Budget Cuts a Start; More can be Improved in Budget Process

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

On Aug. 19, the State Assembly returned to Albany for a special session.  As a result, many mid-year spending cuts were made.  Although it’s never easy to make spending cuts, it was necessary in light of the fiscal crisis that the state is facing.  The state’s budget, for better or worse, relies heavily on Wall Street and therefore, when Wall Street suffers, so too does state revenue.

Both houses and the governor agreed to cut $427 million from this year’s budget.  The major components of the cuts, include among other things, the following:

•    Six percent across the board reduction in local assistance spending ($77 million): this reduction will be from all unspent local assistance funds excluding formula driven school aid, Aid to Municipalities, the Tuition Assistance Program and Community College Aid;

•    Six percent reduction in new and enhanced 2008-09 Legislative programs ($8 million);

•    Fifty percent reduction in new and enhanced 2008-09 Executive programs ($26 million);

•    Seven percent reduction in CUNY funding in effort to provide parity with SUNY cuts ($51 million);

•    $50 million reduction in member item spending;

•    Medicaid/Health Savings ($127 million); and

•    Delaying implementation of the Statewide Wireless Network ($40 million).

In some respects, the fact that an agreement was reached that actually cut spending is historic in light of State government’s traditional inability to demonstrate fiscal constraint.  Much of the credit for this goes to the Governor who has shown leadership on this issue and was able to bridge the partisan divide in order to get an agreement.

While I was pleased to reach across the aisle and work with the Governor and my colleagues to enact these spending cuts, it needs to be mentioned that last week’s session was not a total success.  I am very disappointed that no agreement was reached on property tax relief—the number one concern that I hear about from my constituents.  While both houses have passed various proposals to address property taxes, consensus on the issue is still elusive.  Oddly, the Assembly Democratic majority, rather than working towards compromise on property tax relief, instead included in their property tax relief proposal a $2.6 billion tax increase.  To increase taxes at a time when we are facing an economic downturn and New Yorkers are already overburdened by high taxes, is a nonstarter for myself and many of my Assembly colleagues.  The Governor and the State Senate majority have also indicated that raising taxes is not acceptable.  Accordingly, any property tax relief program that includes a tax increase is unlikely to get traction.

Nevertheless, I am pleased that the spending cuts were made and will continue to monitor our state’s fiscal situation.  I look forward to continuing to work towards a solution on property taxes.      If you have any further questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.