For the first time in five years, a proposed budget deal for New York State was completed on time. Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed last Sunday on a $132.5 billion budget that calls for a 2% across-the-board cut in spending and plugs a $10 billion deficit.
Doing what is expected of you is not necessarily a cause for celebration, but when it comes to the inner workings of the state legislature, it’s pretty close. While a final vote of the full legislature is required, the last time our state saw an on-time budget was in 2006.
The budget process, while not perfect, did become a bit more transparent this year. The famous “three men in a room” – the governor, assembly speaker and senate majority leader – has now been expanded to include more chairs at the table and even some public discussions.
Otto Von Bismark, the late 19th century German-Prussian diplomat once said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” However, it is important for every resident to understand how the laws we make in Albany effect you and your quality of life. It is not only your right, but your responsibility to question your elected officials, demand accountability and seek to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family.
To that end, let’s talk in basic terms.
On February 1, Governor Cuomo presented his proposed budget. Within the budget were calls to tighten the state’s belt, reduce spending, close empty prisons upstate and become a more responsible and effective state government. The state legislature, headed by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), then hashed out their own proposed budgets with their respective houses.
Though the openness of this year’s process is a very positive development, the budget itself is sobering. Like all New York communities, Bed-Stuy will have to do more with less. However, thanks to the public debate and the participation of people like you, we were able to save critical services like senior centers, summer youth employment funding, and reduce the number of prison beds by 3,700.
But more needs to be done and some issues are still outstanding. For example, state rent regulations, which are set to expire in June, were not extended and strengthened in the budget and that needs to be addressed immediately. And while the assembly fought hard to extend a temporary income tax surcharge on millionaires, we did not have partners in the senate republican majority.
As the budget bills begin to make their way on to our legislative desks, I urge all of you to stay fully engaged and expect the best from your leaders. I vow to do my best to make sure your needs and concerns are fully addressed in Albany.