The problem with Albany governing in the dark

Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

As if we needed more evidence that New York’s “Three Men in a Room” way of governing doesn’t work, there is this year’s legislative session.

First there was the wham-bam bill to toughen gun control laws. Among other things, it limited magazines to no more than seven rounds of ammunition. Turns out that few such magazines are actually manufactured and sold. O0ps. The mistake was fixed – in more secret deliberations, of course.

Then there is the budget passed last week that included two provisions that are looking worse with each passing day, now that they are actually seeing the light of day.

One is the $350 payments to about 1 million families with children that Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature want to send our next year, which so happens to be an election year. Cute.

When passed, the bill’s estimated cost to the state treasury was $350 million to $375 million. Tom Precious of The Buffalo News reported Monday that has been revised upwards to $410 million. Who knows where it will end up.

Then there is the closed door deal to increase the minimum wage, financed in part, as it turns out, with a subsidy to businesses who hire teen-agers that starts at 75 cents an hour next year and scales up to $1.35 in 2016.

Cuomo’s budget people first calculated the cost at $45 million a year. No, wait a minute, it’s now looking like $35 million in the 2015 tax year and $65 million for the three following years.

All this has left a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if lawmakers have lost theirs.

The answer, of course, is yes.

There’s one way to avoid these situations. Govern like a democracy.

Vet the budget through the committee process. Give lawmakers an opportunity to read, to vet, to hear from the public and – gasp! special interests! – before they decide how to spend $135 billion.

Yes, I know it could get messy. Democracy is like that. Not that we would know in New York State.