Pension-reform loss could neuter the gov
- Last Updated: 10:25 PM, March 6, 2012
- Posted: 10:12 PM, March 6, 2012
Sheldon Silver has been speaker of the New York Assembly for going on 19 years now, and not for a moment of his tenure has he been his own man.
But not until yesterday afternoon — when he openly removed himself from Albany’s pension-reform debate — has he been quite so candid about where his true allegiance lies: with the public-employee unions.
“I think [Gov. Cuomo] has to work out with the unions a reasonable approach to [pension reform],” Silver told a lobbying conclave of union bosses.
Translation: “Ok, Mr. Big Shot Governor, you started with all this pension nonsense, and now you can finish it. Call me when it’s over.”
That is, call me when you have a bill I can rubber-stamp.
Silvers’ recusal will have the salutary effect of removing the messenger boy from the proceedings — allowing Andrew Cuomo and the corrupt cabal that has for so long run Albany to decide directly whether public pensions will be permitted to bankrupt New York. Or not.
Also at stake is Cuomo’s incumbency.
His pension-reform plan is arcane beyond imagining — but it’s also reasonable, it doesn’t harm current employees and it’s fair to future hires.
It’s also important enough to Cuomo that he included in his proposed budget — a line-in-the-sand tactic that attaches considerable symbolic significance to the measure.
The Legislature can either accept reform, pass the budget and have peace with Cuomo — or the lawmakers can reject it and perhaps precipitate a government shutdown.
A third course, compromise, is possible — perhaps likely. Cuomo would alter his reform proposal, both sides would declare victory and precious few laymen would know the difference.
But the insiders would know.
The unions would know.
Cuomo would know.
The governor grabbed Albany by its dirty neck 14 months ago and squeezed hard. He’s pretty much gotten his way ever since. Yes, he blinked on the millionaire’s tax and his teacher-evaluation plan is a work in progress — but the executive power vacuum he inherited no longer exists. He filled it, and how.
He bludgeoned through ethics, lobbying and oversight reforms that — energetically implemented — could radically alter Albany’s status quo.
A win on pension reform would only add to the reform momentum. A loss, of course, would have the opposite effect.
Losing would send the following message: Despite the unqualified support or Mayor Bloomberg and a daunting, bipartisan coalition of local officials, and despite irrefutable evidence that rising pension costs are crushing local governments and, soon, Albany itself, the unions were too strong for Andrew Cuomo to conquer.
After that, where would Cuomo go to get his mojo back?
Nowhere, that’s where.
Again, the unions know it.
As does Shelly Silver.
The speaker stands to be a big loser in a successful Cuomo incumbency. Most, if not all, of the new ethics and oversight reforms are aimed principally at abuses of legislative trust. Bought long ago, Silver trembles.
The unions, of course, do the buying — and thus they have the most to lose.
Knock the wheels off the Cuomo juggernaut?
Oh, happy day!
In other words, it’s about pension reform — but it’s not really about pension reform.
Hang tough, Andrew.Follow @NYPostOpinion