New York State has a budget - now the real work begins.
In the very early morning hours of Thursday, March 31, the State Assembly passed the first on-time State Budget in several years. The enacted 2011-12 State Budget was by no means a perfect spending plan, but a realistic and necessary one. This year's budget provided a dose of fiscal reality and a much-needed financial wake-up call for a state government that has taxed too much, spent too much, borrowed too much and reformed too little.
BUDGET CONTAINED TOUGH, PAINFUL CHOICES
Make no mistake: the budget involved many tough choices that will begin a long overdue - and sometimes painful - process of reducing spending, rightsizing state government and reforming Albany's culture of tax-and-spend. Simply put, we have a budget that will require state government to live within its means, just as millions of hard-working New York families and businesses have done, and continue to do. While this budget is not the final word on the matter, it represents an important beginning of what must be an ongoing conversation on the need to change how Albany does the people's business.
IMPORTANT VICTORIES FOR NEW YORK: DEFEAT OF THE "SUCCESS TAX," CLOSURE OF $10 BILLION BUDGET DEFICIT, EXTENSION OF POWER FOR JOBS
The spending plan contained several important victories for taxpayers, including the defeat of an attempted extension of the job-destroying "Success Tax," closure of the state's massive $10 billion budget deficit, enactment of the Power for Jobs program to help retain and create jobs, decreased government spending, along with no new borrowing or tax increases.
Equally important, the budget caps the future growth of costly programs like Medicaid, which threaten to drive many local governments to the brink of bankruptcy. The spending plan also authorized the merger and consolidation of State Agencies that have overlapping functions. Both of these necessary structural reforms will reduce the cost of government - and costs to taxpayers.
None of the aforementioned victories happened by accident. They are specific public policy priorities that our Assembly Minority Conference has long fought for - not just during this year's budget cycle, but in prior years as well. Our Conference is glad that Governor Cuomo listened. We are always happy to share our playbook for a better New York!
MUCH UNFINISHED BUSINESS
The fact that we were able to pass an on-time budget during these especially challenging economic times offers a glimmer of hope that real change is possible, even in Albany. Moving forward, we must apply this same non-partisan approach to addressing all of the unfinished business that, unfortunately, was not included as part of the State Budget. Some of that unfinished business includes:
Delivering Unfunded Mandate Relief: Deliver relief from Albany's unfunded mandates - the rules, regulations and red tape imposed by state government - that are the major cost drivers for local governments and school districts;
Reducing Property Taxes: New York homeowners still pay some of the nation's highest property taxes, we must provide real property tax relief for overtaxed families;
Growing the Economy: Getting nearly 800,000 unemployed New Yorkers back to work must be a top priority, the best way to do so is by reducing our state's high cost of doing business and becoming more economically competitive with the 49 other states;
Shrinking Government's Impact on the Private Sector: Streamlining job-killing regulations and cutting government red tape are essential to fostering an economic climate where private sector jobs can grow;
Cleaning Up Albany: Passing comprehensive ethics reform will clean-up Albany's culture of corruption, restore public confidence and end the embarrassment of pay-to-play scandals that have cast a dark cloud over state government;
Providing More Value to Taxpayers: While the budget reduced government spending, we must provide more value to taxpayers by cracking down on government waste, fraud and abuse which will further reduce government's cost to taxpayers; and
Enacting Pension Reform: Public pension obligations total in the billions for state and local governments. We must defuse New York's public pension time bomb by enacting common sense fiscal reforms to control the growth of these costs.
SMALL STEPS TAKEN TOWARD A LONG JOURNEY
Timely passage of the 2011-12 State Budget was just the beginning of a series of steps that must happen before we can truly claim a new day has dawned for New York State. Our taxes, price of government, and cost of doing business are still some of America's highest. State government is still too big and bureaucratic. There are far too many of our fellow citizens out of work, hurting and in need of help. Now isn't the time for endless self-congratulations in Albany - now is the time to get back to work. Today, the real work begins for the New York State we deserve.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.