Editor’s Note: This op-ed was originally published in the New York Daily News.
The legislative session just completed will go down in history as a time of extraordinary accomplishment, and demonstrated several important and timely points.
The unprecedented political energy that exists today can drive the negative, resulting in policies manifested by fear and hate, or it can present a moment for massive positive change.
In New York we seized the moment, choosing to channel that energy to make intelligent, positive change over dissension and chaos.
Last December I laid out the most aggressive agenda in modern political history, and we got it done. We did it by remaining true to the principles that have moved our state forward over the past eight years: fiscal responsibility for economic growth and social progress and equality for all. You can do both, and we proved it.
Our economic principles have given this state the strongest economy in history with lower taxes and the highest number of private sector jobs on record. This year’s economic program continues the successful formula of the past eight years: taxes are down, and government spending is held at a year-over-year record-low 2% increase.
We also enacted a middle-class tax cut, a first-ever permanent property tax cap and the largest infrastructure program in the nation. We are rebuilding airports, roads, bridges and mass transit all across the state. We also are building more renewable energy projects than any other state.
On the social progress agenda, we led the nation in the fight for equality with the first-ever free college public college tuition program for middle-class families earning up to $125,000 and passed protections for women’s rights including codifying Roe v. Wade, quadrupling the statute of limitations for rape and enacting the country’s strongest sexual harassment laws.
We ended the regressive system of cash bail for most crimes; enacted historic rent-regulation reforms; passed the nation’s most aggressive environmental goals; enacted new protections for the LGBTQ community and farmworkers; reformed solitary confinement; decriminalized small amounts of marijuana; enacted congestion pricing for our mass-transit system, and passed campaign-finance reforms.
Importantly, we took the energy and goals of the new progressive activism and fashioned smart progressive policies and programs rather than well-intended but badly executed initiatives.
As my father used to say, “we don’t need policies that sound good, we need policies that are good and sound.” In New York, we know the difference.
The Republican Party has already started the drumbeat of “we moved too far left.” After the inarguable success of this session, it is their only retort. In truth, the social progress we enacted would be supported by a moderate Republican Legislature if they were not paralyzed by the extreme conservatives.
Our accomplishments may have been blocked by the previously Republican-controlled Senate, but they are overwhelming supported by the public.
The only social “extremes” they could even argue on ideological grounds are our pro-choice measures and driver’s licenses for the undocumented.
On the former, their opposition is out of step with their constituents: New Yorkers overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose. Indeed, I believe the ultra-conservatives’ drive to overturn Roe vs. Wade and 30 years of case law is the extreme position.
Driver’s licenses for the undocumented is essentially an issue that will be immediately challenged in the courts and will also be litigated in the presidential campaign as the centerpiece of the far right’s vitriol on immigration policy.
President Trump ran on “the wall” and, unsurprisingly, he is returning to his xenophobic, divisive policies as he prepares for 2020.
To be sure, these are dangerous political times. Anxiety, anger and fear are a toxic political cocktail that can lead to division, overreaction and harm. But together with Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, we proudly showed that if we stay true to our principles and have the strength and prudence to act intelligently, this moment in history provides an opportunity for significant positive change. And that is the ultimate answer to restore sanity to our political climate.
Government must effectively help people with their real-life issues or the anger will only get worse and politicians will continue to find scapegoats and exploit the division.
This year, New York showed the Democratic Party and our nation the positive possibility of this moment in history. Excelsior.
NY Daily News: