Albany Dysfunction Evolves Into Genuine Crisis

16 Dec

The New York Times editorializes the fiscal crisis in Albany, and lays the blame at the feet of the dysfunctional legislature.

Unless there are serious changes in the way New York spends and raises money, the state could be facing a $10 billion deficit next year.

New York is not alone in facing tough times. But for years, New York’s Legislature has been spending beyond its means. The recession has made matters far worse. Mr. Paterson, who took office just as Bear Stearns collapsed in 2008, has been warning of calamity ever since. The Legislature has stubbornly refused to listen.

Last month, the governor called lawmakers back to Albany to fill a $3.2 billion gap in this year’s budget of $132 billion. The governor proposed painful cuts: including $113 million from the New York City-area public transit budget; $686 million in school funds, or about 3 percent per district with even larger cuts for wealthier districts; $470 million from health care spending.

The Democratic-majority Legislature balked. Lawmakers decreed there would be no midyear cuts in school budgets, not even for wealthy districts. Although they did improve the pension structure, legislators protected other programs like health care and shielded state workers from furloughs or layoffs.

They finally made some cuts, including a larger swipe at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but mostly they drained other savings accounts and used some of the federal stimulus dollars that were supposed to be saved for next year.

Will they get the message in 2010? Will the voters get the message in 2010? Or will they continue to send the Volkers and Stachowskis back to Albany to do the same thing they’ve been doing since the 1970s? Or will they, more likely, just stay home resulting in a 20% voter turnout?

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