On Tuesday, January 17, I had a front row seat for the official unveiling of Governor Cuomo's 2012-13 Executive Budget. I was very pleased that the Governor's spending plan reflected many of the specific public policies that I have long been fighting for. Frankly, the Governor's emphasis on private sector job creation, economic development and transforming state government from a bureaucratic to an entrepreneurial model - by making it leaner, less costly and more responsive to taxpayers - was music to my ears! This "back to basics" approach should set the tone for State Budget negotiations going forward.
Now, more than ever, we must continue building on all our considerable successes from last year, when we worked together, showed a true commitment to fiscal responsibility, closed a $10 billion budget deficit and delivered an on-time State Budget that actually cut spending. Folks, this is not "political spin" - these were real accomplishments. While serious fiscal challenges still remain, the immediate danger has passed and New York State must start looking ahead, not behind. I was pleased to hear that the Governor shared my vision, especially in the critical areas of mandate relief, job creation, education and making government work.
ALBANY MANDATES HURT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, DRIVE UP LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES FOR HOMEOWNERS
If you're a regular reader of my weekly column, then you are well aware of the fact that I have long advocated mandate relief for local governments. Localities across New York must endure cast-iron state mandates - requirements that they start a program, or deliver a service, even though Albany refuses to pay for it - in their local budgets, which leaves little option except to cut critical services or raise property taxes in tough economic times. Having served in local government, and now as one of only four Legislative Leaders serving in state government, I know that localities have been handcuffed by state mandates. Albany mandates - such as Medicaid - imposed on local governments drive-up local property taxes for homeowners, which is why one of my top priorities is stopping Albany's mandate madness.
A DOWN PAYMENT ON REAL MANDATE RELIEF
The Governor's Executive Budget included an important proposal aimed at reining in the cost of Albany mandates on local governments: a state takeover of the growth of local Medicaid costs. I have advocated this very same approach - and even sponsored legislation to make it happen last session. State government taking over the growth of local Medicaid costs represents an important down payment on real mandate relief for localities - and real relief for local taxpayers.
CONTINUED FOCUS ON MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK FOR TAXPAYERS, SUPPORTING NEEDIEST SCHOOL DISTRICTS
The effort to continue reducing the size and cost of state government should begin with consolidating State Agencies to bring down government's high cost to taxpayers and avoid the wasteful duplication of services. I have championed controlling state spending and applaud the Governor for including several proposed agency consolidations and spending reductions in his budget. In addition, the Governor's plan linked increased education funding with measurable outcomes and greater accountability to ensure that every child in our 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.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, CREATING MORE JOBS FOR NEW YORKERS
What New York needs now is a forward-looking, 21st century spending plan that will grow private sector jobs and advance statewide economic development. By proposing greater cooperation between New York's private and public sectors, the Governor's plan can realize this goal. Besides greater cooperation, Albany must do its part by further reducing its costs to taxpayers and job creators. Frankly, for years the math has not added up - Albany has spent more than it has taken in; leading to multi-billion dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see. I believe that we turned the corner with last year's State Budget and must continue this year with another fiscally sound, on-time state spending plan by April 1. That is my goal.
NEW YORKERS DESERVE A FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE STATE BUDGET
While I will continue reviewing its specific details, based on initial appearances, the Governor's spending plan appears to be a sound fiscal blueprint. By no means is this spending plan the final word on the 2012-13 State Budget - it is merely the beginning of a 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. However, the Governor deserves credit for making these principles a priority.
DON'T FORGET: MY ONTARIO COUNTY TOWN HALL MEETINGS SLATED FOR SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4
If you would like further details on the Governor's 2012-13 Executive Budget or my plans for more private sector jobs, economic development and mandate relief for local governments, attend one of my Ontario County Town Hall meetings on Saturday, February 4, where these topics and more will be discussed. Here are the times and locations for my Town Hall meetings:
10:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m., at the Gorham Town Hall, 4736 South Street, Gorham;
10:45 a.m. - 11:15 a.m., at the Geneva Town Hall, 3750 County Road 6, Geneva;
11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., at the Manchester Town Hall, 1272 County Road 7, Clifton Springs; and
12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m., at the Canandaigua Town Hall, 5440 Routes 5 & 20 West, Canandaigua.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.