Skip to comments.Silver’s Call to Override Pataki on Budget Vetoes Collapses
Posted on 09/21/2004 2:16:14 PM PDT by neverdem
ALBANY, Sept. 20 - Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called his members back to Albany on Monday intending to embarrass Gov. George E. Pataki by overriding many of his vetoes of the state budget.
After a dizzying day of political arm-twisting, though, he was embarrassed himself when he was unable to summon the required number of votes from his own majority party.
It was a messy development in an acrimonious year. For months, Mr. Silver held out for a favorable way to improve New York City's schools, but he wound up being repeatedly portrayed by the governor as responsible for almost everything that is wrong in Albany, practically up to its cold winters.
From the day's start, the stated business of the Assembly was to restore at least $116 million in spending to the state budget. Mr. Silver had planned to override nearly half the 195 vetoes the governor had used to whittle down the spending plan that lawmakers passed in August, more than four months late.
Led by Mr. Silver, the Assembly Democrats said with confidence that they would override the governor and restore money for school districts and libraries, human services, homeless programs and community colleges.
By evening, though, they were walking the hallways, counting up their colleagues and gossiping about who was there and who was missing. In the end, it was the Assembly Democrats who got an irrefutable political comeuppance.
The math was fairly simple. Because three Democrats did not show up, the Democrats found that they were one vote short of the 100 they would need for the nearly 100 override attempts they planned.
Even before the votes were taken, Mr. Silver, speaking with visible anger, said the governor had orchestrated a revolt against him by persuading the three Democrats to stay away and by threatening any Republicans who voted to override with being forced out of the party or with losing perks.
Mr. Silver insisted that the day's results were not a referendum on his leadership. "It is unbelievable and very sad that a governor, in this day and age, would call people and ask them not to do their jobs today, to be out of town, to be away," he said. Even though the override votes could restore budget funds that could help the "abysmal" upstate job market, "the governor encouraged people to walk away," he said.
So the Assembly Democrats, who have what is often referred to as an ironclad majority, found themselves down to 99 members, from 102. Earlier in the day, many Democrats said some of the 47 Republicans who had voted with them in August to pass the budget bills would be voting with them on the overrides, too. As the night went on, though, that support evaporated.
The first signs of the Assembly support slipping away came when a Democratic assemblyman, Stephen B. Kaufman, who lost in the Republican primary for the State Senate even with Republican support, failed to show up for the special session. The other no-shows were Ronald C. Tocci, a Democratic assemblyman from New Rochelle, and Carmen E. Arroyo, a Democratic assemblywoman from the Bronx, who endorsed Mr. Pataki in 2002.
Assemblyman Steven Sanders, a Democrat from Manhattan, said the missing members must have the "Pataki flu," voicing a widespread suspicion among Democrats that Mr. Pataki was responsible.
An aide to the governor said that Mr. Pataki, who was attending a presidential fund-raiser in Manhattan, worked to ensure that his vetoes were not overridden because he believed that the budget was too expensive and reformed too little. But a spokesman for Mr. Pataki, Kevin C. Quinn, said, "As he always does, the governor urged the members of the Assembly to vote based on principle." He declined to comment further.
Earlier Monday, the governor gave the Assembly and its leader a tongue-lashing for trying to add spending to a budget in the face of a deficit projected at between $5 billion and $6 billion next year.
"Instead of coming back to spend more money at a time when the state doesn't have those resources, they should be looking, and the speaker should be moving his conference toward, dealing with the literally dozens of issues of unfinished business of great importance that the Assembly has failed to deal with," Mr. Pataki said, citing such areas as criminal justice and aid to localities.
Republicans who lead the State Senate were not even in town to watch the Democrats work and had no plans to return to Albany until mid-November, well after Election Day, when all 212 state legislative seats are also up for a vote.
For weeks, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate Republican majority leader, has been cagey about which of the governor's 195 budget vetoes he might try to override or what other legislative action his chamber might take this year on such issues as raising the minimum wage, overhauling the state's drug sentencing laws or expanding the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the West Side of Manhattan. As a consequence, the calendar year will be almost over before the latest and most expensive budget in state history is resolved.
Many of Mr. Silver's staunchest allies in the Assembly said the governor was wrong to veto $235 million from the $101 billion budget that the Legislature passed and to reject $1.6 million in borrowing planned for construction and maintenance projects.
Many Democrats said Monday they were happy to bring the override votes to the floor, even knowing that they would fail, imagining the campaign ads that could be created about Republican Assembly members who did not override vetoes of budget bills they once voted to pass. By 8 p.m., three override votes had failed, by votes of 99 to 42, and Assembly action was then interrupted before lawmakers returned to session later in the night.
Keith L. T. Wright, a Democratic assemblyman from Harlem, said the day's events were not a reflection of Mr. Silver's leadership, which he called strong. On the positive side, he said 99 Democrats held together in a climate of pressure. He also said Democrats would resume the override fight before or after Election Day.
"If we don't get what we need today, I think we will come back," he said. "If at first you don't succeed, you try again."
Good going George!
I never want this guy near being President, but maybe he will run for Senate sometime. That would be nice.
Let me know if you want on or off my NY ping list.
Silver must be fuming.
Now if only King George would stop shilling for the health services unions...
No. Karl Rove was responsible.
And Silver got his comeuppance.
Careful what you wish for. The New York socialists disguised as democrat and republican leaders fight over whether the annual state budget will have a 5% or a 10% increase this year and no dissent is allowed by either faction.
Over Chucky Shumer or Hillary Clinton?
Sounds just great to me.
Ah, a pox on all these clowns. All they do is posture and preen while the economy sinks under the waves, taxes and regulation keep going up and the best and the brightest vote with their feet. Sure Pataki is marginally better than Silver but what does that mean?
You hit the nail on the head. The best that can be said of Pataki is that taxes have risen slightly less fast then they would have under a Democratic governor. What a disappointment that guy has been. And he has national ambitions? Feh!
just a little slap to shelly..
Now if we can take out a few incumbents that would be a punch.
He needs a good punch right out of albany!
Blah blah blah. That's what California Republicans always said about Pete Wilson. What happened? Things were fine till we got a Dem in there, and within 5 years the roof fell in.
Be greatful for Pataki. He's kept NY afloat wether you like it or not.
NY has been kept afloat, to the extent that it has, by the financial industry and tourism. The smothering, job-killing weight of high taxes and oppressive regulations have continued unchanged for the past ten years. I can't count how many friends have taken jobs out of state, something I'm now seriously considering myself. Would a Democrat be worse? Sure, I suppose, but I expected something much different from Pataki, something more than not-quite-as-bad as the alternative.
Your missing my point. In states as liberal as NY, a Republican that just trips the liberal adjenda up a fair amount of the time is a big help. The example in California is good. Pete Wilson didn't 'fix' California the way, say, Bill Owens has in Colorado. But the second he wasn't there to stop things from getting worse, the dam broke and you wound up with the Gray Davis fiasco.
Maybe I expected too much of Pataki but I believe he had the opportunity to really change to way things are done here and chose not to. I'm sure his successor, presumably Elliot Spitzer, will be worse but I really regret the missed opportunity.