Dr. Michael Morrongiello
Psychologist and Steuben County Landowner
The plight of the Southern Tier – a failing economy with no end in sight – is directly attributable to a governing philosophy of handouts before leadership.
An Elmira Star-Gazette editorial on August 15th accurately described the plight of upstate New York: lagging economic growth, little job creation, people leaving the state in droves. The Editorial Board cited State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report which said “job growth was uneven across the state.” The Southern Tier actually lost jobs. There’s nothing uneven about it; the area is flatlining. After a great start the editorial fizzled out, failing to name the cause of upstate’s decline nor any real solutions – state leadership that has put the Southern Tier and much of Upstate New York at the mercy of downstate special interests.
People have always tried to improve their lives and that of their families. What could be more natural and human than to create a better standard of living for your children and grandchildren? So the question is: why isn’t it happening here? We’re no better or worse than the people of Texas, yet they create jobs easily. The people of the Southern Tier (those that remain) are responding to the economic environment created by government policy. They sensibly cling to the pittance they’re left with after taxes, and they are risk-averse because of taxes and regulations.
The decline of upstate is an intergenerational problem. Cuomo is just the latest in a long line of Governors who promised to fix it, and never do.
Consider that 13 of 14 New York governors since 1923 came from downstate. The NYS Assembly is dominated by downstate. The recent budget deal in Albany, aptly named “the big ugly,” was all about New York City. Upstaters do not hold one statewide office, and haven’t for many years. The votes, money and power are downstate. The most benign explanation is that we’re an afterthought; the most malicious is that they’re deliberately strangling us.
The secession and home-rule movements are a natural outgrowth of citizens tired of the unrelenting pounding upstate gets from Albany. Contented people don’t secede.
According to the New York State Association of Counties, 90% of our property taxes go to funding nine mandates from Albany. We’re still waiting for the fix from Albany. We pay sales tax, property tax and income tax. The fix is to cut those taxes, cut predatory state agencies, and keep them on a very short leash.
If we were really open for business, natural gas development wouldn’t have been banned. Sadly, this economic game-changer could have brought much needed jobs and investment to our area and real state leadership might have helped sell the idea to downstate by pointing out the benefits of lowered carbon and other emissions in substituting gas for coal and oil, the move that has cleaned New York City’s air and actually saved lives.
If we must please downstaters, then shouldn’t the job of the governor be to lead and to educate them and show just how important natural gas is to their lives, rather than simply caving to their irrational fears? It wouldn’t have been that hard if the governor had simply led with the facts such as those illustrated in this neat handout from Energy In Depth:
The Star-Gazette also never mentions the liberal governing philosophy that dominates the state. Conservative principles like lower taxes, limited government and personal freedom are nowhere in sight. Instead, the Southern Tier is offered a handful of handouts to finance meaningless pet projects that do little or nothing in the long-term compared to what natural gas might offer. The region needs leadership from Albany in dealing with downstate – not handouts.
Compliments to the paper’s Editorial Board for naming the problem. It would be helpful if they would shake that angry pen at Albany and name the causes of our decline: the indifference of our governing downstate elite, a governing philosophy, liberalism, that taxes and regulates too much and a failure to lead and educate on the part of our governor.