Countless public opinion polls have measured taxpayer dissatisfaction with state government at an all-time high. Several weeks ago, I discussed how one poll found that a majority of taxpayers were embarrassed to call themselves New Yorkers in the wake of Albany’s endless parade of record budget deficits, ethical scandals and hyper-partisanship.
ASSEMBLY MINORITY: LEADING THE WAY ON REFORM
All of this has contributed to a feeling among taxpayers that state government is no longer working for them. My travels statewide have confirmed the fact that people believe New York is on the wrong track and the time for reform – fiscal, governmental, budgetary and ethical – is now. On each of these fronts, our Assembly Minority Conference and I have been leading the charge to clean up the scandals, corruption and financial mismanagement that have come to define Albany. Simply stated, our Conference and I have been for reform long before it was cool.
SPEAKING OUT FOR REFORM AT “ALBANY ON-THE-RECORD”
This is why I gladly accepted an invitation to address “Albany On-The-Record,” a first of its kind public forum on reforming state government sponsored by New York’s leading good-government groups. The coalition of sponsors included the New York Public Interest Research Group, the New York State League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Union, Reinvent New York and over a dozen other organizations.
Among the select group invited to speak were myself, Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver, Leader Skelos, Leader Sampson, Comptroller DiNapoli and Attorney General Cuomo. As the leaders of state government, each of us was supposed to go “on-the-record” and publicly discuss the solutions we had proposed to fix Albany and give taxpayers the honest, ethical and responsive government they deserve. There was no way I would turn down such a tremendous opportunity to continue making the case for non-partisan reform! The forum, held on Wednesday, May 5, was webstreamed live so all New Yorkers could see for themselves what their leaders had done to address the serious challenges facing state government.
MAKING A STRONG CASE FOR REFORM
The venue itself was jam-packed with citizens, many of whom had traveled from far and wide to attend and speak out in favor of reform. Jay Gallagher, one of the most respected reporters covering state government, served as moderator and asked questions of myself and the other participants. During our conversation, Jay’s first question was what could leaders in state government do to restore the faith and confidence of taxpayers? In the course of my answer to that question and others, I again made a strong case for the reforms necessary to get New York State’s economy and government back on track. Some of those reforms include:
- Convene a non-partisan, grassroots “People’s Convention To Reform New York” to empower citizens to take back their state government (Assembly Bill A.9157);
- Establish an independent Legislative Redistricting Commission (Assembly Bill A.6721);
- Enact initiative, referendum and recall (Assembly Bill A.6815);
- Create an independent ethics watchdog commission (Assembly Bill A.8930);
- Abolish salary and pension benefits for any elected public official convicted of a felony related to employment (Assembly Bill A.1057);
- Enact four consecutive two-year term limits for Legislative Leaders (A.5631);
- Cap state government spending to the average rate of inflation of the three previous calendar years (Assembly Bill A.9061);
- Ban “backdoor borrowing” (Assembly Bill A.4133);
- Require any ballot proposition that authorizes state debt to include information on both the principal and interest incurred by taxpayers (Assembly Bill A.8450);
- Require the General Budget Conference Committee to convene by March 15 and hold public meetings, prohibit consideration of non-budget bills after April 1 until the State Budget is adopted, and provide a Plain Language Summary of the budget 48 hours prior to a vote (Assembly Bill A.5743);
- Prohibit recess until a State Budget is adopted (Assembly Bill A.5742); and
- Require that the previous year’s budget be put in place no later than 72 hours after the start of a new fiscal year to ensure an “on-time budget” (Assembly Bill A.5729).
I was proud to take part in Albany On-The-Record and outline our Conference’s strong support – and proven track record – of advocating for reform to fix New York’s broken state government. Albany On-The-Record could be the start of something special. However, it must not be the last word on reform. We need more of these public forums that will empower taxpayers to join the fight to take back their state government and push policymakers to make real reform happen.
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. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.