in the next few weeks at The Albany Project, but I look forward to reading your comments to this diary to get the dialogue started. I hope that you will join me in discussing the ways we can make New York and the nation better.
I wish I could be in Chicago with you and hope to join you next year.
P.S. Maybe next year you can gather in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Albany?
(Cross-posted at The Albany Project)
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