June 2010

When I wrote this column back in late April for the May edition of Superintendent’s Profile, I really thought Albany was going to resolve the budget impasse by the time you read it. I couldn’t imagine we’d be nearly in June and the state would still be run on emergency spending plans.

A Marist poll revealed that 72 percent of New Yorkers are angered over the late budget. What’s with the other 28 percent? Are they pleased? I’ll assume that some of these folks are more angered over government spending than they are with a government flying by the seat of its pants. Fears over spending and debt are real and have been the fuel that drives the Tea Party movement.

But here we are. Legislators are still haggling over how to come up with billions of dollars of cuts or increased revenue to balance the state budget. Nobody wants tax increases (certainly an imprudent, if not politically suicidal, solution to the impasse at a time when many people still can’t find work), and many don’t want service reduction, which is what cuts may bring. People want roads and bridges fixed, but they don’t realize how expensive that is to do; they want their unemployment benefits extended, but they don’t realize the money they receive isn’t free; they want state jobs cut or furloughed, but they wouldn’t want their jobs cut; they want jobs, but don’t realize that business tax incentives are often at the root to creating those jobs; they want reliable mass transportation, but feel that somehow that can be run more efficiently for less money. Hell, a typical business blows a lot of money each year on expenses and lost time in myriad meetings.

Bottom line is that we have the clichéd line in the sand between spending and taxes, and in this political climate, the line has become a trench. Trouble is that we rely on government more than we think, whether we like it or not, and politicians know this. A tax increase here or a spending reduction there affects millions of people, and just like us, politicians protect their own self interests — like their job.

This could go on a while. P

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