Albany’s ‘Office’-like comedy of errors


“This bar is what you spend on things that no one ever, ever needs.”

That line is from an episode of the TV comedy show “The Office,” but it can easily be applied to some of the real-life decisions Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York City politicians who control Albany are considering as part of this year’s state budget negotiations.

If you’ve never seen the episode, it centers on Michael Scott, the boss in “The Office” and one of the show’s main characters, who’s dealing with personal financial problems. One of the company’s accountants, Oscar Martinez, creates a chart to help Scott analyze his finances and spending. One bar shows necessities, like rent. Another bar shows luxuries, like vacations and going out to dinner, and the third shows things that “no one ever, ever needs” — like multiple magic sets.

Predictably, the final column is the highest, and Scott tries to justify misguided expenditures as things he has needed, instead of recognizing the role they played in creating his dire situation.

Albany is in an eerily similar predicament, which, unfortunately for all of us, isn’t TV fiction. The state faces an astronomical $36 billion budget gap by fiscal year 2026-27, according to a report issued by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last July, who noted that “State leaders must take action to align recurring revenues with recurring spending, with an eye toward preserving the economic competitiveness of our State and equality of opportunity for all New Yorkers.” And DiNapoli’s not playing politics: He’s a member of the same political party as the governor and the Senate and Assembly leaders.

Yet rather than seeing the prudent fiscal discipline necessary to address this crisis, we see misguided priorities.

As an example, Hochul proposes spending over $2.4 billion on illegal migrants who are flocking to New York — New York City in particular — because of its sanctuary state designation and the generous benefits it entitles them to, including free health care. That’s on top of the nearly $2 billion spent last year. When looking to save taxpayer dollars and reduce state expenses, eliminating spending on noncitizens should be the first place to start. That one change would reduce the deficit by nearly 10 percent and, just as important, help solve the growing migrant crisis by removing a major incentive for them to come here.

Instead, Hochul plans to fund these expenditures in part by cutting state aid to Long Island schools by $75 million. Every dollar of state aid that is lost has to be raised locally in the form of school property taxes, so not only are you funding benefits for noncitizens, but you’ll pay higher property taxes to make up for the lost state aid.

More than just bad public policy, that is inherently unfair to Long Island families, and an irresponsible misuse of their hard-earned tax dollars.

I will continue to fight against it, and invite you to join me by visiting my website,, and signing the petition to stop the Long Island school aid cuts.

Watching “The Office” makes me laugh, but watching the comedy of errors brought on by one-party rule in the state Capitol brings me no joy. The alarm bells continue to ring. Albany needs to listen.

Steve Rhoads represents the 5th Senate District.