Oaks Highlights Budget Priorities

A Column from Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R,C-Macedon)
March 22, 2018

As we continue negotiating the state budget with the April 1 deadline approaching, it is imperative we take a step back to consider the big picture impacts this budget will have on New Yorkers and the future of our state.

New York State is at a crossroads, we can either continue on the course we’re on and face the outmigration of residents who can no longer bear the burden of high property taxes and overregulation, or we can start on a path of responsible spending, tax relief and debt reduction.

Coming to an agreement on a final budget is a monumental task. There are significantly different priorities between the governor and the conferences within the Assembly and Senate. Reaching consensus on how much to spend, tax and borrow is an extremely complicated endeavor.

The budget process is made even more difficult by the amount of policy that is included in budget bills. Last year’s budget was over a week late due to negotiations regarding such issues as minimum wage, raising the age of criminal responsibility and paid family leave. We are facing the same situation again this year.

Along with financial considerations, we are deliberating topics the governor has deemed as his priorities, such as a measure to provide free college tuition to the children of illegal immigrants known as the Dream Act, provisions to reduce and eliminate bail, access to abortion, and legalizing marijuana. These topics should stand on their own merit and be considered separately from the budget.

I have introduced legislation, A9550, to reform this process by requiring any item contained in a budget bill to also include a specific spending allocation.

Good policy is worth being considered as an individual bill, following the legislative process and considered, debated and voted on by both houses of the duly-elected representatives in the State Legislature. Unfortunately, policy proposals that would not have the clear support of both legislative houses are often used as bargaining tools during the budget negotiations, and end up becoming law because they were part of the larger budget bill.

Enactment of my legislation would shift the focus back where it belongs, spending responsibly without raising taxes, and putting forth a budget New York can afford. I will continue urging my colleagues to focus this budget on economic priorities—fiscally restrained spending that meets the critical needs of our state without increasing the tax burden on our citizens.