The battle over ending affirmative action has arrived in New York. ln February the New York Post reported that Governor Pataki was reviewing the state's onerous affirmative action requirements for state employment. Within days State Comptroller H. Carl McCall fired off a letter warning that the state could expect a massive boycott by black-owned businesses and other organizations should Pataki revoke government affirmative action. McCall noted that Louisiana had tried a similar rash move but had backed down when a large black-owned communications company threatened to cancel a $75 million music festival in New Orleans. With the understatement of someone holding a pistol to your head, McCall suggested coolly that the "lesson learned in Louisiana should be grasped in New York State."
Comptroller McCall's complicity in the boycott threat, which had been relayed to him by the same black businessman who stopped Louisiana's quota repeal, is inappropriate for someone sworn to protect the state's fiscal health. Eliminating affirmative action in state hiring should be a top priority for any fiscal watchdog. The state's current quota regime, which Governor Cuomo established by executive order in 1983, is a relic of an era when compassion was measured in layers of bureaucracy. Cuomo's order authorized a cadre of full-time affirmative action officers and staff in each state agency, created two new advisory bodies, required individual agencies to prepare affirmative action plans and the advisory bodies to prepare two different sets of quarterly and annual progress reports, and called for sundry guidelines, remedial plans, studies, and reviews. The cost of this bureaucratic machine, never tallied, is undoubtedly enormous. Moreover, Cuomo's order mandates an impossible goal: a state workforce that mirrors the proportion of minorities, women, Vietnam veterans, and disabled people in the population—regardless of their availability or qualifications for state employment.
Governor Pataki should face down all boycott threats and end preferential hiring. Affirmative action has accomplished little beyond adding further bloat to an already oversized government. Taxpayers have a right to a government that uses merit, not race or sex, as the only qualification for employment.