It’s been 10 months since the coup in Albany brought governing to a standstill.
The Senate became a laughing-stock, the symbol of dysfunction in a state where budgets were normally late and deals were done by three men in a room.
For the first time it seemed that the public was paying attention. Certainly the media was. We spent weeks chronicling the story of the turncoat senators who kept changing political wardrobes. At last, a deal was brokered, and things would be different.
Like the end of a bad horror movie, the purifying rays of the sun poured into the windows of the 19th century Capitol building, and life would never be the same.
Fast forward to May, 2010. The budget that was due on April 1 is, well, overdue. And all indicators are it will be WAY overdue.
One of the so-called turncoats, Hiram Monserrate, was bounced out of the Senate after a conviction of misdemeanor assault. Another, State Senate Majority leader Pedro Espada, Jr., is facing two lawsuits by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo alleging corruption. He could soon be charged criminally.
And in the meantime, the battle over the budget goes on, as slowly as possible. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) told me, “It’s going at a snail’s pace, but actually, now that I think about it, I’m being unfair to snails!”
The governor doesn’t want any borrowing. He says that’s like getting a loan to pay for your weekly groceries. But how do you close a $9.2 billion budget gap? The lieutenant governor says borrow – responsibly. Paterson wants to furlough workers. Many people think that’s flat-out illegal. He wants to cut education and health care. Many legislators don’t. The governor demanded an immediate up or down vote on HIS budget last week. The Legislature practically ignored the request.
Members of the Assembly and Senate are all up for reelection. It would look really bad if they once again seemed to be spending the summer bickering. And none want to stay in Albany when they could be back home campaigning. So cooler heads will no doubt prevail, and this budget mess will be settled soon enough.