By Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine
As I write this column in advance of legislative session on Monday, when we will have to consider another budget extender, it is still uncertain what the final outcome will be. Some are pushing to shut down state government as a means to force a budget agreement.
However, a shut down would cut off payments to school districts and local governments. It would leave the state unable to pay contractors employing our friends and neighbors here and throughout the state. It would mean that the parks we struck an agreement to open last week would now close, along with the courts. A shut down would also cut off unemployment benefits and even shut down the state lottery which generates much needed funding for education.
It is my hope that we will not see this happen, but rather that this week or next, we will have a state budget in place. I share the frustration of all New Yorkers that we are now in June, more than two and a half months past the April 1 deadline.
The fact is that we could have had a budget before April 1, but the budget we would have had would not have been good for Upstate New York, especially here in Central and Northern New York. Instead of just passing the governorâ€™s budget on time, my efforts have always been focused on doing better. The budget we pass must maintain the restoration of our parks and historic sites, save Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, protect dedicated trail funds vital to our winter tourism, and hold the line or reduces taxes on our stateâ€™s struggling middle class families.
While I do not think a budget should be passed one week at a time through extenders, last week, we did set medical spending for 2010-11 that included changes aimed at making programs more efficient and significant spending cuts that will help us get our state back on the right track. Itâ€™s not easy to cut funding for health care but the cuts made will preserve essential services, address overlapping missions, and bring us closer to passing a balanced fair budget.
This is a difficult time for New York State. The size of the current gap means thereâ€™s no getting around the fact that more difficult choices need to be made. We need to make cuts and reprioritize limited funding wherever possible to protect vital programs. As negotiations progress, I will continue to advocate for our priorities so that the end result is that despite funding shortages and unavoidable cuts, this budget best addresses our needs, here in Central and Northern New York.