Last Updated: 12:27 AM, April 22, 2012
Posted: 10:47 PM, April 21, 2012
Democrats in the state Senate have added a new twist to the concept of “pay to play”: Call it “pay not to play.”
As Post Albany bureau chief Erik Kriss reported last week, the Dems — who face a severe cash squeeze going into this year’s legislative campaign — have pocketed a cool $85,000 from the state teachers union in recent weeks.
Nothing unusual there, of course; Democrats and the teachers union (all unions, actually) have a, let’s say, cozy relationship.
But the recent cash infusion from New York State United Teachers followed close on the heels of a notable stunt last month by Minority Leader John Sampson’s crew, in which they skipped a critical vote on Gov. Cuomo’s Tier 6 pension bill.
That measure trimmed pension benefits for teachers and other newly hired public employees.
The unions had bitterly opposed it.
And, lo and behold, so did the Democrats.
It wound up passing by a bare majority in the Senate, after the Dems staged a walkout over redistricting — and never returned.
As one GOP insider told Kriss: “Now we know the Senate Democrats’ price for taking a walk.”
Lawmakers in Albany (of both parties, actually) are infamous for voting for or against legislation, depending on their donors’ preferences. It’s a despicable practice — corroding the political system and leading to lousy public policy, but all too often legal. Still, this may be the first time the pols collected their, uh, fees — after not voting at all.
Naturally, a Democratic spokesman insisted there’s no connection between the walkout and the donations.
No — of course not.
He noted that his party had supported a property-tax cap that NYSUT opposed. (Then again, there are a lot more voting taxpayers, who also favored the cap, than teachers.)
Actually, Albany Democrats have been NYSUT’s lapdogs since time immemorial. So it’s likely the cash would be flowing into the party’s coffers in any event. Still, the timing of the walkout and donations was illuminating.
Dems need that cash, by the way, to have any hope of recapturing the Senate. Turns out the senators’ campaign fund has just $115,000 in its coffers — and is $1.48 million in debt. This, despite having raised $2 million since last fall and having cut its deficit in half.
Which means that NYSUT, and its union allies, will be pressed hard to keep the cash flowing. The only remaining question: Next time, will the Dems be expected to vote for a bill, against it — or not at all?