We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with him, with the Senate and with leaders and citizens throughout the state:
To meet New York's fiscal obligations fairly and in a timely fashion;
And to address the issues that are foremost in the minds of New Yorkers: jobs, the quality of our children's education, access to appropriate and affordable health care, less costly and more efficient government, affordable housing, safe streets, a healthy environment, and clearly, government integrity.
In 2010, the Assembly's immediate priorities are:
To get state spending under control and to help put our economy on the track to recovery;
As well as to significantly strengthen the ethics laws which apply to all public officials in this state and to those who lobby the state government.
The State of New York continues to face extraordinary fiscal challenges, thanks to the global economic downturn which began in 2007.
As we did last year, we must once again find the will and the way to close a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit.
The reality is that more spending cuts will be necessary. No program or policy will be exempted from consideration. Right now, everything is on the negotiating table.
That said, we remain opposed to the idea of balancing the budget by increasing the burden on New York's already hard-pressed families. This was the position we took during the recent extraordinary session.
Recall at that time, the Assembly acted to achieve $2.7 billion in deficit reduction and we were prepared to do more in response to the Governor's call for additional cuts.
We also rejected his proposals to cut SSI grants, TAP, and the school breakfast and lunch programs, which would have provided little in the way of savings, but would have had devastating consequences for thousands of individuals and families.
As we craft the budget for the coming fiscal year, we will continue to work in partnership with the Governor and with the New York State Senate.
When we cut, we will continue do so precisely, with a scalpel, in order to mitigate the impact of cuts in essential services that families across this state depend on.
At the same time, we who serve in government must continue striving to restore the people's faith in our government.
I and my Assembly Majority colleagues have long supported and long passed public campaign financing legislation. I personally authored the first public campaign finance bill introduced in the State of New York, about twenty-three years ago; legislation which passed this House on at least ten different occasions.
We continue to support a matching funds program with dramatically lower contribution limits.
I raised this issue as recently as last Spring at a public leaders meeting. I did not have a partner at that meeting. Having said that, I am glad that the Governor has now come along and we are happy to work with him and with the Senate to enact public campaign finance legislation this year.
Let me add that in June of 2009, the Assembly passed significant ethics reforms. The Senate had its bill on its third reading calendar and ultimately introduced two chapter amendments.
We are engaged with the Senate in ongoing negotiations and attempting to merge and enhance our bills. Hopefully, within a short period of time, we will be able to report to you and to the public that there is an agreed-upon bill that we can move forward.
We are striving to enact the best, most independent, transparent and accountable ethics oversight structure that we can and we expect to have it in place in the near future.
Spending cuts and ethics reform are our immediate goals, but as you know, there are a number of issues pending that are critical to the future of our state.
Number one is job creation. We must continue to nurture our "green" economy and encourage university/industry partnerships to create the high-tech jobs of the future.
New York needs a road and bridge plan and we must ensure that our mass transit systems are efficient, accessible and well maintained.
We must ensure passage of a federal health care reform bill that is fair to New York State.
We must continue our fight to protect tenants living in rent-regulated housing, increase our stock of affordable housing, and we must get illegal guns off of our streets and out of our neighborhoods.
In my own Assembly district, we must move forward with the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.
Although overshadowed by the economy, our work in 2009 produced a number of important victories: Rockefeller Drug Law reform, Tier V pension reform, public authorities reform, and Leandra's Law, to name a few.
Working with the Governor and the Senate, we look forward to tackling these issues and to continuing New York's progress toward economic recovery.