Governor David Paterson pushed the panic button this week, telling New Yorkers that we are indeed in an economic recession and now is the time for drastic action to rein in unsustainable state spending. A financial crisis had been looming for a long time. My hope is that special interests and legislative leaders will finally recognize that the crisis is here, and heed this urgent wake-up call by acting immediately.
Families and businesses struggling to make ends meet do not need to be reminded of the daily economic hardships they face in the form of soaring fuel costs, sky-high property taxes and painful health care premiums. Although state spending has grown over the last decade by 71 percent, revenues have declined steadily, pushing us further into debt, and creating an annual deficit of more than $6 billion. For far too long, this state has attempted to balance its budget on the backs of the middle-class taxpayer and push fiscal woes onto future generations. This simply cannot continue.
For years, my colleagues and I have been calling on New York to spend, tax and borrow less. We have advocated accountability standards in the budget and restraint in spending. These pleas fell on deaf ears. During budget negotiations earlier this year, we reiterated that first the proposed, then the enacted, budget would not sustain this state through the year. Critics called the accusation alarmist; unfortunately, we were right.
The problems New York faces are not unique. Thirteen states have already taken action to reduce their budgetary spending this year as a result of the national economic downturn. The Empire State must follow suit. We can guide this ship through the storm only by making some tough decisions, reining in state profligacy and easing the economic burden on families and businesses. Only then can we begin to grow our economy and increase revenues for future years.
I applaud the governor for calling a special emergency economic session of the Legislature on August 19, but we should have reconvened earlier. We will need to revisit this year’s enacted budget and do what should have been done a long time ago – indeed, what our constituents elected us to do: lead New York out of fiscal crisis. While doing this, we must not pass on the opportunity to advance comprehensive property tax reform and other measures that will make New York State more affordable for those who call it home.
Rest assured, I will continue my fight to put New York back on track to a prosperous economy. That is what people expect from their elected representatives and it is what they deserve. The time to act is now.