Sunday, April 1, 2007

Out-of-Steam Roller?

"Spitzer said, 'On Day 1 everything changes.' What he didn't say was, 'On Day 38 it all changes back.' "

That's how a hard-core Republican friend teased us in February when the State Assembly broke its word to Governor Spitzer and elected Assembly hack Tom DiNapoli as Comptroller.

Our Republo-pal's criticism is unfair, as even he acknowledged when plied with enough Guinness. The Assembly elected DiNapoli in spite of Spitzer's wishes and efforts, not because of them. The Governor denounced the choice without mincing words. Nevertheless, at that point the score was: Albany Culture - 1; Governor - 0.

Since then, we've noted the extremely encouraging indications of the sincerity of Governor Spitzer's commitment to reform.

It's therefore that much more disappointing to contemplate how much the Governor yielded to the worst legislature in the country in this year's proposed budget.

  • Wins for Spitzer and the people: increasing the number of charter schools to 200.
  • Losses for Spitzer and the people: nearly everything else.
The state still spends too much. Its debt is at $48 billion. The Wicks law remains in place, increasing the cost of all public construction projects from 10% to 30%. The Governor's proposal for a tax deduction for school tuition went down. Enumerating the rest, point for point, would be too long for you to read and too depressing for me to write.

And the much touted reform of Worker's Compensation law announced a few weeks ago? Unmistakably a step in the right direction. But only in the same sense that the cardiac patient feels better when they've cured his sore throat.

The fact remains: the high profile reform elements Spitzer pushed were the right ones. Like the Comptroller appointment, the disappointing results are occurring in spite of Spitzer, not because of him.

Our criticism of the Gov. is that, after stating the opposite, he seemed to think, after all, that an on-time budget was more important than a good budget.

Elliot Spitzer is the last, best hope of this state. And of upstate in particular.

He's shown us that he knows what needs to be done. That he didn't accomplish it in his first budget agreement isn't his fault. But it must be a sobering realization for a leader of his intelligence, stature and drive.

What we have to say is: keep the pressure on, Governor Steamroller. If you can't do it, then the prospects for this most backward and dysfunctional State in the country really are hopeless.

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