Google Analytics

by Jay Gallagher

Friday, March 12, 2010

Big problems, small solutions

Those of you who glanced at your calendars today and watch what is happening at the Capitol might have noticed that the Legislature now has exactly two weeks to close a $9 billion budget hole and pass a new state spending plan.
The nominal start of the new fiscal year is April 1, but with Passover starting at dusk on the 29th, the 26th is the real deadline.
You might also have noticed that not a lot is going on toward identifying the needed cuts and spending hikes and getting an agreement.
And of course making a deal is of huge import to average New Yorkers - the ones who
pay school taxes and like to go to state parks once in a while, visit a library and drive over bridges. It’s even more critical for the poor, sick and the elderly who depend on the state for medical care and other sustenance.
What’s being done about it? Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch unveiled a comprehensive plan this week that depends on some borrowing to help the state ease down from the fiscal precipice, along with more stringent controls on other borrowing and spending.
But Senate Republicans, whose help would most likely be needed to get any plan like this passed, came up with their own plan to, yes, cut property taxes, and knocked Ravitch’s plan. They spoke only in generalities when asked to describe how they will pay for their tax cuts, which is, of course, the nub of the issue.
By now, both houses of the Legislature should be passing their own version of a spending plan, and then start to resolve the differences between the two at public meetings. But there is no sign that is going to happen any time soon. Nobody wants to go first with a list of cuts bound to anger teachers, state-employee unions, hospitals and others who depend on state largesse.
The backdrop here is what is likely to be a series of fierce contests in November over control of the Senate. The party that emerges with a majority will hold the knife in next year’s reapportionment, which is likely to either guarantee Democratic majorities for years or give Republicans a chance to hold on while they hope political fortunes shift back in their direction. (Reform groups plan to pressure candidates for governor to pledge not to sign a gerrymandered reapportionment bill next year, but such efforts have failed in the past.)
Meanwhile, although Gov. David Paterson is still in charge, he has virtually no political capital to spend on ramming through a deal. The Senate, with its narrow Democratic majority, remains chaotic.
This is the state’s most serious fiscal problem in more than 30 years, and the people in charge of trying to meet it are in the weakest position in memory.

No comments: