The Press & Public Rate the Budget
The State budget was adopted Sunday, April 1, a few hours after the Constitutional deadline, but that’s “good enough for government work.”
The legislators, and the public, had no chance to read it.
The initial press comments were negative on the role of Gov. Eliot Spitzer with regard to the budget. Michael Goodwin of the News, wrote: ”Let’s chalk his first 100 days up to inexperience and poor judgment and allow him to begin again.”
The Post’s Fred Dicker slammed the governor: “Frankly, the price paid for your failure — in terms of the public’s money and the severe damage to your reputation — could hardly be higher.
The Post’s, E.J. McMahon chipped in with: “After a back-room negotiating process that represented a step backward for budget-making transparency, Spitzer’s governance slogan has morphed from an assertive ‘Day One - Everything Changes’ to a plaintive Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day.’”
Responding to these negative views by reporters, the editorial boards came to the support of the governor.
The Times Editorial: “Mr. Spitzer made some compromises, but in exchange he won important and fundamental changes in the way the state operates. New Yorkers who yearn for a government that works more for its citizens than for the stale, political subculture in Albany should soon be able to recognize that Mr. Spitzer has gotten off to a good start.”
The News: “Gov. Spitzer was the driving force behind this education bonanza, and he deserves thanks for delivering in the face of entrenched interests that have had their own way for far too many a year. To knock the rookie governor for not achieving 100 percent of his goals while failing to transform lawmakers into Boy and Girl Scouts is to engage in otherworldly quibbling.”
The Post was not on the reservation: “Gov. Spitzer got taken to school last week, that’s what happened, and New Yorkers will be paying for his crash course in Albany realpolitik for years to come. ‘Everything Changes on Day One?’ “Hardly…”
How do the people of the State feel about this controversy? The Quinnipiac poll Wednesday, April 4: “There’s nothing like a knock-down, drag-out New York State budget battle to take the steam out of even the most vigorous steamroller. Budget stories dominated the media and Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s job approval sagged. On the budget, did Gov. Spitzer win a ‘fair compromise?’ Slightly more voters say he gave away too much.”
The good news for the governor is that on the most vital statistic, the approval rating, Gov. Spitzer won a 48-27 vote of confidence. His self-described “steamroller” style was approved by a 47-36 vote. The bad news is that these numbers are down from a 61-11 approval rating in Quinnipiac’s Feb. 13 poll.
The fact is, the people still like the governor, but public taste is fickle. Working in his favor is the fact that his colleagues, Bruno and Silver, get far lower ratings. Silver had 30 approving and 30 disapproving, while Bruno had 27 positive and 34 negative, perhaps as a result of his purported pending indictment. The legislature as a whole received an unfavorable rating, 34 positive and 43 negative.
Whenever a compromise is reached, both sides can proclaim that they have won. That is the case with regard to the budget. We don’t think it’s worthwhile to declare a winner, but reformers are usually disappointed at the outcome of negotiations because they do not get all they want.
In almost all cases where there is conflict, we, and the newspaper editorial boards, seem to find ourselves in agreement with Gov. Spitzer and not with the odd couple of Silver and Bruno. Each legislative leader has his own sacred cows: In Bruno’s case, hospitals and their unions (who supported the Republican for that state senate vacancy in Nassau), armed hunters, and Long Island school districts (whose state subsidy was increased by double digits). Silver, has a different set of favorites: public employee unions, plaintiff’s lawyers and the criminal defense bar, among others.
It is hard for us to tell which side got the better of the negotiations. If they are all boasting about the result, that is probably being done for show purposes.
There are many things to say about the governor’s rocky start The problem is complicated by the fact that we all want him to succeed. But there is no question that hopes for significant change have diminished in the first hundred days, along with the governor’s popularity. Why that is so, and what can be done about it, are questions which we will discuss shortly.