Oaks: Essential State Budget Reform Enacted, However, Must End “Three Men In A Room” Process

January 24, 2007

Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R,C-Macedon) voted in favor of legislation that passed the New York State Assembly to improve transparency and accountability in the state budget process. Oaks, who has advocated reform of the state budget process for many years, was pleased with the new legislation, but frustrated by the way it was drafted.

“Year after year, the Assembly Minority conference has fought for reform of the state budget process,” said Oaks. “This legislation will help ensure we have a budget that is on-time, more transparent and accountable. However, many of these initiatives were first introduced by our conference, and I am disappointed we were not included in the development of the legislation. I hope in the future we will end the ‘three men in a room’ process, which has stymied openness in the legislative process.”

Specific provisions in the bill, which passed the Assembly unanimously, include:

  • Increased reporting by the Executive of receipts, disbursements and transfers
  • Estimates of the fiscal impact of the Executive Budget on local governments
  • Requiring the legislature to report within thirty days of budget passage, the impact of the enacted budget on the General Fund, local governments and state work force
  • If revenue consensus cannot be achieved, the State Comptroller will provide the binding revenue estimate
  • Detailed reporting by the governor on technology-related projects, which are proposed to receive more than $10 million in funding in the Executive Budget
  • A new “Rainy Day” Reserve Fund consisting of an amount up to three percent of General Fund spending, to be used in the event of economic downturn or in response to a catastrophic event
  • Within ten days after submission of the Executive Budget, the legislature must adopt a joint rule establishing the timetable for conference committees and other deadlines necessary to ensure a timely budget
  • Prohibiting the use of “lump sum appropriations” for member items.

“While this budget reform legislation was a step in the right direction toward increased accountability, there is more that needs to be done,” added Oaks. “That is why I will continue to support changes to the budget process.”