Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Tune Up Your Fiddles - The Fire's Begun
There is a fiscal crisis. Yeah yeah yeah. You're sick to death of hearing about it.
But really. There is.
Today's news was that the brand new MTA payroll tax New York's governor imposed on the Hudson Valley service area has come up 200 million dollars short. And the state's cutting its aid to the MTA by 143 million dollars as well.
What happened? No one's sure yet. Maybe people just haven't paid up yet. Maybe they can't. But the MTA is now scrambling to create its legally mandated balanced budget with a huge, nasty surprise hole in its revenue.
That's just the beginning, according to the governor's budget office. There are hard choices ahead, a spokesman says.
There's a three billion dollar deficit this year. Next year it's seven billion. And the next year, when the stimulus money is gone, it's thirteen billion dollars. Thirteen billion dollars.
This is in a state that's already so heavily taxed that businesses are leaving - not arriving. It's a state where personal and property taxes are among the highest in the country and while the cost of living goes up, salaries stay flat and jobs disintegrate.
You'd expect to see some very serious talk of reform at the state level. Or maybe not. If you live here, you know better.
We're transfixed by the former Senate majority leader's corruption trial (he was found guilty on two of seven counts). We're watching our former governor rebuild his image as a political pundit after being busted for paying for sex. We're arguing over whether the governor should run again or step aside.
Meanwhile, New York is burning.
There are a lot of important issues and it's hard to prioritize - there are civil rights questions, environmental issues, things that will haunt us for generations.
But not if we don't change the way we do business and make sure the state actually stays solvent.
New York mandates school programs but doesn't fund them. Instead, our taxes go up. New York mandates social programs in the counties but doesn't fund them. Our taxes go up.
There is no efficiency, there is little oversight, there's no big picture thinking.
There are highly paid positions filled by cronies and relatives. There are career politicians who are more interested in the content of their pockets and the influence they can wield than the welfare of their constituents.
There is partisan gridlock, with no better illustration than the immature, irresponsible shutdown of the Senate this past summer.
We've got crooks in the legislature - not just quiet ones but ones facing charges. Others have been convicted.
Aid to social service agencies is being cut while the need for their services is at an all time high.
We're in trouble. But there's still no sense of urgency either among the voters or in Albany.
And what's really sad is I think it's not an uncommon story.
Hear that? The fiddle's playing.