Friday, January 23, 2009

Here it comes

I feel like I should be saying something here. I think I just might.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Spitzer Budget and the Upstate Economy

Governor Spitzer's 2008-09 budget has faced a great deal of criticism from both upstate and downstate since he unveiled it Tuesday. The Governor's talent to tweak people isn't limited to just geography though, as The New York Sun captures the reception of the budget on the political spectrum:

The Business Council of New York State, a group that represents business interests, and the Working Families Party, a liberal grassroots operation financed by labor unions, took shots yesterday at the governor's $126.5 billion 2008-09 spending plan, which the administration unveiled on Tuesday. Until yesterday, both groups had been generally supportive of the governor and his policies. While their displeasure is shared, their specific grievances are not.

The Working Families Party, which cross-endorsed Mr. Spitzer in 2006 and delivered to him 155,000 vote on its ballot line, claims the governor turned his back on middle-class New Yorkers by not raising income tax rates of wealthy residents.

The Business Council is criticizing Mr. Spitzer for lifting state spending by 5% despite the turmoil in the economy.

So either Spitzer is splitting the middle and displeasing both these groups on the far edge in some act of political feng shui, or he's so far off the target that he can't even please a single side of the political spectrum. The reality is a little more difficult to determine. It shouldn't come as any surprise that The Business Council bristles with the 5% increase in the budget in addition to the fee hike that is proposed. However, this still is far below the 7.1% increase in Governor Pataki's final submitted budget. The Working Families Party takes issue with the budget in that it doesn't raise taxes on incomes over $300,000. Such an increase, the group says, would increase state revenue by $6 billion. Instead Spitzer must cover a $4.4 in other ways, including cancelling a plan to give middle class homeowners property tax breaks. That's the give and take on the budget issue. There is also the haves and have nots. From Newsday:
In terms of Long Island, the governor embraced red-light cameras that
catch motorists who disregard traffic signals on Nassau County streets
and called for capping the amount that counties pay for preschool
special education. Many lawmakers were unimpressed by Spitzer's
budget, saying it shortchanged the region on property-tax relief and
school aid. "The one thing that stood out was that he did not
mention Long Island once," said Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).
"Basically, he's cutting us off from the rest of the state - sending us
in a lifeboat without any life preservers." Assemb. Harvey
Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) was more circumspect, saying only that "any
cut in school funding is a real question. Long Island is known for
having quality schools and we need support for them."
While I would prefer to get away from the Upstate/Downstate debate, the statements by state Senator Skelos seems to only underscore it. Senate Majority Leader Bruno, perhaps understanding that his two seat majority in the upper house relies on upstate voters, has proposed a $2.7 billion tax relief package called Upstate Now.
Spitzer countered that the Senate plan lacks a clear way to pay for
Upstate Now. When asked about how the plan would be funded, Bruno said
it would simply be part of the $124 billion budget by reprioritizing
Is it possible that you can come up with $2.7 billion by moving some items around? I imagine so, but given the kind of intense scrutiny and stubborn attitudes that some lawmakers on both sides of the isle have in Albany, I would tend to doubt Bruno could be successful. The detail that every New Yorker knows, but no news story has called attention to, is that the budget process in the Empire State is nothing if not inelegant. It's almost certain that whatever plan we have going into the process, the output will be unlikely to be the same.

Which ultimately brings us to the question of whether or not this is all political theater? The Governor and the Senate are tripping over each other to provide stimulus to the upstate economy as if the region had just shown up unannounced right before dinner. The fact that Senator Bruno controls the Senate by a two seat margin, a margin built around support from upstate, seems too much of a coincidence. While my hope is that this region does get some meaningful economic support, I can't help but suspect that this is the first stage in the battle for which party controls the state Senate after the 2008 elections.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Slobodan Milošević: Please Contact Me

Yes, Jay. I'm talking to you.

E-mail me at
Use your last name so I know who I'm talking to.