NEW YORK STATE’S 2020-21 BUDGET
Editor’s Note: Here’s is the Republican response to the budget passage from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski.
By WILL BARCLAY • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
During unprecedented times that demand a concentrated focus, state Democrats rushed out a cluttered $178 billion state budget that offered nothing of the kind. Concocted behind closed doors and advanced under the cover of darkness, the state’s final spending plan drifted too far from our current crisis, and was entirely bogged down by misguided political policies.
The COVID-19 outbreak threatens the health of every community and has turned our financial position on its head. Rather than adopt a bare-bones budget that directly addresses our significant challenges, the Legislature compromised its process, gave away its authority and acted less as an independent branch of government, and more as an extension of the Executive.
This was a complicated budget at a difficult time. But even without a complete financial picture from which to work, the final 2020-21 State Budget should have been a far better product.
Assembly Democrats rejected a Republican proposal to help small businesses and employees, but they extended tax credits to Hollywood studios. As restaurants everywhere are forced to close their doors, Democrats added more regulations that stifle growth and cut deeper into the industry’s bottom line. The appropriate time to discuss taxpayer-funded campaigns, gestational surrogacy or criminal justice reforms is in the light of day, with an open debate and transparent process.
• On New York’s Power-Plant Siting Process
Governor Cuomo rarely misses a chance to increase his authority, and this week provided the perfect opportunity for another power grab. With a serious health crisis consuming the public’s attention, a broken budget process tipped heavily in his favor and a one-party Legislature offering no resistance, the governor has done it again.
Removing local representation on power plant siting boards virtually eliminates the ability of New Yorkers to protect their own interests and the future of their own communities. Large-scale energy projects carry serious long-term impacts to the economies, quality of life and future of a region. Local input should be the driving force in the siting process. Instead, Albany bureaucrats will determine the fate of a community by simply pointing to a spot on a map.
In any public project, diligent oversight helps ensure the interests of communities are protected from government overreach, abuse and political opportunism. Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo and his accomplices in the Legislature used the 2020-21 State Budget to erase those protections.
• On Public Campaign Financing
Publicly funded campaigns take taxpayer money meant for infrastructure, emergency services and economic development and hand it over to politicians to pay for mailers and robocalls. There is no evidence this backward system does anything to inhibit corruption, and it is more likely to invite misuse of tax dollars than prevent it.
The foundation for these changes came from the Public Campaign Financing Commission, whose work was recently nullified and its charge ultimately deemed unconstitutional. There is a reason the governor tried to skirt the legislative process before shoehorning the law into this year’s budget; it is largely for his benefit.
Further, new signature thresholds for third parties increase astronomically under these laws. This deliberate maneuver threatens to extinguish the voices of those not entrenched in traditional, big parties and stifles free speech and political discourse. There is no reason taxpayers need to foot the bill for politicians running for office. This policy invites abuse and does nothing to root out rampant corruption in New York.
• Changes to Criminal Justice Falls Short of Remedy
Legislative majorities, along with Governor Cuomo, may have walked back some of the abysmal criminal justice laws passed late last year. However, although they finally acknowledged their failed signature policy, they came up woefully short in an attempted remedy.
New York remains the only state prohibiting judges from using their discretion to determine risks posed by accused criminals. New York Democrats still believe they are better equipped to protect communities they’ve never seen, instead of local, duly-elected jurists who have served the cause of law and order for years.
In addition, prosecutors’ offices have been inundated since January 1 and are in need of significant help. Creating an unreliable funding gimmick that does little to help prosecutors truly manage the full impact of new pretrial procedures is half-hearted at best.
A year ago many, New Yorkers were willing to give criminal justice reforms a chance. It took less than two months for an overwhelming majority of the public to realize the real-world disaster taking place right before their eyes.
We needed more than a symbolic gesture and cursory changes. To alleviate the genuine concerns of law enforcement, prosecutors and the public, we still need a real, substantial rollback of dangerous policies protecting bad actors. This is about public safety and rightfully entrusting our judges and judicial system to do what it was set up to do – facilitate equity and justice.
Sadly, we didn’t get that; instead, we got a haphazard half-measure passed in the middle of the night – and it will not do.
There is much more work to be done and uncertain times ahead. In many regards, our biggest tests may be in front of us. I hope that by working collectively, we can deliver for New Yorkers who are still waiting for results.