Change can sometimes be unsettling, and the uncertainty surrounding our state finances isn’t helping matters. New York is facing a $10 billion current year budget deficit and a four-year projected deficit of $55.4 billion. Immediate action needs to be taken to control spending or our state will never regain its financial footing, leading to worse debt and even more outrageous taxation.
Over the last several years, budget spending, which I have voted against, has grown to unsustainable levels putting us in our current financial trouble. In fact, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, had state spending been kept at the rate of inflation since 1999, New York would be spending $18.5 billion less today and there wouldn’t be a $10 billion deficit problem. Governor Cuomo’s budget plan has caused some consternation from interest groups; however, the so called ‘cuts’ are, in reality, just spending reductions meant to pare down the fast-rising spending rate, not cripple state services. Like most families who are cutting their spending, so should New York.
When faced with challenges, how one responds to the pressure speaks volumes about one’s character. I think New York government is ready to take on this challenge and emerge stronger, more efficient and improved. Creativity will help our state walk away from this budget crisis unscathed. So I pose this question: What can New York do to utilize each tax dollar as efficiently as possible?
We live in a digital age where information technology must be utilized to the full extent. Technology could be used to cut down bureaucratic paper waste by developing modern database systems for state and local governments. Keeping communication systems up-to-date can improve the speed of services and cut travel expenses by utilizing web/video conferencing and meeting technology. I know there are vast cost-saving possibilities with technology and it deserves further examination.
While budget spending is sparse, there are certain smart investment measures that, in this case, help local governments consolidate and modernize. Proposed programs would encourage local governments to improve efficiency through the awarding of grant money. Among the grants to be offered include $100,000 from the Local Government Citizen Re-Organization Empowerment Grant Program to study and implement a voter-driven government consolidation, a one-time $25 per resident grant through the Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program to award local governments for creating recurring savings, and a $25,000 Local Government Efficiency grant.
These programs, coupled with efforts in Albany agencies, can really help create savings across the board. I believe that New York is up to this challenge and, together, we can get past this difficult time better and stronger.
As always, if you have any questions or comments about our local economy or any other state issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me at either my Johnstown office at (518) 762-6486, or my Herkimer office at (315) 866-1632.