It was a verbal brawl. It was bitter. It was pathetic. And none of the participants looked good.
More important, it was hardly reassuring to the people of New York State, who depend on these guys for leadership and help in very difficult times.
The meeting of Gov. David Paterson with the leaders of the Legislature collapsed in abject failure after a war of words erupted among the participants. Paterson had called the meeting to discuss the $1.5 billion deficit in this year's budget and how to close it. He proposed a list of cuts but could not win the agreement of the legislative leaders.
“No one has actually offered any alternatives to my plan and no one seems to want to negotiate and find ways we can cut our spending now,” Gov. Paterson complained.
Gov. Paterson has suggested reductions in various agencies, public schools and hospitals. He has also proposed raising state fees and tuition at the state university.
The governor zeroed in on the Republican leader of the State Senate, Dean Skelos on Tuesday.
“I never got a suggestion from you. What I got is a lecture,” Gov. Paterson said before holding up a blank piece of paper to show how little Skelos had brought to the table.
Skelos taunted Paterson: “Governor, today the Senate is prepared to honor your request,” meaning his members were ready to vote down the Paterson plan.
“Mr. Skelos is not interested in passing bills,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said. “He's interested in passing the buck.”
When emotions overflowed and the leaders were shouting, competitively, at each other, the governor said: “I feel like I'm having auditory hallucinations.”
Later, after the shouting match was over, the gladiators embraced each other and were all smiles. The governor said he was confident he would be able to close the budget gap next year. Although the leaders tried to put a happy face on the proceedings, their constituents might not agree.
The taxpayers can't afford hallucinations. They want leaders who will stand up for them.