Accidental Governor Paterson scores victory as Albany clowns don't know own price tag
Albany - The so-called budget lawmakers approved Monday is such a joke that Senate Finance Committee boss Carl Kruger couldn't say how many billions of your dollars he and his cohorts were committing to spend.
Senate Republicans asked for the price tag just before the vote, and Kruger (D-Brooklyn) shockingly admitted he had no clue.
"I will have the numbers available for you within several hours," Kruger said, showing no obvious sign of embarrassment.
And where, GOPers wanted to know, is the report spelling out the cash that legislators are required to have in their hands before voting on budget bills?
"That would be not available," came Kruger's nonchalant reply.
So which is more insane: That Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Democratic chief John Sampson of Brooklyn brought their jerry-rigged budget to the floor without answers to those basic questions? Or that Democrats overwhelmingly voted yes anyway?
No wonder this bunch has been tagged as the most dysfunctional state legislature in the country. No wonder New York is drowning in red ink.
The only silver lining in this coyote-ugly scenario is that the lawmakers' reckless action will not be the last word on this year's state budget.
Gov. Paterson wisely refused to give up his line-item veto, as most of his forebears have been bullied into doing in past showdowns with the Legislature.
Instead, our sometimes wishy-washy governor stood his ground this time - and forced the pols to do things by the book. For the first time in more than a decade, the Assembly and Senate actually followed the budget-making process spelled out in the state Constitution.
As intended by the framers, that system puts the governor in the driver's seat when it comes to money. So lawmakers can add as much spending as they want, but Paterson can chop it all away again. And unless two-thirds majorities in both chambers vote to override, those cuts stick.
And veto Paterson must, as he properly started to do Monday night. The Legislature's plan is at least $400 million out of balance. And that could easily balloon to $1.5billion if extra Medicaid money on the bubble in Washington doesn't come through.
Paterson can't fix everything the Legislature did wrong. He can't put back the property tax cap that it rejected, which would have shielded homeowners from overspending local governments.
He can't force pols to go along with wine sales in grocery stores, a common-sense move that would have benefited consumers while bringing in millions for the state.
He can't make them accept tuition reform that would have given SUNY and CUNY financial independence from sticky-fingered Albany lawmakers.
But he can bring the budget into some kind of balance - and remind the Legislature who's boss.
Score that as a win for the accidental governor.