Not unexpectedly most of it was the usual back patting political schlock. Anticipation ran both high... would the Governor signal his Presidential ambitions by taking a hard right turn... and low... could anything the lame duck Governor had to say be of any consequence at all to New Yorkers.
The answer to the first question is... no. Gov. Pataki spoke at great length about tax cuts and gave the usual Republican schpiel about small government, the benefits of lower taxes, and a strong business environment. He talked a little law and order in calling for stronger treatment of sexual predators. He invoked the specter of Sept. 11 (thoroughly appropriate for the Governor of New York). He crassly invoked the image and sacrifices of our returning soldiers in a manner that made it sound like he was going to propose something special for them but then didn't.
But there were no biblical references or hints. No condemnation of alternate lifestyles or viewpoints. No across the board calls for a stricter criminal code. No call for relaxation of gun control laws or environmental regulations.
On the contrary, Gov. Pataki called for alternative energy tax credits. A possible hint at his ambitions came in the inclusion of ethanol pumps along the Thruway (and a ludicrous reference to "clean coal"). Amongst his tax cut proposals was this call for a statewide tax free zone:
"Let's attract companies from around the world that are developing the clean, renewable energy sources of the future - let's make the entire state a tax free zone for this growing industry."
Gov. Pataki highlighted one of the accomplishments of his tenure which is the preservation of nearly a million acres of land. He also claimed credit for the work of Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer in joining with the other northeastern states in combating the effects of Bush's Dirty Skies initiative and acid rain from Midwestern industry.
Gov. Pataki claimed credit for Medicaid reform that barely scratched the surface of the problem. He claimed credit for increased numbers of insured but by not addressing the real problem of the vast numbers of uninsured, the lack of mental health parity legislation, and the lack of universal coverage for all New Yorkers his words rang hollow and insincere.
In his tax cut talk he mentioned the problem of property and school taxes. While highlighting the need for improved education funding and mentioning changes to the STAR program he completely skipped over the devastating role the states lack of attention to Medicaid has on local property taxes and the inability of county governments to maintain other vital services.
The Governor's call for improved education, tax cuts, his emphasis on renewable energy initiatives, improved environmental protections, and incentives for new high-tech and bi-tech business to locate in New York are all good one's.
On the downside, the very downside, the Governor made to mention whatsoever of legislative reforms, lobbying reforms, state authority reforms, budgeting reforms (other than to try and claim credit for the first on-time budget in decades), or electoral reforms, including reform of the reapportionment process and the need for reliable, inexpensive, and transparent voting machines (paper ballot/optical scan systems not DRE's in other words).
The absolute and complete absence of any reform initiative in this his last year or for any of the previous 11 years of his governance makes his an administration that has failed New Yorkers of all ideological and economic stripes. The most critical issue holding back New York State and harming New Yorkers is the lack of reform of our most dysfunctional state government in the nation.
I applaud Gov. Pataki for the high-tech and environmental issues but if he and the rest of state government are really serious about improving the tax and business environment in New York then they will tackle the wasteful and too often corrupt state government. What we see in the headlines today about corruption and unethical practices in the federal government happens every day in New York State government.
State government reform as well as federal government reform is the issue of the day.