The Legislature has passed a budget that was negotiated behind closed doors. In 2007, budget reform legislation was enacted requiring open meetings, transparency and public participation. None of these reforms was followed during this budget process. Even with the unexpected sudden change in the Executive Office, the lack of financial information until immediately prior to the vote is simply unacceptable.
There are some excellent parts of this budget. Providing adequate funding for nursing homes and home health care, increases in education for our public schools and colleges, saving Camp Gabriels and restoring funding for local governments are some examples of the benefits of the budget.
Unfortunately, this budget increases total spending by about 4.9%, or twice the rate of inflation. Even more disturbing, the debt for capital spending appears to increase in this budget to $7.9 billion, or a 19% increase over the $6.6 billion in last year’s budget. Debt service is projected to rise from $4.2 billion to $4.6 billion, or a 7.8% increase.
In spite of the beneficial parts of the budget, I could not, in good conscience, support this latest budget package. It is a budget with out-of-control spending, too much debt and anticipated revenue shortages. It is likely the Legislature will need to reconvene in mid-year to address the lack of revenue.
The 2008-09 budget has been called by many “The Big Ugly”, and I believe the residents of the North Country simply cannot afford it.