Opinion

Last week, Assemblyman Tom Alfano and his fellow Assembly Republicans brought dishonesty to a new level with a shoddy political attack that alleged the creation of a $1 billion "slush fund" in the recently passed state budget.

Once again, the Albany Republicans have disregarded the facts and have shown no interest in a truthful dialogue with their constituents.

The reality is that this fund is a "dry appropriation," meaning that it currently has no money in it. The budget line exists in order to accept emergency federal funds to deal with a very specific set of extraordinary circumstances that are codified in state Finance Law. The statute narrowly restricts the emergency appropriations to cover liabilities, repair damaged state-owned buildings and pay unforeseen expenses that threaten the continued operation of New York State government.

The Assembly Republicans have picked up this discredited line of attack from their counterparts in the Senate Minority, who have called to use this fund to restore everything from popular programs to the bathhouse at Jones Beach.

They had to have known that budget line was not funded, and subject to very specific restrictions. That's because this fund, which the Assembly Republicans labeled a "shocker" in their release, is actually a common budget practice that they voted for in the past.

A virtually identical $1 billion emergency line was part of the 2006-2007 budget, which was crafted by a Republican Governor and a Republican Senate. Assemblymen Alfano, Barra, and Walker each voted for that budget. Of course, then, they weren't trying to score cheap political points.

This is only the latest hypocritical rhetoric about the budget that has been spread by the Albany Republicans. They railed against a temporary three-year income tax increase on high earners to help close an unprecedented $17.7 billion budget deficit. Yet, in 2003 many of these same Republicans gladly voted for a similar type of tax hike that reached much further down the income ladder in order to close a much smaller deficit.

The Republicans resisted the budget's reforms to the Empire Zone program that made it more accountable and ensured that only those companies entitled the program's benefits received them. These are many of the same politicians that - pointing to problems within the Empire Zone program -- were calling for its elimination mere months ago.

And, they disingenuously state that Long Island's share of school aid decreased, when foundation and high tax aid across the state were frozen at the same levels as last year.

This was a difficult budget year where many tough decisions were made in order to close the deficit and guide New York State through this economic crisis. This budget was not without pain.

However, if this budget was as bad as the Albany Republicans say it is: Then why do they have to lie about it?


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