Albany Plays Hide and Seek With Budget Dealings

Nobody in the outside world, and that includes millions of New York taxpayers, knows what's been going on behind the closed doors in Albany.
Although the team has changed, the rules seem to be the same. For decades, with Republicans basically in charge, the public was kept in the dark. And, now, with Democrats ruling Albany, it's the same deal.
A $132 billion budget has been put together essentially by three men; Gov. David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. The details of their negotiations have been kept secret. Now, they're deciding what to do about the MTA's fiscal crisis and secrecy still prevails.
Sources tell reporters that the proposal to put tolls on East and Harlem River bridges has fallen apart. And senators from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island have apparently torpedoed a plan to raise payroll taxes in the 12 counties served by the MTA. That information was leaked from the closed-door sessions.
Albany is a strange place. The State House has Byzantine corridors that curve this way and that. It's a building so full of dead ends and hidden away offices that it would be a good place in which kids could play hide and seek.
And hide and seek is the game being played by the grownups. Members of both the executive and legislative branches have been hiding from the voters as Democrats and Republicans wrestle with each other over the budget and the MTA crisis. 
The New York Times called these ''the most secret budget negotiations the capital has seen in years.''
Secrecy and misdirection seem to be a New York habit. Down at City Hall we have a mayor who makes himself available for reporters' questions, usually once a day. But he rations out reporters to just one question each -- not allowing a reporter to follow up, to clarify an answer or an issue. Perhaps that's a more subtle way to be secretive.
In Albany subtlety is not practiced or even considered. Politics and negotiations are a brutal game. They don't take prisoners, these people. Like former Gov. Eliot Spitzer they act like steamrollers, flattening their foes and moving ahead before the public knows what's happening. That's the Albany way.

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