Governor Pataki is expected to act soon on a bill that quietly passed both houses of the Legislature in the final hours of the session, authorizing tax breaks for New York City building owners who increase wages for unionized security guards they employ.
Opponents of the little-known bill called it a straight political barter that puts security standards - and the tax code - at the service of political support from union members. Supporters said it will ultimately lead to increased wages for all guards. Mr. Pataki has 10 days to act on the measure once it reaches his desk, which is likely to happen within days.
The bill, which passed the Assembly and Senate over the final two days of the 2005 legislative session last month, has angered an outspoken security consultant who was appointed by Mr. Pataki several years ago to review security policy in the state.
The consultant, Richard "Bo" Dietl, said the bill bears all the marks of
a backroom deal between Republicans and the powerful Service Employees International Union, which represents unionized guards.
If approved, the pay raise would be just the most recent instance lawmakers in Albany have quietly brokered a deal with the politically powerful service workers union. The most notable example was a deal Mr. Pataki and the legislative leaders struck with the president of SEIU/1199, Dennis Rivera, in 2002. Mr. Rivera endorsed Mr. Pataki after the governor quietly agreed to increase salaries for hospital and nursing-home workers by $1.8 billion over three years.
Mr. Spano's seat in the Republican led Senate is viewed as the party's most vulnerable. He was re-elected by just 18 votes last fall, and the Republicans maintain a tenuous 35-27 hold in the Senate.
A budget analyst with the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy, E.J. McMahon, said the bill's passage would
signal the onset of even greater future power by unions over lawmakers in Albany because it would make it seem normal to manipulate the tax code in the service of unions.
Mr. McMahon first called attention to the bill in a recent article about another tax credit, for comedians, proposed by Mr. Espaillat.
"This is a horrid piece of legislation," Mr. McMahon said.
"This is using a tax credit to fully subsidize a pay increase for members of a politically wired union by using building owners as the middlemen.
The unions ... are now using the tax code and ultimately the taxpayers to finance their collective bargaining. I would predict you have not seen the end of this. This is just the beginning of this stuff."
What else did Albany get done this year?
Not much, the New York Post argues in this editorial.
Sure, there were rhetorical high-fives when the legislative session ended last month — among lawmakers, that is.
But what really got done?
Not much. Expectations are basement-level indeed.
Take, for example, Albany's biggest bragging point:
that it finally passed a state budget before the fiscal year began. (Actually, it was about a week later — but close enough for Albany work.)
That budget calls for spending of some $107 billion — a jump over last year of $4.4 billion, or 4.3 percent,
that far outpaces the 2.5 percent inflation rate.
Ouch — taxpayers are going to be smarting for a while over that one.