It sure was a fun celebration in November.
Democrats, flush with victory, stood on stages across New York, heralding the dawn of one-party control of state government and the progressive energy about to be unleashed. And there was a rash of sensible legislation long bottled up by Senate Republicans finally approved and signed into law. But the first warning sign of trouble was the failure of Long Island Democrats to leverage their new strength to get a permanent tax cap.
Then the Senate fumbled the Amazon deal. Now it’s March and just like you can’t get to spring until you get through this interminable dreary month, you can’t prove you have a functioning majority until you produce a budget in the crucible that carries an April 1 deadline. Democrats are firing on all cylinders — at each other.
The Senate and Assembly are at odds. Senate Democrats argue among themselves. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says the new Senate majority is not used to governing and must step up. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says Cuomo suffers from SDDS — Senate Democratic Derangement Syndrome. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says Cuomo’s comments about his members doing the bidding of teachers unions were “inflammatory” and “unacceptable.”
The result is that the budgets offered by Cuomo and the two chambers are $1 billion or more apart and leave too many big issues unresolved; there’s really no bandwidth to solve all of them in the next 18 days. And some new legislators, including on Long Island, don’t fully understand the consequences of the matters before them.
Here’s what’s clear:
The permanent property tax cap must be passed. It’s time the Assembly realizes that taxpayers need that relief. Our senators must refuse to vote on any budget bill unless they are assured the cap will pass the Assembly. Otherwise, they would be better off heading for the Canadian border.
School aid is guaranteed to increase, but it should be done in a fiscally prudent way. The economy is slowing. As revenues tighten, teachers unions — to which the Assembly is indeed tethered — have not shown that more funding leads to better results rather than merely padding payrolls. Getting short shrift are clean water, transportation and climate change programs.
It is disappointing that the Assembly didn’t bother to include a plan to toll drivers entering Manhattan’s business district; the money is needed for subways and commuter railroads. A pied-à-terre tax on multimillion-dollar second homes in the city would help. So could online sports gambling. But legalizing recreational marijuana can’t be rushed into place; licensing and safety can’t be responsibly resolved by March 31. Expanding prevailing wage requirements is best left out of the budget, too.
It’s time for New York to reform bail and trial procedures, but such changes must include a way to confine defendants who are a danger to witnesses or victims. Public campaign financing must be instituted, with a ban on fusion voting to make it affordable to taxpayers.
Democrats got the control they wanted. Now it’s time for them to disarm, discuss and deliver. — The editorial board