Hawley: Working To Cut The Cost Of Government

A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia)

As our nation continues wavering on the brink of an economic recession and American families are making tough choices in order to stay within their family budgets, it is time that we take a serious look at the cost of our government, in particular, at the state level.

Recent polls state that 70 percent of Americans believe our nation is already suffering a national economic recession. No place in the nation is feeling the effects of this more than the State of New York. Every day, we read about more closures of local small businesses. It’s not just the small businesses that are suffering – conglomerate corporations and Wall Street giants are also having very difficult times.

The federal government has stepped in to help by providing taxpayers with federal stimulus checks and corporations with buy-out capital. But, our state government, here in New York, continues to throw caution to the wind when it comes to spending. In fact, all three budget proposals (Executive, Senate and Assembly) propose record spending – breaking last year’s all-time record for most expensive budget in state history. Isn’t it about time New York State makes some tough budget choices as well?

My Assembly Minority colleagues and I have put together a plan that does just that. While the Assembly Majority’s plan increases taxes by at least $2 billion, our plan, offered as a series of amendments during budget debates, will cut taxes as well as everyday costs for New York’s overburdened working class. Additionally, our plan would provide for a long-term, rather than temporary, economic stimulus in order to attract and retain quality jobs.

Our cost-saving measures stem from consolidating excessive and mundane state offices. For example, by merging the Office of Real Property Services into the Department of Taxation and Finance, New York State taxpayers will collectively save $18 million annually. Another $37 million will be saved by merging the Office of Climate Change into the Office of Atmospheric Research at the State University at Albany.

Our comprehensive plan also targets government waste. Just from limiting the amount of vehicles purchased on taxpayer dollars by 50 percent (not including public safety vehicles such as police, fire and emergency services vehicles), taxpayers will save another $25 million. But the bulk of cost savings comes from targeting Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse. In fact, our proposal for a complete state takeover of Medicaid will save each New York household $3,005 annually.

When everyone else in the state is making tough choices, state government should also have to make concessions. That’s why our plan also calls for a 15 percent cut on operating costs (excluding payroll) across all state agencies, the Legislature and Executive Chamber. This will save taxpayers over $4 million every year.

Because our plan makes tough choices, it succeeds in the end. In fact, despite all these consolidations and cost savings, our plan still provides that long-term, meaningful tax relief New Yorkers desperately need, and removes the state tax that is currently collected on your Property Tax Rebate checks.

With the price of everything skyrocketing – from the price of prescriptions, clothing, food, home energy and gasoline headed through the roof – it’s about time that lawmakers get in touch with the realities facing our state. If we make smarter, although tougher, choices, our state will be ahead of the game in the long run, and so will hardworking New Yorkers. I urge my legislative colleagues to review our plan and include its provisions that stand up for New Yorkers in the enacted state budget.