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OpinionOpEd

OPINION: For its own good, LI should work with Cuomo

Kevin S. Law, a former president and chief executive of Long Island Power Authority, is president of the Long Island Association.

The election of Andrew Cuomo brings hope to Albany and Long Island, but the governor-elect has his work cut out for him.

He faces a $9-billion state budget deficit along with energy, education, transportation and health care challenges. And while he'll be closely watched throughout the state for what he can do to restore order and leadership to Albany, he also must focus on job creation and regional growth, and provide hope to residents drowning in stress and fear about the future.

Long Island continues to face unique challenges, and we shouldn't be penalized for false perceptions of our affluence. Long Island has been a cash cow for the state. We send billions of dollars more to Albany than we receive back, yet we have real issues including our own pockets of poverty. Cuomo surely understands that the more successful Long Island is in addressing its challenges, the more successful the state will be as well.

Long Island's business and government leaders should begin their work with the new Cuomo administration by identifying the economic growth opportunities that are already here. These concrete and fundable plans will spur real growth and stem the growing tide of business downsizing, closure and relocation. Cuomo showed creativity during the campaign with "NY Works" - a series of regional economic development proposals - which has the opportunity to create a new and lasting business-friendly climate in the state. That type of leadership and foresight will be supported by the Long Island business community - but new fees and taxes on business won't be.

Long Island's growth should coincide with a concerted effort to improve our infrastructure. These plans must enhance and expand our roads, rail and freight systems; improve and modernize our electric grid; and build and expand more modern sewer systems in Suffolk and maintain them in Nassau, to strengthen our residential and commercial real estate sector. These investments will lead to smart growth and new jobs, and re-establish Long Island as a modern and welcoming place to do business.

Long Island will also need state support on several important upcoming projects. Cuomo should back efforts to keep the Islanders here and to redevelop sites such as the former Pilgrim State Hospital.

The state should be eager to help our region tap its full potential. The Long Island Association has identified opportunities for future well-paying jobs in legitimate new technologies - including the life sciences, clean energy, homeland security and health care - that will showcase Nassau and Suffolk's intellectual capacity, our outstanding public and private universities, and world-class scientific research institutions.

As attorney general, Cuomo helped me reform the Long Island Power Authority. Today, as LIPA completes a strategic review to guide its future, the governor-elect needs to remain open-minded about all possible options for LIPA, including privatization of the utility. And he should encourage the efforts to renovate the older power plants here. He also needs to back Long Island's commitment to protecting the environment, which supports our multibillion-dollar tourism industry and our overall quality of life.

During the campaign, all the candidates spoke about property tax relief and caps on taxes and spending. While those proposals should certainly be debated the biggest way for Albany to ease our crushing property-tax burden is to relieve school districts, towns, villages and counties of expensive state mandates.

For the entire state to flourish once more, Long Island's business leaders must work closely with the new governor. We need to support Cuomo's efforts to cut the wasteful expenses we must say no to - in order to have the money for the priorities we must say yes to.

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