Governor Spitzer’s problems are threatening to derail his legislative agenda in the capital, stall the passage of the state’s budget, and damage the chances that Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing plan will win Albany approval before the end of the month.
Mr. Spitzer, who is facing allegations that he paid for a prostitute last month, spent yesterday holed up in his Upper East Side apartment. Meanwhile, the state moved one day deeper into the final weeks of its budget cycle, and Mr. Bloomberg moved one day closer to March 31, the deadline to win support for congestion pricing in the City Council and state Legislature and avoid losing about $350 million in federal funds to help pay for the program.
If Mr. Spitzer resigns and Lieutenant Governor David Paterson succeeds him, political insiders say there will be a significant impact on the budget and an uncertain future for Mr. Spitzer’s legislative priorities, as well as for his task forces and commissions on higher education, changes to the property tax system, medical malpractice, and health care.
With more than a dozen billion-dollar projects in New York City either scrambling to fill funding gaps or pushing back expected completion dates, Mr. Spitzer’s anticipated resignation and the subsequent promotion of Mr. Paterson also comes at a precarious time for the development and construction industries.
“The jury is kind of out on a lot of this stuff: Where and when he will depart from where Spitzer was, and the other question is: How soon?” the director of the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany, E.J. McMahon, said. “You’re asking, ‘What will he do?’ I have no idea.”
Some political observers noted that it would be difficult for Mr. Paterson to support politically divisive issues soon after he replaces Mr. Spitzer, because the new governor would need to build up political capital before spending any. A former communications director for Mr. Bloomberg, William Cunningham, said it’s likely the state would miss its April 1 budget deadline and predicted that the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, would wield more influence over this year’s budget than usual.
“There is no functioning governor now to fight for his budget, and so the legislative leaders can come to an agreement among themselves,” he said. Democratic Assembly members, led by Mr. Silver, are pushing for a tax increase on residents making more than $1 million a year to be included in the budget, an idea Mr. Spitzer opposed.
Supporters of Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street refused to give up hope that the plan would clear its legislative hurdles even without Mr. Spitzer to help it through.
Several advocates flocked to Albany yesterday to lobby lawmakers on the proposal, but one of the most vocal opponents of congestion pricing, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, was predicting defeat for the traffic scheme, now that the governor was effectively out of the picture.
“Whatever political efforts he was intending to make are certainly not going to be there over the next days and weeks. That certainly means we’re in a fair fight, which we’ll win,” he said.
The development industry was focused on the fate of the city’s major development projects, most notably the remake of the Pennsylvania Train Station, also known as the Moynihan Station project, which many experts feel is the key project that could abet a grander vision of transforming Manhattan’s West Side.
“My big worry is the economic development areas in Manhattan, and I am speaking specifically about the Moynihan project,” the president of the New York Building Congress, Richard Anderson said. “On Moynihan Station, clearly he was getting the message that he personally had to be involved in that issue.”
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