Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Government Reform from an Executive Perspective

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Government Reform from an Executive Perspective

Article excerpt

As someone who has been working in the Executive branch since 1995 for Governor George E. Pataki, (1) I intend to discuss New York State government reform from the Executive perspective.

First, I will address how we in the Executive branch undertake the process of reform. Second, I will spend some time talking about our major reform accomplishments and some of the unfinished business that lies ahead of us. Third, I will offer some observations and perspectives on reform, including some of the lessons that I have learned from my experiences serving in the Executive branch, which may offer insight for the future.

In discussing the ways in which we in the Executive branch go about achieving reform, it is most appropriate to begin by addressing our own administrative actions. Administrative actions and Executive Orders that the Governor issues pursuant to his Executive authority serve as his primary tools for reforming New York State government. Over the past several years, many of the Executive's most significant reform accomplishments were started with the Governor's own actions. Procurement lobbying, for example, has been a topic receiving a great deal of discussion over the last couple of years. The goal of reform in this area is to ensure transparency regarding which actors and entities in Albany are trying to influence the procurement process, how much they are being paid for their efforts, and where they are participating in the process. In 2003, the Governor issued an unprecedented Executive Order requiring increased public disclosure of procurement lobbying. (2) That Order ultimately became the basis for a statute that we signed into law in 2005, which expanded the Lobbying Law to include procurement lobbying. (3)

Similarly, public authorities reform is another issue that has received much attention over the past couple of years. In 2004, the Governor's Office retained Ira Milstein, (4) a preeminent expert in corporate governance, to assist in responding to the challenges facing the state's public authorities and to reform their corporate structures to be more responsive, more accountable, and more open. Through the Milstein model-governance principles that were developed, (5) the Executive administratively required public authorities to begin adhering to those standards of corporate governance. (6) Ultimately, in 2005, the Governor was successful in getting a statute enacted that actually put those model governance principles into law, (7) building upon the work that the Federal Government had done--through the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (8)--in bringing more accountability, more transparency, and more disclosure to corporate governance.

Regarding the budget process, in 2005 New York State passed an on-time budget for the first time in twenty years. (9) Most significantly, the on-time budget was also a good budget. One of the reasons that the state was able to achieve excellence and efficiency in the budget process was that the Governor called for open meetings with the legislative leaders--both majority leaders and the minority leaders--producing five-way leaders meetings throughout the budget process. (10) The end result of this novel approach was a good budget that was on time and in balance.

By utilizing administrative tools, there are many things that the Governor can do to achieve reforms even without agreement on legislation and without changing our constitutional processes. I do think, however, that the core of reform is the Executive's legislative agenda. The Governor has a legislative agenda, the elements of which are known as Governor's Program Bills. Looking back over the last eleven years, Governor Pataki has advanced a very broad and aggressive reform agenda through his Program Bills. Some of the initiatives we have been able to accomplish include public authorities reform, (11) lobbying reform, (12) and closing the Flynn loophole in our Ethics laws, (13) just to name a few. …

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