Paterson sends letter to candidates

October 14, 2008 2:48:43 PM PDT
Governor David Paterson sent an open letter to Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, one day before the final Presidential debate is held on Long Island. The governor offered 10 suggested ways the newly-elected president could work toward rebuilding the federal-state partnership. The text of the governor's letter is below:

Oct. 14, 2008

Senator McCain and Senator Obama:

On behalf of all New Yorkers, I welcome you to the Empire State for tomorrow night's Presidential debate at Hofstra University.

During this debate, and throughout your Presidency, I challenge both of you to address an important matter that has not yet garnered the attention it deserves: rebuilding the partnership between the federal government and the states.

This partnership was once a source of America's strength. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, for example, the federal government worked with New York and other states to shore up security and get our economy back on track.

Yet, sadly, the current administration has abandoned this important partnership. No institutions play a more central role than states in strengthening our economy or providing critically needed services. Yet, time and time again, the current administration has hung the states out to dry.

Today, just as we did on September 11th, New York again finds itself at the center of a crisis. The turmoil on Wall Street has devastated our economy. Because Wall Street provides 20 percent of our State's tax revenue, we now have a $1.2 billion budget deficit for our current fiscal year, and future deficits are projected to increase dramatically.

In response to this crisis, we are taking aggressive action. I have partnered with our State Legislature to reduce our budget by $1.5 billion. I have also called a special economic session for November, and asked our legislative leaders to identify $2 billion in additional budget savings.

However, the absence of a federal partner constrains the ability of New York, and all states, to respond adequately to this crisis. In its rush to bail out Wall Street, the current administration has excluded states from the recovery formulation. They have turned a deaf ear to our most critical needs, like health care for our most vulnerable residents; unemployment insurance; rebuilding our deteriorating infrastructure; and homeland security.

This must change. As the Governor of New York, I call on you to work with our nation's Governors to restore this trust, to rebuild this partnership, and to tackle the urgent challenges facing our states.

Immediately, I urge you to call on Congress and the current Administration to pass a second economic stimulus package. At a time when state budgets are under extreme pressure-total state budget gaps for fiscal year 2009-10 could exceed $100 billion-it is vital that we have a partner in the White House who works with states to provide fiscal relief (such as temporarily increasing the federal Medicaid share FMAP), infrastructure investment, and a safety net for our most vulnerable residents.

In the longer term, I respectfully offer the following ten ideas for areas in which we can start rebuilding our partnership:

1. Access to Quality Health Care: As a result of the economic downturn, states face growing enrollment for critical safety net programs like Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Unfortunately, the current administration has twice vetoed bills that would reauthorize SCHIP to provide access to quality health care for millions of children. In addition, the Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) denied our proposal to expand children's health coverage in New York. Rather than block states at every turn, the federal government must partner with states to provide affordable, quality health coverage to all.

2. Rebuild our Infrastructure: Thanks to federal disinvestment, our nation's roads, bridges, public transit systems, and clean water and wastewater systems are falling apart. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that we must spend $1.6 trillion over the next five years to return our infrastructure to a state of good repair. We can only compete in the twenty-first century if we make a bold investment in our infrastructure; China and India spend more than 9 percent of their GDP each year on maintaining and improving their infrastructure, while the United States spends only about 2 percent each year. Therefore, I urge you to work with Congress to help states rebuild their infrastructure, which will alleviate congestion; meet our water quality needs; provide for safe and efficient movement of people and goods; and create thousands of jobs.

3. Invest in the American Worker: Thirty years ago, the federal government spent $9.5 billion on job training. Today, funding for the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is only $3 billion. Here in New York, we project that 160,000 people will lose their jobs as a result of the economic crisis. It will be almost impossible to provide them with the benefits they need, or re-train them for the jobs of the future, without a dramatic new investment. Therefore, I encourage you to renew the federal government's commitment to our workers by making WIA reauthorization and the Unemployment Modernization Act two of your top priorities when you assume office.

4. Help States Address Climate Change: States have taken the lead in addressing climate change. For example, through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, New York and nine other states will cap and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 10 percent by 2019. Proceeds from the sale of allowances will be used to expand energy efficiency and renewable energy. Now that the federal government is beginning to address climate change, it must not preempt these and other state-level efforts to address climate change.

5. Include States in Regulatory Formations: States have a strong track record as efficient and effective regulators. Yet the current administration has repeatedly undermined state regulations. For example, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has consistently preempted state consumer protection laws and interfered with the work of state Attorneys General. This policy has failed catastrophically. And even today, the recently passed bailout bill has failed to include the states on its oversight board. The next President will oversee a new era in financial regulation. If this regime is to be effective, the historically strong regulatory partnership between the states and the federal government must be restored.

6. 9/11 Health Benefits: The September 11 attacks resulted in the loss of 2,800 lives and exposed hundreds of thousands of people to dangerous toxins. The federal government has not responded adequately to these health emergencies, forcing states to cover the health costs of additional public workers who participated in the rescue, recovery and cleanup. I urge the next Administration to fulfill the federal government's promise to provide health benefits to the first responders, workers, and residents who were affected.

7. Fund Stem Cell Research: Stem cell research has the potential to prevent, treat or perhaps even cure many debilitating and life-threatening diseases. In early 2008, I announced a $600 million, 11-year investment in stem cell research. Yet the federal government has dramatically restricted funding for stem cell research. If America is to take full advantage of the possibilities stem cell research offers-to improve our citizens' lives, and to strengthen our economy-greater federal investment is needed.

8. Address the Drop-Out Epidemic: Education is the key to making America competitive internationally. Yet our nation faces a drop-out epidemic. In New York alone, an estimated 90,000 students dropped out last year. This past week, I held the Governor's Dropout Summit to develop a statewide strategy for enhanced student engagement. I call upon you to commit more federal funding for education and to work with the states on a national strategy to keep our students in school and to help them graduate.

9. Bolster Community Service and Volunteerism: Community service and volunteerism fill critical needs in New York and other states, including disaster relief, hunger assistance, programs for children, and health care for low-income families. Because of the economic crisis, these needs will become even greater. Unfortunately, federal funding for service programs has not increased since 1994. I urge the new Administration to reverse this trend and honor your promises to restore our nation's commitment to national and community service.

10. Increase Access to Food Stamps: As the economy declines, more and more Americans are struggling to feed their families; demand for food assistance in New York has increased by 30 percent statewide over the last year. Through our Working Families Food Stamp Initiative, we have enrolled over 100,000 new families in the Food Stamp program. Yet states cannot fully address this crisis without a bold federal investment. In these difficult economic times, the next Administration must act aggressively to help our most vulnerable families put food on the table.

As Governor of New York, I look forward to working with the next President to address our most urgent challenges. We cannot address these challenges unless we repair the partnership between the federal government and the states. I encourage you to address this topic in tomorrow's debate and to make this issue a priority during your Presidency.


David A. Paterson Governor of New York State

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