State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C-Smithtown) saluted the members of a joint Senate-Assembly conference committee for agreeing on a plan to bring about meaningful budget reform. The agreement comes on the heels of New York’s 20th consecutive year without a state budget in place by the April 1 constitutional deadline.
"For the past 20 years, county and local governments have been at the mercy of the state’s dysfunctional budget process, and have lost confidence in the legislative process," said Assemblyman Fitzpatrick. "New Yorkers deserve a more efficient and effective government, and this budget reform agreement is the start of restoring the public’s confidence in it."
The key reform provisions, Assemblyman Fitzpatrick noted, are the requirement of a two-year appropriation for aid to education and the creation of an education reserve fund. The consistently late budget affects local school districts by holding up their budgetary process as they wait for word from Albany on the allocation of funds. The creation of a two-year projection and an education reserve fund puts in place a mechanism that would enable the state to better meet the fiscal demands of school districts throughout the state.
The plan, which was unanimously adopted by the 10-member joint conference committee, incorporates several aspects of a long-standing Assembly Minority Conference budget reform proposal, including requiring an earlier start to the process, opening up the process to more public scrutiny, and putting the prior year’s budget in place if no new budget has been passed by the deadline.
Additionally, Assemblyman Fitzpatrick noted, the creation of a contingency budget if a new budget is not adopted by May 1, the proposed new start of the state’s fiscal year. The budget for the past 20 years has been late an average of 47 days. The automatic imposition of the previous year’s budget would eliminate late budgets and force the Legislature to work more diligently to pass an early budget.
The joint Senate-Assembly conference committee budget reform plan calls for:
- moving the start of the fiscal year from April 1 to May 1;
- an early budget submission, which would require submission of the executive budget by Jan. 15, Feb. 1 for a newly elected governor;
- creating a contingency budget if the budget is not adopted by May 1. This requires the automatic imposition of the previous year’s budget for the ensuing fiscal year. If a revenue shortfall is forecast, and the Legislature does not act, appropriations in the contingency budget may be modified to ensure a balanced budget;
- providing 21 days for the governor to amend the executive budget, rather than the current 30;
- creating additional reserve funds, equal to 5 percent of all state funds, to cushion unexpected economic downturns, revenue shortfalls and natural disasters;
- requiring a two-year appropriation for aid to education in the executive budget, rather than the current one year;
- creating an education reserve fund in the state constitution to ensure sufficient funds exist to provide for the payment of education aid in May and June of each year;
- an enhanced fast-start plan whereby discussions between the governor and the Legislature on forecasts of tax revenues, of Medicaid disbursements, school aid disbursement and of public assistance caseloads would begin on Nov. 15. The Senate, Assembly and the governor would be required to provide forecasts of revenues, spending and assistance no later than Dec. 1 of each year.
- including spending related to the Health Care Reform Act as part of the state budget;
- creating a joint independent budget office to provide the Legislature with information related to appropriations, revenues and revenue estimates;
- providing a three-year financial plan with projections by the Legislature and the governor of the financial impact of any changes to the executive budget;
- additional financial plan reporting which would require additional detail and financial reporting in the governor’s budget related to the financial plan cash flow, personnel expenditures, disbursements of lump sums and technology purchases;
- agency budget requests made available to the public at the time of executive budget hearings; and,
- current services budget submitted with the executive budget.