Dear Mr. Dahl,
We received your communication of January 25, 2022 (attached), informing us that the Legislature would not allow three separate individuals from our organization, with expertise in three separate areas of policy, to present oral testimony on three different budget bills.
Your communication suggests that we might not have realized multiple requests were made. I assure you, we were aware the requests were made, following a pattern of many years where the Legislature did allow multiple people from a single organization, including ours, to present oral testimony. In fact, we often felt like that testimony was appreciated by legislators as they considered their significant responsibility in the budget process.
As you also explained, this policy extends beyond organizations to individuals.
I’m sure you can imagine our shock and dismay at the change of procedure when it comes to allowing citizens to participate in the process of their government spending billions of their tax dollars through the budget.
As I assume you are aware, there are hundreds of programs in the state budget. Giving those who wish to do so a chance to directly present their views and, often, expertise to their representatives in government doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Your letter claims this change is “due to time constraints,” which seems odd given that testimony has already been limited to only three minutes and the events are happening in a virtual-only setting. If anything, this shortened virtual format would seem to allow for more testimony. Either way, I’m not sure there’s a more important task for a state legislator than understanding the views of their constituents, especially in this kind of direct participation on a topic of this importance, and cost.
We respectfully request that you reverse this abrupt change in protocol. Intentional or not, this is a direct affront to every New Yorker’s ability to participate in our government.
President & CEO
cc: Hon. Kathy Hochul
Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Hon. Carl Heastie
Assembly Ways & Means Committee