The 2011-12 state budget made a number of positive strides toward the significant reforms New Yorkers have demanded and rightfully deserved. Unfortunately, this spending plan falls short in several key areas, representing a missed opportunity for the Legislature to heed the call of the state’s taxpayers.
Continuing an unacceptable trend, the formula used to determine education aid once again unfairly impacts Western New York’s schoolchildren. Time after time, we see our students shoulder an unfair portion of funding cuts in an effort to support downstate school districts. This budget repeats those mistakes of old that have plagued our children for far too long. Furthermore, this legislation shifts costs for essential services like special education to individual school districts, driving up the cost of local government and, in turn, the cost to the taxpayer.
In addition, this spending plan reduces funding for the judiciary branch but fails to do the same for the Legislature. I believe the Assembly could find efficiencies and cost savings within numerous administrative operations involved with the chamber. State government should not be asking children, families and businesses to tighten their belts if we are not prepared to do so as well.
However, this budget did make a variety of much-needed improvements to the state of affairs in New York. Vital restorations have been made to protect the services that benefit our most vulnerable citizens, such as funding for elderly abuse prevention programs and EPIC prescription drug payments. The appointment of regional Economic Development councils will renew New York’s focus on stimulating our economy with targeted planning, rather than an ill-advised, one-size-fits-all policy. Along with significant reforms to the Medicaid system that will result in savings both now and in the long term, this budget certainly has its share of positive aspects.
When all is said and done, this budget has taken baby steps in the right direction, rather than a substantial leap forward. I hope that the Legislature can build on the progress we have made here today and continue this momentum toward putting New York on the road to recovery.