Thursday, December 18, 2008

PROVOCATIONS: Paterson's Budget From Hell

Gov. David A. Paterson has demonstrated why questioning his largely uneventful career before he assumed office and his bizarre behavior after taking office were legitimate concerns.

Unveiling a $121 billion budget, Gov. Paterson again made the Empire State a national laughingstock by proposing $4 billion in 137 gratuitous fees on everything from iPods to soft drinks to inexpensive clothes to movie tickets to cigars. He gleefully launched a fee assault on our wallets and everyday lives.

Most disturbingly, after issuing warnings for months on the desperate need to cut spending, what did Gov. Paterson do? Sell out, and increase spending. He lost his nerve by following a typical politician's penchant for placing hypocrisy over principle.

The critical barometer for spending is the "state funds" section of the budget. Gov. Paterson's spending increase is one percent, and one percent too much. With the looming multi-billion deficits we face, a cut of at least five percent was required.

The so-called "cuts" to school aid, Medicaid and hospitals are minor, despite the predictable whaling and whining of Albany's entrenched special interests. In addition, our 200,000-member bloated state workforce drains state coffers with gold-plated benefits not provided in other states, and Paterson proposed eliminating a grand total of . . . 520 positions.

What Gov. Paterson continued was nothing more than the failed Cuomo-Pataki-Spitzer model that created the financial nightmare we're living in today.

It's an abdication of leadership from Gov. Paterson. His budgetary decisions display a woeful unpreparedness to lead 19 million New Yorkers through our daunting fiscal crisis. Perhaps the only success he achieved was alienating political and ideological constituencies critical to long-term fiscal sanity.

Blame it on Eliot Spitzer. Yes, client 9 has been gone nine months, and he's still wreaking havoc.

Shortly before Gov. Paterson assumed office last March in the wake of Spitzer's downfall, his responsibilities as Lieutenant Governor were few. He was virtually ignored for 14 months.

In Albany circles the sole reason for why Spitzer picked Paterson is well-known, and now we're paying the price with a budget devoid of innovation and new ideas. It's the truth that dare speak only behind closed doors.

In 2005, Leecia Eve, the daughter of former Assemblyman Arthur Eve of Buffalo, announced her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. Ms. Eve is black. She had the support of nearly every influential black New York elected official, from Rep. Charles Rangel to former Mayor David Dinkins. Even Gov. Paterson's father Basil supported Ms. Eve.

Yet, then-Attorney General Spitzer created a massive political problem for himself by rejecting Ms. Eve's candidacy. "The Smartest Man In The World," as Rangel mockingly described him, needed to mend fences with angry Democrats in the minority community. He knew he had to select an African-American to be his running mate to calm the storm.

Where to look? Why, in the New York State Senate where Paterson was serving as the sleepy Minority Leader for three years supporting absurd legislation such as limiting the number of bullets police officers can carry in their weapons and voting rights for non-citizens.

Before he was elected to the Senate, Paterson worked in the Queens District Attorney's office, which is notable because he lied about being a "prosecutor" in his official biography (he never passed the bar exam). But his influential father plucked him out of the DA's office and he was easily elected in a 1985 special election.

Spitzer knew exactly what he was doing. Every Governor wants a Lieutenant Governor who dutifully says nothing and stays out of sight. He could count on Paterson to fill the role.

Paterson was picked by Spitzer for raw political reasons. Now this poor, politically-correct decision has manifested itself in a destructive budget blueprint that will further drive more jobs and residents out of the state for good.

It shouldn't come as a surprise.

The budget Gov. Paterson announced is a mere extension of the incompetent decision-making he exhibited days after taking office. He stunned New Yorkers with lurid confessions of drug use and adultery, and media reports detailed his delight in spending campaign funds on personal desires such as hotel rooms, suits and travels out-of-state.

When a public official is an accident of history there are unintended consequences. For nine months we've experienced the unintended consequences of David A. Paterson as New York's 56th Governor, and our future looks bleaker than ever.