In the 18th Century, Samuel Johnson said, “If you are idle, be not solitary
” – and with those words, as if by magic, the New York State Senate was established; and a whole lot of otherwise idle men were grouped together, to be idle, but not solitary.
With the state facing a $3.2 billion budget gap, little has been accomplished except a continuous ticking-off-the-list of things we can’t do to fix the budget. Why can’t we do them? It’s this senator’s pet project, or that senator’s constituency (or, perhaps, campaign contributor). Meanwhile, New York State is just days away from declaring bankruptcy.
And who’s leading the shenanigans? Sheepshead Bay State Senator Carl Kruger. Kruger has stymied every effort by Paterson and other leaders, bullying around the Senate by threatening to crumble the Democrats’ two vote majority. He has nixed all cuts and tax hikes, and offered in their place only a series of one-off maneuvers that have little hope of filling state coffers. He inflates his numbers (see: tobacco revenue on Indian reservations), and suggests we can just will away the budget crisis (see: insistence, without evidence, that the shortfall is only half what Governor Paterson says).
Meanwhile, the only fund in New York State that continues to grow is Kruger’s campaign fund. Now at $2.1 million, Kruger’s warchest is by far the largest in the State Senate, filled by real estate, union, gambling, and healthcare interests.
Justifiably, the city and state press are riled up. The past week and a half has seen more editorials mentioning Kruger than in his entire term. Here are some choice picks:
Mr. Paterson and the legislative leaders were close to an agreement last week, with details to be hammered out this weekend. Instead, Mr. Kruger threatened to subpoena the records of state agencies, unconcerned by a cash crunch Mr. Paterson says looms in December. The deficit has shown Mr. Kruger to be a more empowered frustrationist, learning the trappings of his chairmanship, and enjoying the longer leash the new Democratic leadership in the chamber appears to have given him.
This time, they may not get away with it. Taxpayer outcry has already forced Albany to backtrack on a planned $25-a-vehicle license-plate tax, which would have brought in $129 million. Kruger’s tax is eight times as big — though maybe he’s hoping New Yorkers are too dumb to notice. We think maybe it’s Kruger who’s too dumb to notice what’s going on.A Daily News review shows Kruger’s public positions often mirror the views of his donors … Still, there are other instances where Kruger’s public positions have dovetailed with the interests of his campaign donors … Kruger has no apologies: “I should be raising more, and I’m going to try to do that…In politics, having a good amount of funds is a good thing.”
So what, pray tell, willsenators
use to close the gap — fairy dust? Actually, that’s not far off: Senate Finance Committee ChairmanCarl Kruger
proposed simply claiming the shortfall is several hundred million dollars less than it actually is. Dems have also eyed hokey one-shot revenues, like refinancing tobacco bonds. … But legislative hot air solves nothing.
Sampson, Skelos, Kruger and Breslin are quite good at gas-bagging — but deathly allergic to heavy lifting.