Lunch with Pataki


It was fitting, really, that at yesterday’s lunch sponsored by the fiscally conservative Citizens Budget Commission, there wasn’t an excess of dressing on the salad. It was also fitting that the guest of honor, Gov. George Pataki, could say the following two sentences virtually in the same breath: “Not since the Great Depression had New Yorkers faced such a fiscal calamity (as the 9-11 attacks and the Wall Street slump of 2001)” and “We never tapped into our rainy day fund.”

CBC invited Pataki to bash their common enemy this fall, ballot Proposition 1, which would shift budget making power from the governor to the legislature. It’s supposed to avoid the late budgets that are almost the rule in the Empire State. But a host of newspapers and good government groups have come out against the law, saying it will lead to unnecessary spending. Pataki agrees, and adds that the law fails to increase the size of the state’s Rainy Day fund from the current 2 percent to 5 percent. But what’s the point of a Rainy Day fund if you don’t tap into it when it’s pouring, as it was during the “fiscal calamity” faced by the city and state immediately after 9-11? The reason he didn’t tap it, Pataki said, was, “We didn’t know what was going to happen next.” Do we ever?

Proposal 1 is just one of four ballot questions New York City voters will face on November 8. The mayor on Tuesday came out for Proposition 2, which authorizes a bond issue to pay for transit and transportation improvements. Question 3 concerns an ethics code for hearing officers who handle parking tickets and the like, and Question 4 codifies several budgetary practices currently mandated since the 1970s fiscal crisis by the state Financial Control Board, which will soon lapse.