546 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Over the years, New York State government has earned a reputation for being dysfunctional, and the events of 2009 only added to this reputation. During the past year, the state budget was negotiated behind closed doors; critical legislation failed to make it to the Assembly Floor because of partisanship; and, worst of all, the fiasco in the State Senate halted state government for nearly one month, all of which occurred while our state could least afford such inefficiency.
Albany is plagued with scandal, out-of-control spending and partisan politics which have hurt our state. Today, we face real challenges. New York families and businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Residents have lost faith in their state government – we need to bring transparency and accountability back to state government.
In this newsletter, I will share some of my ideas on how we can improve state government. I hope you find this informative. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions, so please feel free to contact my office.
Very truly yours,
Member of Assembly
Last December, New Yorkers were told that the “three men in a room” budget process would end in favor of greater transparency and open government. Despite this promise, this year’s budget was negotiated behind closed doors and passed with a spending package of approximately $132 billion; a 10% increase from the year before. Albany’s decision to increase taxes instead of cutting spending when state revenues are down is problematic, especially when New York’s families and businesses are struggling to survive. If more input had been taken from representatives from throughout the state, the billions in tax and fee increases may have been prevented.
The biggest setback to government accountability in 2009 was the State Senate Leadership crisis in June. This incident was nothing more than partisan politics at its worst as two state senators decided to switch their party loyalty, and then switch back in order to gain more power and member item money for the year. This disgraceful incident led to a halt in state government for nearly a month, leaving many counties waiting for the passage of much-needed local legislation.
While New York families and businesses struggle to do more with less, it is a serious disappointment to see that our statewide leaders do not feel the need to do the same. Without any serious reforms to our state government, it will be difficult for New York to recover from the current fiscal crisis and to restore its reputation.
Although 2009 marked yet another year of continued dysfunction in Albany, some legislation did pass in the Assembly that will help reform New York state government.
Assembly bill A.9032, which I cosponsored, establishes a state commission on lobbying ethics and compliance. Specifically, the legislation will create a commission that functions independently from undue political control. This commission will be in charge of the oversight, investigations, compliance, and enforcement of lobbying rules and regulations.
Another piece of ethics reform legislation that I cosponsored is Assembly bill A.8930, which will improve oversight for elected officials. The “Troopergate” scandal during the summer of 2007 and the bias demonstrated by the Commission on Public Integrity for then-Governor Spitzer made it clear that better oversight of government officials is needed. This legislation would create a new commission that is not beholden to one branch of state government, but rather selected by multiple branches of state government, helping to eliminate partiality in state ethics oversight.
These pieces of legislation are by no means a complete solution to reforming Albany. However, they are a step in the right direction toward creating a more open and transparent state government.
In an effort to help reform Albany, I have proposed the following provisions for the State Assembly:
I have long said that the legislative process is and always has been the crux of the problem. In the Assembly, I have seen critical bills tabled because Assembly Leadership does not support them. Important proposals such as property tax reform should not be held in committee because Assembly leaders do not want them to come to the floor for a vote. Simple rules reforms in the state legislature will make government more accountable, more efficient and responsive.
New York State has always been my home. Central New York has a lot to offer and we have a lot of great things happening locally. Unfortunately, high taxes and government spending have created an unfriendly business climate, causing many New Yorkers and businesses to leave the state. We need to change this and bring businesses and people back. These policies, I believe, are the first steps in taking back our state and I will continue to fight for these reforms.
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