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Our mission is to foster the improvement of New Zealand's democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the

Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

New York/Auckland supercity problem?

Editorial in the Buffalo News about New York political system that could easily be talking about the proposed Auckland supercity.

...I would disagree with the comment about referendums causing significant problems in California. Professor John Matsusaka from the University of Southern California highlighted in his article 'Have Voter Initiatives Paralyzed the California Budget?' that this simply is not the case. Steve


Disdain for taxpayers

Corrupted system, aloof Legislature mean harder times for New Yorkers

For once, New Yorkers are mad—furious, it would seem, over the corruption of a Legislature that confronts the deepest state budget deficit ever by spending more than ever, refusing to take long-term actions to control expenses and reaching ever deeper into the pockets of New Yorkers.

Legislators can do this because they have no fear of voters. They have gerrymandered districts and imposed ethics and fundraising standards that benefit themselves instead of their constituents. Their electoral advantage is so great, it’s a rarity that serious challengers ever try to remove an incumbent. That’s why New Yorkers need a new mechanism that allows them to circumvent this subverted organization.

No one doubted this would be a difficult budget year. Twenty percent of Albany’s revenue comes from the financial sector, mainly meaning Wall Street. When it tanks, a crater opens in the state budget. But a responsible government would have at least sought to restrain spending during the worst recession in generations. This isn’t a responsible government. It’s a government that doesn’t know how to make hard decisions.

The depth of Albany’s dysfunction was made clear last week in comments by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and, even more startlingly, by Gov. David A. Paterson, who approved this rotten budget deal. DiNapoli, whose job includes reviewing the budget, questioned whether it is balanced, even with its massive $8.3 billion tax hike package. Paterson, whose fingerprints are all over this budget, echoed those concerns, citing the continuing decline in revenues as the recession claims ever more jobs.

What they’re not saying is that Albany is spending so much—much more than last year—that even an $8.3 billion tax hike can’t cover costs. Remember that legislative leaders, meeting behind closed doors with Paterson, added $10.7 billion to his January budget proposal. Why not? They have favors to do and voters don’t matter.

So voters need to make themselves matter. Albany’s approval of this budget is a marker—an emblem of the disdain with which elected officials hold everyday New Yorkers who pay the bills, who are losing their jobs, who have been moving out of this state for years.

What New Yorkers need is a system of initiative and referendum to allow them to supersede a government they cannot trust. We come to that conclusion with some reluctance, because initiative and referendum has caused significant problems in some states, including California. But Albany has left voters here with no other choice.

Getting from here to there is the problem, since instituting that system requires a constitutional amendment, and that lengthy process begins with approval by, yes, the State Legislature. The Senate, then under Republican control, passed an initiative and referendum amendment six years ago, but it died in the Assembly, where Speaker Sheldon Silver— the godfather of state spending—opposed it.

Change won’t happen unless lawmakers have some reason to fear their constituents. Constituents today are angry, and anger can be a fine motivator.

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