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Editorial: Governor, it's time to step down

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Last month, it was a full week of unsubstantiated speculation about some sort of inappropriate conduct.

In the wake of those rumors came a front page New York Times story about the criminal background of a highly influential aide.

Last week, it was a question of whether the governor interfered into an investigation involving domestic violence allegations against a top staffer. That's been followed by a series of high-profile administration resignations, including State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt and Deputy Public Safety Secretary Denise O'Donnell,

On Feb. 26, he announced he was suspending his bid for a full term in office after just one week of campaigning - a result of the domestic violence investigation, pressure to drop out of the race from fellow Democrats, and poll numbers that continued to show widespread citizen dissatisfaction with his performance.

A few days ago, there was a report of an ethics investigation into his acceptance of Yankees World Series tickets.

Tomorrow, it'll probably be something else.

Some of Gov. David Paterson's problems have been entirely his doing. Some not as much. But it doesn't matter. The side issues seem to grow more in number and degree every day.

With so much at stake in New York with regard to state finances and taxes, and with an important election looming just eight months away, New York state just can't afford to have its chief executive be the source of such constant negative attention.

By continuing to remain in office, Gov. Paterson has become a distraction to the budget process, to the state's economic development and the state's reputation as a whole.

Even though he has done a lot of good things in a tumultuous two years, and even though he might be the only person with any chance of controlling an out-of-control state Legislature, it's become very evident that the governor can no longer be an effective leader for the citizens of New York.

It's time for Gov. Paterson to admit what a liability he's become and to turn the reins of the governor's office over to Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch until a newly elected governor can take office on Jan. 1.

We have not been among the band-wagoners who've dumped on the governor over the past two years. In fact, we've been a strong supporter of Mr. Paterson's efforts. We admire how he's stood up to the Legislature on its spending. We have wholeheartedly supported his ideas for a state spending cap, government consolidation, standing up to powerful unions, reforming state government ethics practices, education and authority reform, and making tough budget cuts in a tough economy.

But he's probably accomplished all he can.

Some might argue that a politician in Paterson's position, with no constituency to sway and no election to win, should be able to make decisions based solely on his principles rather than politics. No consequences; no fear.

But many a governor with strong ideals and strong public backing - pre-scandal Eliot Spitzer comes to mind - have gone into the lion's den of the Legislature and come away frustrated and beaten. Certainly, a scandal-plagued lame duck governor with low public approval ratings is not going to be able to enlist fruitful negotiations from a Legislature that only wants to preserve the status quo until election time.

If anything, the governor's new-found freedom from political influence - and therefore political allies - might actually undermine his ability to achieve the concessions he will have to obtain in order to achieve his goals. The Legislature knows he's a one-man army.

Any governor - whether it's Mr. Paterson or Mr. Ravitch - will be able to use the powers of the office to cut down on some of the Legislature's free-spending ways during budget negotiations, in particular the power to veto spending that exceeds the governor's budget.

We don't need Mr. Paterson in the chair to do that. The power is in the office, not the man. But the citizens do need someone who hasn't been so polarized to at least get the Legislature to the table and get something done. The highly respected Mr. Ravitch has that credential. Mr. Paterson no longer does.

Gov. David Paterson has done what he can. But there comes a time when the best course of action is to step away and let someone else continue the fight.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen member Roger Guglielmo.



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