State Budget Reform

January 26, 2007

At the forefront of reform, my conference and I have called for greater levels of accountability in the budgeting process for many years. This week we voted for a budget reform bill (A.2755) that is designed to make the budget process more timely, transparent and accountable. I am pleased we were able to pass this reform; however, I felt it did not go far enough.

I am particularly satisfied the reforms passed include our call to prohibit the use of lump sum appropriations and instead provide full disclosure of “member items.” Other measures passed create accountability by establishing a set timetable for conference committees (used to work out bill language differences between the two houses) and use binding revenue estimates from the State Comptroller if a revenue consensus cannot be achieved between the Legislature and governor.

The bill was proposed by Governor Spitzer and negotiated quietly with the Senate Leader and Assembly Speaker. Transparency and accountability involves more than the status-quo “three men in a room.” Until legislative negotiations involve leadership from the minority conferences of each house, we have a continuation of a process that Spitzer promised to end.

As Floor Leader for the Assembly minority conference, I championed an amendment to this reform package that was meant to bring additional transparency to the process. The amendment would mandate that respective Minority counterparts be fully active participants in the process to the same such extent as Majority Conference Leaders are in the budget process and all negotiations.

The “three men in a room” is the sort of monotony that cannot be allowed to continue. Real reform starts when you end practices long found to be the root of the problem. In conjunction with my minority colleagues in the Assembly, I am calling on the governor to end business as usual and pass meaningful reform that will once and for all eliminate the secret “three men in a room” negotiations regarding all items pertaining to state government.