The governor’s voice is the only one of reason amid a cacophony of political posturing and excuse-making.
Nice try, Dave.
Gov. David Paterson tried to inject a little financial responsibility into the state Legislature last week. After offering up some $5 billion in proposed mid-year spending reductions, he beckoned lawmakers to Albany to debate and, it was hoped, enact the cuts. Or some cuts.
The debating, lawmakers once again proved, they are good at. The spending reductions, not so much.
“They swung and missed,” Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group told the Associated Press.
Some might say they stood there and watched while the first pitch went right by.
It was a dismaying and disappointing display. Here the state is facing a budget gap of tens of billions of dollars and no one other than governor cares to acknowledge it, let alone attempt to mitigate it.
Of course, the governor’s suggested targets for cuts didn’t make getting an agreement from the Legislature difficult. Nor did his timing.
In suggesting cutbacks in school funding, health care and other areas, Paterson drew predictable responses from special interests led by the teachers associations and other public employee unions. They took to the radio and TV airwaves, as they have in the past at the slightest hint unionized leaders should ever share in New York’s financial pain, to denounce the proposals.
In calling the Legislature into session just after Republicans lost control of their last base of power in New York, the state Senate, Paterson waved good-bye to any hope he had of backing from that sector. (Not that he had much hope in the first place.) Senate Republicans are going to run out the clock and let an all-Democratic state Legislature take the responsibility — and, down the road, the predictable political slings — for whatever cuts or tax increases are implemented to try and clean up the budget mess.
The Democratic leadership isn’t being any more realistic. During a recent visit to Rochester, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was asked what areas might come in for budget cuts. “I don’t plan to cut anything,” he told reporters. “I look forward to see what the governor’s proposals are, then we will go from there.”
We saw the governor’s proposals, and where Silver & Co. went from there was nowhere.
Legislative leaders would neither move on Paterson’s proposed cuts nor offer up any of their own.
“I’m still waiting for what your solution would be,” Paterson said in frustration, during the unfruitful 90-minute special session. He was talking to Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos but he could just as easily have been addressing anyone in the Legislature.
The problem won’t be any easier to solve next month, when Paterson unveils his proposed 2009 budget; or next year, when the Legislature reconvenes. The deficit is huge and it is staring lawmakers in the face. And they responded last week by doing nothing.
Keep at it, Dave.