General Budget Conference Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen, clearly, there is no panacea for the challenge in front of us.
We have two approaches to the 2010-2011 budget that is before us.
Speaking for the Assembly Majority, we made difficult choices.
In order to close the $9.2 billion budget gap and keep the State of New York on the road to recovery, we made the difficult spending cuts - $4.3 billion worth - including $883 million in education cuts and $700 million in Medicaid and health savings.
We proposed critical budget reforms, protected programs and services New York's working families depend on, and rejected $1 billion in proposed taxes and fees, including the so-called "soda tax."
As our plan clearly indicates, we are committed to mitigating some of the Governor's overly harsh cuts.
Frankly, we do not believe that we should be balancing the budget on the backs of families by slashing their TAP awards, or by charging a fee to parents for early intervention services for their children with special needs, or to people who require ambulance service.
In our plan, we restore $600 million of the Governor's proposed school-aid cut - a restoration that WE INSIST ON - because we believe our public schools cannot sustain a $1.4 billion year-over-year cut without an extremely negative impact on our classrooms and on our local property taxpayers.
We reduce the Governor's health-care cuts, we reject the Governor's base-aid cut to our public community colleges, and like the Senate, we avert the closure of 91 state parks and historic sites, which are important sources of tourism and revenue for the state.
In this budget the Assembly has joined the Governor in what we believe is a critical health-care reform by reinstating the requirement that health insurance companies obtain prior approval from the State Insurance Department before increasing premiums on ratepayers.
In addition to responsible spending cuts, we propose significant agency consolidations that will save taxpayers $32 million this year.
We also put forward a major local fiscal relief plan for the state takeover of the local cost of administering Medicaid. Our proposal is modeled from what we accomplished in 2005, when we capped Medicaid growth for localities. This bold proposal will save local taxpayers more than $330 million a year when fully implemented.
As you know, we accepted the framework of the sweeping and historic budget reforms proposed by the Lt. Governor; specifically the elimination of the structural deficit over a five year period by moving to GAAP accounting, and the establishment of a "review board" that will trigger a serious process for the reduction of any deficit.
These reforms will provide fiscal stability as we come out of the worst economic downturn this nation has endured since the Great Depression.
Right now, the Division of the Budget is evaluating the Assembly and the Senate proposals. We need to come to an agreement with the Governor on the overall financial plan in order to move this process forward. It is the only responsible way to proceed.
Given the way the Governor submitted his budget, we need him to resubmit and therefore be an active player in the process. Once the Governor has accepted the framework, we can quickly move ahead with this open, public and transparent joint conference committee process.
I will be here in Albany this weekend and have scheduled conferences for both Saturday and Sunday.
That said, the Assembly Majority is committed to engaging in meaningful negotiations with our colleagues in the Senate and with the Governor to address the significant challenges facing this state.