Share this article

print logo

Politics drives the budget State spending bargaining puts clout on the front burner, needs on the back

See, it's all about respect. It's about making sure the wise guys in the other organization don't do anything -- sorry, don't do nothin' -- that makes your crew look weak, and it doesn't matter what you have to do -- or who you have to do it to. And that includes taxpayers.

Such are the ways of the New York State Legislature, including the Democrats who control the Assembly and, even more incredibly, the Republicans who rule the Senate.

Together, they were more interested in tripping up Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and guarding their own flanks than they were in passing a budget that acknowledged New Yorkers' hunger for a livable state. They stuck it to New Yorkers, too.

Here's some of what legislators are bragging about:

*They negotiated a budget with Spitzer that increases state spending by three times the rate of inflation. That's an achievement?

*They agreed to a new education funding formula, but then drove millions of dollars in extra state aid to districts that don't need it.

*They did nothing about the Wicks Law that needlessly drives up the cost of public construction projects.

Budgets are always a negotiation, and it's no surprise that they mix disappointment with satisfaction. What is intolerable are the misplaced priorities that lawmakers are literally boasting about.

Here's what Sen. Dale Volker, R-Depew, had to say about Spitzer and the budget: "When you start dissing the institution, it's going to bounce back on you, and that's what happened to him."

Never mind that Volker said "dissing." When a leading Republican senator admits that the Legislature was more interested in smacking a reformist -- and, yes, aggressive -- governor than in serving the interests of New Yorkers, New Yorkers should notice.

They should also notice when the Senate majority leader, New York's top Republican, cites a preposterously expensive budget as proof of his political clout.

"Whatever happened? Two months ago my days were numbered," Joseph L. Bruno sneered on a radio show this week, taunting observers who believe the Republicans' hold on the Senate is slipping.

What happened was that Bruno took the already costly budget proposal of a Democratic governor and diligently worked to make it more expensive. He even criticized the Assembly's minority leader -- a Republican -- for having a "negative attitude" about excessive spending. By Bruno's reckoning, Republicans should have a positive attitude about spending levels that are driving businesses and population to other states.

So much for the Republican belief in restraint.

There was a hilarious line in an episode of "The Sopranos" in which a lowlife character was accused of "disrespecting the Bing," a sleazy strip club that could hardly be disrespected too much. But that institution wasn't pretending to be something it wasn't. Dissing the Legislature is something else altogether.

There are no comments - be the first to comment