The Governor Delays and Denies
by Steve Sanders
Jan 24, 2005
While awaiting the judge's order in the school funding case, three views on what's next:
• The Governor Delays and Denies
• How to Spend the Money for the Schools
• Parents, Educators and Advocates Must Have Their Say
Governor George Pataki continues to find any legal device to frustrate the decision of the courts that New York City needs more money for education. Despite the Court of Appeals ruling in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, the court-appointed referees report, and any order Judge Leland DeGrasse issues which will probably uphold the referees recommendations -- it is highly unlikely that New York City will see any additional funding related to the CFE suit this budget year.
The panel of referees said that the state has to assure the City of New York receives an additional $1.4 billion for education next year. What did the governor do in the face of that? He proposed a sound, basic education fund of $195 million, over a billion dollars short, with additional language saying the city should match the states contribution.
In several years, Pataki sees a fund of $2 billion from gambling proceeds and suggests that New York City get 60 percent of that. The governor is a continent -- galaxies -- away from where the city is.
Obviously I disagree with his budget for city schools, and the Assembly majority disagrees. But there is nothing the legislature can do. In a decision issued in December, the Court of Appeals ruled that the legislature could not increase spending. The governor gets to set the ceiling and, in this case, the ceiling is $195 million.
In addition, Pataki clearly is going to appeal the judges order. That will take a minimum of six to 12 months -- past the current budget season.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has asked Judge DeGrasse to require the state to pay damages for not complying with his ruling. But any fines would not be in effect as long as there are any appeals outstanding. So, if damages were assessed, it would not be until all the appeals are exhausted.
This ball is squarely in the hands of the governor, both as the defendant in this case and as a governor who has been given extraordinary budget powers by the courts. Since he has absolutely no intention of complying with the court decision, I see no light at the end of the tunnel.
But if Pataki ever did attempt to really deal with the court decision, he would probably say that New York City has to pay for at least half of any additional funding. Imagine what Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city corporation counsel Michael Cardozo would say if they had to pay $2 billion or $3 billion. In fact, Cardozo already said the city would rather not have the state money if it had to put up so much of its own funds.
What Cardozo and others seem to forget is that the court did not say that the state owes New York City money or that a sound basic education has to be funded entirely by the state. The court said the state has to guarantee New York City has the resources to provide a sound basic education. The state could do this by passing a law requiring the city to do that.
Steven Sanders, a Democrat from Manhattan, chairs the New York State Assembly's Education Committee.
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