State Must Tackle Fiscal Challenges; Not Avoid Them
Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
February 13, 2009
Faced with a budget deficit of $1.6 billion, Governor David Paterson recently pushed a plan through the state Legislature aimed at closing that budget gap. Unfortunately, this so-called “Deficit Reduction Plan” (DRP) does little to solve our fiscal problems since only 23 percent of the cuts made are actual spending reductions, and it called upon already overwhelmed families and businesses to keep the state on life support through April 1 when next year’s fiscal budget is due. The DRP, crafted in secret by three New York City lawmakers, is riddled with the same old budget gimmicks, one-shot revenues and raids on dedicated funds that got us into this mess in the first place. This reduction plan did not cut any state agencies, did not eliminate any state commissions, did not create any consolidations nor did it reduce any of the state personnel payroll. To weather this fiscal storm, government must rein in spending and learn to do more with less now; not continue to avoid our fiscal challenges in hopes of finding money in the future. This legislation sweeps $68 million from SUNY students, $275 million from the Environmental Protection Fund, while levying a $120 million health care assessment on families already struggling to pay their insurance premiums. The actions against health care are among the most grievous since they will undoubtedly result in a pass-through cost to consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet. This is counterproductive to our efforts to make health care more affordable and accessible to citizens across this state while potentially harming patient care. My colleagues on the other side of the political aisle, along with the current governor, seem to prefer to ask more from families and businesses in an effort to recover from the recession. I do not think that is the answer. Rather, I think we need to ask more from government! With the DRP in mind, our next test will be to craft a state budget that will put us on the road to economic recovery. Recent forecasts for the new budget show that our state will face a $14 billion deficit along with mounting debt and shrinking revenues. To overcome these problems, government must be more fiscally responsible and accountable for taxpayer dollars. Cost-saving measures must be implemented immediately including consolidation of state agencies, elimination of wasteful programs and putting a stop to Medicaid fraud and abuse, which alone can save the state more than $4 billion annually. Now is the time to reduce government spending and stop all new taxes and fees. Tough times certainly call for tough decisions. As your representative in the state Assembly, I was elected to make those decisions. During this year’s budget negotiations, I will continue to do everything in my power to improve our quality of life and make this state affordable again. As always, your input is greatly appreciated and I ask that you contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.