“DRP” Still “MIA” In Albany
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
November 20, 2009
This past week, our state capitol saw many of the same frustrating stops and starts surrounding consideration of a non-partisan Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP) that had occurred the prior week and was the subject of my previous legislative column. Despite a few successes on topics other than passage of a DRP, the Special Session continues to disappoint, despite the fact New York faces a multi-billion dollar budget gap that, if left unresolved, threatens the state’s ability to meet its basic financial obligations. At the time this column is being authored, the DRP is still “MIA” in Albany, which is why, earlier in the week, my Conference and I held a press conference to try to break Albany’s DRP logjam and partisan gridlock. OUR REAL SOLUTIONS: FROM MARCH 31 UNTIL NOW At our press conference, I offered a recent history of the budget deficit, going all the way back to March 31, when our entire Conference voted against the 2009-10 State Budget, which we had no input in crafting. I reminded members of the media we had said back then that the budget’s unsustainable hike in government spending and $8.2 billion in job-killing taxes and fees virtually guaranteed serious financial problems – in the form of a skyrocketing budget deficit, a continued loss of private sector jobs and declining state revenues. Regrettably, that bad budget passed and became law – and our predictions came true. Now, look at the fiscal mess New York finds itself in: the Governor said our budget deficit has ballooned to $3.2 billion and warned that the state could run out of money before the New Year. I then outlined how, from July onward, I publicly and repeatedly asked the Governor and my fellow Legislative Leaders to join me in a public setting so we could outline our respective ideas for bringing New York’s budget back into balance. While it was disappointing to not hear back from the Governor about my requests, it was truly frustrating to see month after month being wasted as nothing got done and the deficit became even more of a crisis. Even if we acted back in July, as I had called for, tackling the budget would have been a decidedly Herculean task, but at least we could have had a running start – and we probably would see a comprehensive DRP already in place for tackling the deficit. On Tuesday, I again specified the non-partisan real solutions our Conference offered to the Governor back on October 13 that would have achieved over $3 billion in budgetary savings by requiring state government to tighten its belt first, before targeting critical public priorities like education and health care. I outlined specific solutions, with real dollar savings, and presented enough detailed policy charts to make even Ross Perot jealous. We believe that the current year budget can, and should, be brought into balance through common sense actions such as consolidating state agencies with overlapping functions, cutting Member “pork,” and reducing appointed political patronage positions in state agencies, as opposed to closing nursing homes or laying off teachers. Our Conference and I assembled outside the Assembly Chamber Thursday afternoon and publicly called on the Majorities in both the Assembly and Senate to end weeks of unnecessary delay and partisan gridlock by finally bringing a DRP to the floor for an up or down vote. I believe our efforts to continue calling attention to the need for Albany to break the DRP logjam is helping keep pressure on both Majorities and will ultimately spur passage of a non-partisan, comprehensive deficit reduction package. A DRP FOR NEW YORK STATE CAN’T WAIT It is worth remembering that Governor Paterson originally proposed his DRP back on October 15 and then called the Legislature back into a Special Session on November 9 to consider his plan and other solutions to close New York’s widening budget gap. Regrettably, neither the Assembly nor the Senate Majorities have taken up the Governor’s proposals. The Majorities could, if they wanted, bring the Governor’s DRP to the floor and hold a vote, which is what should have occurred last week. Otherwise, what was the point in legislators returning to Albany? This reticence on the part of both Majorities has led to some of the original urgency for getting a DRP in place as quickly as possible being lost; and, as a result of their inaction, the Governor’s original message of warning has gotten muddled. However, one thing is perfectly clear: all across New York, taxpayers are angry – and rightly so – that the Legislature has, so far, failed to enact a DRP. The people expect us to be working on their behalf and I can think of nothing more critical than advancing non-partisan solutions to resolve New York’s budget deficit. Our Conference and I are ready, willing and able to work and get the job done on closing the state’s budget shortfall. Hopefully, the impasse will soon come to an end and I will have good news to report on the deficit reduction front for next week’s legislative column. Stay tuned! As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.