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“The Brink of Fiscal Disaster”

April 29, 2010

When you’re in charge, it helps to have some sense of what the word leadership actually means.

Alas, Governor Paterson seems clueless. All week-long, he’s been telling everyone he can that the Executive Branch has little or no power, and that “the next governor is likely to struggle as much as me.”

In reality, New York governors enjoy remarkable powers when compared to chief executives in other states. This is especially true with regard to the budget process.

But Paterson appears not to understand this. Instead, he continues to want to be known “for what he says, not what he does.” He believes that if he’s simply active in urging lawmakers to be active then he’s done his job.

Interestingly, this throw-your-hands-in-the-air attitude seems to have infected Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, as well. In a speech today in New York City, Ravitch lamented the fact that the “lawmakers don’t understand the severity of the state’s fiscal problems.” He went on to suggest that the administration’s furlough plan is an example of the Governor trying to impart “a sense of urgency” to the situation.

Note to the Governor and Lt. Governor: If you want to impart a sense of urgency to lawmakers, you don’t have to ask them for permission to furlough workers. Instead, you can lay off non-essential state workers immediately. You can order cuts across the board in executive agencies and many state programs. With wide latitude, you control state spending. In fact, you can do a lot more than close state parks, you can close down part or all of state government if you think it’s necessary.  And if we are indeed on “the brink of fiscal disaster,” you not only can do these things, you must.

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