The author is a New York state assemblyman and Republican leader pro tem. He represents the 113th Assembly District.
In the recent past, we’ve worked closely with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to right-size the budget and to limit built-in systemic growth factors that caused previous budgets to balloon unsustainably. We’ve passed two on-time budgets that closed looming deficits without new taxes or fees. These were important accomplishments that were welcomed by taxpayers, especially as New York was emerging from years of dysfunction.
I’ve been reviewing Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 Executive Budget closely, and while there are some positive aspects, things are not as rosy as the governor would like the public to believe. I am concerned about the growing use of the budget as a political tool. There is an alarming increase in the use of member item-like discretionary spending by the governor, a tongue in cheek promise that the budget wasn’t balanced on ‘new’ taxes and a continued effort to consolidate more power into the executive branch.
When I was first elected as assemblyman, Albany was accustomed to using pork barrel spending, which when abused was used for incumbency protection at the detriment of taxpayers. It cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. Successfully eliminating this costly, discretionary spending was among my early accomplishments and I think taxpayers would agree that this was the right move.
Yet, in the governor’s budget, we have already identified nearly $1.3 billion in pork over which the governor has complete control. While the governor may have good uses for this spending, I believe that taxpayers have the right to know exactly how and where their hard-earned dollars are being spent. Unilateral control over how taxpayer dollars are spent has led to abuse in the past, lack of transparency, and should not be tolerated.