Need for Cuts, Reform Make Shared Services, Ethics Bills Timely

By State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine

Concerned citizens and interest groups from across the state have been making phone calls, writing letters, and traveling to the Capitol to decry proposed cuts for the 2010-11 budget. In many cases, these groups make a great case.

However, the fact remains that New York State cannot spend money it does not have and cuts are coming. Our focus instead must shift to prioritization. Last year’s budget held the line for many key programs and services. It provided time to prepare for the cuts everyone was told to expect this year. For most agencies receiving funding and also local governments, the need to make cuts should not come as any surprise.

Our priority is promoting economic growth, creating and preserving jobs, and eliminating wasteful or redundant spending. Some cuts will do more harm than good, reducing revenue by further depressing local economies, but for the good of the state as a whole, limiting state spending will help put us back on the right track.

This is where creativity comes in. Real cuts require also looking at regulations and mandates that bind local governments and agencies. If these entities are going to survive with less funding, they need the latitude to make choices that will save them money. Last week, my colleagues in the Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill I sponsored to expand the powers of local governments to contract with neighboring and nearby municipalities to save money.

This is a common sense bill. If one town has a necessary piece of equipment that is used sparingly, a neighboring town should not have to buy the same piece of equipment. These towns should be able to contract with each other to share. In our large Upstate counties, there is no reason counties should be prohibited, as they are now, from contracting with a town in another county, if it would save time and money. We must give counties, towns, villages and cities the latitude to save precious tax dollars.

This bill has passed in the Senate before, but it has never passed in the Assembly. However, it has also never been needed more than it is right now. If you look statewide, there’s a lot of money that could be saved.

Another timely piece of legislation is the Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform legislation passed two weeks ago, which the Governor vetoed this past week. I understand where the governor is coming from in that it does not go far enough. However, it is a strong step in the right direction, plus it has the approval of lawmakers from both parties and both houses. We cannot let perfection be the enemy of good, and so I plan to work with my colleagues to see if we can override this veto and install this new set of much needed checks and balances.

Too often, important and seemingly common sense bills or ideas don’t gather the political momentum they need, while others pick up that momentum at the worst times and need to be kept in check. In the case of mandate relief, expanding shared services and reforming our ethics and campaign laws, now is exactly the time we need to act for all taxpayers. Momentum is on our side.