On Friday, the New York State Senate Majority followed the lead of the Assembly and put the final touches on the worst budget that our state has ever seen. As the representative for the 2nd Senate District, I voted no to every component of this budget because it is bad for Long Island, bad for those who work and bad for anyone who owns a home.
What I, along with my Senate Republican colleagues, did vote yes for were some budget amendments that would have made the budget more acceptable for Long Islanders. All that was needed was for a couple of Democratic members to join with us in our efforts to protect our residents. Unfortunately, none of the Democratic members of the Senate – including those who represent Long Island - joined our efforts and wasted the opportunity to restore the property tax rebate program, remove of costly income tax increases and eliminate taxes and fees that will increase our cost of living.
Of greater importance to those who failed to join our efforts to protect Long Islanders was keeping the changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws in the budget. The budget that they silently approved is more concerned with protecting drug dealers than protecting the taxpayers of Long Island.
There was a better way and that is why I joined with my colleagues to offer the Better Plan for New York in early March. This is a plan that would tax less, spend less and create needed jobs. But, due to the lack of openness during this process, this plan was never even discussed in public. To be clear, no part of the budget that was crafted by three New York City politicians without any input from the rank-and-file legislators was debated publicly by any legislator from either party.
Instead this budget plan, which will increase state spending to $132 billion, was put together in secret by Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. These discussions were so closed that most members of the Legislature were kept in the dark regarding the year-to-year spending increase of $10.5 billion or nearly 10 percent which is 7 times above the rate of inflation and approved with very little detail.
Clearly, the state has failed this time but we need to look at today as a new start for the good of all New York. There is still much work to do to overcome our current economic issues and it is time to put party aside.
I am still ready to work with my Senate colleagues from every party because our residents deserve better than this budget. I invite everyone I represent to send me an e-mail or call my office at 631-361-2154 to offer their input because, unlike how this process was undertaken, we need everyone’s voice to come up with the best plan for our future.
John J. Flanagan
New York State Senator, 2nd District