While interviewing Governor David Paterson recently, I asked whether he would compare himself to Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology who was punished by being required to roll a huge boulder up a hill.
His curse was that every time he got close to the top of the hill, the boulder rolled down again. And poor Sisyphus was condemned to continue this process through eternity.
The Governor laughed but agreed that, sometimes, the comparison to Sisyphus might fit.
Paterson has just called the Legislature into special session to tackle the humongous budget deficit----and other questions like gay marriage, pension costs and reform of the numerous state authorities. The budget crisis has top priority.
The governor has warned again and again that action on the budget is urgently required. Yet, again and again, the Legislature has either ignored Paterson or wasted its time, in the case of the Senate, on petty politics and patronage matters.
Two upstarts, Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. tied the Senate up in knots for weeks. Espada, a mere rookie in the Senate, is the majority leader, thanks to an infamous deal struck by the two parties.
Paterson has told legislators again and again about the severity of the economic situation. He warns again that we are on the brink of a fiscal crisis, that we’re running out of money, that 1.8 billion dollars in “painful” cuts must be made. Among the areas that will be hit hard, the Governor says, are schools, health services and local aid.
He wants the Legislature to cut 500 million out of state agencies, including Battery Park City. The governor says he wants to avoid giving out IOUs like Califonia or cutting the length of the school year, which was Hawaii’s action. He says he doesn’t want to follow Massachusetts’ approach either by asking the federal government for a loan.
Paterson wants to avoid having New York State’s credit rating downgraded, which would add to the taxpayers’ burden now and in future years.
The people’s faith in Albany has disintegrated in recent months. And there’s been a tendency for editorial writers and some politicians to put the blame on the governor. They have said he’s not forceful enough. That he has not been a good leader. That’s mostly bunk.
Whatever Paterson’s faults they don’t compare to the ineffectiveness, the irresponsibility of many legislators. At least he’s trying to do something about the financial mess we’re in. Where are the responsible members of the Legislature? Isn’t it time they came forward and took some actions to meet this crisis?
Our blind governor has more determination and courage than many of the law makers. He can’t do it alone. There must be a spirit of cooperation and resolve. The people of New York deserve much more than politics as usual.