Saturday, January 3, 2009

CHALLENGES WILL MAKE OUR STATE STRONGER
Legislative column by Assemblyman Marcus J. Molinaro (R,I,C-Red Hook)

New York State is facing its worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, leaving many families to worry about how they will make ends meet. For those who were already struggling, the crisis has made it even more difficult. However, from challenges we can grow stronger and together make New York State great again.

With innovative and fresh ideas we can chart the bold, new course that our state so desperately needs in order to confront this economic downturn and redefine the way government functions. It is with passion, energy and persistence that I proudly carry that message to our state Capitol in hopes of making fiscal responsibility and true reform a reality.

This week the Governor unveiled his proposed 2009-2010 state budget that forecasts a $15 billion deficit and spending reductions to vital services like healthcare and education. Reining in state spending is essential and we must make cuts across the board. However, because education spending is not merely an expenditure, but an investment in the future, education cuts must be made carefully. We cannot only reduce spending, we must also reduce costs. Accountability from all levels must be a priority. We can cut unnecessary spending within school districts; but must also eliminate unfunded mandates that drive up costs, compel the federal government to pay for its commitment to public education, restrict growth in new spending and enact comprehensive property tax reform that eases the burdens placed on homeowners and small businesses already struggling to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget does not seem to include these measures and instead proposes 137 new tax and fee hikes that will be shouldered by middle-class families already hurting from current economic conditions. This budget doesn’t decrease spending from last year but it does increases taxes in a most regressive way, expands Medicaid spending and reduces antifraud measures, while perpetuating a business as usual atmosphere where state government spends more than it can afford and raises taxes on those who can afford them least to make up the difference.

The Governor has asked for alternatives, and my Assembly Republican Conference and I have advanced several proposals to reduce spending and prevent tax increases. Freezing pork-barrel spending, as well as eliminating, consolidating and freezing top management level positions (i.e. Deputy Commissioners) would show our civil service employees and citizens that we are serious and everyone will need to do more with less. We can reduce the overall state government payroll through a hiring freeze and early retirement incentives. While the Governor proposes reducing oversight on Medicaid fraud and abuse, we propose aggressively attacking it, saving taxpayers
$4.5 billion. We need to lead by example and do everything in our power to rein in excessive spending by making tough, bold decisions.

I commend Governor Paterson for the serious way in which he has addressed this fiscal crisis. Releasing his Executive Budget four weeks early allows all of us to engage in the important dialogue necessary to make needed changes. It is time to put politics and regional differences aside so that a balanced budget can be adopted. By earnestly beginning the budget review process and genuinely considering all options we can adopt a budget and set an agenda that puts us back on the path to economic recovery while lessening the burdens being carried by too many of our state’s residents.

Please contact me with your thoughts and questions as we enter the 2009 Legislative Session and embark on intense budget negotiations. Feel free to contact me in my district offices in Red Hook at (845) 758-9790, Greenport at (518) 822-8904 or via e-mail at
molinarom@assembly.state.ny.us.

Again, together we can make New York State great again!

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