In Albany these days, the talk is all about money

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Will everybody in Albany be happy if there is new money for city pre-kindergarten programs? No. Upstate and suburban legislators want that money for their programs. Why should New York City get massive amounts of money and the rest of the state be ignored? De Blasio wants guaranteed money for the next five years. That isn’t the way the state works. What you get for this year is yours, but there are no guarantees that you will get the same amount next year.

After the tax-cut and pre-K debate has been resolved, most of the other compromises will get done quietly, with little notice to the outside world. What the public doesn’t know or understand is how powerful the governor is when it comes to the state budget. The legislative leaders can huff and puff, but they can’t move a governor who doesn’t want to move.

In recent years our governors have acquired more and more power over the state budget, and with that comes control over billions of dollars that the Legislature can’t touch. Once upon a time the two houses could set aside mega-dollars for so-called member items, but thanks to a handful of corrupt former members, all of that discretionary money has disappeared. The governor can agree on some discretionary dollars for the leaders, but when all is said and done, he controls the lion’s share of the money. And if the Legislature and the governor can’t agree on a budget by April 1, the governor has even more power over spending.

In the 1860s, the lawyer and poet John Godfrey Saxe offered the opinion that “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” He was right then, and would be right now.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?

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