ABC: Albany’s Budget Circus

A legislative column on passage of the state budget by Assemblyman David DiPietro (R,C,I-East Aurora)
May 2, 2018

The passage of this year’s state budget once again mirrors the usual procedure in Albany, cloaked in secrecy with rumors and hearsay dominating the majority of the discussion. However, while there was no talk of true ethics reform in the budget, we had some victories.

I was greatly disappointed to see that all the hot air about ethics reform once again proved to be just dead wind. One would think that with the outcome of the Percoco trial, we would have seen real push toward inclusion of ethics reform in the budget, but that seems to be a wasted effort in Cuomo’s regime.

A sad reality of the budget was the lack of true attention to the opioid epidemic. $100 million is slated to combat heroin and the opioid epidemic, while another New York state tax on businesses in the form of a stewardship surcharge should increase this funding by another $100 million. There’s a loophole allowing this fund to be pillaged back into the General Fund.

This is shocking and means we only have an increase of $17 million total funding toward fighting this terrible tragedy from last year. This is an even smaller Band-Aid than our previous budget. People are dying and this is the response? To open a loophole where some bureaucrat’s decision can unilaterally gut the fight against the opioid crisis to fund some other program in the budget? This is an insult to all the families who struggle against this terrible tragedy.

Too many young lives are being lost to this horrible epidemic, but still the funding to combat it is being played with and used as a political game.

We need to both support the victims who are afflicted by this tragedy and punish those who facilitate the epidemic, and we need to do it seriously, not wave a magic wand and funnel money from the program to a place where it’s not helping people with nowhere else to turn.

On a positive note, the budget’s focus also included needed support for critical infrastructure services that have been woefully neglected in past years. From CHIPS funding to maintain our roads, expanded library funding to ensure all have access to our wealth of knowledge and the internet, to the expansion of BOCES funding, we at last had some focus on what matters in the budget.

Our funding for education grew with the demand this year so we can provide an efficient and hopeful future to New York students. Ensuring that this funding goes to the areas that need it the most is my prime focus as a legislator, and funneling this much-needed attention to the 147th District I claim as a great victory for us and our state.

I will always stand for our Western New York values and for what is right in Albany. That is a promise.