And speaking about fish, well, something smells pretty fishy in Albany. Could that smelly fish wrapped in old newspapers be nothing other than the long-overdue state budget? Apparently, yes. As of August 13, the New York State Legislature finally approved the budget and has sent it on to the governor for his signature. He has already promised to veto portions of it.

So, what about the records? Well, for one thing, this year’s budget is the latest that any budget has been approved in the history of New York State. Not only that, this year marks the twentieth year in a row that New York State's budget has not been approved on time. According to State Senator Byron Brown (D-Buffalo), this year's budget has also set a national record in tardiness. Corina Eckl, fiscal affairs director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, confirmed New York State's status as a record breaker. "In any given year, you will have a handful of states miss their budget deadlines, but not perpetually year after year like New York."

Some people, such as Brown, fail to be impressed by the propensity that New York State has for breaking records. People who are not fans of perpetual late budgets see it as a bad joke played on the citizens of the state, not as a potential Olympic event, with the state’s fearless leaders standing on top of the medals stand, waiting for the gold to be draped around their necks. No, They see the bad joke as having started on April Fools Day, the deadline for the budget, when no budget was forthcoming. And now, you can add an element of bad luck to the trick. Instead of budget approval occurring on April Fools Day, it’s occurring very suspiciously on or around

Friday the thirteenth of August. Brown was so unimpressed with the late budget that he organized a rally, held on August 5 in front of the Mahoney State Office Building, to protest the process that New York State uses to generate a budget. That process, he said, is the "most dysfunctional in the nation."

Generating a state budget months late is not an Olympic event. But, if it were, what kind of sport would it be? According to Brown, it's a team sport, but most of the team isn't on the field. Three players, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Governor George Pataki, square off for the contest to make the budget. Their senator and assemblymember teammates sit on the bench, as much an audience as their irritated constituents to a frequently contentious match that has gone into overtime months ago. Apparently the role of bench warmer is not satisfactory to Brown. "Three men in a room does not work for New Yorkers. We must reform this process. We should not tolerate anything less... I am frustrated and embarrassed to be a part of a body that doesn't understand the impact that this (the late budget) has on people's lives."

Some of the people who feel the strongest impact on their lives are the state’s schoolchildren, said Buffalo Board of Education President Florence Johnson. The budget delays cost the Buffalo School District and other poorer upstate districts a "golden opportunity for long-range planning… budget cuts invade the classroom and dash the hopes and dreams of children.”

The record breaker also has an effect on not-for-profit organizations, with programs that depend on government grants for support. Brenda McDuffie of the Buffalo Urban League said, "The (late budget) causes great harm to a community that is already frail. We can't do it (run a program to assist young people having difficulty in school) when we have others who do not act responsibly."

Recently, Brown introduced legislation (S. 7665A) that would require state legislators to meet for at least three hours per day, including weekends and holidays, until a budget is passed. The governor would also be required to stay in Albany if the budget is not adopted by the April 1 deadline.

One of the signs held aloft at the August 5 rally was a wanted sign, depicting "Deadbeat Governor Pataki."

One can only imagine what sort of company would sign up politicians who break records for tardy budgets for lucrative product endorsements, much like they sign up Olympic gold medallists. by Alice E. Gerard

Well, folks, it's that time again. It's time to pop the popcorn and warm up the television. The 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, are expected to be a fine show. It promises a display of borderline superhumans breaking all sorts of records while doing things that official-sounding voices warn us never to try at home.

American dreamers are now happily fantasizing on their newest hero, the young Maryland merman. Nineteen-year-old swimmer Michael Phelps is expected to break records in freestyle, butterfly, and individual medley, as well as in team races.

Expectations are that Phelps will match or even beat the record of five gold medals that Mark Spitz set back in 1972. Phelps, a natural at swimming, has been described as the closest thing that a human can come to being a fish.