Gov. David Paterson appointed former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch as his Lieutenant Governor yesterday, saying the move will help "alleviate the crisis" in the deadlocked state senate. State Attorney General has called the move unconstitutional and Republicans promised more lawsuits.
A former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority respected by Democrats and Republicans, Ravitch recently championed an MTA bailout plan intended to spare riders from steep fare increases.
In a televised address, the Democratic governor says the state is in crisis over the "embarrassing spectacle" in the Senate.
The lieutenant governor would -- in theory -- be able to break the tie between the warring Democrats and Republicans. The chamber has been deadlocked 31-31 since two dissident Democrats joined a Republican-backed coup on June 8. Little to no legislation has been passed since and the legality of any bills that have passed the chamber remain in question.
The lieutenant governor position has been vacant since Mr. Paterson succeeded Eliot Spitzer as governor last year. There is no provision in the New York State Constitution that provides for filling the office in the event of a vacancy, though Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has said it would be unconstitutional for him to appoint that position at this point in time.
Paterson said Wednesday that he has consulted with legal scholars who confirm that he does have the right to appoint a deputy and, so too, a successor.
A judge has to make the final decision, however, and insiders say the issue would be the subject of much litigation.
The stalemate has even left the city budget in limbo, forcing City Hall to call for a hiring freeze amid the chaos. The Bloomberg administration is preparing a memo to agencies instructing them on how to put non-essential contracts on hold -- yet another effort to control spending since the goons in Albany haven't gotten their act together enough to balance the city budget.
Some senators said they were setting a Thursday deadline for resolving the conflict that began June 8. Since Gov. Paterson began ordering the Senate to special sessions, the bickering Republicans and Democrats have taken to gaveling in and out of session within minutes.
Senators from the Democratic conference and the Republican-dominated coalition that mounted the coup said they would look at several proposals to end the fight, which will cost the warring senators their paychecks starting Wednesday. State Controller Thomas DiNapoli ordered the senators' biweekly paychecks be held until the factions reach an agreement.
In a statement, he said "Today, the paychecks for all 62 State Senators were withheld. My office is continuing to hold Senate vouchers and per diem payments. This decision was not taken lightly."
Despite words of a possible breakthrough, this isn't the first time over the past weeks that the Senate leadership said they were closing-in on a deal. On Tuesday, the self-described "amigos" who've threatened the Democrats' shaky Senate majority met for the second straight day -- apparently to try and hammer out a plan on how to proceed.
Paterson used TV a year ago to warn about New York's fiscal crisis. It gave him a boost in his poll ratings, which are now at low levels.