Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not Appearing Good

When you're crying poverty and calling on all New Yorkers to sacrifice, it isn't good politics to be handing out raises while doing your exhortation. But that's exactly the wrong road taken by Governor Paterson-as the NY Post reports: " Gov. Paterson yesterday was blasted by public-employee unions, legislative Republicans and even fellow Democrats for granting sky-high pay hikes to his key staffers at a time when he's asking 130,000 state workers to give up their 3 percent raises."

We should be living in a climate of austerity-and perceptions do matter when you're looking to cut back on the pay and benefits of state workers: "This will demoralize our members even further," said Stephen Madarasz, a spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents 70,000 state workers. "Frankly, it doesn't come as a great surprise to us because we've been very disappointed in the way the governor has been handling the fiscal crisis from the start."

All of these missteps only acts as blood in the water for those who want to raise taxes on-not millionaires-but on all of those folks earning more than $250,000 a year. In a companion story the Post tells us: "A day after Gov. Paterson hinted at plans to soak the rich, a Brooklyn assemblyman announced legislation yesterday to enact the $6 billion tax-hike plan backed by public-employee unions. Democrat Darryl Towns' bill would enact the Working Families Party's "Fare Share Tax Reform" plan, raising income taxes on taxpayers who make more than $250,000 a year and giving New York the nation's highest top tax rate. The bill is identical to legislation already introduced by state Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan), providing it crucial two-house support days after Paterson warned the wealthy they would "share in the sacrifice" during budget talks."

As the Post headline indicates this is, "fair shearing," and is designed to insure that the revenue for the state bloat will continue to flow-until we reach the California state of mind, where 20,000 layoffs are on the table because there aren't enough taxes possible to keep the state from going bankrupt: "California lawmakers were told to bring their toothbrushes and prepare for a long day Tuesday, with the goal of passing a budget as the state faces a $42 billion deficit and 20,000 layoff notices were set to go out to state workers Tuesday."

What we desperately are in need of is leadership-but it appears that New York is basically rudderless-as Liz Benjamin pointed out yesterday, with even the governor's political operation in disarray: "Democrats have been surprised by Paterson's lack of political smarts. One observer noted that the governor seemed to be caught off-guard by the explosive TV ad campaign by health care workers union 1199 SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association that attacked him for his proposed Medicaid spending cuts. The administration had at least a week's advance notice of the ads, a source said, but took no action. "There has been a shocking lack of political skills from him and anyone around him," the source said. "There are a lot of people with senior adviser labels acting like senior advisers, but there's no structure."

All of which leaves Andrew Cuomo waiting in the wings-unwilling to aggressively step on stage while the governor is in the middle of his slapstick routine. Why should he? In these circumstances, all he has to do is wait for the draft; an ill wind as far as David Paterson is concerned.