Monday, November 28, 2005

This Blog to be Shutdown - Please Go To New Blog at

This blog is being replaced by the WNY Progress Report Blog at

Please go to the new blog for the latest in WNY Coalition for Progress' news and opinions from members, including Cliff Parks, the progressive voice of WNY.

Monday, November 07, 2005

WNY Coalition for Progress statement on NYS Proposition One

On Tuesday November 8th New York voters will be provided the opportunity to amend New York State’s Constitution in order to change the way our State government passes annual budgets. This ballot measure is known as “Proposition 1.”

Proposition 1 provides, in part, that if the budget as proposed by the governor is not passed by the legislature by a certain date then a contingency budget takes effect and the legislature is given power to draft a budget as it sees fit. Proposition 1 does not require that the budget be balanced. Instead, it provides the legislature with additional budget-writing powers than it has presently.

The Board of Directors of the Western New York Coalition for Progress has reviewed Proposition 1, as well as articles and documents advocating both for and against this proposed Constitutional amendment. We respect the opinions of all organizations advocating both for and against Proposition 1.

As a result of our review, we believe New York voters should reject the proposal and vote “NO” on Proposition 1.

Although New York State’s budget process is certainly dysfunctional and combative, and needs to be reformed, Proposition 1, by diminishing the role of the governor in the budget process, threatens to make matters worse. Before our current system was created, the legislature had control over the budget. As a result, constant appropriations led to crushing debt and perpetual fiscal crisis.

It was thought that the governor, who is elected by all New Yorkers, would ensure that the process protects everyone’s interests. Ideally, the intention was that the governor should act as a check on runaway spending by a pork-hungry legislature. While that system has not worked as intended, a check and balance does presently exist between the two branches of New York State’s government: the executive and legislature. We believe that such a check and balance could ("may" or "might" work her too?) be severely weakened, or even eliminated, if Proposition 1 is passed.

While we certainly think that deep, structural changes are needed to reform Albany and the way it does business, Proposition 1 doesn’t seem to fit the bill. If and when imposing a contingency budget, instead of having “three men in a room”, Proposition 1 would drop that number to two; the Senate President and Speaker of the Assembly. We think this "contingency" is highly likely to be a chronic problem due to the fact that the legislature has no real incentive to pass the governors budget on time.

Contrary to what the Proposition's proponents claim, there is no real guarantee that this proposed procedure would lead to on-time budgets. Instead, it merely imposes a “contingency budget” on the day it becomes late. At that time, the governor’s authority is co-opted, and the legislature earns full and exclusive budget-writing authority. Furthermore, New York’s budgets can be prepared secretly by the legislature, with no transparency, and without any balance constraints. If anything, Proposition 1 would likely act as a disincentive for not only on-time budgets but also real structural reform from taking place. The Western New York Coalition for Progress thinks that the content of state budgets and an open method for which they are created are more important than their timeliness.

We recommend a no vote on Proposition 1, and ask instead that you demand that your state legislators instead work to enact real, meaningful reform in Albany.