Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a call last week for the state to change its fiscal practices and implement comprehensive budget reforms. The comptroller’s concerns come as no surprise and echo many of the changes the Assembly Minority Conference has advocated for years.
The governor and legislative majorities have consistently kept the public in the dark about how taxpayer money is spent, and the process took several steps in the wrong direction this year. In fact, the 2016-17 budget process was so dysfunctional not even the rank-and-file members of the Legislature knew many of its details even as voting had begun.
The “three-men-in-a-room” budget negotiations that take place each year are a prime example of the backwards democracy this administration has cultivated. Only a few exert power while the public is left to guess how their money will be spent. From top to bottom, New York’s budget process is a slap in the face to hard-working New Yorkers. Millions of residents are underrepresented by the governor’s failure to include the minority conferences in budget meetings. Until there are drastic changes, New York will continue to be a punchline.
BUDGETING CONCERNS COME FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE
The lack of responsible budgeting is an issue that has been expressed by both Democrats and Republicans. It is the duty of all elected officials to act responsibly with taxpayer dollars. Transparency, common sense and integrity are not partisan qualities. But unfortunately they are not part of the current state budgeting process either.
With a concerted effort to overhaul the state’s fiscal practices, we could both improve the state’s financial condition and ensure the public is fairly represented. It is outrageous how little some in Albany value the input of the very people whose money they are spending. The Assembly Minority Conference has made a number of recommendations, many of which were echoed in Comptroller DiNapoli’s recent report. Some proposed reforms include:
- Require itemized appropriations for any discretionary spending request by the governor or Legislature. Also, require the name of the governor or legislator on any discretionary request (Public Officers Accountability Act, A.4617, Kolb);
- Enact a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting borrowing without voter approval, otherwise known as “backdoor borrowing” (A.3758, Tedisco);
- Revise powers of the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which issues debt (A.6730, Kolb);
- Increase the maximum capacity of the Rainy Day Fund from three percent to 10 percent of General Fund spending (A.4383, Kolb);
- Require any ballot proposition that authorizes state debt to include information on both the principal and interest that would be incurred by taxpayers (A.2460, Tedisco); and
- Prohibit legislative recess until adoption of a budget, except for public holidays (A.5560, Oaks).
These bills touch on just a few of the issues that plague the state’s spending practices. The public trust has been shattered with the recent investigations and convictions of top state officials. By better informing the public of the short- and long-term impacts of the spending and borrowing of taxpayer money, we can begin to repair the broken relationship between the people of New York and their representatives.
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 email@example.com, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.