During this difficult economic time, New Yorkers need decisive leadership in Albany now more than ever. As we begin to negotiate the 2009-10 State Budget, I am calling on my colleagues in both houses to commit to reducing excessive spending and unfunded mandates without compromising property tax relief or adding a series of new and cumbersome taxes.
There are many ways in which Albany can accomplish this. In his Executive Budget proposal, the Governor has addressed cutting some of the most costly Medicaid programs, which is the largest reason why property taxes in our state have escalated. There is more that can be done, however, to tackle the estimated $6 billion in annual Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse.
The Governor has also proposed consolidating some state agencies and departments. This is another positive, albeit, first step. There are more areas in which our state government can shrink without compromising services. Additionally, state agencies could partner together with federal and local governments to collectively serve residents with less overhead.
Another way in which the state can lower its expenditures is by finally taking action and helping to promote energy conservation at a local and individual level. From simply turning out the lights and lowering the thermostat in government-owned properties, to investing in green alternatives for the future, there is much that can be done to prepare our state for a healthier, greener future while at the same time making our state more affordable.
Fortunately, the Governor has jumpstarted this year’s budget process and the Legislature has followed suit by holding budget hearings this month. During these negotiations, it is imperative that legislators do not use a hatchet approach when making cuts or adding new taxes and keep in mind the long term stability for our state.
Now is our opportunity to remember that we are residents of the Empire State and it is our responsibility, and we have the ability, to restore that moniker.