Richard Brodsky, formally a powerful Assemblymember, and long-time inhabitant of Planet Albany, has a provocative essay in City and State comparing Governor Andrew Cuomo to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Brodsky’s piece includes the incisive paragraph below which lays out the massive potential power given to the governor by the state constitution.
Join me, for a moment, in the complex details of how this state is governed. Gov. George Pataki discovered and used a provision of the state constitution that has elements of authoritarian regimes. It permits governors to add language on any subject to budget proposals, and bars the Legislature from changing it. For an extreme example, a governor could put language into his budget to repeal all state traffic laws. The Legislature is powerless to remove it and powerless to amend it. That’s not the textbook explanation of how laws are made; we’re taught that the executive proposes and the Legislature disposes. But not in New York. It is also the key reason why budgets have been late for the last 25 years—the Legislature delays the budget vote rather than confront the limits of its power. This year that imbalance is at work as three key issues are included in Cuomo’s budget—privatizing the pension system, consolidating state agencies and changing teacher evaluations.