New York State is back in good hands, according to a Bay Ridge Republican who cheered the coup that wrested control of the State Senate from the Democratic majority this week.
“This is about reform,” State Senator Martin Golden told this paper. “This is about trying to move the state in the right direction.”
On Monday, Senators Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens joined with the Republicans is a surprise vote to claim the chamber’s majority. Neither Espada nor Monserrate changed party affiliation, but their votes helped swing the 32−30 vote to make Long Island Sen. Dean Skelos the new majority leader, restoring a Republican stronghold of the Senate that had stood for three decades prior to January.
Queens Democratic majority leader Malcolm Smith blasted the vote as “scurrilous,” saying Democrats had already closed the session before the vote was held. A legal challenge could be forthcoming, and Democrats have vowed to retake the chamber.
Golden said he’s confident the coup will stick. “It’s whoever has the 32 votes — I don’t care what court you go to, anybody who can count knows that.”
Moreover, he continued, Democrats should have seen the vote coming. “It’s a shame,” Golden said. “It’s almost like they knew their time would be short, and they tried to shove everything through in four to five months.”
A Democratic focus on social issues, like gay marriage, has no bearing on the lives of upstate or downstate New Yorkers. “The liberal agenda was pushed too far, and not enough went into what are the key issues in the state of New York: taxes and jobs,” Golden said.
He said issues like gay marriage should be up to the voters, by referendum, rather than for the Senate to decide.
“[Democrats] tax everything that’s possible,” Golden asserted. “The only thing they haven’t taxed is the air you breathe.”
Instead of raising taxes, the Bay Ridge lawmaker said the new bipartisan coalition plans to “tighten our belts, make cuts, and live according to our means.”
After last year’s election, the Democrats held a slim hold on the State Senate with 32 members to the Republican’s 30.
The razor−thin advantage gave Espada and Monserrate of Queens a unique advantage to help the Republicans wrest control −− something they obviously learned from Sheepshead Bay⁄Mill Basin State Senator Carl Kruger during their so−called “gang of four” days.
Late last year, Kruger, Espada, Monserrate and Ruben Diaz, Sr., also of the Bronx, made headlines for shopping around their votes to both the Democrats and the Republicans, knowing that neither party could win without their support.
While Monserrate sided with the Democrats early, Kruger, Diaz and Espada withheld their vote until the eleventh hour, after they all received plum leadership positions in the new Democratic majority under Smith.
Kruger reaped the largest reward, being named chair of the Senate’s Finance Committee. The high−profile post comes with a $34,000 yearly stipend on top of Kruger’s base salary of $79,500. It also came with an office as well as a large staff.
As chair of the Finance Committee, Kruger, who was unavailable for comment as this paper went to press, oversees all budget matters that go to the Senate floor.
Kruger may remain as chair of the Finance Committee under the new Republican majority. “He would if he came over to the coalition,” Golden said.
Other Brooklyn pols — and organizations they fund −− might be less lucky. If the coup holds, “most Brooklyn members will end up with less cash for local groups and less money for staff,” a borough politico who requested anonymity said.
Smith remained defiant. “This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority,” he said in a statement.
Brooklyn Senators seen standing with Smith included Flatbush Senator Kevin Parker, Bensonhurst Senator Diane Savino, Red Hook Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Fort Greene Senator Eric Adams.
“I support the efforts of Majority Leader Malcolm Smith in resolving the situation precipitated in the Senate on Monday and I am confident that we will be able to resume the people’s work very soon,” Montgomery said.
Through his chief of staff John Raskin, Brownstone Brooklyn Senator Daniel Squadron said he supports a Democratic Senate because it is a “vital component of reaching the most important goals in our community and our city.”