The Countdown Has Begun For State Budget Reform

February 10, 2006

Oftentimes when I meet people throughout the district, I am asked why the budget has been late or why it seems like it is difficult to have change in state government. Many of my colleagues in Albany, myself included, are working hard to improve state government by trying to pass for the second year in a row an on-time budget and making other changes that benefit taxpayers.

While 2005 saw adoption of the first on-time state budget in over two decades, we need to ensure that it is passed by the April 1 deadline this year and every year.

The state budget is the most important measure that legislators act on each year. Education, public safety and economic development programs depend on adequate and timely funding. When the budget is late, we hear first-hand from school boards, nonprofits, local governments and businesses about the damage it causes, and their inability to plan.

Hearings on the elements of this year’s budget proposals are already well underway. Two weeks ago, my Assembly minority colleagues and I held a press conference in Albany where we unveiled our “New York State Budget Countdown Clock” and a new package of reforms designed to ensure an on-time budget again – not just this year, but every year. This clock continues to count the time left until the April 1st deadline, and it serves as a reminder to everyone of the importance of approving an on-time budget.

My Assembly minority colleagues and I have long pushed for sensible and real budget reforms that would include the following measures:

  • State Comptroller intervention with binding revenue estimate if consensus is not reached by March 10th
  • Budget Conference Committees convened by March 15th.
  • Increase the Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund.
  • Provide a plain-language summary of the budget 48 hours prior to a vote.
  • If a new budget is not yet in place, enact the previous year’s budget no later than 72 hours after the start of a new fiscal year.
  • Prohibit consideration of non-budget bills after April 1st until the budget is adopted.
  • Require two-year education funding.
  • Prohibit any legislative recess until a late budget is approved.

It is clear New York’s budget process still needs improvement. While it may be difficult, it is not impossible to achieve bipartisan consensus on these issues. I hope Speaker Sheldon Silver and his Assembly majority colleagues acknowledge the need for reform and are willing to put the best interests of all New Yorkers first. I am ready to do whatever is needed to ensure that the state has a fair, balanced and on-time budget, one that makes strategic investments to revitalize our economy and provide opportunities for all New Yorkers.