Last week saw Albany do something that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago: enact another on-time State Budget. Not only was the 2012-13 State Budget on-time for the second consecutive year, it was early, the first time since 1983 that has happened. In the Assembly, we passed the several bills that comprise the State Budget on Friday, March 30 by 3 p.m., and the State Senate followed suit shortly thereafter. The budget was signed, sealed and delivered ahead of schedule.
DELIVERING ANOTHER ON-TIME, FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE STATE BUDGET WAS WORTH THE FIGHT!
When you consider that less than three years ago, New York was gripped by a perpetual sense of "crisis management" - with Governor David Paterson offering weekly, dire warnings that the state was, literally, out of money - and weigh those days against the recent success we have achieved, it's clear New York is finally beginning to head in the right direction.
All told, the on-time budget we delivered demonstrated that Albany is capable of working correctly IF there is the will to set aside petty politics and actually get things done on behalf of the people. I was very proud to have helped enact many of the reforms that set the stage for this and last year's successes. While it can get lonely being a voice in the wilderness, constantly calling for real reform and a better process, all that effort helped lead to this year's early budget.
LEAD UP TO THE BUDGET IS PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE GREATER TRANSPARENCY AND MORE PUBLIC DISCUSSION
For all the good news about the State Budget, we shouldn't fool ourselves into believing that the machinery of state government is now operating with 100 percent efficiency because it isn't. Neither has Albany done enough to bid a fond farewell to the bad old days of secrecy, closed doors and lack of accountability to taxpayers. For as good as the State Budget was, the budget process itself is still a work in progress.
Yes, we finally had public meetings of the General Joint Budget Conference Committee as the Budget Reform Act of 2007 (which is State Law) requires - and I continually called for in 2009 and 2010 - but secrecy, closed-door meetings and an archaic three-men-in-a-room method of deal making are still the norm, not the exception, in Albany. This must change!
QUINNIPIAC OPINION POLL: 76 PERCENT OF NEW YORKERS SAY LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN ALBANY IS A PROBLEM
Apparently, I'm not alone in recognizing the urgent need to end Albany's reign of secrecy and ensure it conducts the people's business in a manner that's 100 percent open, accountable and transparent. A recent Quinnipiac Opinion Poll reported that 76 percent of New Yorkers agreed with me, indicating that the lack of transparency surrounding Albany's recent major policy deals is a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem. So much for the Albany apologists who say process does not matter! According to 76 percent of New Yorkers, it does matter and, quite frankly, it should matter. You can read the Quinnipiac Poll results here or view the poll by visiting the following shortened URL: http://tinyurl.com/8xupy9h.
You certainly don't need an opinion poll to know that more of an effort must be made to ensure that all 212 legislators receive a fair hearing on their ideas, suggestions and amendments in the lead up to budget passage. Likewise, taxpayers, good-government groups and the media deserve real-time disclosure of what is happening behind Albany's closed doors. Let's have a real debate on the Assembly Floor about priorities and provide a full accounting of how the taxpayer's money is being spent within the parameters of the State Budget. Everything I just called for is possible; it just comes down to a question of priorities and the will to make it happen.
MOVING AHEAD, ALBANY NEEDS A PRO-JOBS AGENDA, MUST FIND WAYS TO REDUCE COSTS FOR FAMILIES AND JOB CREATORS
Now that the State Budget has been put to bed, it's time for Albany to focus on helping New Yorkers realize their dreams. We can do so by growing our economy, creating more private sector jobs, supporting businesses (without asking taxpayers to foot the bill) and reducing costs for families. I have introduced - and will be introducing - legislation to accomplish these goals and build a stronger economy that works for all New Yorkers.
Over the next few weeks, I'll unveil legislation that will help grow New York's "Second-Stage" businesses (private businesses that have as few as five, and as many as 99 employees; have maintained their principal place of business in New York for at least two years; and generate at least $750,000, but not more than $50 million, in annual revenue). In addition, I'll introduce a comprehensive initiative that addresses the need for real regulatory relief to transform our State Agencies from roadblocks to job creation into partners that assist businesses large and small in navigating New York's regulatory minefield. The end goal of my proposals is to help job creators become more successful, expand their operations and put folks back to work.
These are ambitious goals, but now is not the time for timidity. The successful on-time passage of our State Budget demonstrated that a few committed reformers and the will of taxpayers can move political mountains. It is time to deliver the New York that taxpayers have been waiting for, one with more jobs, greater opportunities and lower costs. This needs to be our mission, our focus and our agenda for the remainder of the 2012 Legislative Session.
NEXT WEEK: My "GrowNY" program to help second-stage businesses and create more jobs!
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.