Written by Rachel Shapiro Friday, 11 December 2009 00:00
The State Senate and Assembly recently passed a Deficit Reduction Plan that does not include cutting school budgets mid-year to close the gap in the state budget.
But some legislators are unhappy with the temporary nature of the measure and are calling for more permanent actions.
“The legislative action taken fails to lay out long-term budget solutions which will offer savings each year going forward,” State Assemblyman David McDonough (R, C, I-Merrick) said in a statement to the press. “When the governor announced this budget deficit, my conference and I presented a plan which provided reoccurring savings while also cutting $3.2 billion in spending without impacting aid to municipalities, education or health care.”
The plan is hailed by its supporters for the spending cuts it imposes, helping to bridge the more than $3 billion gap the state currently has.
According to State officials, the DRP will cut education spending but will not impose mid-year cuts for schools and will also reduce spending on health care, while maintaining federal funding for health programs.
“The Assembly passed a DRP which provided $2.7 billion in cuts to the fiscal year 2009-10 budget,” McDonough said. “This plan is $500 million short of the necessary $3.2 billion in cuts the governor originally called for and uses spin-ups and one-shot revenues to close a budget deficit, which will only make next year’s budget deficit even bigger.”
Before the Senate and Assembly voted on the plan, Senate Finance Chairman Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) held four statewide budget hearings intended to hear testimony from individuals and community-based organizations.
“Our measure closes the budget deficit and ends the pattern of unsustainable spending,” Kruger said in a statement to the press. “Negotiations were intense but essential because in this economy there is no place for new taxes on already overtaxed New Yorkers, and so-called ‘non-vital’ programs historically face the chopping block first even though they provide a lifeline to our most vulnerable residents. Though the budget is balanced, structural problems still remain that cry out for reform—and for next year the Senate will be advocating a performance-based plan that requires all state agencies to justify every dime of spending. It’s what New Yorkers expect and it’s what they will get.”
State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R, C, I-Massapequa) echoed that sentiment of justifying every dime of spending.
“I have been calling for the state to get the spending habit under control,” he said in an interview with Anton Newspapers. “We need to cut back the size of New York state government rather than find new revenues. I’ve been saying, ‘This budget spends too much, it taxes too much and it will catch up to us’ and this is where we are now.”
That is not to say Saladino is in favor of the plan’s methodology to fix a problem he says is reoccurring.
“It is a show game in many ways,” he said. “I understand the governor has a gap he needs to close but the gap is in place due to years and years of overspending.”
Overspending, according to Saladino, has plagued the budget and is something that will affect schools and healthcare because it won’t stop.
“The largest immediate problem is the governor is using next year’s dollars to pay the school bill for this year,” Saladino said. “It will be a big problem next year.”
“Our senators fought very hard to ensure that schools wouldn’t be cut mid-year,” he said. “I don’t like the fact that it shifts it to next year but we did have a victory in getting the governor to reverse school cuts.”
State Senator Kemp Hannon (R, C, IP-Garden City) agrees the over-spending got the state in trouble, calling it “imprudent, unwise and bad fiscal policy.” But using the monies Saladino referred to is the “lesser of two evils,” Hannon said, to help out school districts that would otherwise face cuts, something both Saladino and Hannon are opposed to.
“There’s $300 million sitting in accounts and that money is going to go out the door,” he said in an interview with Anton Newspapers. “That’s money that wasn’t going to come to the schools.”
Instead of making cuts at local districts and forcing a school-tax increase, taking that $300 million from a stimulus pot will hurt districts much less, Hannon said.
“We’ve been telling our districts to prepare for the worst, there’s going to be downturns in revenues coming into the state,” Hannon said. “But we avoided some draconian things that were fiscally unwise like mid-year school aid cuts.”
In the end McDonough, Saladino and Hannon agree that the over-spending the state continues to take part in will create deficits year after year unless changes are made.
“I do appreciate the work of Kemp Hannon and our other senators in getting the governor to repeal spending cuts to our schools and healthcare,” Saladino said. “But we need to consolidate state agencies, greatly reduce the number of state commissions and consolidate state authorities.”