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Issue Analysis

Doing the Right Thing on Spending

Though no one would think it by watching the media’s coverage of Wisconsin, reining in out-of-control spending on public employee unions is a bipartisan issue.  Though only the Republicans have taken reforms far enough in an effort to limit collective bargaining, but it was not a Republican but rather Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo who stated in his inaugural address:                                                                   

We have to pass a property tax cap in the State of New York because working families can’t afford to pay the ever-increasing tax burden. Nothing is going up in their lives.  Their income isn’t going up, their banking account isn’t going up, their savings aren’t going up. They can’t afford the never-ending tax increases in the State of New York and this state has no future if it is going to be the tax capital of the nation.

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And my friends, we must right-size the state government for today. The state government has grown too large, we can’t afford it, the number of local governments has grown too large, and that we’re going to have to reduce and consolidate.

It remains to be seen if the austerity which Governor Cuomo calls for will balance the state budget (which is estimated to stand at nearly $10 billion as of 2010), but the policies that Governor Cuomo has pursued have, so far, indicated that he means business.  As Michael Tanner reports on the Cato Institute's website, Governor Cuomo intends to freeze public employee pay and benefits for the first time since 2007, reduce the state workforce by 7% and reform entitlements before it is done by either party in Washington. 

On the other coast, it is unclear that California’s newly-elected Governor Jerry Brown intends to pursue the same fiscal austerity.  However, there are numerous voices on California's Left who are lobbying for him to pursue pension reform for state employees.  Among these reformers are Matt Gonzalez (a former Green Party vice-presidential nominee) and Willie Brown (a former mayor of San Francisco).

These reformers are not fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives pursue reform to lead to lower taxes, less government and more freedom, while many on the Left who are calling for pension reform do so to free up funding with which to finance dubious initiatives and environmental boondoggles. But they agree with fiscal conservatives that spending on public employees is on an unsustainable track and needs reform. Whether or not some would do it for the wrong reasons, reformers in both parties know what the right thing is.