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DAP’s Bold Initiative

June 18, 2010

As much as we like stories about underdogs and redemption, we’re just not buying into the account of David Paterson being the heroic catalyst to the apparent resolution of the budget.  

No less a fiscal expert than Bob Ward of the Rockefeller Institute has suggested that Paterson discovered “a dramatic new tool” to resolve the impasse, now it is 11th week.  

Paterson’s “bold initiative” was to include spending cuts and other budget items in his weekly emergency extenders. This supposedly forced lawmakers to accept tough budget decisions or close down the government.  

Without being critical of Ward, a smart, decent man who always endeavors to be constructive, this may be a case of correlation not causation.  

As we’ve noted before (see Budget Theater), the cuts included in the extenders were already approved by lawmakers. A real test of Paterson’s ploy would have been to include something in an extender that lawmakers actually opposed – such as tax increases.  

On this score, key senators have said they would not vote for governor’s tax increases even if it led to a government shutdown. It’s not hard to envision lawmakers calling the Governor’s bluff on this. Why? They know from their polling that tax increases are the kiss of death this year. Some of the marginal members would like nothing better than to face down the governor over New York’s sky high taxes. And they also know that Paterson is consistent only in one thing – his inconsistency. Tough talk one moment is a “never mind” the next.  

Despite our skepticism of Paterson and his maneuver, we are actually pulling for him. We hope he’ll have a legacy item or two that will help people forget what has been a hard luck and hapless tenure. We just don’t believe this is it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 4:49 PM

    Thank you for the kind words. You make a fair point about correlation. But I suspect the final budget, whatever its overall merits, will indeed show gubernatorial influence that we would not have predicted a few weeks ago. Setting that aside, there is no getting around that this mixing of permanent (or at least annual) provisions into the temporary budget bills is a big change from past practice. Your line of thinking would suggest that, if the next governor tries this ploy in 2011, the Legislature will not be so willing to go along. I agree. One possible result is that they will be much more interested in approving the budget bills, with any changes they deem necessary and feasible, before April 1. Another is that they will let a “shutdown” occur, betting that the new governor will not want to take a big hit to his political capital. Whatever the outcome, the Paterson precedent changes the dynamic and — in my opinion at least — makes perpetual late budgets less likely.

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