After A False Start, Budget Process Gets Underway

New Yorkers are finally getting a glimpse of the governor’s 2017-18 Executive Budget proposal after a curious and chaotic rollout that established a new low for transparency. With a Tuesday deadline to present his spending plan, the governor spent the day in the Executive Mansion giving piecemeal briefings behind closed doors. According to reports, his office spent a portion of the day trying to figure out if, when and how the media would gain access to the information.
 
Most of what was presented was regurgitated from State of the State addresses given a week earlier. Specific details and actual bills weren’t available until well into the evening. While the governor may have met his constitutional deadline, his questionable approach left 19 million New Yorkers out of the loop and left those serving in state government scratching their heads.
 
PLENTY OF DEVILS IN THE DETAILS
 
Unfortunately, the questions didn’t end with Tuesday’s closed-door presentations. Within the $152 billion spending plan are a number of proposals that demand intense scrutiny as the Legislature now puts details under the microscope. 

  • Direct care workers have pleaded for months for the inclusion of $45 million to help manage cost increases related to the minimum wage hike. However, their request was ignored. These are dedicated men and women who provide life-saving care to our most vulnerable population. Albany can afford to give Hollywood studios more than $400 million in tax breaks, but can’t provide fiscal relief to this critical industry?  
     
  • Rather than accept any responsibility for the state’s punishing tax climate, the governor put all the blame on local officials. He claims that shared services and government consolidation will solve the issue of high property taxes. But, that simply does not ring true to anyone who has crafted a municipal budget. According to the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC), only nine Albany-mandated programs make up a full 99 percent of the tax levy for most counties. The longer the governor fails to recognize this, the longer we will be forced to suffer under America’s highest property taxes.
     
  • Last year, small businesses were hit with one of the worst legislative sessions in recent memory. Costly mandates – most notably the new $15/hour minimum wage – have made New York’s toxic business climate even more challenging. Missing from the budget proposal was any real relief for our small businesses or manufacturers.
     
  • Just last year, members of the governor’s economic development team were charged with corruption, bid-rigging and kickbacks. His signature job-creation mechanism, START-UP NY, has failed to live up to its considerable hype. Despite a much-needed increase in oversight, the governor has doubled-down on his economic-development approach. He has proposed an additional $500 million to the Buffalo Billion initiative, which was at the center of the corruption scandal, rebranded START-UP NY, and maintained initiatives that simply pick winners and losers rather than make permanent solutions that result in real change. 

IMPORTANT WORK AHEAD OF US
 
Fortunately, the Executive Budget proposal is only the first step in a process that will hopefully result in a common-sense, responsible spending plan for the people of New York. There are certainly other concerns that must be addressed, including new taxes, fees and costly programs that will put greater stress on already-overburdened taxpayers.
 
The Assembly Minority Conference is eager to get to work on creating a better budget. Let’s hope that the process by which we reach a final plan is open and transparent, and much better than what we’ve seen thus far.
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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