Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are coming down the homestretch in the budget negotiations for the fiscal year starting April 1st. The budget negotiations have, so far, been typical in some ways and highly contentious in others.
This week, the nation focuses on America’s commitment to government openness during “Sunshine Week.” “Sunshine Week” makes it clear that it is important to maintain an open government, in order to ensure the proper relationship between public officials and the citizens they are pledged to serve.
There is a lot in New York State’s budget that is important. Children need schooling, the poor and the sick need to be taken care of, the roads and bridges need repair, the public needs to be protected, and the courts need to administer justice.
Lawmakers return to the Capitol this week to tackle the big issue of the session: approving a state budget. As part of that $140 billion plus decision, lawmakers will be forced to also debate a key issue: reforming the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws.
It wasn’t long ago when it seemed that the tobacco lobby’s stranglehold over New York policymaking was finally broken. In addition to federal court decisions, state actions were being taken. During the years of the Pataki Administration, the state raised its tobacco tax, enacted one of the nation’s most sweeping restrictions on smoking in public places and in work environments. The Spitzer Administration bolstered funding for the state’s tobacco control efforts, helping it rise to the 5th most well-resourced program in the nation. In the Paterson Administration, New York raised its tobacco tax rate to the highest in the nation.
The governor’s budget is based on a huge promise – that he will keep the budget growth to less than 2%. The governor presents this number as a simple feat, keep to the rate of inflation and he can use some of the revenues for a tax cut.
One of the state’s most important public priorities is ensuring that New Yorkers have access to affordable and high quality medical care as well as providing health services to those who are poor or needy. Tens of billions of dollars are spent to meet those demands and this week the governor’s health budget proposal was the subject of a legislative public hearing.
During the 2012 election, far too many Americans voters had to stand in long lines for hours in order to cast their ballot. Voters who were stuck waiting were all too frequently lower-income and non-white. The President promised to act, in order to ensure that such a disgraceful situation would never happen again.
The New York State budget fight begins this week with the governor offering his budget plan. The governor’s budget will be massive – probably $135 billion of spending. Over 95 percent of it will become law without much fuss.