After the all-night session fiasco in early March that forced through critical legislation while New Yorkers were sound asleep, I led the charge to bring the legislative process out of the shadows and into the light. As a result, the 2012-13 State Budget was enacted in the light of day, following constitutional requirements providing transparency and openness. This was a major victory for taxpayers who need time to review the government’s plans for their wallets.
During my two years in the state Assembly, government has focused on reducing taxes and spending less to create jobs and turn our economy around. This year’s budget stayed on track with that commitment, making economic development the cornerstone of the spending plan.
The NY Works program invests in job-creating infrastructure projects that will repair our crumbling roads and bridges, committing more than $236 million to improving 272 miles of road and 17 bridges in the Capital Region. These are common sense projects that will not only improve the safety and efficiency of travel in our community but create jobs at a time when New Yorkers are ready and waiting to get back to work.
Another boost for New York’s economy in this year’s budget is the funding for a second round of regional economic development awards. In 2011, this competitive grant process netted the Capital Region nearly $63 million to support projects like building rental units for physically-disabled senior citizens in Valatie, and constructing a modernized wharf on the Rensselaer side of the Hudson River. These are the kinds of win-win situations that will benefit our community while strengthening our economy both now and into the future.
However, this budget isn’t all sunshine and roses. Unfortunately, many components of this spending plan miss the forest for the trees. For example, increasing education aid by $805 million was a huge boost for our cash-strapped upstate schools, but there was zero mandate relief to help lower costs, and no adjustment to the ineffective formula used to decide how much each school receives in funding. Reducing spending was a positive step, but we’ve still yet to cap spending to permanently protect taxpayers from tax-and-spend politicians. Increasing the state’s share of Medicaid growth costs will ease the burden on local taxpayers, but the plan lacks any meaningful reform for the bloated program devouring more than a third of our tax dollars every year. These will continue to be my priorities throughout the rest of this year’s legislative session.
As a legislator committed to using bi-partisan cooperation and compromise to deliver results for our community, I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle could come to an agreement in an open, transparent fashion. Furthermore, much of this budget contains positive measures that will create jobs in the Capital Region and reduce the cost of government. The spending plan is far from perfect, but certainly a step in the right direction.