Lack of Albany Leadership Continues Delay of 2010-2011 State Budget

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

After a legislative leaders’ meeting held earlier this week, it became all too clear that even after being more than 50 days late, the Majority parties in both the Assembly and Senate are not concerned about passing the 2010-2011 State Budget. Even worse was the fact that during the public meeting, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senator Sampson confirmed that not only is there no current plan in place to pass a budget, but there are no plans to make plans. This is absolutely unacceptable and New York taxpayers deserve better.

In 2007, rules reforms for the budget process were put in place that required the Legislature to produce state revenue forecasts and appoint members to joint conference committees to negotiate the differences between each house’s proposed budget. Sadly, to date, none of these rules have been followed as Albany has reverted to the ‘three men in a room’ style of government. Over the last seven weeks, Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Sampson have left rank-and-file members of the Assembly and Senate out of budget negotiations, leaving us to vote on trivial legislation like the protection of seahorses.

My colleagues in the Minority Conference and I have repeatedly asked that timetables be announced. Additionally, we’ve offered specific cost-saving proposals to the governor and both Majority conferences that would close the current $9.2 billion budget gap by cutting state spending, stopping backdoor borrowing, and reforming the budget process to make it more transparent and accountable.

These measures would not only close the current budget gap, but they will lay the framework for a more fiscally responsible state spending plan and help prevent future gaps from occurring. Unfortunately, we have been ignored while the Majority parties continue to argue amongst themselves about where to increase taxes and how to continue state borrowing, policies that put our state in this fiscal crisis to begin with.

Albany has mismanaged New York tax dollars for decades, and now, in the midst of an economic slow down, has continued to do so. The actions, or more appropriately inactions, of the ‘three men in a room’ have caused our schools, local governments, contractors, state parks, and small businesses to suffer. I will continue to demand that the Assembly and Senate majorities follow state budget reform laws and convene conference committees so the budget can be finished. New York taxpayers are fed up, and my colleagues in the Majority parties should start listening.