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Now We Get It

June 20, 2010

We were flummoxed. Nothing was adding up. And then we heard something, and
it all made sense. We will get to what we heard in a moment, but first, our
dilemma:

There have been some really weird developments in recent days:

First, there was the Ravitch meltdown.  Ravitch proposed a borrowing plan to
facilitate a budget agreement. Paterson praised it. Then he backed off. Then
he agreed to it. And then he said: “Over my dead body.”  Then Ravitch, the
old lion, did a round of media interviews in which he thoroughly embarrassed
himself by whining about how nobody was asking him for his sage advice
anymore.

Second, there was the media coverage of the Paterson budget ploy. Paterson
put some budget cuts that were already agreed to by the lawmakers into an
extender and it passed. It was no big deal, but it was portrayed as some new
innovation in government, a brilliant strategic move that will change
executive-legislative relations for all time. Paterson had outfoxed the
lawmakers, and the lawmakers, well, they weren’t saying anything. They were
and are silent.

And third, there is the budget itself.  It was week 11 of a stalemate and
all of a sudden there was a resolution. And it happened without any apparent
breakthrough, without so much as a meaningful negotiating session. In fact,
the last leaders’ meeting was ridiculously dysfunctional. Assembly Minority
Leader Kolb said it clearly: “This is about the governor posturing and
nothing more.” True. Nevertheless, final budget bills are being printed
today.

So what do you make of all this? Do you think that reason finally prevailed?
Do you think that the leaders woke up one day and said: “To hell with
politics in an election year, let’s just do the right thing?” Do you believe
that Paterson suddenly gained steely resolve and sagacity, and that, all of
sudden, the lawmakers respect and fear him, and want to do what he says?

These are silly, outlandish explanations, especially the last one.

But there is someone whom the lawmakers do respect and fear, and very much
want to please, and his mark is all over the decision to abandon the Ravitch
borrowing plan, to give a face-saving gesture to Paterson, and to resolve
the budget impasse now.

Guess who?

Now to the comment we overhead. It was Larry Schwartz, whose voice certainly
does carry, who said: “Yeah, I’m talking to him three times a day now.”

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