Albany’s Wonder Boy is Rolled Again – By George J. Marlin
In the latest round of Albany back-room dealing, the Upper East Side governor was taken to the cleaners by the senator from the sticks, Joe Bruno, and Bowery assemblyman, Shelly Silver.
Here are the lopsided results of Spitzer’s horse trading:
Congestion Tax: To keep Washington’s “free” money for the plan in play, Spitzer swallowed all of Speaker Silver’s conditions. They include: a commission consisting of 17 members appointed by the governor, assembly speaker, senate majority leader, N.Y.C. mayor and city council speaker; mayoral and City Council approval of the commission findings; and a minimum of $200 million in seed money from the feds.
Fortunately, the very structure of the compromise guarantees the Congestion Tax Plan’s demise. Blue ribbon commissions comprised of representatives of every power broker generally deliver watered-down findings that fail to move the public and are forgotten the day after publication. Meeting the other benchmarks gives Senator Bruno additional time to shake down Mayor Bloomberg for more campaign contributions; gives Silver’s conference members the political cover needed to get past next year’s primaries; and gives taxpayers more time to register their outrage against this latest assault on their pocketbooks.
Campaign Finance Reform: Wheeler-dealer Spitzer agreed to these campaign finance “reforms”: Maximum contribution from individuals to political party housekeeping accounts will decline from $300,000 a year to $150,000 by 2013. Individual contributions to statewide candidates will go from $55,900 to $25,000 per cycle. After the 2008 elections, top Senate contributions will be $11,500, down from $15,500 per cycle and the $7,600 Assembly max will decline to $4,600.
With the exception of Michael Bloomberg, most people don’t contribute $300,000 to political housekeeping accounts. Since players give less than $150,000, don’t expect party coffers to suffer any significant loss of income. It’s the same with state legislators. Their average contribution is below the maximum contribution number. To shut down the governor’s campaign finance reform crusade, Bruno and Silver merely gave him the sleeves off their vests.
There’s more: To seal the deal, the governor embraced an old Pataki tactic: buy off opponents with other people’s money. Spitzer agreed that legislative leaders can designate $300 million of capital projects that will be paid for with state-funded debt. In other words, New Yorkers will be paying principal and interest for decades on bonded debt incurred to finance “members items” pork.
Senator Bruno’s office also claims the governor promised another $200 million in state subsidies to senior citizens who pay local property taxes.
So much for Spitzer’s inaugural address pledge to end the “politics of cynicism” in New York. What comes to mind is journalist Edmund Wetmore’s lyric describing another reformer, William Randolph Hearst, when he sold out to Tammany Boss Charles Murphy to get the gubernatorial nomination in 1906:
“So I lashed him and I thrashed him in my hot reforming zeal.
Then I clasped him to my bosom in a most artistic deal.”
Bruno and Silver really hustled Spitzer – but one would never know it from reading statements emanating from the governor’s office. That’s because Spitzerland is adopting another page from Patakiland’s political manual: press release government. The impact the fine print of these deals will have on taxpayers doesn’t matter to the governor’s handlers. What does matter is promoting the illusion in press releases that Spitzer is still the champion of self-anointed Do-Goods.