Forthcoming Budget Must Produce Plan For Fiscal Restraint After State Of State Address

A legislative column from Assemblyman Dave McDonough (R, C, I – Merrick)

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing Governor Paterson’s second State of the State address in the Assembly Chamber before a packed house of guests and legislators. His address set a tone of urgency, which, in our resent circumstances, is the right tone to take. However he has used the same urgency in calling for action in the past, only to fail to deliver on his own proposals. This year, the budget and necessary legislation must be dealt with in a swift and cordial manner because, without proper action, our last hopes for long-term reform and fiscal discipline may be dashed.

The first chance for reform is the Governor’s upcoming budget proposal. In past years, the governor has released his budget and an explanation of his priorities for the state for the perusal of legislators and the public. This year will be different due to the fact that New York is currently looking at a multi-billion dollar deficit before the fiscal year even begins. Much of that is due to the poor economy and the lack of fiscal restraint shown by the governor, Speaker Sheldon Silver and the State Senate.

As a result, this year’s budget must look at what the state can afford and what is absolutely necessary for the continued survival of this state while also providing essential services to New Yorkers. Gone are the days where we can allocate money to programs we hope to see grow in the coming years and gone are the line items to pet projects of legislators with powerful connections and influence. In essence, the state must provide funds to agencies and programs which give taxpayers the biggest return on investment to the greatest number of beneficiaries possible.

In my opinion, that means New York must focus on providing quality education to our children, excellent infrastructure to attract businesses and a well-funded health care system. The governor and legislators must look at how each dollar spent contributes to those goals in order for us to maximize the effectiveness of every dollar spent at a time when state revenues are down as a result of the economy. As we have seen in previous years, it will not be easy to rein in spending as a result of outside influences and personal opinions, but without providing a blueprint of fiscal restraint in his budget, the governor is doomed to repeat history and pass up an opportunity to change this state’s future for the better.

The year 2010 can be known as the year of reform or the year of missed opportunities. I know that all New Yorkers want to see this state live up to our nickname of the Empire State. To do so will take sacrifice from government, as well as every organization, business, family and person in this state. I hope that the governor has learned that he cannot tax his way out of a deficit and that government must implement cost-cutting and cost-saving measures to solve our problems. If Albany is bold and has the courage to do what is necessary, this economic and fiscal malaise will be over sooner rather than later.

We have heard the governor speak and now we must await his actions to see if we can expect more of the same or if we can look forward to a brighter future for New York.