At the beginning of 2007, we heard a State of the State from Governor Spitzer that sounded highly promising, and included firm commitments to reform in the areas of ethics, campaign finance, lobbying, elections, the judiciary, and the budget. He followed up the speech with a hard push to pass a campaign finance bill and proposals to change the way we choose judges and draw district lines. What a difference a year (and some political trouble) makes! Today's speech completely ignored last year’s ambitious reform agenda, making at the end a passing reference only to campaign finance reform.
We don’t quarrel with the importance of the items like education and healthcare that did make the cut, but we were greatly disappointed to hear crickets instead of a renewed commitment to reform of our government systems. As we have argued many times, the dysfunction we find in Albany doesn’t keep to itself -- it filters into the problems we face in all other areas. Sky-high contribution limits make our elected officials responsive to their big donors rather than ordinary voters and taxpayers. Gerrymandered districts help incumbents skate to 90-plus percent re-election rates, regardless of whether they are tackling the tough issues. And legislative rules allow Senate and Assembly leaders to bury even those bills that enjoy the support of a majority of legislators and the public.
The 2008 election season will put our broken campaign finance system, overdue switch to electronic voting machines, and gerrymandered districts on display. We will spend the year pushing for the reforms New York so sorely needs. We hope the Governor will fill in today's silence with a plan to pitch in.