Part 1: Encounter with Bill Stachowski: Lessons in Finger Pointing Assigning Responsibility
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership offers member access to its Movers and Shakers events, usually held monthly. This month’s M&S was a meeting with state senator Bill Stachowski (D, deflection) and Unshackle Upstate Executive Director Brian Sampson. Whether you like or dislike the Partnership the M&S event is usually informative and sometimes entertaining. Last Thursday’s event was both.
Brian spoke first and set the stage with a critique of this year’s state budget, the inability of the state legislature to hold the line on expenses and the impact that new taxes and fees will have on personal incomes and businesses.
Senator Stachowski then aggressively took the defensive, following up with an explanation of the budget. He spoke rapid fire – spoke might not be the correct word here; for at times I thought he had marbles in his mouth or suffered a stroke or horrible malady, his speech being so mumbly as to be intelligible – about the limited options the state senate had available to cut expenses because of what they (meaning the governor’s office) delivered. He clearly laid blame for the current budget fiasco at the feet of the previous majority‘s refusal to deal with it in last year’s budget. In burbled tones he spoke of FMATs and “ATAT’s”. [I really have no idea what he said but it sure sounded like “A-T-A-T”; throughout his narrative he tossed around jargon without explanation, expecting his audience to know it cold, I guess. I am in awe of his mastery of speed mumbling.]
Stachowski also speaks while viewing people’s midsections, like he’s trying to look at you out of the top of his glasses but not quite succeeding. I think he was trying to make eye contact but maybe his neck or something wouldn’t let him raise his head enough to actually do so.
The good senator did make a point that the state budget’s actual increase was only 1% even though, um, when using what I learned in 4th grade it’s 10% or $12.1 billion. “The [federal] stimulus money allowed us to fund programs that otherwise would have been cut”, he explained. Now, even though that means next year’s budget will suffer a monster shortfall when stimulus funds are no longer available to cover those programs, that’s apparently a 2010 problem and something that he swept aside maybe for the sake of brevity during this meeting, or maybe because he didn’t want to face up to it, what with an election cycle starting soon.
Stachowski also pretty much glossed over the 88 new taxes and fees that were enacted to close the budget deficit. Actually, he didn’t speak about those at all except in the collective: “It was hard to vote for this budget,” he said.
But I got the feeling from the matter-of-fact bluntness by which he deflected blame elsewhere that voting YES was probably the easier choice since it was clear that the governor and the other side were to blame for this mess. I should note that Senator Stachowski seems to have trouble saying the word “Republican”. I’m not sure why.
Next Up: Why 62 senators stood pat for 2 months not doing the people’s business.