Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Wednesday, May 25, 2005


ALBANY—The Business Council’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday May 24 to formally oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would “reform” New York State’s budget process.

The proposed amendment would eliminate the strong-executive budget process created by former Governors Al Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and recently affirmed by the state’s Court of Appeals. It provides that, in any year the budget is not adopted on time, primary budget-making authority would shift to the Legislature, thereby giving legislators a strong incentive to avoid on-time budgets in the future.

“Voters want timely budgets, not a guarantee of perennial delays and dysfunction,” said Daniel B. Walsh, president/CEO of the Business Council. Equally important, Walsh said, the proposed amendment would worsen state government’s tendency to spend too much. “This proposal would reward legislators for refusing to enact an on-time budget.”

“Taxes, spending and government debt are far too high in New York already,” he said. “This amendment would make all of those problems worse.”

In a letter to Governor Pataki in 2004, when the Legislature first approved the proposed amendment, Walsh said the state’s fiscal problems are the result of lack of spending restraint, rather than a faulty budget process.

“The proposed Constitutional amendment would increase the pressure for ever-higher spending,” the letter said. “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.”

Over the past three administrations, the Legislature has attempted to add substantial spending to budgets proposed by the governor. The current Executive Budget system, while imperfect, restrains spending in that it “creates clear accountability in the office of the chief executive,” Walsh said.

“Governors face political pressure to spend more than the state can afford,” Walsh said. “But voters judge governors partly on whether they balance the budget. The test for legislators is different: Did my legislator bring home enough state funding?

“We need a Constitution that promotes sound budgeting, not more spending and taxes,” Walsh said. “That means voting ‘no’ on this amendment.”