The Assembly Minority Conference
This years budget process was one unlike any of us have ever seen, with face-to-face interaction nearly impossible, late-night debates taking place in an empty chamber and negotiations being shaped by an overwhelming public health crisis. During these unprecedented and unpredictable times, everyone in government has done their best to adjust to significant challenges and provide the best-possible representation to their constituents. Unfortunately, the final budget enacted by the governor and legislative Majorities is a policy-laden plan that missed the mark on too many critical issues.
Residents and small businesses are facing a dramatic economic downturn likely to reshape how they operate going forward, and this budget should have been used to help guide us to the other side of this financial storm we all mutually face. Unfortunately, during a time when we needed a drastic, targeted and unique budget, we got a policy-laden amalgamation with more of the same disappointing measures that dont work even under the best circumstances.
What happened last week was unwise and inappropriate. Unsurprisingly, Gov. Cuomo used this years budget process and uncertain environment as an opportunity to consolidate his power. He virtually eliminated the voices of local governments and residents in the process of siting large-scale energy projects. He shoe-horned in provisions allowing him to unilaterally close state prisons with only 90 days notice. And with the help of the Majority Conferences, the governor acquired the authority to make additional budget cuts throughout the year with little involvement from the Legislature.
Priorities failed to reflect the urgency or the publics needs in the middle of the COVID-19 climate. Extending the Film Tax Credit which, over the life of the program will give billions of dollars in handouts to Hollywood elites at a time when businesses are closing, employees are losing their jobs and families are struggling to pay their mortgages, is nothing short of mind boggling. Equally questionable was the decision to use taxpayer money to build a public campaign financing system that could potentially spend $100 million annually on robocalls, mailers and advertisements.
Additionally, the half-hearted rollback of last years terrible bail reform laws fails to acknowledge the simple reality that law was rushed, developed with no tangible data and, ultimately, dangerous. What should have been priorities in this budget were afterthoughts, and what was included was haphazard and tone deaf to the gravity of our situation.
The Assembly Minority Conference offered a comprehensive proposal to help get our economy back on track. The Small Business Recovery Act of 2020 would have provided much-needed help to both employers and employees during these financially challenging times. For no good reason, this proposal was flatly rejected by the Assembly Majority. Instead, a job-killing ban on polystyrene containers, which are recyclable, was inserted into the bill as if businesses need another obstacle during one of the worst economic crises in a generation.
Fortunately, proposed cuts to veterans programs and services were restored. The Assembly Minority Conference went around the state on our Voices for Veterans tour to point out the insulting and unnecessary cuts to our American heroes. In addition, the enacted budget does include $65 million in Extreme Winter Recovery Funding, which is essential to upstate communities.
However, including these measures pales in comparison to the other aspects of this woefully misguided spending plan. The governor and legislative Majorities failed to properly position New York for our current crisis, for next year and for the future. I am hopeful in the coming weeks, the Legislature takes a long-hard look at the real, pressing problems facing families in New York and decides to actually do something about them.
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