Budget Reform

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Herman D. Farrell Jr. • Chair, Assembly Ways and Means Committee
What the experts are saying...

"Common Cause/NY commends Speaker Silver and the NYS Assembly for pushing a package of bills that would increase sunshine and accountability on crucial issues. From procurement lobbying to public authorities, billions of public dollars are at stake and the public deserves to be in the light on how New York State governs in these areas."

- Rachel Leon, Executive Director, Common Cause/NY

"The Assembly wants the binding forecast to come from an independent budget office, arguing that a separate agency would be less likely to be influenced by political considerations than an elected official. [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver is right about this."

- Editorial, The Buffalo News
Feb. 2, 2004

"Taxpayers and voters have a right to know who is vying for government contracts and how they’re trying to influence those decisions."

- Blair Horner, Legislative Director, New York Public Interest Research Group

"It’s terrific to see budget reform on the front burner."

- Diana Fortuna, Executive Director, Citizens Budget Commission

"I really want to applaud the Speaker for doing his budget reform package."

- Joseph Bruno, Senate Majority Leader

"Silver is right to want an estimated $1 billion in health-care spending included in the budget. The Senate does not, and should acquiesce."

- Editorial, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Jan. 28, 2004

"The League of Women Voters of NYS applauds the Assembly and Speaker Silver for a good beginning to reforming a process that has failed New Yorkers for the past twenty years. A.9615 is a good first step in that direction. We look forward to working with both houses to pass real budget reform this session."

- Aimee Allaud, Vice President, Advocacy/Issues League of Women Voters

Assembly passes budget reform package that puts taxpayers first

Legislature convenes conference committees to enact meaningful reform

The Assembly recently passed a comprehensive reform plan to make New York’s budget process more open, accountable and efficient (A.9615).

Taxpayers should feel confident that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently. This plan overhauls how the budget is negotiated and shines light on state spending by making more expenditures subject to budget negotiation checks and balances. This will ensure that the right choices are being made for working families.

The Assembly and Senate are now holding a conference committee to iron out differences in each house’s version of these reforms. Working across party lines with the Senate will go a long way toward making reform a reality.

Increasing accountability and timeliness

The Assembly’s reform package would change the beginning of the fiscal year from April 1 to May 1. Starting the state’s fiscal year a month later will lead to more accurate revenue forecasts and give the Legislature more time to review the details of the governor’s budget proposal so better decisions can be made.

The Assembly also expects to pass another bill that creates a two-year education spending plan to provide schools the resources they need to plan ahead (A.9711). By setting up a two-year school aid plan, the Assembly proposal gives schools the information they need to plan timely budgets and prepare programs that meet high standards. It also reaffirms the Assembly’s commitment to protect property taxpayers from higher tax bills. The two-year plan guards against education cuts that could force school districts to raise taxes.

The Assembly’s reform package would also:

  • open hearings on state agency budgets to the public
  • require the governor to include more detail in his budget submission
  • increase the tax stabilization fund – allowing the state to put more money away in "rainy day" funds
  • withhold the governor’s salary until the budget is passed, in the same way legislators’ salaries are withheld, encouraging the governor to become more actively involved in the budget process

Removing obstacles to budget negotiations

The plan also creates a state legislative budget office to provide objective, non-partisan analysis of state revenues, expenditures and management practices. The office would be modeled after the Congressional Budget Office and the New York City Independent Budget Office.

A legislative budget office would make a revenue forecast that could be used to make decisions in a non-partisan manner.

Streamlining state operations and improving oversight

To improve efficiency and save taxpayers’ dollars, the Assembly’s plan would also:

  • create a strategic planning and performance measurement system to detail what the state budgets and spends, and determine how effectively and efficiently state agencies are operating
  • require additional reporting on the acquisition of information technology to keep officials and the public aware of how much money is being spent on those purchases
  • provide state agencies access to information about responsible bidders on state contracts, helping them determine a bidder’s history of contract performance and compliance with laws

To address the lack of accountability within state authorities and public benefit corporations, the Assembly’s plan would also require state-related spending by most authorities involved in state functions to be subject to legislative oversight.

Another portion of the plan creates the Health Care Reform Act State Budget Transition Fund which would receive HCRA revenues and be under the watch of the state comptroller. More than half of the program, or approximately $2 billion annually, is currently "off-budget" and not subject to the normal financial checks and balances that would ensure accountability. The governor would be required to put this spending "on-budget" by providing appropriations for this program in his budget proposal.

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