"Thanks to our success in working together and a commitment to fiscal responsibility, last year we closed a $10 billion budget deficit and delivered an on-time State Budget that actually cut spending. These were real accomplishments. While serious fiscal challenges remain, the immediate danger has passed and we have to start looking ahead, not behind.
What New York needs now is a forward-looking, 21st century spending plan that will, first and foremost, grow private sector jobs and advance statewide economic development. More private sector jobs and a stronger economy must be our top priorities. However, the challenges don't stop there: we also need to close a current year shortfall of approximately $3.5 billion - without any new taxes, fees, surcharges or fiscal gimmicks - and take the first real steps toward meaningful public pension reform to remove a crushing mandate off the backs of localities.
I was pleased the Governor's budget reflected specific legislative priorities our Conference has led the charge on: a State takeover of the growth of local Medicaid costs and State Agency consolidations. State government taking over the growth of local Medicaid costs represents an important down payment on real mandate relief for localities, which is something I have advocated for years. Consolidating State Agencies is a common sense solution to bring down state government's high cost to taxpayers and avoid the wasteful duplication of services. I also applaud the Governor for continuing to control state spending.
The Governor's spending plan also links increased education funding with measurable outcomes and greater accountability to ensure that every child in New York State - regardless of their zip code - receives a world-class education. I was glad the Governor listened to my call for the neediest school districts that received the largest aid reductions to be first on the priority list.
While I will carefully review its details in the days ahead, from all appearances the Governor's spending plan will help us accomplish each of these priorities. Today is not the final word on the 2012-13 State Budget, but the beginning of an important process and necessary conversation about how we can meet the goals of fiscal responsibility, more private sector jobs and a less costly state government without shortchanging necessary investments in New York's future. It is important that all New Yorkers take part in this dialogue as we work to continue moving our state forward and deliver another fiscally responsible State Budget."