Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Tompkins/Cortland) unveiled a constitutional amendment and legislation she sponsored to ensure that responsible state budgets are passed on-time every year (A.1, A.2). The plan will also help restore the balance of powers in the budget process that was removed by a recent court decision.
"It is vital to bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to New York’s budget process," Lifton said. "This plan will ensure on-time budgets for years to come and end the gridlock that has become synonymous with Albany."
The budget reform proposal would move the start of New York’s fiscal year from April 1 to May 1 to allow for better revenue and spending projections and institute provisions to instill greater accountability in the process. If no budget is passed by May 1, a contingency budget equivalent to that of the preceding year would take effect.
The plan would also require a two-year appropriation for education aid that will help schools stay a step ahead by finally giving them the information they need, when they need it. The reforms will also create a reserve fund in the state constitution to ensure sufficient funds exist for the payment of education aid in May and June of each year.
A decision by the state’s highest court dramatically altered the checks and balances of state government – giving the governor a near stranglehold over the budget process. Assemblywoman Lifton said the budget reform plan will help correct this problem by:
- requiring proposed spending to be consistent with existing law or proposed legislation, and when a consistency question arises, a fast-track review process will be triggered;
- allowing the legislature to do more than simply reduce, strike or accept proposals in the governor’s budget that aren’t consistent with state law;
- permitting the legislature to add items of appropriation to the governor’s budget based on proposed legislation introduced by the governor but modified or rejected by the legislature; and
- requiring the legislature to explain the fiscal impact of any legislative additions to the governor’s budget proposal and identify its funding.
"My plan will ensure - even if the governor refuses to negotiate - that on-time budgets are passed every year," Lifton said. "This plan will also ensure that lawmakers have more time to work on important local matters, and I urge the Senate and governor to help us make that happen."