Senator Hassell-Thompson Calls For New Reform Measures To Open Budget Process And Control State Debt

Ruth Hassell-Thompson

March 20, 2006

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) and the Senate Minority today released a package of budget and debt reform bills meant to open up Albany’s secretive state budget process and end slight-of-hand budget practices that have nearly doubled state debt over the past decade.

"I am urging my colleagues in both the Senate and Assembly to embrace these common sense reform measures to save the next generation of New Yorkers–our children and grandchildren–from being saddled with this dangerously out of control state debt," said Senator Hassell-Thompson.

The Senator pointed out that New York currently pays $4.7 billion a year in debt service. That amount is more than what our state currently invests for programs like EPIC and TAP, and state aid to SUNY and CUNY combined.

"It sickens me to think of the investments we should be making and the services we should be providing to New Yorkers, like more affordable housing, health care for the uninsured, building better schools, hiring more teachers–but can’t afford because of this enormous debt we’re in," the Bronx/Westchester lawmaker said.

Senator Hassell-Thompson said this proposal would end the use of secret memoranda of understanding (MOU), which are vague agreements between the Governor, legislative leaders and third parties that outline billions of dollars in state spending without public scrutiny.

"MOU’s have been a disaster as a public policy," said Senator Hassell-Thompson. "They are nothing more than a public slush fund for the Governor and Legislative leaders to use at their own future discretion."

Senator Hassell-Thompson called for the creation of a nonpartisan Independent Budget Office similar to the one used in Washington to set revenue projections and monitor unfunded mandates on local governments. The Senator’s legislation would also require a three day waiting period to pass budget bills to give rank-and-file legislators and the public time to review the budget and increase public participation in the budget process through public budget hearings and the release of agency budget requests.

"The idea of this legislation is to change the way our budget is negotiated and written to give the public and rank-and-file legislators a bigger say in its outcome," concluded Senator Hassell-Thompson. "We should listen to our mothers: nothing good comes from a secret."