Albany Time. That’s what lawmakers, lobbyists, advocates and aides call the force field-like bending of linear progress that occurs around the statehouse. It’s why the simplest initiatives can be derailed by the smallest hiccups. It’s why no one has any real idea when meetings are supposed to begin, and certainly not—god forbid—when they should end. It’s what sends reporters scurrying around the corridors of the Capitol, buttonholing rank-and-file lawmakers for scraps of information, who, of course, don’t have any to dispense.
Even a few days before it was announced, it seemed unlikely that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would actually go ahead and summon lawmakers back to the statehouse to deal with the state’s growing budget deficit. It was getting too late in the year. The regular legislative session was set to begin shortly. Lawmakers were spread around the globe. The holidays were approaching.
By Sunday night, even senior lawmakers hadn’t seen the details of the plan
By the wee hours on Wednesday, the deal was done. No one in Albany could last remember when they had ever moved so quickly. It was, by all accounts, nigh miraculous.
“It’s really a credit to the governor,” said State Senator Neil Breslin, an old-school Irish pol who has been around the Capitol for decades. He looked almost giddy as he stood outside the chamber. (“First day back. Really gets the juices flowing again.”)
As the details emerged, the plan was hailed as a political masterstroke. The millionaire’s tax will be allowed to expire, as Mr. Cuomo had promised. Almost everyone’s taxes will be cut. The only people who will see a higher rate are those who make over $2 million a year—a group for which there is not a whole lot of sympathy right now—but even their total tax burden will be lower than it was last year. Republicans were brought on board with more money for flooded regions upstate and the ending of the MTA payroll tax. Democrats were lured with a jobs program for unemployed inner city youth.
The deal halved the deficit for next year, removing a major electoral stumbling block as lawmakers face an early election next year.
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