Budget plan agreement looks good, for now
Albany's three top men came out of their proverbial room with an agreement after all -- in time for the state's 212 lawmakers to enact a budget plan by the start of the fiscal year.
So far, so good, it seems, at least for the power threesome.
The immediate impact of an "on time" budget is symbolic. It offers a superficial way to offset the cliché of the Capitol as "dysfunctional." It establishes that the new governor, the new Senate majority leader, and the seasoned longest-serving Democratic Assembly speaker could work a deal.
Beware that details in print are still to come, and the houses must act by Friday to preserve the timely status.
But what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office trumpets is the dramatic reduction of the projected deficit (an estimate of course) for the 2012-13 fiscal year -- from $15 billion to $2 billion.
And, he touts a removal of "permanent laws" in the agreement -- the statutory fine print that for years drove spending numbers upward to the point where, Orwell-style, a budget increase could be called a reduction.
Further, "This budget is what he told the people he is going to do," said Cuomo spokesman Joshua Vlasto.
Summaries of the overall frame of the deal will offer what the public may see as impressive sales features. Caps on education and Medicaid spending, a partial restoration of proposed school cuts, the merger of some agencies and authorization for Cuomo to close prisons give it a bit of win-win polish.
Oh, don't forget about pain and loss. Hits in services from schools to transportation on the state and local levels are all of a piece. They will be watched in coming months for their impact.
Speaker Sheldon Silver and company lost their argument to get wealthier New Yorkers to keep paying an income-tax surcharge. Layoffs remain possible in separate contract talks. That property-tax cap will wait for another day.
Everywhere in America, reduction measures are now possible in part because expectations have caught up to severe fiscal numbers and the economic jolt of recent years. Consider federal pay freezes under the Obama administration, the challenge to collective bargaining for state workers in Wisconsin, the drama in New Jersey.
As evidence of consensus under New York's new management, State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) -- from the perpetual partisan battleground of his 7th District -- issued a statement hailing the three-way pact.
"The days of state government spending beyond its means are over. It was a difficult process but we did what was right for the state's fiscal health," Martins said.
On it goes to the bill drafting. Will the proverbial devil dwell there?