Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reality Bites -- Republican State Senate Leadership Will Have Its Hands Full

We're still sorting out which party--if either--will control the State Senate.  But either way it's going to be close, and either way, the Republican leadership will face a particular challenge similar to--but perhaps more vexing than--the one John Boehner will have to deal with in congress. 

Many of the Republican senators ran on a no-new-tax pledge, but there is a large deficit that will need closing, and there will be a heavily Democratic Assembly and a strong new governor to be bargained with.  Late state budgets generate as much public criticism as big state budgets.  And history doesn't help here--past Republican Senate majorities were not afraid to both tax and spend.

What will the rank and file Republican senators do when faced with the need to bend? 

Patty Ritchie, the newly-elected senator from the 48th district, is likely to be a poster-child for this dilemma.  She ran on a no-new-taxes platform and firmly tied herself to the mast on the question of additional spending.  In her "Campbell Conversation" debate with Darrel Aubertine, when I pressed her on where she'd find the savings to balance the budget, she turned to the three usual suspects:  waste, fraud, and abuse (and personal drivers).  I'm not sure that will turn up $9 billion.

The problem becomes easier if the Republicans remain in the minority--they can always just vote no.  But what if they're the majority and the leadership comes to its members with a "best deal possible" compromise?  Unless economic growth swoops in like some deus ex machina to save the day, either the voters will have to forgive and forget or those pledges will have to be reinterpreted.


Mark Braiman said...

The biggest problem I see with the Republicans' pledge against new spending is that it can't be squared with bringing back the STAR rebate checks. A major part of some of the Republicans' campaigns against local Democrats was that the latter voted to eliminate STAR rebate checks. If a Republican majority in the Senate attempted to resurrect the checks, at least using the previous formulas, then it would cost some $1 billion, as I understand it. Would Patty Ritchie consider this "new spending"?

Grant Reeher said...

Interesting point Mark. Indeed Ritchie hit Aubertine hard on that issue, and I think it hurt him up there. It brings up this question of how to politically define a "tax expenditure." My colleagues in Maxwell who study education funding are not big fans of the STAR program, because of the local incentives it puts in place.

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