New York Gov. David Paterson appointed former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor after a month of stalemate in the Senate that has left municipalities and much legislation in limbo.
If the appointment holds, Ravitch would be able to break ties in the Senate, which is now deadlocked 31 to 31 following a leadership coup by the Republican conference on June 8.
The deadlock has left municipalities across the state scrambling to figure out how to deal with budget problems that have arisen or will arise without the passage of tax packages and bonding authority. New York City's authorization to sell bonds through negotiation, as well as to sell variable-rate debt and to enter into swaps, expired last week. The New York State Housing Finance Agency also lost its authority to sell bonds.
Ravitch has worn many hats in the public and private sector, including as a real estate developer with H.R.H Construction and chairman of the Urban Development Corp. and the MTA. Ravitch recently headed Paterson's commission to develop a plan to fund the MTA's long-term capital and operating needs.
The lieutenant governor position has been empty since Paterson succeeded former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned last year.
A spokesman for the Senate Republicans said a legal challenge to the move was likely.
"It's our opinion and that of the attorney general that it is unconstitutional for the governor to appoint a lieutenant governor," said spokesman Mark Hansen.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has stated that such an appointment was not permitted under the state's constitution.
Senate Democrats, who would effectively regain control of the chamber, praised the appointment.
"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action," the Senate Democratic leadership said in a statement. "We applaud and congratulate Gov. Paterson's bold decision to appoint Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor and help end the gridlock in the Senate."