Barrett: Another Lame Paterson Decision

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It's hard to imagine a dumber political move than David Paterson's decision to call a special election for the upstate congressional district vacated by new U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand than the date the governor picked for it, March 31. It's the day before a disaster state budget is due.

And now, a week before the election, Paterson has, quite predictably, announced up to 8,900 state layoffs, not exactly great news for the Democratic nominee, Scott Murphy. The district, which includes parts of Albany and much of the surrounding counties, is home to armies of state workers. The Paterson budget announcement was so damaging it caught Murphy off guard; he told an upstate television station last night that he would "leave it to the governor" to decide how to deal with the crisis.

By this morning, Murphy, a businessman who's narrowed a once wide GOP lead to four points, was issuing a statement strongly opposing the layoffs.
Gillibrand's selection in late January was quietly opposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for fear that the elevation of the two-term congresswoman to the senate could cost the party a seat they'd spent more money securing than any in the country. The district has 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats and elected Republicans routinely until Gillibrand's stunning 2006 victory.

The law and the winter allowed Paterson to wait to set a date for the election that was long after the budget was scheduled to be done, but he bowed to Republican complaints that he was delaying it. Or, with so much undecided about the budget, Paterson could have waited to announce the layoffs until after the election, presuming that the negotiations will continue beyond the April 1 statutory deadline, as they did last year. But, scheduling the election and announcing the layoffs when he did is not only the perfect storm. It's a planned perfect storm.

Of course, the Republican candidate in the race, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco, will actually have the chance to fight the proposed budget in the legislature. With only 41 Republicans left in the 150-member assembly, Tedisco can be as irresponsible as he wants to be, venting against every cutback or tax increase Paterson and the Democratic leaders lay out. Yesterday he was calling layoffs a "last resort," and claiming that "state workers aren't responsible" for the $16 billion budget gap. That just might give him a winning hand next week.     

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