Gov. David Paterson has once again proven to be his own worst enemy.
Having chosen to ride out investigations into his alleged interference with a top aide’s criminal case and solicitation of free World Series tickets — investigations that could force him out of office at any time, even earlier than next January — he’s done a commendable job trying to deal with the state’s fiscal crisis.
But no sooner did he take the highest of high roads of fiscal responsibility, imposing furloughs on unionized state workers who refused to budge on the issue of salary concessions, than word got out he’d authorized promotions and hefty raises for a handful of nonunion press office staffers.
The unions went ballistic — they had a right to — so Paterson quickly backed off. But the damage was done and is probably irreversible. All the explanations in the world couldn’t justify these raises. No matter that they totaled just $42,000; that the press office payroll had fallen more than $300,000 over the last two months (as staffers resigned, in principle, over the governor’s alleged misbehavior); that some of the workers involved were being asked to do extra work; that they were relatively low-paid to begin with.
It’s more than smart politics, it’s common sense: You don’t go raising your own people’s salaries by up to 30 percent when you’ve just forced the rank and file to take a 20 percent cut. This governor’s (pick one) chutzpah or lack of political instincts are sometimes astonishing.