News Flash: Albany Never Changes

040907 article azi4 News Flash: Albany Never ChangesGiven all the recent talk of bringing change to Albany, Governor Eliot Spitzer’s humbling budget compromise after a prolonged and highly public battle with the State Legislature may have come as a surprise to some people.

But at least one official says he always knew what was going to happen.

Meet Anthony Seminerio, a 72-year-old Democratic Assemblyman from Queens who is about to enter his third decade in the Legislature.

“Eliot may wish he had another way, but there’s only one way the budget is ever going to get done, son,” said Mr. Seminerio, sitting by himself in the Assembly chambers Saturday night, hours before the budget deadline. “It’s three people, each getting a piece of the pie, and that’s it.”

That would be Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and the Governor. Like always.

In a speech to business leaders during his campaign for Governor last year, Mr. Spitzer said dismissively that the state’s legislative leaders had fallen into the habit of passing “faith-based budget[s].”

Last week, in order to pass his own budget by the April 1 deadline, Mr. Spitzer met privately with Mr. Bruno and Mr. Silver—behind closed doors—and agreed to restore millions of dollars in Medicaid reductions. He also added millions in state education spending to high-performing school districts represented by a bloc of Republican State Senators on Long Island.

In the end, the lean, mean budget that Mr. Spitzer had originally proposed—insisting it was vital for the economic well-being of the state—had been expanded by about a billion dollars.

“I don’t know if he learned anything,” Mr. Seminerio said. “I can’t speak for the Governor. I think maybe he understands the process a little better. I think, like everything else, he’ll learn. You know what I’m saying. He’ll learn. And it’s not that he did anything wrong. He thought the process should be done one way, and he thought, you know, he could accomplish it. And now I think he must understand—I can’t speak for him, certainly; you know he’s a brilliant man. I can’t speak for him—but I think he understands now that, hey, you have to sit down, and it’s a give-and-take.”

Waving his left arm in the air toward the empty room, Mr. Seminerio added: “The only thing that ever changes in Albany are the faces. The system stays intact.”