The Corner

The Empire State’s Crumbling Finances

By any reasonable measure, New York State is broke. The deficit over the next two years will be on the order of $20 billion. There is blame for this problem that can be leveled at both parties. Governor Pataki’s spending was roughly 2.5 times inflation, making Mario Cuomo appear as thrifty as a Scotsman.

The real issue is the influence of unions in the budget process. In the last election Governor Pataki won (2002), he promised several billion dollars to the Hospital Workers Union in order to secure Dennis Rivera’s support.

Financing the accumulated debt is another corrosive influence, along with a state legislature that believes you secure votes by instituting new give-away programs (e.g., the New York health initiative for small businessmen).

What New York needs is a courageous politician who will not seek reelection and will engage in serious retrenchment. What the legislature needs is a Republican-led Senate that will stand up to Sheldon Silver and the out-of-control spenders in the Assembly. (Keep in mind that when the Republicans did control the Senate, they acted just like their Democratic counterparts.)

New York may finally come to its senses when the state bond is downgraded to “junk,” which will imperil a new round of borrowing.

– Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute.

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