November 5, 2004
Senate sends budget 'reform' bill to the Governor
The state Senate has sent Governor Pataki, for his approval or veto, proposed legislation that would make numerous changes to the state budget process.
Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh has urged the Governor to veto the bill, and to oppose an associated proposal that would amend the state Constitution's provisions related to the budget.
"The recent history of the New York State budget process leaves a lot to be desired," Walsh wrote in a June letter, shortly after the Legislature voted on the proposed changes. "The Constitutional structure of that process, however, is not the cause of our problems," he added.
"We believe the Legislature's 'reform' proposals fail to solve the fundamental problem with the New York State budget: irresponsible spending," Walsh wrote. "They could, in fact, make that problem worse."
The Legislature's "reform" package has a number of critics.
E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, wrote that the Legislature's proposals would lead to "less fiscal discipline, higher spending and higher taxes -- all without improving the efficiency, transparency or accountability of the state's much-criticized budget process."
Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at the State University at New Paltz, wrote in The New York Times that "a core source of gubernatorial power essential to the effective operation of state government is at stake." He said a veto by Governor Pataki is "imperative," lest the state suffer under "a seriously weakened governorship."
The Legislature's proposals would create a contingency budget that would take effect if lawmakers have not acted on the budget before the start of the fiscal year. The proposed contingency budget, rather than the original budget proposed by the governor, would then become the basis for any negotiations on a final spending plan.
"By giving the Legislature power to initiate a budget once a new fiscal year has begun, it would effectively place in the legislative branch much of the budgetary authority invested in the Governor under the Executive Budget system created in the 1920s," Walsh wrote.
Because the Legislature is always subject to constituent pressure to raise spending, the ultimate effect would be "even greater spending increases than we have seen in recent years."
In addition, Walsh wrote, "this 'reform' package would let the Legislature's own inaction on the budget trigger a situation in which it acquired vastly greater power to design the spending plan."