One big Mess of a Budget

“Quick Agreement Unlikely on …… Budget Cuts”

“ALBANY — Negotiations over Gov. ………… plan to cut $1 billion out of the current state budget stalled today, legislative leaders said, making it extremely unlikely that a package will be in place for lawmakers to vote on when they return to the Capitol on Monday.

Although leaders of both the Democratic-controlled Assembly and the Republican-led Senate have pledged to make cuts in order to eliminate a budget deficit, disagreements this weekend over where to cut — especially in the political minefield of aid to local school districts — appear to have dissipated their resolve to act quickly.”

Does the above headline and story sound familiar?

It should!

The caption is from the NY Times 20 YEARS AGO related to the state budget. The piece was written by Same Howe Verhovek, and the governor in question was three term Democrat Mario Cuomo.

Remember Cuomo’s frustration because the legislature absolutely refused to give him an on-time budget mostly for partisan reasons?

Remember things were so bad that unknown Republican at the time, George Pataki actually campaigned on delivering something so bold as an on-time budget, and it worked against Cuomo?

Remember the dysfunction in Albany was so bad that Mario Cuomo said about his possible presidential campaign that he was "willing but not able" to run because of the budget?

Well the more things change, the more they stay the same as it relates to the budget which is supposed to be in place by the start of the April 1st state fiscal year. Now late close to 80 days.

Here we are 20 years later, and it’s the same problem.

No correction, it’s not the same problem. This current group in Albany takes the cake as the bunch that will make history. The dubious honor of being on the brink of the state’s first ever government shutdown at 12:01 a.m Tuesday. They will say they had to fight against cuts for constituents, but the real story is more about “who is the top dog,” and ego.

This latest battle centers over Governor Paterson’s latest short-term emergency spending bill which includes 327 million in cuts to mental health and social service Programs. But the bigger problem is what to do with a huge budget gap of 9 billion dollars.

Senator Ruben Diaz says he will not support an extender budget containing cuts, and that’s a problem because 32 votes are needed to pass anything in the Senate and that means if Diaz is a no-go, Democrats will need the help of some Republicans.

If the budget situation wasn’t already bad enough…then add a lame duck governor and the posturing that is taking place on all sides, and you have one big gasoline can of New York style politics about to explode.

Here’s what Senator Pedro Espada had to say about Governor Paterson.

“We cannot let an unelected lame-duck governor that no one in the state wants to actually decide this [budget] by himself in a piecemeal fashion," said Espada.

"I'm not going to respond to any blackmail," Paterson said.

Some lawmakers will tell us there has been progress.

“Three men in a room” decision-making is gone. That is the practice of having major state policy decisions made by “three men in a room.” The Governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader.

Other lawmakers will say Albany is status quo more than ever.

Maybe somebody should call George Pataki.

In 2005 Pataki did something remarkable for New York politics. Pataki as governor passed New York’s first on-time budget in twenty-one years.

When I started covering politics 25 years ago, Albany could not produce an on-time budget. I hope I don’t die with the same antics coming out of the Capitol.

The entire saga is sad.

Government is the lifeline for many residents throughout the state. From Plattsburg to Brooklyn. Cortland, & Syracuse to Watertown and Staten Island.

***June 15th. Gov. Paterson's proposal sailed through the Assembly, and squeaked past in the Senate by a 34-27 vote. (With Republican Assistance.  State Senator Diaz voted NO.)