Last week was a great week for supporters of the status quo in Albany. But, for those of us who were optimistic that we would actually see real reform in state government, it was a painful reminder that the "three men in a room" mantra in Albany is stronger than ever.
To close the budget deficit in the 2008-2009 State Budget, deals were made behind closed doors to pass the Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP). This was done with very little, if any, input from the "rank and file" members of the Legislature.
This legislation will be devastating to many state organizations and programs that have planned their budgets based on funding that has now been swept into the General Fund to close the deficit.
To make matters worse, DRP legislation doesn't eliminate much debt. It simply redistributes it from organizations and programs that weren't responsible for getting us in this hole to begin with. One example that stands out is the overwhelming blow aimed at the State University of New York (SUNY).
The SUNY Board of Trustees recently raised tuition $620 per year. Ninety percent of the revenue generated from this tuition hike has been diverted to the General Fund. Students are finding it hard enough as it is to pay for college. It was wrong that $76 million from SUNY classrooms is being used to pay for the state's problem. Our SUNY students have essentially been taxed to close the deficit.
The budget deficit reduction legislation did not do much reducing. With nearly 77 percent of funding coming from other state sources, this legislation may have been more properly called the "budget diversion plan."
Before this legislation was brought to the floor for a vote, the majorities should have waited to see what sort of funding the Federal Government would be providing to the state when they pass economic stimulus legislation. It is very possible that such drastic cuts to various organizations and programs would not have been necessary.
I voted against these bills without any hesitation. Any time legislation with such dramatic statewide ramifications are crafted in secrecy without input from the entire Legislature, we are taking a step back from the transparency and reform that New Yorkers are screaming for.