State lawmakers returned to Albany this week, at the call of Governor David Paterson, in hopes of addressing a mounting fiscal crisis that has placed New York in the red by an estimated $10 billion. It is clear that mid-year budget cuts are necessary, but we must inject more creativity and imagination as we look to rein in excessive and wasteful state spending.
The Governor has recently proposed reducing state spending across the board to the tune of $2 billion to close this year’s budget gap. If he has his way, schools, hospitals and local governments will receive millions less in promised state aid. While I understand that these tough economic times call for tough decisions, for the sake of the nearly 19 million state residents we represent, we must not slash funding just for the sake of slashing funding. Every suggestion to save taxpayer money must be considered and that’s why I am suggesting a list of proposals to the Governor.
My recommendations include the collection of sales tax from tribal business enterprises which could generate as much as $2 billion in additional state revenue annually. A state employee hiring freeze and an early retirement incentive to reduce the overall state public employee payroll. Consolidation of similar state agencies could save millions of taxpayer dollars, for example the consolidation of the Thruway Authority and the Department of Transportation could save $100 million. The elimination of certain state agencies, including the vacant Lieutenant Governor’s office, will save us another $15.9 million. Eliminating, or at least suspending, all member-item pork barrel projects could save New York taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. I would also propose allocating between $250-$500 million of the state’s “rainy day” fund because it’s pouring and we need this money now.
More remains to be done, including putting an end to Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse that will put nearly $4.5 billion back into the state’s coffers. We can look for other cost-saving measures by creating a task force to investigate and report on state commissions that have completed their tasks, or are no longer relevant, yet continue to receive funding. By reining in spending, we can avoid raising taxes or cutting back on essential services, like health care and education, that hit middle-class families the hardest.
With these recommendations in mind, we must move now to pass legislation to tackle our fiscal woes. Inaction and dysfunction, as witnessed this week, are unacceptable. The longer we wait to address our deficit the larger it grows. The Governor and legislative leaders from every conference must come to a consensus so that we can put New York back on track to a prosperous economy.
As always, constituents with questions regarding this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.