With two weeks of scheduled State Budget negotiations remaining until the April 1 deadline, I am cautiously optimistic with the pace of deliberations. This is thanks, in part, to the reforms passed earlier this session that aim to keep things on track to realize the goal of another on time budget. As part of the Assembly Minority leadership, I was named earlier this week to serve on the 2007-08 State Budget joint conference committee on Economic Development.
The joint conference committees, eleven in total, are an important part of the budget process. They bring transparency to the process and give equal footing for representatives from majority and minority parties of both legislative houses. The committees operate in open, public forums to resolve budget differences between the state Senate and Assembly and can be viewed (when in session) from any internet capable computer by visiting the Assembly’s live web cast at http://assembly.state.ny.us/av.
While the actual process has improved a great deal, I feel much more is needed to make our state budget better. I am convinced that we spend too much, borrow too much, tax too much and reform too little. In my capacity as a member of the Economic Development Joint Conference Committee, I am working with my colleagues to ensure business growth incentives, in the form of tax cuts, are included so that we can give employers job-creating opportunities.
I believe this year’s budget has a number of meaningful reforms that will help cut the cost of state government; however, it does not do enough to help homeowners burdened by high property taxes or ensure economic development continues in upstate New York. My Conference and I have also proposed several budget amendments that would have put an end to the status quo actions of the Assembly majority that increase taxes and bloat an already too large budget.
Our proposals would include tripling the STAR benefits and giving that savings directly to homeowners, as well as allow local voters to petition for a cap on local property tax increases, which in some areas of the state have reached runaway levels. Other measures are just as common-sense, such as eliminating funding for the Capital Defenders Office which serves no purpose at the moment, in part because New York state law currently does not permit the death penalty to be sought. Other measures aim to make our state economically competitive for manufacturers and reduce taxes for small businesses, saving millions for New York’s most important employers.
This session we have seen a number of reforms and landmark legislation accomplished, but there is a great deal more that needs to be discussed and debated. I assure you that my Assembly minority conference and I will participate in the budget deliberations with an agenda of reducing taxes, cutting spending and passing savings directly back to taxpayers.