In this morning's NY Daily News, the paper's Bill Hammond lauds Governor Paterson on his budget realism, while attacking pandering state legislators for a head in the sand attitude: "Facing its worst financial crisis since the Depression, New York State needs more courageous leaders like Gov. Paterson who are willing to confront reality head-on. What they do not need is state lawmakers who pretend Albany can plow ahead with big-spending business as usual. Yet, that's exactly what they saw Tuesday."
The problem is simple; a pre-election necessity to keep the allies in place in order to maintain power: "At a time when New York is billions in the red, four Republican senators - Marty Golden of Brooklyn, Serphin Maltese of Queens, George Maziarz of Niagara County and Catharine Young of Cattaraugus County - complain about a modest $50 million trim in Medicaid spending on prescription drugs...Meanwhile, Skelos restated his probably empty promise not to touch a dime of school aid this fiscal year - a pander that secured his members support from the teachers union as they struggle to save their vanishing Republican majority. Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) cut the same cynical deal. These and other lawmakers obviously think the best way to get reelected is to make a lot of spending promises they can't keep."
So, while Hammond is right and-"Lawmakers have a responsibility to be honest with voters before Election Day - to spell out not just what parts of state government they want to keep, but also what they're ready to trim back."-the reality here is that the governor isn't facing the voters until 2010. Still, as the News' editorial today underscores, the state is going to need real creative action: "The day of reckoning, and hopefully revolution, has arrived for New York's top elected leaders. The long era of gorging on tax revenues thrown off by Wall Street is over, and the time is at hand to overhaul and dramatically streamline state government. With Albany facing a $1.5 billion deficit through April and a $12.5 billion deficit the next year, the task is as gargantuan as it is inescapable."
With the state senate leadership in the balance, and with a potential paralysis ahead, we're going to need a whole lot of creativity and courage as we approach the day of budget reckoning. Let's hope that whoever emerges from the leadership battle understands the seriousness of what we face.