We've turned things around in New York State!
We stopped talking and started doing! In three years (coincidently, the Andrew Cuomo years) we've reversed decades of decline and made dramatic and undeniable progress!
And the progress is not just in the numbers! We can feel it in every region in our state!
We have much more to do, of course, but we are energized by a new strength, a new pride, and a new confidence! And we're balancing budgets! We're working together! We've put politics aside!
Forgive my cynicism, but I spent so much time raising my eyebrows during the governor's State of the State Speech last week that my head still hurts.
I dunno. I could be wrong. Most of my waking and sleeping hours are spent in Rochester, and while I'm feeling some optimism here in our little city on the canal, I'm not sharing the governor's state of euphoria.
But as I say, I could be wrong. For all I know, Buffalo and Syracuse and Albany are rocking along as happily as Manhattan. Maybe the governor just failed to notice us when he assessed how the state is doing. That would be understandable, actually: I got the distinct impression from his State of the State that he doesn't even know Rochester exists, despite the enthusiastic presence of Our Bob, his lieutenant governor.
And yet.... Over the weekend, I asked economist Kent Gardner at the Center for Governmental Research whether the governor is right – whether my cynicism has blinded me and I don't recognize dramatic and undeniable progress when it's bursting out all around me.
Gardner pointed me to an analysis of the governor's statistics written by E.J. McMahon at the Empire Center for Public Policy. McMahon says we've made some progress. But overall, he says, "New York State ranks 21st out of 50 states in its rate of private job creation since November 2010."
Even that's not a bright picture. If we looked at Upstate's 50 counties by themselves, "they would rank dead last during the same period," says McMahon. The brightness is downstate.
The governor says that New York State "is Number 2 in jobs created since the recession." McMahon's analysis: while our state "lost fewer jobs during the recession" and recovered faster, "New York has not outperformed the nation in the last three years."
In fact, says McMahon, during the Cuomo years, "on a seasonally adjusted basis, private employment statewide has risen by 5.4 percent." The national rate: 6.3 percent.
And not to be too parochial, but Buffalo, which continues to feel the governor's love, actually gained a bit (1.2 percent) in manufacturing jobs during the Cuomo years. Rochester, on the other hand, had a decline of 6.8 percent. The top performer: Albany-Schenectady-Troy, where the state has pumped big bucks into high tech.
So I don't know. I don't want to accuse our governor of painting a rosy picture simply for political purposes. And I'd love to believe that things are looking good.
I hope that the tax cuts and tax-free zones he wants will result in new jobs that pay well. I hope we'll have enough money left over to add the new programs he promises. I hope he's right, that "the proof is in the pudding and the arrows are pointing up."
But this is the same governor who helped convince the majority of voters that casinos will give the state a big economic boost. E.J. McMahon thinks not. Statewide, "the projected fiscal and economic impacts won't be 'significant' by any stretch of the imagination," he wrote in October. The jobs will be relatively few, the new school aid will be minimal, and the impact on property taxes in most of the state will be almost imperceptible."
I want to believe. I really do. I'm finding it tough, though.
At least our governor isn't Chris Christie.