New York’s State Budget Process Is The Opposite Of Good Government

A message of necessity to pass a state budget is bad policy any time — but it’s especially poor and galling policy when the budget is more than a month late.

But that’s exactly what New York state did on Tuesday, issuing a message of necessity for legislators to vote on thousands of pages of budget bills that not deal with spending issues but policy issues as well. With the budget more than a month late we wonder why passing the budget Tuesday was such an emergency? Would passing the budget on Friday have left the state in fiscal tatters? Was there a policy in the state budget that couldn’t have waited three days for legislators and watchdog groups to examine all the budget bill nooks and crannies?

Of course there wasn’t. The only deadline was a Tuesday deadline for an extender to make sure state workers were paid. Given that extenders were passed within a few days of each other recently, the Tuesday deadline meant relatively little.

The budget relies on roughly $1 billion from the state fund balance — meaning we will hear next year about budget gaps and cuts that will need to be made. That’s especially true since state spending is expected to be $20 billion more than revenues over the next three years. And, as anyone who has followed the process can attest, neither Democrats nor Republicans are entirely happy with the policy initiatives stuffed into the budget.

The real reason to move quickly this week is that Gov. Kathy Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins knew the early reviews on the budget weren’t good from the viewpoints of either fiscal conservatives or policy progressives, and the more time people had to review the budget bills the more complaints there would be.

Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Group, gave the Buffalo News an anecdote from a state senator earlier this week that seems especially appropriate now that the budget is finally wrapped up — “Legislative deals are like fish on a dock. The longer you wait to deal with them, the worse it smells.”

This budget was finally passed more than a month past due. You can smell its stink from here to Albany.


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