Everybody Wins (So Who is Losing?)

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Rochester vs. Buffalo?

How about Rochester and Buffalo. And Syracuse for that matter.

On the same day that this area’s press reported an increase in state aid for Rochester and called it a team victory led by Mayor Bob Duffy the Buffalo News had a different story. The cities of Rochester and Buffalo, the Buffalo paper reported, had the same lobbying firm working on their behalf in Albany.

So it appears the hard-working, miles-driving Duffy had some help. Now, no one would begrudge him professional lobbying for such an endeavor. He’d be crazy not to do it. It’s part of doing business in Albany.

And the spokespersons for both Duffy and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told the News that they were fine with the two cities using the same firm. Of course they were.

Because the win on Friday wasn’t just a win for Rochester (and please remember that the brokered deal in a Senate-Assembly conference committee still needs to be approved as part of a final budget). Everybody got a nice piece of the action.

Just compare what the two cities were going to get under Gov. George Pataki’s proposed budget and what the tentative deal for more state aid to cities gives them.

—Rochester’s recommended funding from Pataki’s budget – $59.6 million. The latest legislative proposal gives the city $71.6 million

—Buffalo’s recommended amount in the governor’s budget – $128.6 million. Friday’s legislative deal gives that city $142.3 million.

Now let’s add in Syracuse for good measure. They moved from $54.2 million under the Pataki budget proposal to $63.2 million under this latest deal brokered by the Senate-Assembly committee. (Here was the Syracuse paper’s story – a more subdued take. Yonkers made out similarly well.

Go figure that calls for more money would be heard by state legislators during an even-numbered (meaning election) year. Shocking. And the conga line for that state cash is starting to file in.

So are these state lawmakers and the governor making the hard choices – finding places to reduce for those they increase? Are you kidding. The governor’s proposed budget back in January was a 4.1% spending increase — and that’s without the additions being plopped in since then, like the increased aid to cities.

You might have thought that New York state was dealing with tough economic times. Or at least Upstate New York. You would have thought this would create a budgetary mindset that identifies the most important services for continued financing and then looks to reduce those deemed less worthy. In other words, creating a priority list. But the state doesn’t go for such things.

Will Bob Duffy? Go back to the story by Brian Sharp in the Democrat and Chronicle and you’ll find something worth clipping. Duffy says that things will change in the city budget. He seeks efficiency. He says cuts are coming. He asks for patience from the public. We should give it.

Because that’s when Duffy’s real work begins, or at least ought to begin. He should make the hard choices…  and that means some will have to lose out. Avoiding them means letting everyone win. And then who loses.

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