Albany gasbags are full of it

State lawmakers are spouting so much hot air about the state’s budget crisis these days, it’s a wonder the Capitol hasn’t lifted off the ground like the old man’s house in the movie “Up.”

If one more senator vows to block a spending cut or restore a benefit or roll back a tax hike – without offering a remotely plausible alternative for averting fiscal catastrophe – the entire Legislature will soon be cruising toward South America at 20,000 feet.

Which, come to think of it, might not be such a bad thing. At least the reckless pandering would quiet down for a while.

Take, for example, the joint statement issued over the weekend by Sens. Craig Johnson and Brian Foley of Long Island, Neil Breslin of Albany, Darrel Aubertine of Watertown, David Valesky of Syracuse and Antoine Thompson and Bill Stachowski of Buffalo.

These seven Democratic pols – call them the seven dwarfs – declared that they cannot possibly go along with trimming education aid in the middle of the school year, as Gov. Paterson has proposed to help close a $3.2 billion deficit.

Nor do they like Paterson’s suggested cuts in Medicaid funding for hospitals and nursing homes, which they dismissed as “untenable.”

Nor do they support Paterson’s plan to raise money by forcing New Yorkers to buy new license plates.

Okay, now we know what they’re against. So what are they for? How, pray tell, do they propose to resolve a cash crunch so severe that the state might not be able to pay its bills next month?

They’ve got nothing.

Ditto for Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, who made a big show yesterday of demanding that Paterson immediately start enforcing cigarette tax laws on Indian reservations.

It’s true that Albany has tolerated rampant tax evasion that hurts law-abiding merchants and costs state and local government big bucks.

But for Kruger to claim that enforcement could reap $1.6 billion a year is reckless. “If people smoked that much there would be a big black cloud over the state blocking out the sun,” one budget official quipped.

Throwing around numbers like that suggests that Kruger is exploiting the issue as an excuse not to grapple with the politically dicey work of finding cuts.

Earlier, as Finance Committee chairman, Kruger floated what was described as the Senate Democrats’ alternative deficit-closing plan. That road map avoided virtually all attempts to slow the out-of-control spending that will soon bankrupt the state, instead laying out schemes to raise quick cash.

Particularly lame was the idea to “refinance” tobacco bonds – which would have added a billion or so to New York’s already massive debt to raise $500 million right away.

But this is what we have come to expect from Kruger, whose idea to bail out the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was to invest borrowed money in the stock market as a way of generating income.

Now, Kruger is threatening to block any budget plan until Indian reservation cigarette tax enforcement begins in earnest – a threat he is unfortunately well-positioned to make good on.

As a practical matter, in fact, every single Democratic senator effectively holds a veto over any action the Legislature might take to fix the budget.

That’s because nothing can pass the Senate without 32 votes, and there are only 32 Democrats. Which makes it especially irresponsible for senators to draw lines in the sand in the middle of delicate negotiations.

Of course, Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos of Long Island could take away those vetoes by urging his Republicans to get onboard with a compromise budget-balancing plan. Skelos, unlike Democratic leader John Sampson of Brooklyn, has identified some real spending cuts he could support, such as freezing the expansion of health coverage for the uninsured and other new programs.

But Skelos, too, mindlessly opposes touching school aid – on the theory that districts that have seen huge increases in recent years couldn’t possibly survive tightening their belts.

Worse, when the seven dwarfs put out their statement, Skelos did his best to outpander them, calling for a rollback of a State University of New York tuition hike and reinstatement of property tax rebates.

As those words left his lips, a shudder went through the Capitol building – as if the whole place were suddenly drifting steadily toward the stratosphere.

source: http://www.nydailynews.com

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