Governor Appoints Richard Ravitch Lieutenant Governor; Expects Legal Challenges (UPDATE: Skelos Denounces Gov, Praises Coup)

Despite the opposition of attorney general Andrew Cuomo and others, "today I will appoint a lieutenant governor who will serve out my term with me," said Governor Paterson in his brief 5 p.m. TV address today. His appointee: former MTA chief Richard Ravitch.

"The State Constitution gives me the explicit power of appointment in case of vacanies in office," said Paterson. He added that many experts agree with him. Nonetheless, he added that he was "aware that I am not the final arbiter of legal issues," and "should there be any legal issues, I just ask that it be done expeditiously."

The lieutenant governor will be able to vote in case of ties in the state senate, which is trapped in a 31-31 partisan deadlock and has not done business since the June 8 Albany Coup.

Paterson promises Ravitch will not be a candidate after Paterson's term ends in 2010.

The Governor said he was taking this "unprecedented" step because "I and 19 million other New Yorkers have been deeply chagrined that the state senate cannot discharge its constitutional duties." He mentioned, among the consequences of this inaction, the expiration of funding arrangements, the New York City hiring freeze, and the inability of the Mayor of Yonkers to meet payroll after next week.

As we said before, despite Governor's assertion, the State Constitution seems explicitly to prohibit his course of action. So we guess Paterson's willing to fight this one out in the courts (Republicans will certainly challenge), and hope some judge is willing to give him a wink to get things moving again.

Update: Afterwards Republican senate boss Dean Skelos came on to rebut. He glancingly referred to Paterson's move as "unconstitutional," then went into a long rap about how the Democrats were taxing and spending us to death and that thanks to the Albany Coup "the days of openess and fairness are now beginning."

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