Budget Proposals Bring Us Closer to Finish Line with Positives for the Region

By Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine

We are in the closing days before the state’s budget deadline and in many ways we have moved closer to a final budget. My goal in working with my colleagues is to reprioritize limited revenue, include real positive ideas for our state’s future, and show fiscal restraint and responsibility, so that the final product is a budget for which I can vote “Yes.”

The Senate resolution we passed last week was a tremendous start for all of us and the concerns that have been raised time and time by you and constituents throughout the district. While some items that I do not support were included in that resolution, the key is what it included that I do support. After all, when you’re working on a $130 billion spending plan, you’re never going to see a proposal where every line is exactly what you want.

What the resolution did include that I appreciated was a full and continued restoration of the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, the elimination of new taxes and fees, the protection of funds raised by snowmobilers for use only to improve our trail system, key agricultural funding and restoration of our state parks and historic sites. To do this and keep the budget balanced, this resolution reprioritizes limited funding and includes some significant cuts and other savings options.

The state’s finances being what they are, restoration of many cuts to school aid were not put on the table in the Senate, however, I continue to advocate for adjustments to how the school aid formula is used to spread aid across the state. The way it is now, just isn’t working. For decades, powerful interests in the Legislature funneled aid to wealthy school districts on Long Island and into the suburbs of New York City, to the detriment of low wealth rural districts in Upstate. This is one of the major reasons we must look at real reform to the school aid formula so that it distributes aid based on the needs of our students.

The Assembly’s budget proposal would restore some of the governor’s proposed cuts by borrowing money to meet our needs for this fiscal year. I’ve stated my concerns about borrowing money in these difficult times. After all, it is the borrowing that has been done over recent decades—both in the private sector and in the government—which is largely responsible for the crisis we now find our state in. While I am willing to consider all options to do what’s best for our state now and into the future, I have major concerns that I believe need to be addressed before I would embrace such a proposal.

With that said, I remain optimistic about passing a reasonably on-time, responsible and balanced budget that fits into the bipartisan revenue parameters agreed to on March 1. My priorities have been clear and I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure that the budget passed protects the interests of Central and Northern New York. Once this budget is completed, the work on budget issues must not end. This is an opportunity to improve the way New York puts together its budget and overturn decades of mistakes to truly address waste and ensure the taxpayers are best represented.