Saturday, May 15, 2010

SD-46: Breslin Votes For Furloughs...Before Voting Against Them?

Though I may be a day or two late on this, Senator Breslin appears to be playing a dual role in the ongoing furlough fiasco.

As we know, all of our wonderful Democratic Senators voted for Governor Paterson's budget extender on Monday, which contained language to furlough about 100,000 hard-working state employees. Then, on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that a restraining order on this measure was an order when considering a lawsuit filed by PEF.

AS it turns out, Breslin authored a resolution condemning the furloughs around the same time he voted for them. The Times Union reported this yesterday:

Cutting sting of furlough vote

Sen. Neil Breslin inserts poison pill cited in order delaying governor's plan

ALBANY -- Sen. Neil Breslin voted to furlough 100,000 state workers, including thousands who live in his Albany County district.

But Breslin, a Bethlehem Democrat, also got the Senate to pass a poison pill.

A resolution passed unanimously by the 62-member chamber Monday deemed the furloughs "contrary to the law and public policy of this state" and that "this legislative body believes it is not reasonable or fiscally necessary to impose furloughs on unionized state employees in violation of their existing collective bargaining agreements."

It was classic political defense for a legislator stuck between a rock and a hard place[...]


But will it serve as a political shield? Breslin denied politics entered into his calculations, but it seems he was working closely with PEF all along. Officials on both sides acknowledged they spoke continuously throughout the process, and when asked by Breslin was not attending a rally of over 2,000 state workers yelling at legislators about to vote for a furlough, PEF President Kenneth Brynien jumped to Breslin's defense.

"Neil said he's working right now to put together a resolution to send to the governor to stop the furloughs," said Brynien. "So, we gave him an out because he's working on our behalf. That's more important than standing in the crowd."

In addition, Breslin is facing two primary challengers who are attacking his stance on the furloughs.

Emphasis mine - SP

Below the fold, Breslin's defensive press statement and a bit of analysis...

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

Breslin explained his rapid about-face in a press release Monday, available on the Senator's official website:

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2010
Kelly Conboy | | 518-455-2225 518-455-2225

(Albany, NY)-“It is not reasonable or fiscally necessary to impose furloughs on unionized state employees in order to address the budget crisis.

Today, I submitted a resolution on the floor requesting that the Governor resubmit the emergency legislation for the period of April 1, 2010 through May 19, 2010 without including language that authorizes him to impose furloughs.

Unfortunately, in order to avoid shutting down many of the state's essential services, the Legislature has little choice but to vote for the provisions in the current emergency bill.”


Sounds pretty agreeable, doesn't it?

But really, this is just another one of those non-binding, feel-good resolutions that really doesn't get anything done. The judge did cite it in his ruling, but according to the Times Union, it was likely to take place anyway. So what's really going on here, in my own humble opinion?

I think the important point to remember is that Breslin is facing two primary challengers, Luke Martland and Tim Carney. Couple that with the fact that the Senator from Albany County most likely represents far more state employees than any other Senator, and it makes sense that he would be the one to craft such language, not for the purpose of actually getting anything binding passed...

...but for the purpose of political damage control.

Of the two challengers, it is Luke Martland who's been hitting Breslin the hardest, on furloughs specifically as well as on ethics, generally. So it's only natural that the Senator would find a way to squirm his way out of that "rock and a hard place," as the TU described it. Frequent commenters on the TU Local Politics blog, including myself, took this as the most important issue and the most obvious flip-flop during the weekly wrap-up.

I'll allow my re-posted comment to stand on it's own to express my opinion:

10.The Breslin furloughs fiasco presents an obvious non-quandry.

Any legislator could have “voted against furloughs” before voting for them. But it’s clear as to why it was agreed that Breslin offer up this flip-flop of epic proportions:

He’s facing two primary challenges in a tough anti-incumbent year. One of these campaigns (Luke Martland) is well organized and has been hitting Breslin hard week after week. As the Senator who represents probably more state workers than any of his colleagues, it makes sense that the Senate Democrats let Breslin take “credit” for this little stunt. In fact, this was almost as bad as Tim Carney’s little fake campaign announcement earlier this week.

Bottom line: If a measure is illegal, then don’t vote for it. That’s called principle.

It’s time we had a State Senator who we can be proud of so we can be proud to be Democrats once again. Check out Luke Martland for that opportunity

That's my opinion, and I'll stick to it unless I hear something really compelling.

As for shutting down state government...well...just how much of a change would that be? Nothing seems to be working with this batch of constantly re-elected goons anyway. And perhaps a full shutdown is just the thing needed to get their chaps back in the saddle again. Yes, it would be disastrous...

...but aren't they already a disaster?

Of course they are. And they are because nobody in their home districts hold their own two-faced "progressive" representatives to account.

I really hope that changes this September.

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