Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bigger battles ahead Spitzer's loss in comptroller appointment can be erased by other key victories

Star-Gazette.Com Editorial

An excellent summary of what lies ahead for both Spitzer and the State Legislature...and how the will of the people for change and reform must be honored..............andy

Gov. Eliot Spitzer isn't built like a boxer, but these days he's thinking like one. In Albany on Tuesday, he talked like a fighter ready for a rematch, even though the New York Legislature dealt him a technical knockout a week earlier by turning down the governor's preferred candidate to fill the vacant state comptroller's post."We had a disagreement about the process related to comptroller," Spitzer told editors and reporters from Gannett newspapers and their Albany bureau. "OK," the governor said with a shrug. "It is a disagreement that lays bare the real fissures in perspective perhaps, but it also has added some clarity to the discussion" (about reform in Albany).And with that analytical assessment, Spitzer indicated he has taken a punch regarding the Legislature picking Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli over his preference, New York City Financial Commissioner Martha Stark, and is ready to move on. For most Southern Tier taxpayers and employers, that's good news because the governor's agenda is much bigger than the Legislature's in-your-face choice of one of their flock to be state comptroller. Spitzer must now turn to the fights he absolutely must win, such as those involving his $120.6 billion budget, lower property taxes, helping the upstate economy, funding education, overseeing health care reforms, lowering the cost of utilities and reducing workers' compensation costs to businesses

.Since the comptroller TKO last week, Spitzer has been bad-mouthing a few legislators who didn't go along with him. So far Sen. George H. Winner Jr., R-Elmira, and Assemblyman James Bacalles, R-Corning, haven't made the Spitzer dishonor roll for siding with the majority and voting for DiNapoli. Winner said he voted for DiNapoli to ensure an independent watchdog of the executive branch rather than backing the governor's candidate, but he wasn't reluctant to go along with the view that Spitzer is trying to bully some legislators who didn't side with him in the comptroller's dispute.Bacalles said he also backed DiNapoli for his independence but also because of his integrity in the Assembly. Assemblyman Tom O'Mara, R-Horseheads, need not worry about being on the governor's bad side in the comptroller battle. He said he voted for Stark because she was more qualified for the job than DiNapoli. He's right.

Despite Spitzer trying, unsuccessfully, to influence the Legislature's choice, she had a better resume than DiNapoli or any of the other Assembly Democrats who wanted to cash in their political capital for a key statewide job.In the comptroller matter, Spitzer's bully tactics didn't work. But actually a little bullying of the state's 212 legislators won't hurt. Some of them still don't get the reform thing. Some still don't seem to like the fact Spitzer comes into to office with a high approval rating or that 61 percent of voters in a Quinnipiac University poll approved of Spitzer's willingness to bowl over legislative leaders if necessary.The results of that poll, combined with Spitzer's huge 70 percent election majority, gives him some license to be combative, but he needs to pick his battles, especially in the next six weeks as lawmakers and the governor must work closely together to try to produce the state's third on-time budget in a row.In describing his first six weeks in office on Tuesday, Spitzer likened his challenge of taking on the Albany status quo to his successful legal battle against Wall Street executives. "In each case, you had a failure of government," he said. The difference was that he could walk away from the Wall Street case with his fist in the air and never have to face another bout with his opponent.In the case of the Legislature, Spitzer has four more years, plenty of showdowns ahead of him and, most importantly, the crowd -- New York voter -- on his side.

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