Budget Proposals Take Away People’s Voice

This year’s Executive Budget proposal, if enacted, would remove voting power away from local citizens for offices such as Town Clerk, Town Highway Superintendent and Town Receiver of Taxes and Assessments. The Governor argues it would save money. However, I can think of about 5 billion other ways our state can save money and my solutions have nothing to do with disenfranchising New Yorkers’ right to vote in open elections for public office.

Annual Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse are costing New York State an estimated $5 billion. Yet, this year’s budget proposes to increase Medicaid spending. New York is already spending more on Medicaid than any other state in the nation, even more than states like California or Texas, which have larger populations. According to a report by the Public Policy Institute, New York State spends 128 percent more than the national average on Medicaid.

Moreover, at last fall’s meeting of the National Association of State Budget Officers, a report was presented by Former United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Michael Leavitt, showing that states’ Medicaid spending is rising faster than the economy. Leavitt stated, “This report should serve as an urgent reminder that the current path of Medicaid spending is unsustainable for both federal and state governments.”

While I commend Governor Paterson for his efforts to recoup taxpayer dollars by investing more in Medicaid fraud cost recovery, the Governor is still proposing to increase Medicaid funding by 3.8 percent. That’s more than the current rate of inflation, which is expected to continue to drop over the next six months.

Another way we can save money without infringing on New Yorkers’ voting rights is to merge offices and share services. The Governor has taken the right first step by proposing a few mergers through his budget, but, again, he could go further. Offices like the Thruway Authority could be merged with the Department of Transportation or the state could be more proactive as the bridge between federal and local services, helping to save taxpayer dollars.

As we continue to negotiate this year’s budget in Albany, I am hopeful that the Governor and Legislative Leaders will realize that cutting spending, instead of increasing spending, is the appropriate response during these difficult economic times. Already, the Governor has rescinded part of his budget by pulling eight of his 137 new and increased taxes off the table, and I will continue to advocate that the rest of those 131 taxes are also pulled, along with measures like taking away your right to vote for your local elected officials.