Once again, New York’s budget was passed with little respect given to even the most basic expectations of transparency and democratic ideals. It was a week late, passed in the dead of night with almost no input from anyone outside the governor and legislative majority leaders and it featured a record level of spending. New Yorkers have grown sick and tired of this type leadership, and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s promises to change the way things are done in Albany have proven to be little more than lip service.
The final spending plan, which comes in at an unsettling $220 billion, shows no regard for fiscal prudence or responsible spending. Unsurprisingly, the Enacted Budget includes a 3.5% spending increase. In order to sustain that multi-billion dollar spike in costs, the budget relies heavily on emergency federal funding—a $12.7 billion injection that will be spread out over the next four years. To put the enormity of Albany’s new budget in context, the state of Texas has nearly 9 million more residents than New York, but spends in TWO years ($248.6 billion) just above what New York spends in only ONE year.
The Majority Party in Albany have shown time and again they do not understand the value of taxpayer money, and this budget is another perfect example of that fact.
Perhaps the most disappointing element of this budget, though, is not what it does, but what it will fail to do. Public safety concerns and record inflation were glossed over with superficial remedies designed to do the bare minimum to placate critics. Judges need to be allowed to consider the public’s safety when setting bail – they still aren’t. And everyday items New Yorkers rely on are still too expensive. While New Yorkers continue to fear for their safety and worry about balancing family budgets, The Majority failed to adequately address either of these critical issues in the budget.
In addition, there was no long-term commitment to solving the state’s persistent affordability crisis. The cost of living and doing business is the primary driver of New York’s nation’s-worst outmigration, and that remains a problem despite a record-setting spending plan. One-shot revenue streams won’t be here forever, and a sustained solution to cut costs, fees and regulations still needs to be achieved.
While overall a disappointment, there were some agreements offering a modicum of promise that I was happy to see included in the final plan. For example, the temporary suspension of state tax on gas will provide some measure of relief for consumers and is part of $4.6 billion in tax cuts, which are overdue and welcome. This budget needed to do more, though, and it came up short where it counts.
Ultimately, this budget is heavy on short-term solutions that make for neat press releases, and is woefully shy on long-term systemic solutions to New York’s tax-and-spend mentality. The Assembly Minority Conference will continue to push back against these unsustainable policies and fight to improve the lives of New Yorkers from every region of the state. This budget leaves much to be desired and much work for us to do in the coming months.
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