Monday, April 17, 2006

Still with the budget?

James Odato writes, in Sunday’s Times Union:
When the finance czars of the Senate, Assembly and Gov. George Pataki's budget division divvy up $200 million for pet projects each year, they sign a confidentiality pact barring them from telling the public how the money is going to be spent, according to a document obtained by the Times Union.
. . .
Last year's ``Memorandum of Understanding'' specifies $85 million for each chamber and $30 million for the governor. It also reveals that the parties agree to share ideas for spending the funds only among themselves.

As you might suspect, not everyone in the Legislature agrees that this is a good thing, or even what it means. You can read more here.

Meanwhile, Jay Gallagher of Gannett News Service writes:
But the situation raises some questions that citizens might want to pose to lawmakers when they see them around town in the meantime. Here are some suggestions:

What's the deal? I thought the budget was all done. You're getting paid, right?

What happened to those tax breaks you told me I was getting?

And what about the ball field (or fire truck, or new sidewalks or playground or day care center) you promised us? Don't you have any clout in Albany any more?

Pataki says you guys want to increase spending from $106 billion last year to $115 billion this year. How can you hold down taxes by increasing spending that much? (Then whip out your calculator, hit some keys and announce: That's three times the inflation rate!)

We keep hearing about how huge (almost $50 billion) the state debt is, but even when the state treasury is flush like now you keep borrowing more. How come?

If there's a chance to negotiate a settlement this week, how come you're home while the talks are in Albany?

Whatever happened to those "open" leaders' meetings, where the governor and the legislative leaders meet in public to discuss these things? Haven't we just gone back to the bad old days of negotiations behind closed doors?

That might be enough to give your duly elected representative what used to be called an Excedrin headache.

You can read the entire article here.

And the New York Times editorializes on the subject here:
Most thoughtful politicians in Albany recognize that we have a problem here, but the wrong solution would be worse than nothing at all. Voters wisely rejected one such effort last year. As they look for a substitute, one of the best comprehensive proposals is from Alan Hevesi, the state comptroller. Mr. Hevesi was formerly the comptroller in New York City, where the financial crisis of the 1970's forced politicians to adopt a budgeting process that is much better than Albany's.

What the state needs is more information, transparency and accountability.

Albany Catholic encourages our readers to contact their legislators this week to ask for both transpartency and accountability. This is not a matter of Democrat versus Republican or Right versus Left. It is a matter of fairness and justice.