Angry New Yorker

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
National Review Online Looks at the Pataki Problem

There are some days, more frequent as of late, when we wonder why people bother to stay in New York. In the mid to late '90's we were huge proponents of the "New York City" mystique syndrome, even putting out a newsletter focused on NYC restaurants and urbanities. But that was before we began to wallow in the financial realities and dig into the politics of the empire state. And what we learned dropped the scales from our eyes and left us shuddering. John Miller in the latest issue of the National Review, here, takes a look at Gov. Pataki and comes away unimpressed, noting:
In January, George Pataki addressed the New York state legislature as governor for the eleventh time — and proceeded to deliver an interminable speech on creating more bird sanctuaries, building new ethanol facilities, and encouraging kids to exercise. In what turned out to be a major applause line, he announced: "This morning I signed an executive order requiring all state agencies and authorities to begin using non-toxic cleaning products." When Pataki finally focused on taxes — New Yorkers endure the highest tax burden in the country — he mostly bragged about the achievements of the past. His major new proposal was to accelerate the phase-out of an income tax increase — a tax hike that had occurred on his own watch.

While Pataki is only one member in the disfunctional troika that runs New York State (the other two being Senator Bruno and the sepulcurial Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver), there's blame enough for all. But Miller continues to observer that:

Somewhere along the way, however, Pataki lost his enthusiasm for this bold project [of cutting taxes]. Ten years ago, he had a chance to become one of America's great governors. But starting in the late 1990s, he devoted much of his energy to raising taxes and fees to keep up with state spending, arranging billion-dollar backroom deals with union bosses, and worrying about what kind of toilet-bowl cleaners swirl into the potties of Albany. Today, he presides over a state that just finished dead last in a survey of economic freedom conducted by Forbes magazine and the Pacific Research Institute. His tenure as the Empire State's chief executive began with incredible promise — but its legacy almost certainly will be one of squandered opportunity, shrunken ambition, and conservative disappointment.

The one truism that still holds in New York is that bold, big plans can make a difference -- as Mayor Guiliani demonstrated. It's to his lasting shame that Pataki decided to put pragmatism over doing what was best for New York long term. We'll all reap the results.

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