Well, it’s been an interesting 2009 so far here in the Empire State. From the usual budget shenanigans, to the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to Joe Bruno’s “indictment” to David Patterson struggling for his political life. And it’s only February! So, where to start?
Oh, might as well go in order, so it’s the “budget” fiasco du jour. Again, I’m somewhat wondering where to start. Do I begin with Patterson’s “austerity plan,” or the back room dealings that have gone on between the all Democratic “leadership,” or the ever worsening revenue shortfall predictions? Feh. Ok, let’s look at the budget revenue short falls. What was once a $4billion short fall has grown to about $10billion. Sure, it’s no where near California, but it’s still a huge change. The whys of this all depend on who you talk or listen to. It’s everything from the unstable stock market, to the lack of CEO bonuses (yes, that is an important revenue stream for NYS), to the middle and “upper” classes fleeing the state (due to property, income, business taxes, utility costs), to businesses fleeing the state, and everything in between. So what does our Legislative “leaders” want to do? Why exacerbate the problem of course by increasing taxes across the board, plus new fees and taxes. What has been causing a steady decline in the state’s population over the past 30 years is the “remedy” Sheldon Silver and Malcolm Smith want to use to raise revenues. The problem with this is that it’s a short term solution. Yes, they can “close the gap” somewhat for a year, maybe two. But beyond that, it will only serve to force more people, more businesses to relocate out of the State of NY, which then will worsen the already weakened revenue streams. Even using the supposed cash forthcoming from the “stimulus bill,” it won’t actually solve anything.
David Patterson I think sees this, but is somewhat handcuffed by his party and politics. He’s been quite vocal about wanting to avoid any “tax increases,” but that applies solely for income taxes. He’s quite happy to raise taxes on products that are non-politically correct, or maybe nebulous to try and collect (Internet sales). Patterson has even gone so far as to actually suggest budget cuts, and in very politicized programs. But he’ll never get it past his “colleagues” in the Legislature and Senate. Still, it’s better than I could have expected.
However, despite some very public “forward steps,” there has been a bit of a backslide. To whit, the return to the smoke filled back room deals that characterized many a budget process of the past. This was supposed to be the “new era” of “open and accountable government” in New York. Well, that went out the door when Silver, Smith, and Patterson all met behind closed doors, with not even the minority leadership present. This is a departure from the recent past, where at least the minority party leadership was present. I’d lay odds that they won’t ever disclose any “member items” either when the time comes, but I doubt anyone would bet against it.
So this is what passes for leadership here in NY. Lovely isn’t it? We have David Patterson, the well intentioned, but still accidental governor, Sheldon Silver, the Manhattan Citycrat, beholden to several special interest groups as our Assembly “Leader,” and Malcolm Smith, another Citycrat, with the charisma of a wet paper towel. The Republican side isn’t much better, at least state wide. Dean Skelos? A capable administrator, but that’s as far as it goes, and as far as he ever should have gotten. Jim Tedisco could be something, but he’s too much of a fighting bull dog to really take the reigns (more on Tedisco below). This doesn’t even cover the nitwits and whackjobs that comprise the majority of our Congressional delegation.
Speaking of the morass that is Congress, Patterson shocked many a pundit with his appointment of Rep.Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. With names like Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy being bandied around, “Gilly” was a long shot to most pundits and commentators. More so, as other names mentioned had greater “party appeal,” and “fit the national agenda” of the Democrats. But Patterson, to his credit, went against the grain, and nominated a moderate upstate Democrat to the seat. How moderate is Gillibrand exactly? Well, her appointment ticked off several Citycrats who sit in Congress, to the point of where they boycotted her nomination press conference. Even Chucklehead Schumer looked a bit queasy, but he’s a power player, so he showed and spoke. A quick note from Gillibrand’s nomination press conference. Tom DiNapoli (State Comptroller) needs to shut his yap. He nearly killed the whole event with his prattling. He just doesn’t know when he’s gone over the edge, and someone needs to gag him before he does.
So, with Gillibrand leaving Congress for the Senate, there will be a special election to fill her seat on March 31st. The parties have had their individual shake down sessions to determine the candidates. On the Democratic side, we have Scott Murphy, a “venture capitalist” (with a mediocre at best track record) from Glens Falls. On the Republican side, Assembly minority leader Jim Tedisco grabbed the nomination. I haven’t read how Murphy got his nomination, the Democrat’s process was rather arcane, though some sort of weighted format was used. Tedisco got the GOP nod by securing the support of the Saratoga and Rennselear County GOP parties, the two largest in the district. By doing so, with the weighted romat used by the GOP, he out gained former minority leader, and gubernatorial candidate John Faso. FWIW, I was hoping for Faso to get the nod, and take the seat. It’s not that I don’t like Tedisco, I just thought the State was better served by having him remain Assembly minority leader, and having Faso go to Washington where his personal strengths would be best used.
This all has put Patterson in a difficult political position. He’s getting plenty of flak from his own party as well as the GOP. He’s getting beat in Quinnipiac polls in a theoretical primary against Andrew Cuomo, and is neck and neck in a theoretical match up against Rudy Guilliani. Patterson is getting gruff from Silver and Smith, as well as loud mouth nimrods like Carolyn Maloney (over Gillibrand’s appointment). Jim Tedisco has been hot on his heels over being excluded from the budget process, and even Dean Skelos has been seen on TV deriding the secretive nature of the triumvirate. But he’s put the Democrat’s in the position of possibly losing a Congressional seat (the 20th), and perhaps even one of NY’s Senate seats to the GOP. Tedisco can (and should) win the 20th, which had been held by Gillibrand. As much appeal as Gillibrand has held in the 20th, I don;t think she can win State wide, between the growling of the NYC contingent, and the persistent rumor that Rep.Peter King (R-LI) will run for the seat. If King does run, he should beat Gillibrand by a solid, but not spectacular margin in 2010. He’s well liked in the City, and will have enough Upstate appeal to win.
Meanwhile, the allegations surrounding former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno have taken another twist. The US Attorney has gotten an indictment on several charges against Bruno. It is the “culmination” of all the Spitzer inspired “investigations” when Bruno and Spitzer were at loggerheads. At best these charges are tenuous. At worst the spurious. Even money says that 2/3 of the charges will be dropped, and Bruno gets acquitted of the rest. If he doesn’t, then I hope the US Attorney turns his attention to all the other members of the NYS Senate and Assembly, as they are all equally guilty of exactly the same “charges.” But I doubt this will happen, as the charges themselves are so nebulous as to be night impossible to get a conviction on.