- Senate Majority-For-The-Time-Being Leader Dean Skelos chided Governor Paterson at the so-called leader's meeting in Albany on Tuesday over what he claimed was the failure of the governor to submit a Memorandum of Understanding needed to get the Delaware North slots project at Aqueduct under way.
"Earlier this year, when I made a request just to study what the economic development aspect of VLT's at Aqueduct were, I was criticized for costing the state $1 million a day. To this day, I have not received an MOU from you that's necessary for the legislative leaders and you to agree to, which is costing us $1 million a day! [editor's note: Touche!]Though Paterson confronted the Senator on most of his points throughout the session, he did not dispute this point. Skelos went on to appeal for slots at Belmont. "That could raise, perhaps, another $350 million, and spur economic growth in that area, in particular, Elmont. Elmont - a lower income minority community that's dying for this type of economic development, with VLT's, and growth in that area."
That's a substantial amount of money. Right now, it's 23 days since we announced the selection of Delaware North to operate VLT's at Aqueduct, and we should sign the MOU so we can begin to collect $370 million in licensing payments. That could go to cutting this year's deficit without cutting school aid."
As you likely know by now, Governor Paterson and legislative leaders failed to agree on a single penny of budget cuts for the current fiscal year, the deficit for which is said to be $1.5 billion. They have thereby punted the problem to the new fiscal year starting April, 2009, for which the deficit is projected to be $12.5 billion, at the very least. Paterson was in Washington yesterday looking, unsuccessfully at least for now, for a
If you have an hour to kill, you might want to watch the complete videos of the meeting, presented in four parts on the Capital Confidential blog at the Albany Times Union. "This is the way government works," said Paterson towards the end. If that's the case, then I think I'd prefer these meetings to remain private in the future. The Republicans, as the lame duck majority in the Senate, stonewalled the process, the Democrats accused the Republicans of playing politics even as they expertly did so themselves. The present Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith brought nothing to the table, Speaker Sheldon Silver had little to say as usual, and Assembly Minority Leader turned red in the face as he yelled and gesticulated forcefully towards Silver sitting a few feet away. (Skelos suggested that he was cranky because he'd canceled his honeymoon for this.)
So yes, we've heard the word dysfunction thrown around a lot the last couple of days, even from the governor. But more so, the whole situation smacks of the old upside-down Bizarro world to me. "Me Democrat. Me want to cut spending. Me opposed to tax increases on the rich." "Me Republican. Me beholden to unions and special interest groups. Me concerned about lower income minority communities."
And as such, it's not for me to judge any of the men involved, except perhaps for the testy Tedisco, whose bluster I found to be most undignified. I do always try to be honest here (even if some find me regularly demeaning), and I honestly have to admit that if, heaven forbid, Rudy Giuliani was the governor and Paterson was the minority leader in the Senate, then I'd likely be viewing this in a completely different way. Politics is politics after all, and politics are partisan; I imagine it's much of the same in all 50 states.
The governor has been on a roll in his approval ratings with his pre-emptive strikes against the deficit, so of course he would open the meeting with what amounted to a campaign speech highlighting his steady fiscal prudence, bragging of his foresight, and accusing the GOP of putting politics above necessity (though his prediction of a 6000 Dow seemed a bit dramatic......I hope). The Republicans probably have a valid point as to why they would need to consider cuts now when the governor has promised next year's budget in a month. I mean, why would anyone expect Senator Skelos to possibly take GOP ownership of painful budget cuts when the Democrats will be taking over in January? Why would Speaker Silver commit his conference to the cuts at this time without the Republicans being on board? (Though Silver's position seems the weakest of the group, I must say, considering that the Democrats will be doing all of the cutting next year anyway.) I'm pretty positive that this all would have played out the same exact way, even if the party roles were reversed.
So, the painful decisions are pushed back for now. When they finally get down to business, and with such a gargantuan deficit to tackle, you can mark my words on these two things - there will be a tax increase on those making over $1 million a year; and slots at Belmont are a cold stone lock.