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Borrello Calls For Policy Removal

Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, wants state legislators to remove policy agendas from the state budget in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Borrello sent a letter Sunday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Buffalo, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, asking all three officials to remove items unrelated from the state budget from budget deliberations.

“Using the state budget as a cover to enact politically contentious legislation runs counter to the goals of transparency, accountability and free and open debate that state leaders claim to prioritize. Eliminating this backdoor lawmaking practice is more important than ever as our state and nation face the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis,” Borrello said. “The attention of rank-and-file legislators, their constituents and the media is rightly focused on this growing threat, the government response and how everyday New Yorkers can protect themselves and their families. Understandably, the state budget is not top-of-mind at this moment. State leaders should not use that distraction as an excuse to slip controversial policy initiatives into the budget. The budget should simply be what it was always intended to be — a spending plan for the next fiscal year, nothing more and nothing less.”

In recent years, two policy items included in state budgets have been nullifed, either completely or in part, by state courts.

Legal challenges to campaign finance and legislative ethics reform were delegated to special commissions whose work ended up being struck down.

The state budget has also been used to increase the state’s minimum wage, to eliminate cash bail in the criminal justice reform and make major changes to the state’s criminal discovery rules. Among the non-budget items in this year’s budget are marijuana legalization, changes to the way the power generation in New York state is approved, use of polystyrene packaging by restaurants and changes to the state’s criminal justice reform package passed last year. Cuomo told Newsday last week that bail reform changes would be concluded as part of the upcoming state budget bills.

“I urge our state leaders to make this year a turning point by committing to an open and democratic budget process that places the focus on finances and avoids wrapping any legislative proposals into this spending document,” Borrello said. “Policy initiatives should be allowed to work their way through the regular legislative processes, in the full light of day and with an exchange of ideas and debate. In the midst of this crisis, there is no better time to end a practice that has been criticized by good government groups, legislators in both parties, and citizens. Let’s give New Yorkers the honest, transparent government they deserve by taking politics out of the budget process. Let’s pass a clean budget.”

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