For the better part of the past two decades, top state Democrats talked about all the wonderful things that would happen when they took over the State Senate. They finally achieved their goal in 2008, and look what happened. Pedro Espada Jr., now under indictment, and future perp Hiram Monserrate rose to prominence by staging a short-lived coup, and top Senate leaders John Sampson and Malcolm Smith did their best to deliver Aqueduct Racetrack’s casino operation to an unqualified but politically wired company stocked with cronies.
It now appears that this crowd has been given a well-deserved boot. The Republicans are poised to regain the majority they lost two years ago, thanks to a court decision that declared Jack Martins to be the winner in a very close contest with Democratic incumbent Craig Johnson of Nassau County. If the decision stands, the G.O.P. will have 32 seats to the Democrats’ 30 in the new Senate.
The Senate Democrats were disgracefully unprepared, or scandalously unwilling, to perform their role as legislative leaders. They were more concerned with doling out goodies and enjoying the perks that come with legislative power. At a time when reform and creativity are required from our elected leaders, they have had nothing to offer. Good riddance to them.
The new Republican leadership in the Senate appears to be prepared for the grim task ahead. Long Island’s Dean Skelos, who will be the Senate’s new majority leader, already has made it clear that he shares many of Governor-elect Cuomo’s budgetary and fiscal priorities. Luckily for New York, Senator Skelos does not appear to be a knee-jerk obstructionist, as so many Republicans in Washington appear to be. The senator’s spokesman recently described Mr. Cuomo as a “partner” as the state attempts to put its fiscal house in order. That’s a good sign.
The new legislative session in Albany promises to be one of the most difficult since the 1970s, when New York City nearly went bankrupt and the state found itself with a mountain of bills to pay after the free-spending tenure of Nelson Rockefeller. The times call for cooperation and maturity, not the bungling amateurism that characterized the Democrats’ mercifully brief tenure in the Senate.
Conventional wisdom asserts that it is easier to achieve legislative success when one party controls the executive and legislative branches. But the past two years have produced nothing but a stalemate in Albany. Ironically, the G.O.P. takeover of the State Senate very likely will help, rather than hinder, the new governor’s reform agenda. Perhaps the Senate’s Democrats will learn something about governance over the next two years.