Manktelow: The Worst State Budget in Recent History

A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R,C,I,Ref-Lyons)
April 5, 2019

As a freshman member of the Assembly, I was astounded by the process, or rather the lack of one, in developing New York’s $175.4 billion budget for 2019. The budget, described by many as the worst budget in recent history, fails to provide for the average New Yorker. Additionally, it includes almost nothing for upstate New York, and in fact hinders some of the critical programs currently in place.

As a former town supervisor of many years, I’m used to a transparent budget process. I expected the budget process on the state level to be even more sophisticated and I thought it would at least follow the same transparent and organized protocol.

This was far from the case. From what I have learned in my time at the Assembly, it has remained a flawed process year after year, following “three men in a room” culture. So millions of New Yorkers are left in the dark as the majority of state legislators were excluded from budget regulations who were then asked to vote on these bills.

While we waited for weeks to start the budget process, bills weren’t finalized until the last week in March, and it wasn’t until the early morning of Sunday, March 31, that we were finally called into session to begin debating and voting on these budget bills. Even then, we spent a lot of time waiting around until bills started to trickle in, some of which were dumped on our laps in the middle of the night missing crucial details.

This budget included a number of policy- related issues unconnected to the spending plan. These are bills, such as the plastic bag ban, pro-criminal priorities and other mandates, which place heavy burdens on the hard-working people of New York and should be debated outside the budget process. Additionally, instead of relieving the staggering number of taxes, this budget will add $1.2 billion in new taxes in 2019 and another $4.4 billion in 2020.

Some of these additions include:

  • A fee for paper bags and a ban on plastic bags given out by stores;
  • Requirement of marketplace providers to collect internet sales tax;
  • A car rental tax increase from 6 percent to 12 percent;
  • A new tax on energy; and
  • Taxpayer-funded state financial aid and more “free” college through the Excelsior Scholarship Program for illegal immigrants.

Some of the cuts or underfunding include:

  • Less funding for schools in areas outside of New York City and Yonkers;
  • Millions cut from the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program;
  • Failure to address the salary needs of dedicated professionals who care for individuals with disabilities, delaying an inadequate pay raise until January 2020;
  • Eliminating the entire Extreme Winter Recovery Program, previously funded at $65 million;
  • Closing of up to three prisons with only 90 days’ notice;
  • $20 million in cuts to funding for library construction;
  • Cuts to hospitals in rural communities for critical access;
  • $10 million in cuts to animal shelters and county fairs; and
  • Tying the restoration of Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) to sales, essentially a tax shift which forces counties to make up the lost state funding.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The current budget does nothing to help make New York a better home for us all, as it does nothing to make New York more affordable with a better business climate and more job opportunities.

It is clear the budget process has to be reformed, it is disgraceful, unacceptable and unsustainable if we want to move forward toward a better New York. People want and deserve to know what goes on behind closed doors. They deserve a fair and open process, not one which keeps secrets from legislators and the public until the last possible minute.