You may not realize it but New York is only weeks away from its budget deadline. Has anyone heard how the budget negotiations are going? If the answer is no, then you have touched upon a literally growing problem facing all New Yorkers. Our state is facing an economic crisis of epic proportions and no one is talking about it or working on solutions. This session, both houses of the legislature have been passing bills that do nothing to improve the financial climate or address the 800-pound budgetary gorilla in the room.
With each passing day, we are that much closer to the April 1 deadline for passing a state budget. Unfortunately, with each passing day, the amount anticipated for the 2010-11 state deficit – now at $9 billion – grows larger. With these indisputable realities, it appears that Albany suffers from a serious lack of urgency and focus. Preliminary budget negotiations should have commenced weeks, if not months, ago.
The governor fulfilled his constitutional duty and delivered a budget to the legislature. Normally, that would require a response from the Senate and the Assembly to begin negotiating. This year, as we face one of the worst budgetary climates in our history, we hear that the governor, assembly speaker and senate majority leader are not on speaking terms. If you are keeping score at home, this is not a good sign.
Just as in years past, the ‘three men in a room’ have sadly chosen not to open up the budgetary process to rank-and-file legislators. How can we expect them to give us a transparent, responsible and on-time budget when they can’t even get the process started in earnest? The last thing New Yorkers need is a replay of 2009 when the Governor and leaders emerged 24 hours before the April 1 deadline – without any notice or real public discussion – to hand taxpayers a budget that increased spending by $11 billion and taxes by $8 billion.
To avoid that old familiar feeling, rank-and-file members should join me in demanding that the leaders immediately appoint conferees and call budget conference committees. Rank-and-file members should be allowed to fulfill the most important duty their constituents have sent them to Albany to complete. History has shown the budget process of three men in a room to be a colossal failure. It is time to get away from the failed policies of business as usual and let members work together to develop and pass a fiscally-sound, balanced budget by the April 1 deadline. It is time to start talking as I do not believe, that no matter how long we ignore it, this particular gorilla will ever go away on its own.