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Editorial: Clueless on state's fiscal crisis

Editorial: Clueless on state's fiscal crisis

Kahn ignores political and economic realities

So, what planet has U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn been living on? Surely not Planet Albany.

How else could he hold it against Gov. David Paterson for trying to do what no other governor in recent memory has had the guts to — force the state Legislature’s hand during stalled budget negotiations?

Where Kahn criticized Paterson’s furlough plan as “the sudden and sole work of the executive ... proposed in a manner that largely precluded legislative deliberation,” he ought to have praised him. Most governors in the state’s recent past have been all too happy to let legislators — or, more accurately, a small handful of legislative leaders — proceed at their own, glacial pace during budget deliberations, then ultimately approve a budget that was “balanced” through excessive borrowing, one-shots, smoke and mirrors and other unrealistic revenue assumptions.

Paterson knew, because of the state’s fiscal situation, that the Legislature’s usual modus operandi wouldn’t do; but after pleading with the public employee unions for modest concessions, then the Legislature for serious negotiations — and getting neither — be took matters into his own hands. (If that’s not “reasonable and necessary,” what is?)

Forcing workers to temporarily forgo raises and give back 20 percent of their pay for four weeks would indeed have caused them some harm, but hardly the “irreparable” variety that their runaway salaries, benefits and pensions seem to be causing the state.

That the Senate approved the furlough plan and at the same time passed a bill expressing skepticism about it shouldn’t have impressed Kahn. If he was the least bit familiar with the way things work at the Capitol, he would have recognized this as typical grandstanding by two-faced lawmakers.

New York’s deficit exceeds $9 billion — at least partly because of those workers — yet Kahn apparently doesn’t think that, plus the Legislature’s usual M.O., is enough to qualify as an emergency. He also apparently thinks, as labor leaders do, that it’s less harmful for the state to lay off hundreds or more workers than to ask 100,000 of them to make a relatively small concession. However right he may have been on the law, he appears to have made his ruling in a vacuum.

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