Albany still isn't serious about closing a $9 billion shortfall in the 2010-11 budget. So why should anyone take Albany seriously? The state has long been living above its means, and even an economic recovery won't redeem its free-spending ways.
So what's being done to resolve the fiscal crisis in the city that O. Henry famously dubbed "Baghdad on the Hudson"? After the power coups, expulsion of convicted members, and in between the subpoena-dodging, there's been a buffet of recent news articles that captures the Albany state of mind. There are the "You copied me" and "Hey, I want some of his pork" debates. On Wednesday, even an animal act came to the circus - Bucky the Beaver, a costumed version of the official state mammal, walked the halls to protest the looting of the Environmental Protection Fund.
Ripped from today's headlines, here are some you-can't-make-this-stuff-up Albany stories that have been developing lately.
REPORT BEARS OUT UNEQUAL PORK CLAIMS
The Legislative Gazette
The unequal distribution of pork barrel spending among Senate and Assembly districts offers proof, according to advocates of member item reform, that politics and not the needs of New Yorkers is the main consideration in determining the allocation of these funds.
A coalition of good government groups, which are urging lawmakers to pass pork barrel reform measures for the upcoming fiscal year, released March 22 their analysis of how these funds are allotted.
MAN-SIZED BEAVER VISITS NYS CAPITOL TO SUPPORT ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND
You may recall that in March, the State's mammal (beaver) held a joint press conference with the state bird (bluebird), fish (brook trout) and reptile (snapping turtle) to announce that state environmental budget cuts made them want to resign as the state's official representatives.
Tomorrow, the lead spokescritter for New York's official critters, Bucksaw (Bucky) T. Beaver, will make a personal appearance at the State Capitol to appeal directly to members of the NYS Assembly and Senate to avoid cuts in the already-beleaguered Environmental Protection Fund.
STATE SENATE UNVEILS PROPOSAL TO RESTORE STAR REBATE
Senate Republicans yesterday unveiled a proposal to restore STAR property tax rebate checks, cap property taxes with a "circuit breaker" and institute mandate relief.
But Senate Democrats immediately labeled the package "plagiarism," saying it closely resembles a budget package they have proposed several times, a version of which they plan to introduce next week. The two parties differ over how they plan to pay for the estimated $1.3 billion annual cost of the measure.
GOV. DAVID PATERSON EARMARKS $778,000 FOR CONJUGAL VISIT TRAILER AT PRISON
Gov. David Paterson wants to spend almost $800,000 on two double-wide trailers for conjugal and family visits at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, Seneca County.
Paterson included the funding in his 2010-11 state budget proposal.
New York currently faces a $9 billion deficit. Paterson has proposed cutting aid to schools and hospitals, closing state parks and historic sites and delaying residents' income tax refunds to plug the hole.
BROOKLYN DEM FELIX ORTIZ WANTS TO BAN USE OF SALT IN NEW YORK RESTAURANTS
The Daily News
If State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the only salt added to your meal will come from the chef's tears.
The Brooklyn Democrat has introduced a bill that would ban the use of salt in New York restaurants - and violators would be smacked with a $1,000 fine for every salty dish.
"No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food," the bill reads.
Some of Manhattan's top cooks blasted the idea, saying the legislation lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.
"New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore,” said Tom Colicchio, star of “Top Chef” and owner of Craft.
DINAPOLI TO STATE: “STOP PLAYING GAMES WITH THE DEFICIT”
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report, New York’s Deficit Shuffle (not to be confused with the Truffle Shuffle) showing how NY State has hidden its budget deficits and ever-increasing spending by moving money around between accounts and other accounting “sleight of hand.” DiNapoli is worried, “New York needs to stop playing games with the deficit. The state dips into dedicated funds here and shifts money over there, all to cover cash shortfalls and avoid making the difficult decisions needed to align spending with revenues. The end result is the state’s real fiscal condition is impossible to pin down. Every time the game is played, taxpayers lose.”
STATE UNIONS REJECT PATERSON REQUEST TO SKIP RAISES
Unions rejected Gov. David Paterson’s call that state workers forgo their scheduled 4 percent raises this month because the state is running out of money to pay its bills.
Unions rejected Paterson’s plea to reopen their contracts, which are legally binding, saying it is Paterson who has rejected their cost-cutting proposals and has mismanaged the state. ...
On his weekly radio appearance on WOR-AM (710) Thursday, Paterson said, “The whole issue is we’re not asking because we’re trying to gouge anyone, we’re asking because the state is now $9.2 billion in deficit.
“When is somebody going to get it? We have run out of money.”