One of the most startling and potentially important developments flowing from the new state budget was the intraparty sniping by Republicans. The leader of the Assembly's minority Republicans sees events much differently, and more accurately, than his partymates in the Senate majority -- and he wasn't afraid to say so.
Specifically, Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco said the large increase in spending will hurt the state's economy for years, and that "the insatiable spending levels of the New York State Legislature" and special interests groups had undermined Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer's reform plans. He laid the blame directly at the feet of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.
It was a wonderful moment, because New Yorkers' only hope of salvation from the abuses of the country's most dysfunctional legislature is if Republicans decide to start acting like Republicans. That won't happen without a fight.
Bruno played his part spectacularly, responding to Tedisco like the Democrat he evidently longs to be. "I like Jimmy a lot," the Senate leader said condescendingly, "but it's the negative attitude that has caused them to lose members every time they run and that's a problem."
First of all, Bruno is misstating facts. What is more, he is misstating facts that he created. Assembly Republicans have few seats largely because Bruno and Silver play a cynical redistricting game, each allowing the other to carve up the state to suit their needs.
If Bruno had the nerve to demand honest redistricting, Republicans might stand a better chance in the Assembly. Of course, his narrow Senate majority might come under even greater threat, but why should anyone care? A Republican majority that happily goes along with a go-for-broke budget is expendable, anyway.
New Yorkers should encourage Assembly Republicans to keep pointing out the obvious about state spending and the Senate's culpability for it. They have little to lose, given the realities of redistricting and New York politics, but if they can plant the idea that New Yorkers don't have to put up with Albany's political monoculture, they might encourage Senate Republicans to start acting like the alternative voice that is necessary to American democracy.
Either way, Republicans may eventually lose their Senate majority, and it could be sooner rather than later. It won't be much of a loss, given how they have been co-opted by Democrats.
Moreover, it probably would be healthy. The cycle of Republican and Democratic wins and losses at the federal level helps to keep those parties current, energetic and honest (or at least worried). That hasn't been the case in New York, where the absence of political risk has left New Yorkers with a calcified system populated by lawmakers who haven't had an original idea since the Roosevelts were stirring things up.
One way or another, this argument is necessary to the well-being of the state. Here's hoping it continues.