In a weekly legislative column from this past summer, I wrote about the danger posed to our state’s fiscal health and long-term financial solvency by runaway budget deficits. I also explained how those unmet obligations amounted to “generational theft,” – the robbing from our children and grandchildren of the bright future they deserve by saddling them with a financial mess not of their making. Since that column was authored back on July 2, New York policymakers have been challenged as never before by a current-year budget deficit that swelled from $2.2 billion to $3.2 billion, as the state’s revenues continued their dramatic decline during the summer and throughout the fall.
Governor Paterson called the state Legislature back into special session on November 9 to specifically address the budget shortfall and find real solutions, not fiscal “one shots,” which are financial gimmicks that do little to fix the long-term, structural imbalances. Then, due to some regrettable political infighting between the Governor and the Majorities in the Assembly and Senate, rank-and-file legislators from both parties sat idle for the better part of four weeks as gridlock ruled and no Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP) received an up or down vote. In the interim, a great deal of time and, more importantly, taxpayer money was wasted.
ALBANY FINALLY ACTS -- BUT DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH
That gridlock was finally broken in the early morning hours this past Wednesday, when a series of bills constituting a DRP were finally enacted by the Assembly and the Senate. As much as I have been working hard to help close the budget deficit, this plan was incomplete and poorly put together. Over the last several months I submitted various proposals to the Governor that not only provided $3.2 billion in savings, but also had provisions to actually shrink the size of state government. The DRP bills that were presented for a vote fell $500 million short of what was needed to close the deficit. It also moved up close to $500 million of federal stimulus money for education to spend now that was supposed to be for next year’s budget. I voted against this plan because it was not a sound fix for the problem of overspending in Albany.
THE WAY FORWARD: RESTORING NEW YORK’S FISCAL HEALTH
With at least a $7 billion budget deficit already awaiting us for next year, more work still needs to be done to restore New York State’s fiscal health. We still need to provide real, substantive spending reductions that include state agency consolidations, a ban on unfunded mandates and lifting the crushing financial burden on local municipalities and school districts.
New York needs a property tax cap, a state spending cap, and further Medicaid reform to protect the taxpayers of our great state. I have led the fight on each of these issues and will continue working in a non-partisan fashion for their passage.
In this light, the actions completed Wednesday morning were a poor beginning. As such, I publicly called on Governor Paterson to draft and submit his 2010-2011 Executive Budget as quickly as possible so we can get a head start on addressing next year’s budget deficit and fiscal crisis. If this year’s frustrating, costly process has shown anything, it demonstrated that legislators cannot afford to lose a single day in tackling New York’s fiscal crisis, which is why I had called for Leaders’ meetings all the way back in July. Hopefully, this lesson will have been learned and the Legislature and Governor will take a pro-active, as opposed to a re-active, approach to solving New York’s fiscal crisis. Time will tell.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.