Don’t shed any tears for the collapse of negotiations to hold a special session of the State Legislature before year’s end. As the days in December dwindled down, it became increasingly clear that this would be a lame duck session in every sense of the term.
Plans for a special session were predicated on the need to give state lawmakers a raise, something they haven’t had since 1999. They were due. And a vote would have to be taken this calendar year to make it happen in 2017, otherwise legislators would have to wait until 2019 at the earliest. But as talks progressed, it became apparent that the machinations from both sides of the negotiations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state legislators themselves, were not in the interests of the people of New York. Remember them? They’re the ones both camps are supposed to be serving.
Let’s recap. The original notion was to couple a substantial salary hike with ethics reform. We supported that idea, which would boost lawmakers’ salary of $79,500 up to $116,000, provided that the reform package include term limits, a ban or tight limit on outside income, and a change in their designation to full-time. New Yorkers disgusted by Albany shenanigans have consistently expressed strong support for ethics reforms. But legislators said no.
The special session should have died there. But Cuomo started monkeying around with the terms, offering a more modest pay raise in exchange for a shifting swirl of proposals that should be subject to open vetting and debate, not the product of backroom deals made under deadline pressure. The whole thing smacked of let’s-make-a-deal, instead of let’s-make-the-right-deal.
Now those issues can be dealt with in the new legislative session that begins next week. That’s good. Unless it turns out that progress cannot be made because relations between Cuomo and lawmakers, which already were strained, are now positively putrid.
That would be worth crying over.
— The editorial board