New York Gov. Pataki Moves Swiftly to Erase Spend-and-Spend Policies Series: THE OTHER GOP REVOLUTION. One in a Series on Prominent Republican Governors Leading the GOP Shift in Federal Power to States and Localities
Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
THE Empire State will become "normal" now that Gov. George Pataki is in Albany.
In rejecting the policies of three-term liberal Democrat Gov. Mario Cuomo, Pataki supporters have a clear-eyed Republican view of "normal": lower taxes, the death penalty, and major cuts in social spending.
"We calculated that to cut the state's costs down to the average of the other nine largest states, you would have to cut spending and taxes by $25 billion," says David Shaffer, president of the Public Policy Institute, an arm of the conservative Business Council, a lobbying group, in Albany, N.Y.
While the Republican-controlled Congress launches its "revolution" in Washington, GOP governors are starting to turn state governments on end. And Governor Pataki may be vying for leader of the pack, moving ahead with plans to cut entitlements, a politically explosive issue that even revolutionaries in Washington are approaching cautiously.
Under Mr. Cuomo, social programs expanded at a rapid pace. "Under Pataki there is neither the money nor the inclination - the constrast will be stark and fundamental," says Jay Severin, a GOP political consultant.
The new governor last week gave New Yorkers an idea of how deep the cuts will be in his first State of the State speech. He promised no increase in the state budget of $34 billion for FY 1996. At the same time, he said he would drop the state's highest tax rate from 7.87 to 7 percent - a cut passed in 1987, but deferred for the last five years. In addition, the governor wants to cut personal taxes by up to 25 percent over the next four years.
To pay for the tax cuts and bridge a projected deficit of $5 billion for FY 1996, the new governor will try to make fundamental changes, especially in the $22 billion Medicaid state budget. In his campaign, the governor proposed sending the poor to managed-care facilities to bring down soaring medical costs. His lieutenant governor, Elizabeth McCaughey, has calculated a $1 billion annual saving is possible.
However, the cutbacks are also likely to affect the elderly as well. The state has 9 percent of the nation's senior citizens, of which 17 percent receive home health-care benefits. This amounts to 37 percent of the money the nation spends on this Medicare option. "For years New York felt it could spend more, have an activist government and not be hurt by it," says Shaffer.
Whether Pataki can get substantive changes through the legislature remains to be seen. …