Fitzpatrick: Greater Spending in Recession Highlights Broken Process, Influence of Entrenched Interests and Labor Unions

Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) today spoke out against the adoption of the distended state budget, which, despite a historic economic crisis, included massive spending increases and tax hikes on middle-class families that jeopardizes the state’s long-term financial health.

“The economy is in crisis, due in large part to the state’s reckless tax-and-spend fiscal policy that has overtaxed Long Island families, battered our economy and impeded our ability to compete in the global marketplace,” said Fitzpatrick. “What we needed to do was take a step back and work together in a disciplined fashion to reduce government’s substantial tax burden and lift our state out of this mess. Instead, we had the same sclerotic process, three-men-in-a-room, used to find new ways to grow an already obese public sector, oblivious to the negative impact that higher taxes will have on our state’s increasingly fragile economy.”

The 2008-2009 State Budget increases spending by 10% to $131.8 billion and contains over $7 billion in new taxes.

Fitzpatrick also raised concerns that the budget contained no movement toward reforming our antiquated health care and pension system. Total benefits payments in fiscal year 2008 were approximately $6.9 billion, up nearly 50% since 1999. Administrative costs have increased by more than 13% over the past year, to just over $90 million. And the state pension fund itself is down $34 billion since the economic crisis began and will probably have to be recouped through higher taxes.

“Our antiquated pension system is a ticking time bomb,” said Fitzpatrick. “The growth rate is unsustainable and taxpayers are going to be the ones that have to foot the bill. If Long Islanders think their taxes are high now, just wait. With the population aging and the state government workforce growing, it’s clear that we must act now to pass essential reforms to this system. Unfortunately, there was no pension reform included in the state budget.”

Fitzpatrick said state government must radically change its fiscal approach.

“With the economy in recession, all businesses and taxpayers are pleading for relief,” said Fitzpatrick. “Yet, the lack of fiscal restraint, even in the midst of a Great Recession as epic in scope as this one, demonstrates the insidious stronghold that powerful interests and public sector unions have on state government and the budgetary process. Moving forward, we must begin to demonstrate fiscal discipline or risk further deteriorating our fiscal health. The fiscal health of New York State demands it. One need only look at what is occurring in the state of California to see what happens when one party controls the Executive branch and both houses of the Legislature.”