Gotta give props to both Illinois and California: Between the Blagojevich/Burris melodrama in the former and the multi-day budget pajama party with the latter, either could have wrested the title of Most Dysfunctional State Government from New York.
Alas, all it took was one budget session from hell for the Empire State to recapture its rightful spot on top of the heap, king of the hill, A-Number One.
New York attains its status "honestly." While Illinois has become synonymous with corruption, and California's problem has much to do with a referendum process that handcuffs the legislature in many respects, New York is sine qua non. It is rife with corruption and has a sclerotic legislature wholly controlled by powerful public employee unions.
And who is to oppose them? New York has an accidental governor, David Paterson, who after a year in office now has historically low approval ratings. Voters across state, regardless of race or gender, have become convinced that Paterson can't rise to the occasion and make the tough choices needed to get spending under control.
He proved those people right by acquiescing to an awful budget.
The new Senate majority leader, Malcolm Smith, has only a razor-thin majority -- 32 Democrats to 30 Republicans. (A 70-something senator with serious heart problems had to be wheeled into the Senate chamber Tuesday, just to get one bill passed.)
And that leaves long-time Assembly Speaker – Sheldon Silver – the most powerful man in government and who runs rings around the other two men. That's a fact that even The New York Times recognized this week.
So, what's the result? Gov. Paterson's repeated promises over the last year that New York's budget would contain spending cuts and that income taxes would only be raised “as a last resort”? Dream on.
Indeed, when a politician tells you that he'll only raise taxes as a “last resort,” you'd better believe that's a resort they'll be checking into at the first stop.
Why are things this way?
Well, while New York state has lost nearly 150,000 private sector jobs since last August, government payrolls (state and local) have gone up.
And public employee unions -- particularly teachers and health care workers -- are the ones pulling the strings.
And so, that's why the “solution” to New York's $16 billion gaping hole has been a new budget of $132 billion! That's 10 percent more than last yea's. Even worse, in the middle of one of the worst recessions of the last 70 years, New York's legislature decides to hike taxes -– to the tune of $8 billion!
That figure includes so-called “millionaire's tax” that actually kicks in at $250,000 and billions more in various other taxes fees that hit everybody.
New York remains cursed: The state budget is due every April Fool's Day, but the legislature makes sure that Empire State residents are the ones played for fools for the rest of the entire year.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.