New York's Freefall

30 Jul

People leaving, energy prices staggering, taxes higher than average, and it’s only now – at the doors of a crisis – that action is going to be taken. Governor Paterson estimates a $6.4 billion deficit for 2009 – 2010, and in the middle of an election year, he’s calling the state legislature back in mid-August to take a break from chicken BBQs and do some work.

Not just any work, but the kind of work that New York legislators are loath to do. They’re going to have to make extraordinarily tough choices with respect to spending and borrowing – the sorts of choices that piss of a great many of their special interest constituents.

But what I’d like our legislature to remember is that they work for all of us. Not for SEIU, not for NYSUT, not for CSEA, but for every single New Yorker. They work for you and me, and they have hitherto tended to abandoned their responsibility to the population at-large in favor of the big donors and powerful lobbies. Lax oversight and regulation of lobbying means that Joe Bruno can go to work as a lobbyist – he can’t lobby the legislature, but the governor’s door is open.

So, I don’t want to hear that such-and-such special interest is going to go ballistic over cuts that are desperately needed to fix what’s broken. I want to hear that these people who keep getting re-elected over and over again are making the hard choices and decisions that they supposedly get elected to make.

17 Responses to “New York's Freefall”

  1. Ward July 30, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    Between now and the day the gavel drops you will begin to hear radio ads sponsored by SEIU, NYSUT, CSEA, the Communication Workers of America (don’t they still represent some nurses locally?). These ads will be professionally voiced, over ominous music, and will tell you to contact your Senator or Assemblyperson and tell him/her that you oppose Gov. Patak … er, Patterson’s “budget cuts” (a.k.a. decreases in the rate of increase), and that if Patterson has his way, your child, spouse or life partner will die in an emergency room, and your children will have no place to go to school and will have to become crack dealers or hookers for Emperors Club VIP.
    Then–because the teachers have the summer off–the charter buses will begin to convoy in full diesel determination down the Thruway and line up on Washington Ave. in front of the NYS Education Department Parthenon, and the bullhorns will echo from the steps of the Capitol, “What do we want?! … When do we want it?!”
    The grifter legislators will then issue statements about their duty to listen to their “constituents” (i.e. the Unions who stuff their pockets), and why they’re compelled by their conscience to vote against the “cuts”, for the good of all New Yorkers.
    Gov. Paterson, thus chastened, will fall silent, in the fervent hope that his own cash-flow and endorsements from these thugs don’t choke off.
    You know the drill; you can recite it in your sleep–just before you wake suddenly with acid reflux in your throat.

  2. Chris Smith July 30, 2008 at 7:30 am #

    Why would any incumbent cut anything three months before an election? I know that incumbency in the State Senate results in 99% re-election rate and it is near the same in the Assembly, but why would they take the risk? I know it might be the “right” thing to do, but when has anyone in Albany done the right thing?

    Perhaps we need to propose and support some cuts to our local delegation? We could do some grandstand stunt or make a big splash, we’re usually pretty good at that kind of thing.

  3. Chris Smith July 30, 2008 at 7:30 am #

    Also, most people around here love big taxes and big government programs. If the political climate was anything different, we’d have different government.

  4. lulu July 30, 2008 at 8:03 am #

    Perhaps this is an opportunity to cut entire levels of government in the Western New York region. Reactions may include a bit of ‘well, Albany, you’ve been fucking us for years, and we’ve obviously enjoyed it, so we’re gonna do something nice to help you get out of the mess you have created.’

    We’ll eliminate entire layers of government. That’s right, folks. We could lobby our local representatives to support the elimination of entire layers of government right here in Western New York. Could this be the time for such a bold restructuring of misguided and duplicative Government services?

  5. WNYMind July 30, 2008 at 8:15 am #

    We all know what’s coming. The state will cut aid to public schools and then all the school districts will raise our property taxes to make up the difference, and then some. The state may even come up with some kind of a compromise (i.e. cut the school aid and raise our state taxes).

    Aside from the stock market losses, the bulk of the state shortfall came from reduced sales tax revenue. Wow, what happened to the windfall that was supposed to come from collecting taxes on internet commerce?

    In the end, Paterson told us all to get ready to be reamed at both ends. State cuts and tax hikes, and local tax hikes. We’ll see what Paterson is made of soon. He is the only person in a position to hold the line on taxes for us at the state level and cap property tax increases locally. If he’s successful, we’ll only have to figure out how to keep the local government wolves at bay.

  6. Historical Pessimist July 30, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    NY is in deep trouble, and everyone knows it. But the special interests you describe, BP, are so strong because they fund the incumbents’ re-election bids. It’s not clear what the short-term solution to NY’s woes is, but the long-term future of New York is going to depend on adopting a Clean Money Clean Election system. Get the financial incentives out of Albany. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of Jack Davis’ short-sighted Supreme Court case is that it means that such systems will probably be judged unconstitutional. (To be effective, CMCE states give more funding to candidates whose opponents spend beyond a certain level. It’s a “trigger provision,” which is why the Supremes ruled against the Millionaire’s Amendment, but it’s the only way to get candidates to sign on to public financing. Otherwise, it would be unilateral disarmament.) Thanks, Jack.

  7. Colin July 30, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    This whole thing is weak. First of all, everyone is a special interest. There isn’t some person — or group of people — who are somehow above the fray and operating in the interest of everyone else. NYSUT would likely oppose spending cuts, so they’re labeled a special interest. Those who would support spending cuts are just as self-interested.

    If you don’t like that NYSUT, SEIU or whoever wields influence, get off your ass and get in the game.

  8. Ward July 30, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Yeah, that’s it! Colin’s got it! All I gotta do is “get off my ass and get in the game”!

    To quote Cleavon Little in “Blazing Saddles” — “‘Scuse me while I whip this out.”

    Now, to which of the 150 members of the Assembly should I send my personal checks for $25,000 each to promote my “special interest”, Colin.? Oh, and which Senator? How many hacks do I have to buy off? How many millions would be enough without seeming greedy?

    Ain’t no rotten NYSUT gonna jump in line before me, the mighty taxpayer! I feel empowered already! Thanks, Colin–I finally see the light! “Sweet, tap-dancin’ Jesus!”

  9. Historical Pessimist July 30, 2008 at 8:59 am #

    Colin, I’ve actually gotten off my ass and run for Assembly. And my biggest take-away from that experience was that public financing was the only thing that was really going to change Albany. I was able to secure the backing of a local professional board, but they were prevented from giving me any money by the larger state association because they don’t allow contributions to non-incumbents. That is a perfect example of why the system won’t change unless we have public financing (and I’m not at all singling out the unions in this at all).

  10. STEEL July 30, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    The sad part is that $6B needs to be cut just to break even. That still leaves a state with massive over spending and ultra high taxes. How much more cutting is needed to make NYS competative?

  11. Colin July 30, 2008 at 9:10 am #

    Ward,

    NYSUT, SEIU and other groups are powerful because they worked to become powerful. They didn’t whine on a blog about how their opponents were too strong. They did something about it.

    Nothing is stopping you from organizing a group to buy radio ads, send busloads of lobbyists to Albany, and all of the other nefarious bits of citizen engagement you blame on the “special interests.” If you’re too weak to counter the arguments of your opponents, that’s your fault — not theirs.

  12. Eric P. July 30, 2008 at 9:20 am #

    @Chris:
    You wrote, “Also, most people around here love big taxes and big government programs. If the political climate was anything different, we’d have different government.”
    That statement / premise is really not fair. “Most people” don’t have a clue what is happening in NYS Govt. “Most people” don’t see the big picture and don’t have any idea where to start to make any kind of changes in goverment. “Most people” don’t pay any attention to politics; and it’s possible that “most people” don’t even vote in local and State races. To stay accuratly informed about state and local goverment, state and local politicians and all the programs and practices of our goverment(s) is nearly impossible for “most people” (anyone who has a job, a family or a so-called “life”).
    While there is some truth to the notion of people “..getting the goverment they deserve”. It is not reasonable to expect “most people” to closely follow, or even understand the boring-BS-soap-opera of NYS Govt or the goings-on of their local municipal representatives. There is only so much time in a day. “Most people” are busting their ass just to turn a buck.
    I don’t believe I’m getting the “goverment I deserve”, but that’ll have to wait while I grunt and grub and hump for a paycheck. In that regard, I’m very much like “most people”.
    (BTW, The grunting and humping parts are o.k., but the grubbing is the hardest part of my job.)

  13. Chris Smith July 30, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    Eric, I disagree. Whether through ignorance or active voting for the status quo the citizens of this region have given a stamp of approval to big government. Using the argument that people don’t have time to avail themselves of the proper information on which to base a vote only empowers intransigence on the part of our political class.

    If turnout were to be higher than 20-30% in local elections, would we see a significant change in incumbency rates? Would people vote for change? It’s an interesting question, but sadly one that we have little evidence to debate.

    Which leads me to believing that term limits (something to which I am generally opposed) are necessary in New York State. As well as publicly funded elections.

  14. LC Scotty July 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm #

    I understand the impulse to call for publicly funded elections, but if you think the incumbent re-election rate is high now just wait.

    If we give these assclowns an even bigger purse dedicated solely to buying air time and print ads, we’ll never get them out. If you think they’d allow the money to be divided/spent equitably among incumbents and challengers you’re delusional.

  15. Angle2 July 30, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    David Paterson is as much “Albany” as anyone doing business in the capital. His father raised him on it. His Assembly service confirms his has always been the “Albany” way.

    So now, with the state on the brink of its greatest fiscal meltdown in 30 years, Governor Paterson is calling on New York to cut up its credit cards and “learn to do more with less.”

  16. Rocco Russo July 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    I’m jumping in here without reading the other comments yet cause this is something that pisses me off to no end. Summer vacation? Get your ass to work and fix this. You can take vacation when the state’s finances are in order and healthy. If these people were in the private sector they would have been fired by now. Only in politics can you fail miserably at your job but keep getting pay raises. What’s so difficult about figuring out what you have available to spend, and then making adjustments? I know I’m oversimplifying a complex and dynamic economic issue, but seriously. Things are so broken in this state it makes me sick.

  17. Eric P. July 30, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    Chris:
    You wrote ” Using the argument that people don’t have time to avail themselves of the proper information on which to base a vote only empowers intransigence on the part of our political class.”

    True enough – theory – sort of. The plain fact is that people don’t have proper information about WTF is going on in Govt. That is part of why we elect representatives in the first place – to look out for our interests.

    I agree that absurdly low voter turnout rates, general apathy, and re-electing the same leadership effectively gives the stamp of approval to big, stupid, wasteful government.

    You might be right about term limits; and I would truly like to see some real camapign finance reform, even if it only meant that corporations and business entities can’t have the same “free-speech” rights as individuals. The money at all levels of the political process perverts, distracts and directs far too much influence.

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