Budget Reform Is Senate's Top Priority

Hugh T. Farley

January 25, 2005

The New York State Senate kicked off its 2005 Legislative Session by passing two budget reform bills that will hopefully end late budgets.

A recent Court of Appeals ruling highlights the need for real structural reform. Unfortunately, the Court basically suggested that the Legislature's main option is to stall and delay on the budget in an effort to get the Governor to agree to any changes. For those of us who have been fighting for an on-time budget, this is not an acceptable solution.

The Senate approved budget reform bill S.2 which would make several structural changes to the budget process. It would provide more time for budget negotiations by requiring an earlier submission of the Executive Budget by the Governor, and would change the start of the State fiscal year from April 1st to May 1st. The bill would provide for greater detail and more disclosure in the budget, and put a contingency budget into effect automatically if a new budget is not adopted by the May 1st deadline. This legislation also would require a two-year appropriation for State school aid.

In an effort to advance discussions on budget reform, we also passed an alternative version of this legislation. Budget reform bill S.3 has a lot of the same proposals as S.2, but would take effect in 2005 instead of 2006. It also calls for the Governor to submit a contingency budget by February 1st which must be adopted by the Legislature prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year. Legislation related to the previous fiscal year would remain in effect during the contingency budget. Senate bill S.3 also calls for the creation of an independent review board with one appointment each from the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, the Assembly Speaker and Minority leader and a Chairman nominated by the Governor. If the board determines that revenues will be insufficient to meet spending requirements authorized by the contingency budget, then uniform reductions would automatically be made to all spending items, except those which are exempt from spending limits, no later than 15 days after the beginning of the fiscal year.

Like you, I continue to be terribly frustrated and irritated with the State budget not being on time year after year. In order to address this ongoing problem, the Senate has made budget reform a top priority in each of the past several Legislative sessions. I am encouraged that the Assembly and the Governor are also thinking of solutions to improve New York's budget-making process. I believe we can come to an agreement on this proposed legislation and put an end to budget delays and promote fiscal stability for the State.