Governor Paterson now says he will veto “any legislation this year that calls for more spending.”  Well, that’s a relief.  But what does he mean by “spending”?

Tough spending restraint?

Will he limit the definition to bills that have a direct, short-term cash impact on the state budget only?  Or will he broaden his view to include a wider range of legislation with long-term implications for both the state and local governments, such as pension sweeteners and labor-backed modifications to collective bargaining regulations?

For example, the governor just recently signed the 2009 edition of an annual measure restricting the ability of school districts to economize on expensive retiree health benefits.

This is one of many ways the state limits the ability of local districts to restrain the costs that drive New York’s sky-high property taxes, about which Paterson also claims to be concerned.  Why shouldn’t schools be allowed to implement the same sort of retiree health benefit reforms the governor himself unsuccessfully proposed for state employees in his budget this year?

Meanwhile, Paterson keeps pushing his proposal for a statutory cap on state spending–which the Legislature could remove at any time, like a pair of toy police handcuffs.

But the governor has had the power to control spending all along–the line-item veto, found in Article VII, Section 4 of the state Constitution.  While former Governor George Pataki couldn’t make his budget vetoes stick, Paterson is in a much different situation, since the narrowly divided Senate and its fractious Democratic majority actually work in his favor.

David Paterson: human spending cap.  If only.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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