July 8, 2009
Dear Fellow New Yorker,
Over the past year, we have worked together to tackle the worst fiscal and economic crisis to hit New York since the Great Depression. Throughout that time, my number one priority as Governor has been to stabilize our State’s economy and put New York on the road to recovery. By taking necessary and sometimes difficult steps, our State has avoided some of the more dire circumstances confronting other states.
Much work remains to be done. Our State’s unemployment rate is now 8.2 percent and is expected to rise to over 9 percent.
But over the past month, our work to address the economic crisis has been undermined by a crisis of governance in the State Senate, caused by personal ambition and political gamesmanship.
Let me be clear: the situation we face in the Senate is nothing less than a Constitutional crisis.
On June 9 and 10 – less than 48 hours after the power struggle in the Senate effectively halted its operations – two separate letters were sent to the State Comptroller attempting to authorize payment for Senators. By separately attempting to authorize payment for their respective conferences, both sides acknowledged that there is no mutually-accepted presiding officer – and therefore no clear Temporary President of the Senate.
The Constitution, however, is very clear on one thing: only the Temporary President can perform the duties of the Lieutenant Governor.
In this struggle for power, both sides claim that their leader is Temporary President of the Senate and next in line of succession to be Governor in the event of my incapacitation or death. With no sitting Lieutenant Governor, this matter is in dispute with no clear path to resolution.
This confusion cannot continue. The stakes are too high.
Acting on behalf of the people of New York, I am taking a bold step to end at least one aspect of this crisis. I am using my legal authority as Governor to appoint a new Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch. The appointment of a new Lieutenant Governor will resolve the issue of succession and may provide a means to help break the stalemate in the Senate.
Richard Ravitch has been called to service by Governors and Mayors at times of historic crisis – and now I have called on him once again to serve the people of New York State. As Chairman of the Urban Development Corporation in the 1970’s, he helped resolve New York City’s devastating fiscal crisis. He is widely credited with rescuing the MTA as Chairman from 1979-1983. In the late 1980’s, he led the commission that rewrote New York City’s charter after the Board of Estimate was declared unconstitutional. Dick returns to public service once again to assist in my efforts to stabilize New York’s economy and put New York on the road to recovery.
Since June 10, my Counsel has examined the legal basis for this appointment. We have consulted with eminent lawyers and scholars. The State Constitution grants authority to the Legislature to provide a means for filling vacancies in elective office. The Legislature has provided that means by passing Section 43 of the Public Officers Law, which states: “if a vacancy shall occur, otherwise than by expiration of term, with no provision of law for filling the same, if the office be elective, the governor shall appoint a person to execute the duties thereof until the vacancy shall be filled by an election.”
With no statutory or constitutional provision prohibiting the Governor from filling a vacancy in the Lieutenant Governor’s office, I am taking action under the authority granted to me both by the Constitution and the Public Officers Law.
Throughout this process, I have felt a growing sense of uncertainty among New Yorkers. In these challenging economic times, people must be assured that their elected representatives don’t lose sight of who we serve. In these uncertain times, it is our responsibility to be clear.
I am acting now to clear up the confusion.
Since this political impasse began, I have done everything within my legal authority to compel the Senate to act. I have forced the Senate to stay in session every day. I have directed the State Treasurer to withhold Senators’ travel and reimbursement checks. I have put a hold on the Senators’ pork barrel spending and I have asked the State Comptroller to withhold their paychecks until they go back to work.
All 62 Senators must now return to work, with a Lieutenant Governor presiding over the session.
We have important work to finish. The nation’s economic crisis continues to affect our State. At stake are hundreds of thousands of jobs through the Power for Jobs program, the education of New York City’s schoolchildren through mayoral control, and the effectiveness of local governments across the State that depend on the Senate helping to solve problems rather than creating them.
Solving our problems will not be easy, and sometimes it may not be popular. But I will continue to stand up for the people of New York, and I will do whatever it takes to keep our State on track to recovery.
David A. PatersonFro
Governor of New York State