There from the Beginning on Reform
We all know our state
government is in desperate need of reform, I knew it two years
ago when I ran for Assembly and I've spent the last two years
fighting for change. Unfortunately, all too often, politics gets
in the way of common sense and special interests get in the way
of what's right. In Albany, I have rejected the standard Albany
way of doing things and fought for change. I have reached across
party lines, told truth to power, enacted reform and gotten results.
But while progress has been made, much more needs to be done.
For example, I strongly
support Assemblyman Scott Stringer's resolutions that would amend
the Assembly rules by increasing participation by members and
increasing transparency of the legislative process. This proposal
is supported by the Brennan Center for Justice and a coalition
of business and advocacy groups from across the state.
And recently, I supported
several Assembly reform initiatives that would change the way
Albany does business, including:
which would lower local property taxes and protect the pensions
of retirees (A.11758);
Public authority reform, to rein in the dozens of out-of-control
state agencies (A.9010);
Election reform, to make voting easier and more efficient (numerous
Lobbying reform, to limit the influence of well-financed special
interests (A.9062-A, A.6322-B).
It's no secret that
the state budget process in Albany has been dysfunctional and
chaotic. Last year, the governor presented a budget that cut millions
from Westchester schools and hospitals. That's why I joined with
Westchester Senators Vinnie Leibell and Nick Spano to reject these
cuts and pass a bipartisan 2003 budget that restored over $35
million for Westchester schools, $41 million for Westchester hospitals
and nursing homes and prevented the largest property tax increase
in state history.
While we need a budget
that is fair to Westchester, we also need an on-time budget as
well. Unfortunately, the way New York crafts a budget today is
both outdated and inefficient. That's why this year I sponsored
a bill, passed by both the Assembly and Senate, which will bring
much needed reform to the budget process (A.11702). The bipartisan
budget reform plan includes the creation of a non-partisan independent
budget office. It moves the start of New York's fiscal year from
April 1 to May 1 to allow for better revenue and spending projections
and institutes provisions to instill greater accountability in
the process. If no budget is in place by May 1, the plan provides
for a contingency budget equivalent to that of the preceding year.
The budget reform agreement also requires a two-year appropriation
of state school aid, providing schools with the forecasting information
they need when preparing for their yearly budget votes and helping
them avoid property tax increases.
These reforms will
lead to fair on-time budgets. As of today, the State Senate has
had over 100 days to send this important bill to the governor
for his signature. That is too long, when New York has been without
reform for years. The time for reform is now. I urge the Senate
to move the bill to the governor and for the governor to sign
it as quickly as possible.