Legislature convening bipartisan budget conference committee process, O'Mara named to transportation committee

Thomas F. O'Mara

March 13, 2012

Albany, N.Y., March 13—Following yesterday’s approval of Senate and Assembly budget resolutions, the Legislature is convening today a joint, bipartisan budget conference committee process to begin public negotiations aimed at reaching legislative agreements on key segments of the 2012-2013 state budget.

The approval of budget resolutions and beginning of the conference committee process sets up final budget talks between the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo leading up to the start of New York’s new fiscal year on April 1.

“This year’s budget adoption process remains on schedule to produce an on-time budget, and that’s encouraging,” said area State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats).

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) has appointed O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) as one of 5 senators on the Transportation Budget Conference Committee.

“It’s a critical area of the budget that has a particular impact on the direction and quality of New York’s short- and long-term strategies for job creation and economic development.  I’m glad to have this chance to provide some direct input that reflects our local challenges and concerns,” said O’Mara, noting that the Senate budget resolution agrees with Cuomo’s proposal to maintain state funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), which provides the bulk of state aid to localities for the maintenance and improvement of local roads and bridges, at last year’s increased funding level of $363.1 million.

Overall, 10 conference committees are being convened.  Under the process, key segments of the state budget are debated by committees made up of 10 senators and assembly members, on a bipartisan basis, who meet in public to settle differences and negotiate compromises.

O’Mara welcomed the return of the conference committee process as part of this year’s budget negotiations.  He and many other legislators were highly critical in 2009 and 2010 when the Legislature’s Democratic majorities ignored key elements of the state’s Budget Reform Act of 2007, which established legal guidelines and timetables for the appointment of joint legislative budget conference committees to conduct public budget negotiations.

“There was a lack of public scrutiny and public understanding during state budget negotiations over those two years, and it helped produce damaging, unsustainable tax-and-spend budgets,” said O’Mara.  “The conference committee process represents good government, and it should be part of each and every budget adoption.  It’s especially important this year when we’re facing so many deep-rooted and substantive changes.”

You can view this year's budget conference committees here.