New Yorkers Can Wait
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was hoping to hear some good news this week concerning its massive lobbying effort to legalize mixed martial arts (MMA) events in New York. Governor David Paterson’s budget had proposed legalizing the currently banned sport as a means of generating revenue for a state that’s badly in need of it.
To call New York's budget situation "desperate" would be like saying Glenn Close was "misguided" in "Fatal Attraction." New York's financial woes are a perfect storm of a nightmare, brought on by a bad economy, as well as years of fiscal irresponsibility in Albany. To make matters worse, the government has to pass the budget on or before April 1, otherwise it will run out of money and will have to shut down. Government workers will be sent home without pay, while people relying on unemployment benefits, Social Security, or Medicaid will see nothing but bills in their mailboxes.
With so much on the line, the New York state legislature did what any governing body would do in this situation.
They went on vacation. That's right. There will be no budget in place by April 1 because the lawmakers decided to take their previously scheduled Easter and Passover recess. It seems like a great April Fools joke, or an elaborate plot to throw the media off their tails while they negotiate in secret.
But unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. On Monday, the legislature passed a $4.5 billion emergency extension to cover government salaries and entitlement payments until April 14. While they ought to be commended for making sure the people of New York were taken care of, passing the act three days before the deadline reinforced the idea that the legislators were more concerned about their vacation plans. In fact, Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the legislators believed to be in Florida right now. Evidently, the biggest question for him was whether to work on his tan at South Beach or wait in line with the kids for Space Mountain.
Of course, late budgets are nothing new for New York. Out of the last 25 budgets, 23 of them have come past the deadline. However, in those cases, the budgets were always late by only a day or two. In the private sector, missing a deadline by a day or two would get you fired. In the government, it’s cause for celebration. That’s still the best-case scenario, although it doesn’t look likely since the legislative session isn’t scheduled to resume until April 7.
To be fair, the MMA money was just a drop in the bucket for a state that’s staring down the hole of a $9.5 billion budget deficit. Still, the numbers are nothing to sneeze at. According to the UFC’s preliminary figures, UFC 111, which took place in Newark last Saturday, generated an astonishing $4 million live gate, giving the organization its largest gate since its landmark UFC 100 pay-per-view last July. Additionally, more than two thousand fans attended a live viewing party of the event at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. According to a study commissioned by the UFC, an event in New York City could generate as much as $11 million in total revenue.
So the UFC will have to wait a while longer before it finds out whether it can start planning its Madison Square Garden debut. While Dana White and company will surely be frustrated, their problems pale in comparison to the millions of people whose lives depend, directly or indirectly, on governmental aid. Those are the real victims here.
But don’t tell that to the legislators in Albany. They’re too busy enjoying their time off.