Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strong Governor Needed

In today's NY Daily News, Michael Goodwin decides that, for all his recent foibles, we really need Governor Paterson to step up his game and resolve the current budget mess without too much whacking of the state's tax payers: "He's erratic and is getting a reputation for being loose with the truth. But here's the really bad news: Gov. Paterson remains our best hope for reform in Albany. Paterson's rocky performance, especially in the botched contest to replace Hillary Clinton, is fueling talk that he's toast. Things are so bad that a reporter's question yesterday about whether he intends to run in 2010 was fair game. Paterson's response was quick - he absolutely intends to run - but his slumping body language and somber tone were striking. This is a beaten man, hanging on to the ropes."

Still, the state desperately needs leadership-and the mixed signals from the governor need to be clarified; he has talked a moderate, lower tax game, but his budget certainly doesn't reflect the rhetoric-and the myriad of new fees need to be sent into the waste basket: "Paterson sounded an early warning about what was first called a housing crisis and then a banking crisis. He saw the potential for another Great Depression, a view that is now conventional wisdom. His failure was an inability to force the Legislature to do anything about it. Eschewing the legendary advice from Teddy Roosevelt to "speak softly and carry a big stick," Paterson has spoken loudly but not once shown a stick. It hasn't worked. Indeed, Paterson caved into the tax-and-spenders, proposing to increase or initiate 137 fees and taxes to raise $4 billion."

But Paterson also promised that, if federal bailout money came in, he would reduce and/or eliminate the higher levies: "Yet his good instincts are reflected in a letter he wrote to the Daily News earlier this month. After I warned about the incoherence of the federal government cutting taxes as part of a stimulus package while the city and state were planning to hike taxes, Paterson hailed my "very good point" and added: "I want to assure the readers of the Daily News - and all New Yorkers - that we hope to eliminate many of the tax and fee proposals put forth in my budget if we can secure a significant amount of federal aid to help close our deficit."

Well that money is on the way, and all the while the governor is still looking to tax obesity and not really cut the fat in state spending: "That's the right answer, and his putting it on the record matters now that the state is slated to get over $10 billion from Washington. Paterson can strike a blow for fairness as well as economic growth by letting New York families keep more of what they earn instead of having the state gobble up a bigger slice of the pie."

And then Goodwin goes further; proposing that federal aid to cities and state's have restrictions-just as the big companies are held in check by requirements that the public's money be spent in profitable ways: "Mayor Bloomberg ought to also promise no tax hikes, and the feds should make a moratorium on local taxes a condition for any bailout, just as financial firms face restrictions in exchange for help."

That's a great idea. The stimulus windfall should be directed towards helping beleaguered "working families," who have seen their incomes shrink as their tax bills have either stayed the same or even gone up-per the city's property tax hike. And, while President Obama has promised to eliminate programs that don't work, Mike Bloomberg can't seem to find any local program that needs to have an axe taken to it. Change in NYC is as vital as any change in the composition of the national government.

So we'll be watching the governor's actions over the next few weeks. Will his actions reflect his sober fiscal analysis? Walking the walk is the watchword for the duration of this session.