Victories a Warning to Weak Leaders

by Steve Levy

Originally published on Long Island Business News

Of all the Long Island races this year, the one that may mean the most to residents is the little-heralded victory of Smithtown Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, who withstood an onslaught of nasty, unconscionable attacks from the police unions.

The Republican earned such wrath for having the audacity to introduce a taxpayer-relief package that would cap mandatory-arbitration police salaries, end taxpayer-guaranteed 7.5-percent returns for public pensions and modify the Triborough Amendment, which gives automatic salary increases to public employees, even after a contract has expired.

The most recent police contract negotiated by the Suffolk County executive will have some law enforcement personnel making $227,000 after just a few years on the job. Fitzpatrick was one of the few officials on the local or state level with the bravery to say “enough is enough!”

His victory is important because it shows other elected officials with less backbone that they can do the right thing for taxpayers and still withstand the inevitable municipal-union barrage.

Last year, a number of state senators held forums seeking public input on ways to prevent New York from going bankrupt, like Detroit did. Various taxpayer advocates, including yours truly, cited specific mandates that should be eliminated or modified.

After giving the impression they were ready to take action, not one of the senators came up with a significant proposal addressing the crushing, tax-driving mandates foisted upon local governments.

Fitzpatrick did the work for them, though, drafting bill A8603, incorporating the three reforms mentioned above. He hasn’t found much support in Albany, however, where most representatives aren’t willing to rock the boat.

A recent poll indicated that nearly half of Long Islanders are considering leaving Long Island within five years. This is clear evidence of an affordability crisis. When Wisconsin faced a similar crisis years ago, Gov. Scott Walker implemented a number of tough reforms. Now Wisconsin is on its way back, and Walker has survived vicious opposition attacks.

We need more leaders willing to step up like Walker and Fitzpatrick have. Our leaders need to grow a spine.