Governor Paterson

With New York recovering from the shock of Eliot Spitzer’s disgraceful fall from power, David Paterson’s inaugural speech as the state’s 55th governor struck just the right tone, opening a path to a new approach to working together with his colleagues in Albany. What a relief from the combative, take-no-prisoners style of Mr. Spitzer’s own inaugural address a little over a year ago, which he delivered on the back of a landslide mandate from New York voters which he would so recklessly squander.

Time will tell if the avuncular, gently self-mocking Mr. Paterson will lead Albany out of the mess that Mr. Spitzer only made worse by his bullying tactics. But Governor Paterson’s commitment to work with, rather than against, leaders of the Legislature bodes well. While his vision for the next several months has yet to be spelled out, he has already shown good judgment in his explicit call for adjusting the 2008 budget proposed by ex-Governor Spitzer. In particular, he stressed the importance of immediately cutting costs to deal with an economy he described as “reeling.”

It is reassuring that the new governor intends to take a hard look at the state budget and to make the tough decisions that will be needed to help the state get through a period of some economic uncertainty. To list just one challenge emerging from the current market woes, bonuses for financial-sector employees will be shrinking and, as a result, state income taxes will be affected. As a Democrat from Harlem, Mr. Paterson is also well positioned to fight for the city’s interests, to understand that a vibrant city directly fuels the state economy and to do battle against those upstate/suburban forces who like to slam the city with taxes to make up for their own economic woes.

Mr. Paterson has an extraordinary amount of goodwill to draw upon. The Republican and Democratic legislative leaders want him to succeed and have conveyed strong support for him. After Mr. Spitzer’s misguided prosecutorial approach to governing, Governor Paterson stands to represent a new era of cooperation and uplift.

But Governor Paterson surely knows that without tough, disciplined and prudent fiscal management, an era of goodwill be as pointless and unproductive as Eliot Spitzer’s reign of rage.