Tom Golisano, an architect of the state Senate leadership vote that has thrown the chamber into chaos, defended the coup today, blaming Senate Democrats for failing to accept the June 8th vote that tossed them from power.
The Rochester-area billionaire said Senate Democrats are acting like “a bunch of irresponsible children. Why can’t they admit they got beat?”
Golisano and his aide Steve Pigeon worked behind the scenes to lure two Democrats to join the Republican conference and vote out the Democratic majority June 8.
But after one of the Democratic senators, Sen. Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, rejoined the Democratic conference, the Senate has been deadlocked at 31-31 – and no legislation has passed.
Golisano has been criticized by watchdog groups for trying influence the Senate. And Democrats have refused to accept the vote, saying it was illegal.
But Golisano, who unsuccessfully ran three times for governor on the Independence Party line, said Democrats should accept the 32-30 leadership vote that installed Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, as Senate president, and Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, as majority leader.
And if the sides are now stuck at 31-31, they should agree to hold session under Espada and Skelos to pass time-sensitive legislation, Golisano said.
“They haven’t found anything illegal with what the process was,” Golisano said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany bureau. “How can the body not come in there and vote 32-30 to change leadership? What is wrong with that?”
Golisano said he helped orchestrate the leadership vote after then-Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, went back on a promise to hold the line on taxes and state spending.
The 2009-10 state budget includes a 9 percent increase in spending and higher income taxes on the wealthy. After the budget’s passage, the Paychex Inc. founder announced he has changed his residency to Florida to save about $5 million a year in income taxes.
He said Smith and other New York City Democrats were ruining the state. Golisano added that the new majority passed a series of rules reforms after the coup that will improve the Senate.
“When I walk down the street I don’t have people saying, “Hey, Tom what are going to do about the deadlock? What they are saying is, ‘Congratulations. We’ve put a stop to what’s going on.’”
Golisano’s political action committee Responsible New York started running ads this week across the state, calling on voters to support the new majority coalition.
“It’s time to return Albany to its rightful owners,” one ad states. “We want reform on taxes, we want real ethics reform and we want real action out of Albany and so do a bi-partisan majority of state senators.”