Today’s Top Editorials & Columns; Plus Poll Question of the Week

This week’s best editorials and columns once again focused on excesses in state spending.  The Times-Herald-Record and the Times Union both picked up on the problem of unfunded mandates after the governor vowed to draw a line in the sand.  Both are must reads as is the piece by Donn Esmonde, the outspoken Buffalo News columnist, who took on excess spending by the Democratically-controlled Senate.

The problem of unfunded mandates will not be brought under control until two things happen:  first, we need to find out how much of local spending is currently due to unfunded mandates. Then we need reforms in the State Legislature that takes the authority out of their hands to determine a bill’s fiscal implications.

The Times Herald Record hit the nail on the head when they state “nobody knows if the governor’s  promise [to veto new unfunded mandates] will do much good considering how many mandates are already in place.”   A study is needed to identify which programs are unfunded and to quantify the burden they represent.  The next step would be to sunset every one of those provisions unless paid for by the state.

The bigger problem as the THR and the Times Union both point out is that both bodies of the Legislature blithely ignore their own rules concerning the fiscal implications of proposed legislation.

There is no incentive for those who introduce legislation to honestly attempt to disclose  how much their brainchild will cost. Take for example the proposal that would give state employees two extra days off a year, the sponsors of which claim won’t cost taxpayers a nickle.   You mean we could give every state worker two extra days off and they would be as productive as they are today?  That’s an indictment of our state workforce if I ever heard one.  The CSEA and PEF ought to be against any proposal that is predicated on the assumption their members are malingering.

How do we solve the problem  that the Legislature is dishonest about the bills it passes?  My solution, which I’ve outlined previously, is we create an independent budget agency, one of whose jobs would be to evaluate every piece of proposed legislation and calculate the fiscal implications of any measure that isn’t already paid for.

If the Legislature was forced to accept the IBO’s judgement and if any bill with a price tag had to have provisions to pay the freight, then Gov. Paterson’s promise  would be one he could keep.

It’s unlikely that the State Senate will soon be on board any such measure however. Just ask Donn Esmonde who wonders what planet the Senate leadership is on?   Apparently it’s not the one that residents of upstate New York live on where taxes and unemployment are too high and in danger of going higher.  If it were the Senate might think twice about handing out $70,000 and $90,000 patronage jobs and instead cut the $228 million that it costs in the “care and feeding of state lawmakers” or curtail their international travel or maybe even vote to decrease rather than increase next year’s State Operating Funds budget in the face of a projected $25 billion budget gap from 2010 to 2012.

Poll Question of the Week

Last week we asked if Al Shapton’s recent endorsement of David Paterson would help or hurt his re-election chances. Only 9 percent of the 191 people who voted see Sharpton’s endorsement helping Paterson.  71 percent think it hurts him and 20 percent see it as neutral.  This week we wonder if the Legislature will reach agreement on how to fund  the huge MTA deficit. Gov. Paterson wants it done this week.  Will he get his way?  To vote go to http://www.empirepage.com.

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