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Paralysis in Albany hurts bills big and small

A statue stands in front of the New

A statue stands in front of the New York State Capitol building in Albany on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Credit: Bloomberg / Ron Antonelli

As the clock ticked toward midnight last night in Albany, the expiration of rent control and the assignment of blame for that possible expiration dominated discussion. And a very short extension of the rent regulations became the only solution.

With the legislature shaken by corruption investigations, and the Senate and Assembly under new leadership, this might seem like the worst time to revamp rent-control law. But it needs changes to stop abuse, and nothing ever gets done without deadline drama in Albany.

Rent control renewal was being held up because Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Republican Senate majority, led by East Northport's John Flanagan, badly want to pass tax credits for private school tuition and donations to private and public schools. Rent control became the hostage they could hold over a Democratic Assembly that's beholden to the public school teachers unions that oppose the tax credits.

Both rent control and the education tax credit bills need modifications so the right people, the poor and middle class, benefit. The income of residents in rent-controlled apartments should be subject to verification. And there should be a lower limit on the income of families that would receive private school scholarships from donations that trigger tax credits.

But Mondaythere was no sign of progress. Meanwhile, the fate of quieter bills that should be passed was left hanging: One would make it legal for people treated unfairly by insurers to recover legal fees, and another would grant a refund of state taxes to Sandy victims who used retirement savings to make repairs.

When government stops functioning properly, it's the big bills that get the attention. But running a state is a detail business, and when little bills slip through the cracks, they can cause serious problems, too.