It’s a new week in Albany, but our elected officials are doing the same old thing.
Last week, the Legislature – just returned from a 10-day Passover-Easter break – made little progress toward the 2010-11 state budget, which by law was supposed to be enacted April 1.
Gov. Paterson said that he is preparing new “bare bones” budget extenders to be taken up by the Legislature this week. Both legislative leaders told reporters that while no budget deal is imminent, the budget could be finalized before the end of the month.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the governor announced that the emergency spending bills he is preparing will not include the money for the 4-percent raises some 100,000 state employees are due. Paterson has already excluded state funding on hundreds of construction projects, delayed $2.1 billion in school aid, delayed income tax refunds and aid to nonprofit groups, and keeping parks closed to help the state pay its bills.
Adding fuel to the budget fire:
• State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report which found that New York State has masked budget deficits and spending growth for more than a decade by shuffling money between accounts, off-loading operational spending to dedicated funds and borrowing.
He said the most common practices used to obtain apparent fiscal balance in a given budget year are “fund sweeps” (which he calls “the fiscal equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul”), off-loading general fund spending to hide spending growth, misusing temporary loans and borrowing.
• In a letter dated Mar. 31, federal officials threatened to withhold millions of dollars in state funding if the Paterson administration moves forward with its plan to close parks around the state. National Parks Service (NPS) Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach wrote that the closure plan could put New York in “non-compliance” with the requirements for taking funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Federal Land for Parks Program. The letter said that NPS could also initiate suspension and debarment procedures to have all Federal funds withheld from the State (including housing, transportation, education etc
• On Wednesday, Senate Democrats released a budget reform package, sponsored by Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), which provides for long-term financial planning, the use of stricter accounting principles, and mandating stringent standards of accountability for State-financed programs and services.
The plan would establish a two-year budget process; require the use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP); create a non-partisan Legislative Budget Office (LBO); shift the start of the State’s fiscal year from April 1 to June 1; sunset all tax breaks after 5 years; require a cost-benefit analysis of all of the State’s tax breaks; and create a 15-member Empire State Performance Commission “to design a performance based management and budgeting blueprint to streamline government and end waste and fraud.”
• Senate Republicans criticized the Democrats for failing to follow the 2007 budget reform law – which requires the Legislature to hold public budget conference committees – and said that they should show they can follow the current law before enacting new ones.
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