January 24, 2006
State comptroller proposes 21 fiscal and budget reforms
State Comptroller Alan Hevesi has proposed 21 fiscal and budget reforms that he said would help New York produce better and more timely budgets.
The comptroller said his ideas are designed to help “to improve how the Legislature, the Executive and the public actually work together to design and implement the state’s budget.”
The state’s April 1 budget deadline gives the legislature too little time to consider the Governor’s budget proposal, which is released each year in January, Hevesi said. He also said the process has “little or no transparency” and offers the public too little information. And after the budget is passed, “it is difficult to monitor the state’s actual fiscal performance,” he said.
Legislators, the comptroller’s office, and taxpayers “do not have adequate access to the day-to-day or even month-to-month supporting data which details the state’s fiscal plan as the year progresses,” Hevesi said in a release. “States with more stringent oversight by multiple entities are more likely to have stronger finances and more responsible long-term planning in the development and enactment stages of the budget process.”
The comptroller’s plan, among other things, would:
- Require that the enacted budget be balanced. Current law requires
only that the Governor’s original proposal, to which legislators
inevitably add spending, be balanced.
- Expand the current three-year plan to a four-year plan.
- Change the state’s tax stabilization reserve fund by removing
caps and requiring minimum balances rather than maximum balances.
- Require monthly cash flow reporting for each of the government
- Reveal year-end obligations and certify the size of the surplus.
- Change the beginning of the fiscal year from April 1 to July
1 and require passage of a budget by May 1.
- Establish quarterly fiscal status meetings, so everyone knows
how the state is doing.
- Require the Comptroller to resolve revenue forecast deadlocks.
- Require the Legislature to report on any changes it has made
to the budget before passage.
- Require quarterly reporting on the allocation of lump-sum appropriations.
More than $1 billion is appropriated through memorandums of understanding
with no details regarding expenditures.
- Require full and uniform reporting of all differences between
the proposed executive budget and the final enacted budget.
- Require public authorities to fully report how they spend state
- Modify the capital plan to include detailed financing and debt
service information within a comprehensive project-by-project
- Require a local government impact report, so local governments
know how provisions of the budget will directly affect them.
- Require more “personal service” spending information,
especially on people hired through consulting contracts.
- Tie appropriation bills to the financial plan, linking the planned
spending of the appropriations bills to actual expenditures.
- Constitutionally create a truly Independent Budget Office to
provide analysis and reports for the Legislature and the public.
- Expand the Executive’s budget hearing process to permit
more public participation. Require posting of all information on the Internet.
The comptroller's release is at www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/jan06/012406.htm. His full report is at www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/fiscalreform.pdf.