Happy New Year! I will start this week’s column with a recap of the last half of 2010, and conclude with a few of my New Year’s resolutions for Albany. Last week’s column provided “Part 1” of my annual year in review. “Part 2” is below.
JUNE: THE MONTH OF COSTLY BROKEN PROMISES
June of 2010 began with the Empire State still facing a $9.2 billion budget deficit, and over 800,000 New Yorkers out of work. Instead of buckling down and working nonstop to craft a sensibly-balanced budget, the Majority leaders in both houses took our schedule into “overtime,” incurring additional costs every day we met in “extended” session after June 21st.
I spoke out, both directly to my colleagues and to all New Yorkers through the media, about the urgent need to enact a fiscally responsible State Budget. Week after week, I urged Governor Paterson to bring the Majorities to the table, follow the law, and convene Joint Conference Committees to ensure budget negotiations were 100 percent open and transparent. I also led the fight in demanding productive Leaders’ meetings. Leaders’ meetings in June seemed like more of a photo-op than a serious-minded attempt to break the late budget stalemate. At one meeting, Governor Paterson actually pronounced a “deadline” of June 28 for the Majorities to get the State Budget done! This ultimatum might have carried more weight if it was delivered 11 weeks prior, when the budget was actually due.
Also in June, I was honored to be awarded the “Hero of Reform” Seal of Approval from “NY Uprising,” a non-partisan, independent good government coalition founded by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
JULY: A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY FOR NEW YORK TAXPAYERS
To finally pass the state budget, Governor Paterson called an extraordinary session of the State Legislature on Friday, July 23rd. When all the expenses are fully accounted for, the price tag to bring all 212 legislators back to Albany for an extraordinary session can cost $100,000 or more – an outrageous waste of taxpayer money. In what other profession do the workers get to miss deadlines by MONTHS at a time – and charge their employer when they are finally dragged back to work by force of law? Only in Albany folks, only in Albany.
The budget itself was definitely not worth the wait. Despite promises to reduce the size and cost of state government, the budget delivered a tax bill that proves that New York’s government is still too big, too costly and spends too much of the taxpayer’s money. In fact, after all the talk of drastic “cuts” the 2010-11 State Budget spent more than the previous year’s spending plan!
AUGUST: ALBANY’S UNFINISHED BUSINESS IS DRIVING HOMEOWNERS OUT OF NEW YORK STATE
In August, I called for a comprehensive approach to delivering real property tax relief for overtaxed homeowners, especially upstate. In order for a property tax cap to truly be effective, I called for reducing government spending and banning Albany’s unfunded mandates – that’s where state government tells local governments to do something but refuses to pay for it. Unless Albany gets serious about cutting spending and stopping all of the costly mandates it imposes on localities, a property tax cap won’t truly be effective.
SEPTEMBER: LISTENING TO THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE
Throughout September and beyond, I continued my non-partisan, grassroots push for a “People’s Convention to Reform New York.” All told, I have held 17 Town Hall meetings all across New York this year, and have been overwhelmed at the response. In every part of our state, citizens have gathered together to express their support for holding a “People’s Convention.” Delegates will have the power to approve fiscal and governmental reforms that would help our local business owners create quality jobs. In response to these town hall meetings, more than 2,400 New Yorkers have signed our on-line petition at ReformNY.org
OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER: THE TAXPAYERS SPEAK – AT THE BALLOT BOX
In October, all across New York, you could feel the excitement building for real change. Fed up and frustrated voters wanted to be represented by men and women who would stand up, speak out and lead the fight for smaller, more efficient and fiscally responsible government. On November 2, New Yorkers sent Albany a loud wake-up call by electing 17 new Minority Conference Members to the Assembly. I am proud to welcome 17 strong new voices for reform and good government to Albany. These fine public servants will carry on our Conference’s proud tradition of standing up for New York’s taxpayers in the “People’s House.”
2011: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Without question, there is much on Albany’s “New Year’s Resolution” list. With our state facing some of its toughest challenges in a generation, we must work together in a non-partisan fashion to find real solutions that will restore fiscal accountability, deliver real tax relief, reduce the size, cost and reach of government, grow New York’s private sector and extend opportunity and prosperity to all our citizens. Our Assembly Minority Conference and I are ready, willing and able to work with in-coming Governor Andrew Cuomo and all partners in state government who are prepared to deliver the change we need for the government taxpayers deserve.
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. You also can follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.