Although I commend the governor on his response to the coronavirus pandemic, while the majority of our state was reeling from the health, public safety, economic and personal impacts of the growing threat of COVID-19, Gov. Cuomo secretly bullied lawmakers into passing a state budget that gives him unprecedented powers and not just during this emergency pandemic. Make no mistake about it Out of many, one. When Gov. Cuomo set out to reshape our states seal, he fully intended to put his stamp on it.
Not only does the budget give the executive unprecedented and unmitigated powers over the states finances, school districts, local governments and the ability to continue waiving laws or issuing executive orders to control the pandemic, but the budget gave him the ability to permanently limit our democratic process. The budget will make it harder for new candidates to run for office and destroys third parties. And, after cutting essential funding for farms, libraries, seniors prescription coverage, mental health programs and doing nothing to help small businesses, his budget implements a $100 million per year taxpayer-funded public campaign finance program. With unemployment at record levels and constituents calling me every day because they cant even get through the Department of Labors unemployment enrollment process and now he has the audacity to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for campaign ads, consultants and those annoying robo-calls?
In the middle of this global health nightmare, $100 million could have purchased 4,000 ventilators. It could have provided a lot of funding for our schools and libraries. It could have paved a lot of local roads here in the Front Yard of America. It could have helped keep our mom-and-pop businesses not shuttered when they should be gearing up for the summer season afloat to protect our local economy. Its unconscionable.
But Im sorry to report he didnt stop there. His so-called roll back on bail reform was nothing of the sort. In fact, theres a very long list of new offenses they added to the list of eligible no bail crimes. He also put a new rule before the courts prohibiting them from requiring bail on someone who is arrested on an eligible crime if they are arrested while they are out on parole or already out on bail. It does not even make sense if your goal is to protect the law-abiding public. But then again, the governor has also let out hundreds of prisoners in recent weeks as well. Clearly his priorities continue to be protecting criminals over decent, hard-working citizens.
There were very few bright spots in this budget. I did not expect to see huge spending increases but was pleased funding was restored for the Extreme Winter Recovery program for our roads and the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Counseling Program was fully restored. Expanded cancer disability coverage was finally ensured for all volunteer firefighters. These were important victories, and I thank the governor and my colleagues for hearing our calls to include them in the final agreement.
Despite these wins, the overall impact of this budget on our state will have a detrimental impact for generations to come. And perhaps his hubris got the better of him, but the pain it inflicts will be remembered as well. E Pluribus Unum.