Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 8, 2014

GLYNN: Ravitch cites the need for better budget policy

Niagara Gazette — Richard Ravitch likes to use the phrase kicking the can down the road.

In the world of politics, that basically describes the way many politicians prefer to tackle difficult problems in funding government.

According to Ravitch, 80, who served as the lieutenant governor of New York under Gov. David A. Paterson, that’s a risky route, applying short-term strategy to long-range needs. Especially troubling to Ravitch, when it comes to budget shortfalls, the Empire State has been relying on simple solutions instead of responsible ones. 

He addresses these mind-boggling challenges in his intriguing new book,”So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics and Confronting Fiscal Crisis”). As one reviewer noted: “It’s not a gossipy, score-settling vindication. It really illustrates the education of a public man.”

In retrospect, Ravitch noted there’s a sharp difference in politicians of today compared with those in the 1970s, when he played a major role in easing the fiscal crisis in New York City. Long-time local residents remember that it was that same level of professional input in that era that saved Niagara Falls from the brink of bankruptcy. (It was known here as the City Management Advisiory Board)

One part of his book focuses on the serious fiscal issues that cities and states around the nation now face.

It was, in fact, a kind of gimmickry — we’re doing it again in many communities today — that left New York in such a woeful condition in 1975. Now it appears that every state is doing it to some degree. He added the steady decline in state and federal aid is resulting in lots of stress for municipalities.

“There are no fiscal conservatives any more,” he said, “Republicans are just as eager and willing to borrow more than they should, as the Democrats.”

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