Budget Not Perfect But Offers Investments In State

Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
April 11, 2008

A week late and far from perfect; this is how many sum up this year’s state budget. However, in light of a national recession and a state economy – especially upstate – that is underperforming, this budget, I believe, is a spending plan that will need revising at some point in the future.

I voted for certain aspects of the budget because it makes investments in education and health care that will hold down property tax increases. I voted against the almost $900 million in new taxes and fees because I feel we could have saved that amount by curtailing spending in the overall budget.

Even though this budget is $500 million less than the Governor’s budget, it restores funding to municipalities, boosts local Empire Zones, strengthens the Environmental Protection Fund, extends the “Power for Jobs” program, adds CHIPs funding, enhances the Workforce Retention Fund for nursing homes, makes targeted investments in agricultural assistance programs, prevents SUNY tuition hikes and provides a discount drug card for certain EPIC eligible citizens. However, we must be vigilant and monitor the economy; in the event that revenues decline, I am fearful that we will be caught in a fiscal quandary, with not enough monies to finance these programs.

This year, our state faced a nearly $5 billion deficit and is approximately $54 billion in debt. There is an evident need for state government to get real about reining in state spending. However, it appears that if revenues are not available to pay for this $121.67 billion budget, the state Legislature will need to revisit the state spending plan for 2008-09. When it does, we will need to make those tough choices that weren’t made during the budget process.

Unfortunately, during this year’s budget process, the state Legislature and Governor Paterson reverted to a “business as usual” mentality of budget negotiations done behind closed doors with limited input from rank-and-file lawmakers or the public.

This clearly is unacceptable regardless of the difficulties we face as a result of the Spitzer scandal. We can do better, and we must do better as we move forward this year. Should you like to discuss this or any other state-related issue, please contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.