Pragmatism in N.Y. Budget Negotiations Shows Compromise Is Still Possible

News out of New York suggests that compromise is not dead — yet.

Negotiations surrounding the state’s budget, while contentions, managed to achieve a resolution that produced a budget that was not only balanced, but practically on time — lawmakers did negotiate into the early hours just past the deadline.

For both parties, the bill is a buffet of mixed outcomes, but more important than the wins and losses is what its passage demonstrates. The dynamic between Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and his legislators seems to reflect an uncommon awareness that progress doesn’t come in leaps and bounds, but requires politicians to sacrifice some of their pet projects in the interest of simply getting anything done.

Most impressive is the bipartisan willingness to put collective outcomes ahead of personal (political) victories: both parties tempered each other’s more dynamic proposals and goals, but ensured that the budget came out punctually, and with some broadly appealing features.

It would have been all too easy for either Cuomo or his Republican opponents in the State Senate to dig in and expend all their energies painting the other as being the unreasonable, obstinate one preventing the whole system from moving forward. It is inherently imperfect, and obviously frustrating. But while there is plenty of cause for complaint to go around, it would appear from the outside that everyone was committed to weathering such criticism in the interest of getting the job done.

Voters are free to boot leaders who put such pragmatism ahead of unyielding political interests, but more ought to take note that such cooperation gives everyone a shot at achieving their goals the next time around.

It is a fragile precedent, but proves that ultimately, the oft-cited partisan entrenchment holding back the country is really just a choice leaders make. The alternative has never been completely out of reach.

It is almost conventional wisdom by now that effective leadership requires delegation: in the name of getting things done, sometimes the load needs sharing. For America’s leadership, delegation may sometimes mean cooperating where possible, and allowing some issues to survive into the next administration or legislature.

Recognizing a lack of will to compromise is not the same as kicking the can down the road. Allowing the more contentious issues to settle while moving on to negotiable priorities still counts as getting things — necessary work — accomplished, and should carry more weight than it does when politicians demonstrate such flexibility.

The law of unintended consequences dictates that policy, good or bad, will always require careful management and that is as much the duty of political leadership as tackling the headline-grabbing “big issues” during their tenure.

Perhaps by practicing on housekeeping measures — like passing a balanced budget — America’s leaders will grow more comfortable with pragmatism when it comes to more complex policy questions.

Photo Source: AP