This year’s state budget takes the reform movement a step back with missing the April 1 deadline and failing to produce a third consecutive on-time budget. This year we experienced one of the worst budget processes in recent memory – done in secrecy with much of the negotiations occurring behind closed doors at the last minute. The process failed to adhere to the budget reform measures adopted by both houses of the legislature and Governor Spitzer earlier this year. If those reform measures were followed, the process would have been open and accountable to the public and completed before the April 1 deadline. I have spoken out for change and support additional rules reforms put forth by my Assembly Minority Conference that would eliminate this type of maneuvering.
Thousands of pages of budget bills were printed and handed to legislators literally still hot off the press just hours before the deadline. This did not allow time for legislators and the public to properly evaluate and scrutinize the budget bills before a vote. As a member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee (the group responsible for reviewing such legislation), I was greatly dissatisfied by this occurrence, especially following Governor Spitzer’s continual promise he would change the way Albany operates on day one of his new administration.
This budget has no fiscal restraint as Governor Spitzer promised. Instead, it leaves us with a spending rate that is nearly three times the rate of inflation and a record $121 billion spending plan. Although this budget includes some tax cuts, the net results are an increase of nearly half a billion dollars in new taxes! I could not, in good conscience, strain employers and homeowners further, as they already shoulder some of the heaviest property tax burdens in the nation. We simply cannot afford taxes that compel businesses to leave and force citizens out of their homes.
The only aspect of this budget that I voted for was the education budget. This budget included significant state aid for schools, property tax rebates and $30 million in aid for our dairy industry.
I am extremely disappointed that the budget process broke down and produced a spending plan that is not sustainable. My hope is that Governor Spitzer will learn from the mistakes made this year. I assure you that I will continue to press for real and sustained budget reform that the public deserves.