“Why are you here?” is a common question for someone who shows up when their presence wasn’t expected. In the case of New York’s lawmakers, the appropriate question would be, “Why are you not here?” The state is in fiscal crisis, the budget is overdue, and these people have gone home. How irresponsible can you get? How clueless?
Gov. Paterson, who has been trying to keep the state going while trying in vain to get the Democrat-dominated Legislature to do its job, has called on lawmakers to work five days a week until they pass a budget. Seven would be more like it, but anyone would take five, the number of days most people work each week all year, not just the few months the Legislature is in session.
In fact five is what the legislative calendar calls for in the last week of March, when they are supposed to be hard at work to deliver a budget by the April 1 constitutional deadline. Only they never make the deadline, and then go back to a reduced schedule until adjourning in June for the rest of the year.
This time they’re not even waiting around. No budget, no problem; we’ll just go home.
Their rationale is that nothing is happening, and with the leader-driven system there is nothing for them to do anyway.
In leaving, the lawmakers ignore a 2007 budget reform law calling for conference committees and other involvement by the rank and file. They ignore their most basic duty and show contempt for the voters who sent them to Albany.
And they ignore the fact that the current, lousy system exists only because they let it. There’s no constitutional, legal or other requirement that they abdicate their responsibility to the leaders, and stand by idly while the state sinks. They can insist on playing a real role at budget and the rest of the time, making it clear to the leaders that if they won’t agree to this, they will be replaced by someone who will.