ALBANY — In the next week or so, Governor Spitzer is expected to unveil a package of housing-related bills, including one measure that would tighten rent regulations in New York City. Mr. Spitzer is likely to roll out the legislation with a high-profile speech about the importance of expanding affordable housing in New York.
Despite the fanfare, Senate Republicans can be counted on to deposit much of the governor's housing package into the legislative wastebasket. Republicans interviewed said a main component of the governor's soon-to-be-released plan — the lifting of the rent deregulation threshold to $2,800 a month from $2,000 — was dead on arrival.
"It's not one of our priorities," John McArdle, a spokesman for the Republican Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, said in an interview, adding, "The rent control laws don't need to be addressed until 2011," the year when the laws sunset.
In the past couple of weeks, the Spitzer administration has been rolling out bill after bill, as on an assembly line. Out of the second-floor executive chamber factory have come proposals to lower campaign contribution limits and to ban certain types of political giving; to overhaul judicial selection by switching to a commission-based appointing system rather than an electoral system; to establish independent redistricting, and to shore up the state's abortion rights laws.
With equal efficiency, Mr. Bruno and the Senate Republicans have slapped the bills with one recall after another, accusing the governor of getting his priorities backward. The pattern of propose and deny has emerged as the central dynamic in the post-budget period.
Mr. Spitzer's legislative output is not surprising for a governor who often trots out Alexander Hamilton's maxim about energy in the executive being a "leading character" of good government. But the pace at which legislation has piled up on the desks of ambivalent lawmakers has some Albany observers wondering whether the Spitzer administration needs to slow down.
Democrats close to the governor and Republicans interviewed, however, insisted there was a method to the madness. They say Mr. Spitzer, a Harvard University-trained prosecutor, is not only making good on campaign promises that he made to various groups, but is using the rejected legislation to build a case against Senate Republicans, whose ouster from the majority the governor has made no secret of desiring.
The more items the Republicans block, the better the governor can cast them as advocates of the status quo and argue for their removal in the 2008 races, the thinking goes. Mr. Spitzer will be bringing his case against the Republicans before an increasingly Democratic state, where elected Republicans have had to moderate their conservative positions to survive.
Republicans are holding the Senate by a 33 to 29 lead. Leading up to the 2008 elections, Mr. Spitzer will likely argue that had Senate Democrats, a conference that has for the most part demonstrated loyalty to the governor, controlled the house, many of his bills would have carried the Senate.
"It wouldn't surprise me in developing the policies he's rolling out that he's looking at policies which clearly differentiate the Democrats and Republicans," a Senate Democrat source said.
On the issue of rent control, the differences between the two conferences are clear. Senate Democrats have said they would favor shrinking the pool of apartment units eligible for high-rent vacancy decontrol, a state statute dating to 1993 that permits landlords to charge market rates when rent reaches $2,000 and an apartment is vacated. Democrats interviewed said they would support lifting the threshold to $4,000 from $2,000.
Democrats have also come down on the governor's side on many of the other recent measures, including Mr. Spitzer's proposal to tighten campaign finance laws.
"The only reason why the governor put this out is to get back at the Senate Republicans," a Republican legislative staffer said of the governor's rent regulation plan, saying Mr. Spitzer's bill would likely fuel the anger of tenants groups directed at Republicans.
Mr. Spitzer's predecessor, Governor Pataki, often used a similar tactic against Assembly Democrats. In an effort to paint the conference as weak on crime and beholden to trial lawyers, Mr. Pataki would often put forward criminal justice measures that he knew would be rejected by the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, who is a lawyer, and generate negative publicity.
While Assembly Democrats have hardly been enthusiastic supporters of the governor's agenda, Mr. Spitzer in recent weeks has been careful to keep them out of his diatribes, exclusively assigning blame for each impasse to Senate Republicans.
Mr. McArdle, a spokesman for Mr. Bruno, said Mr. Spitzer's strategy would backfire, arguing that despite the growing strength of the Democratic Party in New York, issues such as campaign finance reform don't resonate with the majority of voters. "If that's his strategy, then we're going to be here for an awfully long time," he said.