Budget Will Not Be Passed By Start Of Next Fiscal Year

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

As many of you have undoubtedly been hearing in the news lately, it is a foregone conclusion that New York’s budget for fiscal year 2010-11 will be passed after the April 1 deadline. What is uncertain, however, is when that budget will be passed and how much it will end up costing the taxpayers of New York. Current budget proposals range from $134 billion to $136.7 billion with potential borrowing of up to $2 billion.

Yesterday, the Senate followed the Assembly’s actions of last Friday by passing the budget extenders necessary to keep the state solvent until April 14. These extenders provide the funds necessary to keep the state workforce operational, as well as projects the state has undertaken, including local infrastructure projects here in Nassau County. Unfortunately, by only passing budget extenders before the end of the fiscal year, the legislature and the governor find themselves in the same position they were in back in January: at square one.

Although Governor Paterson put forth his budget proposal in late January, it was only within the past two weeks that the Senate and Assembly majorities each offered – and passed – budget proposals that differ vastly in regard to total spending amounts and allocation of resources. The Assembly majority proposal, which I voted against, called for $136.7 billion in spending and $2 billion in borrowing by the state, in order to restore the budget cuts proposed by Governor Paterson.

In the Assembly Minority Conference, my colleagues and I have been forced to sit by and watch the daily dysfunction continue while our proposals are still being ignored in favor of shortsighted and politically-expedient ideas such as borrowing money or closing state parks. The Assembly Minority Conference has consistently been the only legislative conference to offer up thoughtful ideas that will produce recurring savings year after year.

For example, last week we unveiled a report from our Task Force on Workforce Issues in the Correctional System which indicated significant cost savings could be achieved by focusing on internal and possibly duplicative, administrative positions within the state Department of Correctional Services, the second largest state employer. We also have put forth ideas such as delaying the purchasing of land by the state and the consolidation of the Thruway Authority with the Department of Transportation, both of which would result in millions of dollars in immediate savings.

Due to the fact that budget negotiations are controlled by one party and held behind closed doors by Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver and Senator Sampson, the only venue for the Minority to discuss new cost-saving measures would be in the conference committees that hammer out the differences between differing budget proposals. As the Assembly Minority appointee to the Transportation Budget Committee, I would be able to engage my Majority colleagues in an open and transparent dialogue about why they oppose sensible cost-cutting measures and prefer to saddle future generations with billions more in debt.

Currently, the legislature is in recess due to the Passover and Easter holidays, so the calling of conference committees may not come for another week. In the meantime, I will continue working with the Assembly Minority Ways and Means staff to put our time to good use during this “recess,” exploring the budget proposals of each house to find savings for you, the taxpayer. I also will be sure to keep you up to date on any news regarding the budget.

Lastly, I always look forward to hearing from you should you have ideas regarding how we can use tax dollars more efficiently and save the state money in years to come. You can contact me through e-mail at mcdonoughd1@assembly.state.ny.us, by calling me at (516) 409-2070, following me on Twitter or friending me on Facebook by searching Dave McDonough.