February 12, 2008

What Will The Democrats Do?

Republican or Democrat, this story from the NY Sun highlights why we are all in for a rude awakening if the Governor's office, the Senate and Assembly all fall to one party. For those who think NYS is not ruled by NYC interests, let this be a wake up call. The article is as follows, in it's entirety:

The increasing probability that Republicans will lose control of the state Senate for the first time since the 1960s has pointed conversation in Albany to an intriguing topic of speculation: Once Joseph Bruno is dethroned, what would Democrats do with their power?

I posed that question to several Democratic lawmakers, and their responses suggest that the difference between the parties as it relates to legislative priorities is far more striking than one might assume given the leftward drift of Mr. Bruno.

In their appeal to voters, Republicans are promoting themselves as the last defense against an out-of-control, authoritarian governor.

The focus on Mr. Spitzer minimizes the extent to which Senate Democrats have a mind of their own and adhere to a political philosophy that, while overlapping with some of Mr. Spitzer's agenda, is more closely aligned with progressive social and fiscal policies.

An issue of great divide between Republicans and Democrats in Albany is rent control.

A decade ago, Mr. Bruno tried to eliminate rent control laws altogether, and last year his conference shot down a push by Democrats for new regulations that would have significantly slowed down the rate at which regulated apartments in the city are decontrolled and thus eligible for higher market rents.

Democrats told me they would renew that push and would also back a repeal of the so-called Urstadt law, passed in the Rockefeller era in 1971, which handed to Albany authority over New York City's rent regulation laws.

The shift on rent control would be one consequence of New York City becoming the Senate's geographic base of power. Another change — and one suburban voters should pay attention to — would be in the distribution of education aid. Senate Democrats would want to see more money going to New York City schools and less to Long Island districts.

In our conversations, Democrats repeatedly brought up the Rockefeller drug laws, the mandatory sentencing statutes for people convicted of non-violent drug crimes. "We would like to see the Rockefeller laws fixed so folks are not serving these extraordinary periods of prison for relatively minor matters," a Harlem Democrat, Bill Perkins, told me.

Democrats envision pressing for a repeal or a far more significant scaling back of the law than what was approved by Senate Republicans and Governor Pataki in 2004.

Upper East Side Democrat Liz Krueger predicted that the Senate "would become a pro-choice majority conference literally overnight," rallying behind Mr. Spitzer's Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, which would protect and strengthen abortion rights in the state, even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

It's much less clear whether Senate Democrats, some of whose members tilt conservative on social issues, would immediately join the Assembly in legalizing gay marriage. At the very least, they would probably get behind a civil unions bill.

A Democratic take-over, Ms. Krueger said, would also effectively end the debate in the Legislature over whether to restore the state's death penalty.

After a spate of trooper shootings, Republicans last year demanded that Mr. Spitzer and the Democrat-controlled Assembly pass legislation that would revive New York's dormant death penalty statute in cases involving the murder of police officers and terrorists. "You won't hear the continued cry to bring back the death penalty," Ms. Krueger said.

Ms. Krueger also pointed to an issue where Senate Democrats and Mr. Spitzer don't see eye to eye: taxes. Her conference, she said, favors "a progressive and more equitable model of taxation," similar to the proposals championed by the union-backed Working Families Party.

Whereas Mr. Spitzer has refused to tinker with the state's income tax, Senate Democrats would likely seek to increase the rate for wealthier residents and perhaps lower it for those on the bottom of the ladder.

The Senate Democratic solution to the problem of rising property taxes may be to allow school districts outside of the city to raise revenue by taxing income instead of property, according to Bronx senator Jeff Klein, a rising star in his conference.

Democrats insist, however, they would demonstrate more fiscal restraint than their Republican counterparts, if only because they wouldn't face the same pressures to curry favor with voters as Republicans have in a Democrat-leaning state.

"You'll see a stronger commitment to fiscal responsibility," a Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan Democrat, Martin Connor, said. "They walk off with hundreds of millions of pork dollars. We don't need it. We're not trying to support an artificial majority. I don't need $5 million to buy my district in November."

As for the question of allegiance to Mr. Spitzer, who is clearly hoping that the Senate Democrats will be one problem he doesn't have to worry about, lawmakers left it open. "I don't think we're going to be yes men and women," Mr. Connor said.

In other words, Mr. Spitzer, who prides himself as a moderate Democrat, may be their patron, but he's not their master.

9 comments:

pirate's code said...

Interesting, to be sure, but not particularly surprising. Every party that has had total control of government -- be it the White House and Congress or the state house and the legislature -- has struggled with internecine warfare when they discover, "Omigosh, we're not as alike as we thought."

In fact, sometimes the only issue they share is dislike for the other party.

If control of the Senate moves to the Dems, we will see power struggles between Spitzer, Silver and whomever leads the Senate that will make the current Bruno vs. Spitzer battle seem trivial.

This is especially true because taking control of the Senate will not necessarily come on Spitzer's coat tails -- in fact, one could argue, if the Dems take control of the Senate it might be in SPITE of Spitzer. The new Bruno will want a very strong say in how things get done in Albany.

All this falls into the category of "be careful what you wish for."

Another interesting question may be: What do Repubs do to hold back what so many believe will be a tidal wave?

Sadly, a good idea or two (like looking at income taxes to fund education vs. property taxes) will get buried either way.

(Note to Hobbes: It might be good to let us know where your comments end and the Sun article begins.)

Big Daddy said...

A Democrat takeover of the State Senate is a disaster for Upstate, no doubt about it. We will be relegated to second tier status in the state (more than we are already) and be doomed to an existence of begging Albany leaders to throw a few crumbs are way.

Anyone who believes having all state leaders reside south of the Tappan Zee bridge is a moron.

Pete M said...

You're right, bd. Nothing good for our area can come of all three under one party's control. Of course, we still have Hillary "I'm bringing 200,000 jobs to upstate NY" Clinton looking out for us. Her promise combined with Spitzer's state of the upstate speech will do wonders for us. NOT!

Anonymous said...

Just give it up already, It doesn’t matter if it’s Republican or Democratic controlled, as long as NYC is part of New York State the entire state will suffer and we will have to grovel for any crumbs we do get.

Karl Marx said...

blah blah...republicans good...blah blah democrats bad..blah blah...glad to see you have the Bruno talking points down.

Larry S said...

Marx, if you're not smart enough to understand that this post highlights what the Dems themselves say they will do if in power, stay out of the conversation. Hobbes didn't say anything about either party being good or bad, he presented the Dems agenda. I personally like it when he gives different perspectives not found in our local papers. It's unfortunate that you're unable to get past your own petty partisan politics to see the real issues in play here.

Fawn Leibowitz said...

Larry, his name is "karl marx". Why bother trying to have a rational conversation with someone who espouses the virtues of communism? Of course, he only espouses those virtues in his name. The rest of his post shows his true intellect. As far as the post, I also appreciate the post and the Dems agenda being posted. As a Dem, I'm going to have a hard time supporting what is obviously a kick in the teeth of anyone West of the Hudson.

Rasputin said...

It's a tad unfortunate that this post was put in from the Dem vs. Republican point of view because I believe Hobbes more salient point got missed. It's the change in agenda between the Republicans in the Senate and the Democrats in the Senate. And this just isn't about Joe Bruno.

You're talking the vast majority of major committee chairs transferrring from Senators from upstate to Senators from downstate.

The only win for our community would be Senator Stachowski potentially taking over Senate Finance. The trade-off is the loss of the collective clout of Senators Volker, Rath and Maziarz.

I'm not being partisan here. WNY has not recovered, and probably will not recover any time soon, from the loss of Assembly Majority Paul Tokasz. He had clout and he used it for this region. You don't replace that overnight.

There is a certain inevitability about the demographics of this state that ultimately will doom the State Senate be it in two, four, six or eight years....but that doesn't mean it makes for good policy for upstate.

Anonymous said...

Gay Marriage is on its way boys.

Divorce your wives so you'll be prepared.

Gay Marriage threatens the institution of marriage, don't you know.