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The State Legislature isn't digging deep

OK, Christmas is over, enough of the nice stuff.

Let's talk about the State Legislature. Governor Paterson's proposed budget aims to close a projected $15.4 billion deficit. He wants to cut aid for all kinds of services and establish or raise no fewer than 137 taxes and fees.

You'd think the Legislature -- with its gold-plated operation, including some 3,500 employees -- might be in line for a funding whack.

Wrong, bureaucrat-breath.

Paterson's budget for the Legislature, based on this request from the Senate and Assembly, cuts spending by $6.2 million, or 2.7 percent. That leaves lawmakers with $219.8 million to spend.

Which means New York voters and taxpayers will continue to underwrite the third-costliest legislature in the nation. And, according to this study, the most dysfunctional.

The $6.2 million spending cut amounts to four-tenths of one percent of what's needed to come up with to close the deficit. The legislature can't do better than this?

By contrast, the proposed budget would raise the tax on beer and wine to bring in $63 million more next year. (Higher taxes on beer? Now that's an outage!)

While Paterson wants state employees to defer five days of pay and give up a scheduled 3 percent salary increase, his budget doesn't call for any financial sacrifice on the part of legislators. Their $16.9 million in salaries remain intact. Every penny. Ditto for their $2.9 million stipends for carrying out such important duties as being senior minority party member on numerous do-nothing committees.

Many of the other perks of incumbency also remain largely, if not entirely, untouched.

For example, the budget lines for postage and printing are down just a tad, $200,000, leaving the Senate and Assembly with $11.3 million for preserve-our-jobs goodies such as direct mail newsletters.

Anybody think the Legislature should lead by example? Maybe start by taking the same $63 million hit that we beer drinkers, and our wine-sipping wives, are about to take?

We could launch a movement, starting with a bumper sticker that reads: "I'm a beer drinker, and I vote!"

Hey, I could be onto something.

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State government
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