As the Legislature again missed the April 1 deadline for an on-time state budget, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D Ossining) stood in the Assembly Chamber to renew her call for reform.
Galef said, "I'm standing to explain my protest vote against the emergency budget extender. When I think back twenty years … Twenty years ago I was a county legislator, passing a county budget on time. We had a contingency budget, in case we couldn't come to agreement. But we never had to use the contingency, because we did our job. We passed a balanced budget, on time.
"When I got to Albany, I saw for myself how terrible the state process is compared to what I was used to. It was then that I knew I had to work to fix it," she said. Galef has had an on-time budget bill since 1993 – A.6500 for the 2003-2004 session.
Galef continued, "It's embarrassing to have a twenty year anniversary like this. But I feel very positive about what's going on this year. We have a joint conference committee that has been meeting and working on reform issues throughout the month of March, and they have made real progress."
The joint conference committee on budget reform is co-chaired by Assemblyman Herman "Denny" Farrell and Senator Owen Johnson. Galef praised the work of the committee. She said, "We have a joint commitment to significant increasing the transparency of the budget process. We are going to have more frequent and more extensive reporting to the legislature and to the public. We are going to have a current services budget presented with the proposed executive budget. We'll have a much better revenue forecasting process and hopefully we'll have an independent budget office as part of that.
"One of the sticking points for the joint conference committee is the concept of a default budget. They also need to figure out how to provide for advance budgeting for schools as recommended by the Zarb Commission," said Galef. "I am delighted to see my Assembly and Senate colleagues paying such close attention to the impact of our process on school budget planning. There is a very pragmatic focus on the various deadlines.
"We have to hope that this conference committee process will be productive," said Galef. "We have ten very responsible elected officials that are willing and able to hammer these issues out. We should extend the deadline for their deliberations - to the end of session if necessary - until we have real budget reform."