By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)
In what has become a troubling trend, the state, in recent years, in effort to balance its budget, has Ã¢â‚¬Å“sweptÃ¢â‚¬Â money from dedicated funds, such as the snowmobiler maintenance account, to the general fund. Unfortunately, again this year the Division of Budget is proposing to sweep $1 million from the snowmobiler maintenance account. This sets a bad precedence and is terrible budgeting policy. Simply put, if money is collected for a specific purpose, it should be used solely for that purpose.
The revenue that makes up the snowmobiler maintenance account is derived from registration fees collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2005, the state began collecting this fee to help pay for snowmobile trail development and maintenance. It has been a successful program and the snowmobile trail system in New York has flourished and, as a result, so has resulting tourism. Taking this money and putting it in the state general fund is a betrayal to those who work hard to maintain our snowmobile trail system and, in the long run, will be detrimental to our stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tourism business.
In effort to prevent this practice from continuing to take place, I co-sponsor legislation that if enacted would amend state finance law. This legislation requires that funds collected for a dedicated purpose would need to Ã¢â‚¬Å“be kept separate and not commingled with moneys in custody of the comptroller.Ã¢â‚¬Â If the state collects money for a certain purpose, the money should be used for that purpose. Otherwise, the fee should be eliminated.
Unfortunately, the snowmobiler maintenance account is not the only account that is proposed to be swept in the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposed budget. Another sweep involves the New York Power Authority. By law, NYPA collects money from customers to use in case there is a nuclear emergency. This year, like last, NYPA has agreed to give this money to the state, with the understanding that it will be paid back. In essence, we are sweeping funds from NYPA. What is concerning is if the state takes money from NYPA this year, what will prevent the state from taking money from NYPA next year. Further, there is no guarantee that the state will pay back this money. Will this ultimately result in higher electricity bills for already burdened New York state taxpayers?
The budget session this year will be difficult. Though our troubled economy has put us in this position, overspending and poor fiscal management by the state has just exacerbated the problem. The budget that passed last year, which I voted against, was irresponsible in that it spent and taxed too much. Hopefully, this year, because of the fiscal constraints we will actually make structural changes to New YorkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s budget that will reduce spending and prevent the imposition of more taxes and fees. I will do everything I can to convince my colleagues that this is what must be done.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or any other state matter, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list, contact me by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, NY 13069, by email at [email protected], or by phone at (315) 598-5185.