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As Budget Process Continues, Ravitch Proposal Points to Need for Reform

By Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent)

Getting New York State out of this fiscal crisis will require more than just continuing the status quo of having the governor propose a budget based on last year, then have the legislature craft adjustments to that proposal. We need systemic and fundamental change.

I am not alone in pushing for these changes. Recently I was named to the Task Force on Government Efficiency, a bipartisan body of Senators working to review government agencies and look for waste, while we continue pushing for reforms that would institute reviews like these on a permanent basis. As we continue this work, the fact remains that the April 1 deadline is looming, so work must continue for now under the current rules.

To that end, I am working with my colleagues to make this year’s budget a budget I can vote “yes” on. Simply saying “no” will not save our parks or the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, for which we came out in force on Friday with some 2,000 residents to demonstrate support for the facility and came out similarly on Sunday in Oswego for our parks. The reality is that our fight must be to ensure this budget protects the Ogdensburg facility and the parks with language restoring it, since the governor’s agencies have already started the process administratively.

In addition, I am also pushing to eliminate a proposed tax on sugared beverages and redistribute aid more equitably for our schools, while finding creative solutions to make up for the restorations I believe we need, be it selling small peak power plants in New York City which may net $500 million or more or putting on hold construction projects that could save another $100 million.

While I believe all options must be considered, I am wary of a proposal by Lieutenant Gov. Richard Ravitch to borrow money to close the gap. You can’t borrow your way to prosperity. The previous leadership in Albany borrowed and spent through tough times, in part causing the current crisis we find ourselves in. This debt and the debt incurred by state authorities is responsible for a $1.9 billion increase in spending over last year’s budget that we cannot cut. We can only keep it from growing larger still by avoiding more debt.

In the end, this plan must be reviewed thoroughly and not dismissed immediately because it does point to the need for change. I am intrigued by his ideas to move the start of the state’s fiscal year from April 1 to July 1, install a pay as you go system, put controls on spending and take the politics out of the equation through an independent review board. These ideas need further discussion, because real change—whether it’s zero-based budgeting and performance-based budgeting, or some other means—is long overdue.

We need to consider solutions outside of our comfort zone to do what is best for New York State to restore our economy. It is important we continue working together to pass a responsible budget this year, and take responsible steps to reform how we craft budgets into the future.