I was very pleased that this year’s budget increased school aid funding by $859 million, and dedicated $96.6 million for library aid to be dispersed around the state. The Extreme Winter Recovery Fund was also restored, dedicating $65 million in funds to be invested through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program. The removal of many of the policy issues that have been crammed into the budget process in past years was also encouraging; I saw this as a step in the right direction.
But again this year, the budget bills did not get the proper time to age or be reviewed by members of the legislature or the public. They were forced to the floor with messages of necessity and voted on in the middle of the night. The lack of transparency and real, meaningful ethics reform measures was disheartening, and overlooked the need for ethical changes like establishing term limits for legislative leaders. The budget failed to address oversight and accountability regarding the regional economic development councils and state projects, and ignored the need to address unfunded mandates and the burdens they place on our local municipalities and ultimately tax payers.
We need to stop legislating through the budget process and short-changing constituents on important matters that require meaningful dialogue, debate and vetting. While I am encouraged that my colleagues restored much-needed funding to several important programs and services, many opportunities were missed. This budget was littered with pork spending and investments into failed economic development initiatives that have provided nothing to our state other than leaving taxpayers on the hook to pick up the tab. We are better than this, and Albany politicians need to realize this is not the manner in which the state should be run.