Governor Needs To Put His Fiscal Priorities In Order
Legislative column from Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
February 20, 2009
In a time of an unprecedented fiscal crisis – with lawmakers attempting to rein in excessive state spending and cut government waste – the governor’s move to substantially increase the pay of his staff, while simultaneously proposing 137 new taxes and fees that will hit middle-class families and businesses the hardest, is very baffling. Included in these fees is a tuition hike for State University of New York (SUNY) students, which is contrary to the governor’s rhetoric. The availability of higher education is vital to the future of our local communities, our state and the nation. We must not allow it to be sacrificed. That’s why I opposed the temporary budget fix that unfairly depleted the SUNY system. Nearly all of the revenue generated by SUNY’s mid-year tuition hike was lost because it was “swept” to cover state leaders’ past irresponsible fiscal policies. Our state higher education policy should not be to increase the cost of attending our superb institutions while simultaneously depleting the resources we devote to those same colleges and universities. To add insult to injury, the governor’s 2009-10 budget wants to raise tuition again, this time an additional $620 for all SUNY students. This tuition increase for enrolled students will not benefit them or the SUNY system. Of the additional $151 million it is projected to collect, SUNY will retain only 20 percent or $31 million, and the balance will go in the state’s general fund. Other troublesome actions proposed by the governor include cutting aid to state operated colleges by almost $100 million and eliminating or reducing nearly $23 million in funding for SUNY programs, such as Albany Nanoscale Science and High Needs Nursing. These cuts are counterproductive and fail to realize that education is an investment in our future. Employment and college preparation, along with tuition affordability, must be priorities in our state. We must ensure that by the time students graduate, they have acquired valuable job and life skills. Additionally, attending college must be a viable option for all students with the desire. College must remain affordable for the hard-working families in Upstate New York, especially during these tough economic times. The governor should focus on consolidating state agencies, implementing a statewide hiring freeze, and reducing the waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid; these are just some of the priorities that I feel we should be working on to reduce the deficit. The governor’s hypocritical decision to grant raises for his own staff undermines the budget negotiations he is supposed to spearhead. In our current recessionary climate, with tightened budgets and jobs lost across the Empire State, we must challenge the governor’s decision to give handouts to his own staff. Rest assured, I will tell our governor that this is the wrong time to give pay raises and that his actions contradict the message he advocates. 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.